The first two weeks of the 2021 season have been a roller coaster. There have been great games, and there have been some stinkers. Most upsetting, though, has been the number of injuries sustained by players around the league. Unfortunately, this trend did not stop as we have had some injuries to quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers, which we will have to find replacements now. This is my mission for this week.
Starting at the quarterback position and moving through, we will look at some players at each position who may be ready to step into your starting lineup and lend a hand during the lean times marred by those injuries. This week, we will be a bit quarterback-heavy as many of the injuries came at this position. It will change each week but for this week, expect a lot of quarterbacks.
As always, all these players will be available in a minimum of 50% of Yahoo leagues as of the time of this writing. So good luck and good bidding.
Derek Carr (74% Available)
Although he did leave the game with an injury, Carr returned and led the Raiders to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has also found other receivers to play alongside Darren Waller in the offense. With Bryan Edwards, Henry Ruggs, and Darren Waller now able to all catch the ball, Derek Carr looks like the quarterback many thought he might be.
His arm has never been a concern. The talent surrounding him has been. After many a disappointing year, Carr is on the right track now in 2021. If you were counting on streaming quarterbacks this season, you might have just found the one to lead the way for you in this trend. Although some others on this list also need some consideration.
Sam Darnold (85% Available)
Ok, it is official. The Adam Gase curse is a real thing. Sam Darnold is the latest player to escape the clutches of the Kraken and come out alive in another city. D.J. Moore is a top-level WR1, and the ability Robby Anderson possesses to stretch the field allows Darnold to feel comfortable in the offense being called by Joe Brady.
Despite the offensive line in Carolina not being good, they can give Darnold enough time to find his receivers and Christian McCaffrey out of the backfield. This has given us a chance to see what Darnold can do in a competent offense. So far, it looks promising. Games against the Buccaneers and even a rematch against the Saints later in the season will be challenging for Darnold. As for this week? He gets to take on the Houston Texans and a rookie in Davis Mills. Yes, please.
Jimmy Garoppolo (90% Available)
Everyone, including me, gave up on Jimmy Garoppolo this off-season. Trey Lance would be the new man in town, and it was only a matter of time until Garoppolo was traded. After being pulled in the first quarter of Week 1, it looked to be coming to fruition. But can you pull him now?
Not only did Garoppolo just come out and lead the 49ers to a road victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, but he also did so with no help from Lance or the run game. Trey Lance did not see the field one time in the 49ers’ victory. With Raheem Mostert out for the season, San Francisco counted on Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell to carry the load. Unfortunately, Mitchell hurt his shoulder late in the game. Sermon then promptly fumbled the ball on his first career attempt and suffered a concussion after a massive hit. Not what was needed by a San Francisco team already hampered by injury for a second straight season.
Garoppolo led the offense admirably despite the hardships and got the 49ers a much-needed second win of the young season. The win kept them tied with the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals atop the division, a place they will hope to remain behind a confident quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo. So, look for him to remain the starter until he starts to struggle. And by that time, you will have moved on to your next quarterback anyhow. So, no harm, no foul.
Taylor Heinicke (96% Available)
He has said he hopes to remain the starter for the rest of the season. He deserves a shot to do so based on his performance against the Giants in Week 2. Although he did not show his running ability in this game, he does have it. Add this ability to his 300 yards passing, and the Washington Football Team can do a lot worse than him at the starting quarterback position.
With weapons surrounding him to the tune of Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, and even J.D. McKissic, Heinicke is in a wonderful place. The division being bad is also a fantastic advantage for the team as they are fighting with the Dallas Cowboys and no one else to win the division. If their defense can come together and gel, they are the most complete team in the NFC East. Heinicke can be a game manager with the bonus ability of rush yards.
He may never be confused for Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson, but an additional 40 to 50 yards in the run game can make the difference between a QB1 week and not finishing in the top 20 at the position. Heinicke has this ability and should remain a top 15 quarterback option moving ahead.
Daniel Jones (81% Available)
Talk about rush ability. Daniel Jones has it. And he might not be the worst quarterback in the NFL either. Who knew?
The New York Giants are a circus right now. They are 0-2 for the 40th year in a row, I think. On top of this, free-agent signing Kenny Golladay and first-round pick Kadarius Toney have yet to become involved in the offense. Toney has -2 receiving yards through the first two games.
The ability to get these players motivated and involved will allow Jones to get better also. Although not especially remarkable, getting Evan Engram to return to the lineup will also make a significant difference in what the Giants will do. Until these things happen, the team will need to count on Sterling Shepard and Darrius Slayton for production. So far, they have done all right, but they can get better. I am confident this will happen. However, not knowing which one it will happen for makes it difficult to choose a receiver to play. They all have one thing in common, though. Daniel Jones.
When you are uncertain about who will get the ball, it makes sense to go for the one throwing it to them. And this is what we are doing in this case with Jones.
Kenneth Gainwell (64% Available)
Miles Sanders is still the lead back in Philadelphia’s offense. But, despite this, Kenneth Gainwell is the one getting much of the receiving work. He even has a receiving touchdown this season for the Eagles. And that brings us to this week.
After a rash of injuries in the NFL, it is essential to find players flying under the radar. Gainwell may not be getting the rushing work of a top back, but he is getting the targets afforded to them. This week, he gets to take this talent to Dallas and play a Cowboys team who just allowed nine receptions to Austin Ekeler. Sure, Gainwell, being a rookie, may not be as talented as Ekeler. But the role in the offense will be the same. As a flex play or as a running back two for your team, he can provide double-digit points with the targets he is receiving from Jalen Hurts.
The Cowboy’s defense is lacking, and Hurts ability to run will tire them out even more. Look for Gainwell to be a beneficiary of this as he can take a pass to the house on Monday night. It might only be a one-week play, but then again, as he gains momentum, he might be the next man up in Philly.
Tony Pollard (47% Available)
Adding Pollard is not based on injury. Instead, it is based on game flow. Even in the first quarter of the Cowboys game against the Chargers, Tony Pollard took work from Ezekiel Elliott. On the first drive of the game, Pollard, not Elliott, got the touchdown run for the team.
While Ezekiel Elliott was seen as a bell-cow back, this is no longer the case. Pollard has the talent in the run game and the passing game to become a significant factor in the offense. While this lessens the value of Elliott as a top-five back, it creates a scenario where both Pollard and Elliott become top 20 backs with Elliott still leading the way.,
Zach Martin returned this week, and we saw the immediate difference this made for the Dallas offensive line. As the season progresses, Dallas will find their sweet spot when it comes to the run game. They will likely find it prudent to limit Elliott just a bit. Keeping him healthy to go along with the receiving duo of CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper will be crucial if Dallas wants to compete with Washington for the playoff spot as the NFC East champions. Therefore, Pollard will continue to get increased work and finish the season as a top 24 fantasy running back. So jump aboard now and grab him. You will be happy you did eventually.
Bryan Edwards (80% Available)
Two games in 2021 and already with more touchdown catches than he had all of last year (1). Darren Waller is the clear top option in Las Vegas, but second-year Bryan Edwards is becoming the number two quickly. After a rookie season full of injury, Edwards was already being seen as a potential bust. Funny how this happens so quickly. Well, Year Two is starting on a much different note for the receiver from South Carolina.
The Gamecocks’ all-time leading receiver shows why the Raiders took him in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. No, it was not just because he went to a big school in the SEC. And no, it was not, so Jon Gruden had a place to stay if he ever decided to vacation in Myrtle Beach. Instead, it was for the reasons now on display—the big-play potential from the big receiver.
Injury concerns aside, Edwards has always been talented. After an entire off-season with Derek Carr and the Raiders offense under Jon Gruden, he is finally showing that talent. Not only does Edwards look better, but the whole team does. This is going to benefit whoever is leading the way in targets. Henry Ruggs is still the downfield threat. This will limit his targets. But Edwards, as the possession receiver, seems poised to take the role as the WR1 for the offense. Being able to get the WR1 role in an offense off waivers is a steal. So commit robbery and grab him up if you can.
Rondale Moore (67% Available)
We waited to see if Christian Kirk or rookie Rondale Moore would take over the slot WR position, left open with Larry Fitzgerald leaving. To this point, Moore has been the man to fill the role. At 5-7 and barely 170 pounds, the concern for Moore has always been durability. Since his breakout the first year at Purdue, Moore has been limited by injury. This fragility saw him slide a bit in the 2021 draft. A slide the Cardinals are happy they stopped by grabbing him in the second round. Moore will be the hottest pickup from waivers this week after a giant game in Week 2 with 114 yards and a touchdown. This means you will need to pay up with your FAAB budget if you plan to land him. However, with Kyler Murray flinging the ball around to the tune of 400 yards this week, the money needed to land him could be well worth the investment. Using 30% or more of your budget might seem like a bold move. And it is. It is a move that could lead you to a fantasy championship, though. So do not hesitate to do so if you need a wide receiver after an injury-plagued week.
Quez Watkins (99% Available)
Not a high upside play; Watkins does have one thing you cannot teach — speed. He also has a bit of a connection with quarterback Jalen Hurts, who spent a lot of time working with him this off-season. This connection showed up in the preseason and reared its head again in Week 2 as Hurts found Watkins on a 91-yard reception against the San Francisco 49ers. A grab which, unfortunately for the Eagles, only led to a field goal by Jake Elliott.
Jalen Hurts, spreading the ball around to all areas of the field. From Kenneth Gainwell and Dallas Goedert to Quez Watkins. If you are in desperate need and Watkins is available, he is worth a look. Especially this week against the Dallas Cowboys secondary, which, despite their play against the Los Angeles Chargers, is not great.
Jared Cook (57% Available)
Jared Cook has played all over the NFL, and there is a reason. He catches passes. If not for a litany of penalties in the game yesterday, he would have had one or two touchdown receptions from Justin Herbert. Although sharing work with Donald Parham Jr., Cook is the one gaining most of the targets. This shows the comfort level Herbert and Cook have after their work in the off-season.
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are becoming an explosive duo at the receiver position, and Austin Ekeler is a versatile back in the offense. Still, the Chargers have always counted on the tight end position to bail out their quarterbacks. Jared Cook looks to be the new man in town at this position, and he should be rostered in all leagues.
Eric Ebron (93% Available)
More of a speculative add, Ebron is only viable if Diontae Johnson misses time after being helped off the field on the final play of the Steelers Week 2 game against Las Vegas.
We know Pittsburgh wants to run the ball, but they set it up with the passing game. The limitations of Ben Roethlisberger’s arm lend us to believe in the underneath receivers more so than the downfield threats. Players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and the tight end position are more attractive options than the likes of Chase Claypool currently. Ebron is available in 94% of leagues and could be a significant contributor should Johnson miss any time.