When a player goes down in Week 15, it is never a good thing — for the player, his NFL team or the fantasy teams that have that player on rosters.
But with fantasy championships on the line this week — beginning with a Friday game between the Vikings and Saints — fantasy owners whose teams are still alive don’t have time to grovel in misfortune, they have to find solutions to plug into any new lineup holes.
Early reports indicate rookie Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire suffered a high ankle sprain, as well as a possible hip injury, when tackled awkwardly in Sunday’s win in New Orleans.
There is some good news for fantasy owners: If you have CEH and you’re still alive heading into the fantasy finals, you likely have already found a substitute for the rookie RB — who has just one game in which he produced more than 15 fantasy points since Week 6. If you were still using him chances are you’ve already gotten the boot.
Unfortunately, Edwards-Helaire wasn’t the only Sunday injury. We also saw Jacksonville’s James Robinson leave his game, and the 49ers lost two RBs — Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr.
At least the Chiefs’ situation provides a clear-cut backup plan in Le’Veon Bell. He is available in around 40 percent of leagues, and where he is available, you likely have just one other team competing against you in waiver battles this week.
Bell should step into the lead role in a highly productive offense, giving him a high ceiling uncommon to find on waiver wires this late in the season. His fantasy championship matchup, however, isn’t ideal. The Falcons had the seventh-stingiest defense against fantasy running backs heading into Week 15. They kept the Buccaneers ground game in check Sunday, though they did give up two short touchdowns to Leonard Fournette.
If Robinson can’t go due to an ankle injury, the Jaguars likely will turn to Dare Ogunbowale. He is a mystery, the fourth-year RB having just four carries for 24 yards this season and 15 for 41 in his career — all in the past two seasons. You can expect him to be involved in the passing game. He has three catches for 25 yards this season and had 35 for 286 last year for the Buccaneers.
Tough luck though, as he draws a Week 16 matchup with the Bears, who have a run defense that is slightly more stiff than the aforementioned Falcons.
Mostert reportedly aggravated a high ankle sprain. Wilson told media “I’m perfectly fine” after suffering a hamstring issue in Sunday’s loss at Dallas. He is available in slightly less than half of leagues and has a neutral matchup against the Cardinals on Saturday. If neither Mostert or Wilson plays this week, the bulk of carries would likely fall to the (cough) immortal (cough) Tevin Coleman.
These options might do in a pinch, but hopefully you have more reliable options heading into the most meaningful fantasy week of all.
Jalen Hurts QB, Eagles
Would you be surprised to learn Hurts is still available in 60 percent of leagues? The Madman certainly was. And he has a nice matchup with a weak Dallas defense this week.
Marcus Mariota QB, Raiders
It would be a surprise if Derek Carr returns for Saturday’s game against the Dolphins. Mariota’s running ability gives him a nice floor even in a difficult matchup.
Darnell Mooney WR, Bears
Has gotten five or more targets in every game but two since Week 2, and has scored two straight weeks. Gets a juicy matchup with the Jaguars this week. Could be a nice plug in deep leagues.
Logan Thomas TE, Redskins
Somehow available in 40-50 percent of leagues, and he ranks in top four among tight ends on the season.
Jonathan Taylor RB, Colts
You need a stud alternative in order to bench Taylor, who is on a roll of four straight games with at least 15 PPR points. But the Steelers are the league’s toughest on fantasy running backs — allowing an average of five fewer fantasy points per game to opposing RBs.
Kenyan Drake RB, Cardinals
Was outplayed and out-touched by Chase Edmonds this past week. The 49ers won’t make it easier for this disappointing fantasy asset.
D.J. Moore WR, Panthers
Had a nice return from the COVID list on Sunday (six catches for 131 yards) against the Packers. Washington presents a stiff challenge, and forecasting which Carolina WR will pop in a given week — Moore or Robby Anderson or Curtis Samuel — is difficult.
Eric Ebron TE, Steelers
It has been an unimpressive season by the Steelers tight end, and the Colts (fourth-stiffest vs. opposing TEs) aren’t likely to make it any easier this week.