It’s crunchtime in your fantasy football league so every roster spot counts. And if you had a slot set aside for Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette you’re going to need a back up plan: Fournette lost his appeal for his one-game suspension Wednesday and will miss this week’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
This isn’t the first time this season Fournette hasn’t been available — he missed a few weeks earlier this year due to injury — so you may have backups Carlos Hyde or T.J. Yeldon already on your bench.
Of the two, Yeldon is preferable. He played upward of 57 percent of the team’s offensive snaps with Fournette out and had more yards per carry after contact (2.7) than Hyde (2.4). Plus, he is the second-most targeted player on the team, catching 46 of 66 targets for 423 yards and four touchdowns this season. To keep up against the Colts’ high-powered offense, that receiving component figures to be more desirable to any offensive game plan.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Starting running back Melvin Gordon is out for a few weeks, opening the door for Ekeler to see an increased workload both in the passing and rushing game for the Chargers. He already showed how productive he could be in relief, carrying the ball five times for 35 yards and a touchdown plus 10 receptions — with multiple catches against three different defenders — for 68 yards against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
“We’re all going to have to pick up the load a little bit,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers told Eric D. Williams of ESPN. “Thank God we have a guy like Ekeler behind him that we have a lot of confidence in, both in the run and the pass.”
Case Keenum, QB, Denver Broncos
It’s never easy to put your fantasy hopes on a backup quarterback with a career 85.7 passer rating, but consider Keenum will play against the Bengals this week, a team that ranks 26th for pass coverage per the game charters at Pro Football Focus.
The Bengals are also allowing eights more points per game than expected on passing plays based on the down, distance and field position of each throw against. Per data from TruMedia, only the Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons are worse in 2018.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brate played a season-high 70 percent of the offensive snaps for Tampa Bay on Sunday after starting tight end O.J. Howard was ruled out for the season due to a right ankle injury and a foot ailment.
This week’s opponent, the Carolina Panthers, have allowed a league-high nine touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season along with a robust 129.7 passer rating against. In other words, an average quarterback turns into a better version of this year’s MVP front-runner, Drew Brees (127.3 passer rating), when targeting tight ends on passing plays.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger, like most quarterbacks, performs worse under pressure. How much worse? His passer rating plummets from 105.8 to 56.1 when faced with pressure this season, a huge drop considering he is started in over 70 percent of fantasy leagues this week.
That’s bad news for Sunday when he faces the Los Angeles Chargers pass-rushing unit, which includes Melvin Ingram II, the 10th best edge rusher in 2018 per Pro Football Focus.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Michel not only will be up against the Minnesota Vikings, the second-best run defense in 2018 per Pro Football Focus, he might lose some of his opportunities to Rex Burkhead, who was activated to the team’s 53-man roster
Before Burkhead’s injury, he got two more carries than Michel on first and second downs (22 to 20) and could resume that role for the Patriots on Sunday against the Vikings. Even in Burkhead’s absence, Michel never played more than half of the team’s offensive snaps.
Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns
Since Hue Jackson was fired as the team’s head coach in favor of Gregg Williams, Landry has seen his targets decline by more than half. For example, through Week 8 he averaged almost 12 targets a game, which has since dropped to an average of less than six per game over the last three weeks.
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