Every season, without fail, someone rides to your league’s fantasy football championship on the shoulders of some random dude. You won’t find names like Matt Asiata, Tim Hightower or C.J. Anderson in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but their names are burned into the brains of fantasy owners as unlikely heroes and saviors of a potentially lost season.
This season is no different, as injuries continue to pile up at the worst possible time and the phrase “next man up” isn’t just a cliché as much as it is a mantra that needs to be said over and over.
Losing a player to injury for a week is one thing, but losing him for the entire fantasy playoffs can be a season-killer. All that hard work you put in is just tossed aside with news that one of your top picks is being shut down for the duration of the season. Owners of Julio Jones know exactly how it feels, as we were informed the Falcons were planning to shut him down rather than risk further damage to his hamstring. Calvin Ridley steps into the No. 1 role, but there are plenty of fantasy owners who are about to win their championships with Russell Gage in their starting lineups.
Gage was relatively quiet throughout much of the season, but as the season has progressed and Jones was less likely to be a reliable target, Gage saw an increase in targets and has actually turned out production most fantasy owners would kill to have. Since Week 11, Gage has averaged just over eight targets and 58 yards per game with two touchdowns. The numbers aren’t gaudy, but knowing the targets are coming his way with a Week 16 matchup against the Chiefs allows you to know plenty of work is coming his way.
If you find yourself looking for help, keep looking for the “next man up.” Tony Pollard is replacing Ezekiel Elliott. Lynn Bowden is stepping in for DeVante Parker. Greg Ward has the attention of Jalen Hurts and Juwan Johnson is now a thing in New Orleans. Forget the names and find the production. That’s what wins championships.
Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice.