Injuries, injuries, injuries. Amazing how many players have been lost either for a week or two or the entire season. What makes it even worse is when the back-up of an injured player is hurt. It does open more opportunities but so often you have to make blind choices on your waiver and many just do not pan out. This has been a very challenging year for teams that drafted later in the first round and did not access an elite wideout because so many of the late first and second round picks flopped or are just gone.
Pull up a chair. Here’s the next six guys I’ve been thinking about.
1. RB Mike Gillislee (BUF) – Here is a hot commodity this week and at the least LeSean McCoy is going to be a game time decision. Other reports have him out maybe two weeks or more. That is in keeping with what the older McCoy does – he missed four games last season. But who is Mike Gillislee and what can be expected from him? He was the fifth round pick by the Dolphins in 2013 out of Florida where he played for four years but did not start until he was a senior. Gillislee ran for 1152 yards and ten scores on 244 carries which was roughly the total of his first three years. His lesser used complement that years was Matt Jones now with the Redskins.
Gillislee is a big runner – 6-2, 227 lbs. and he ran a 4.48/40 at his combine. He bounced around the Dolphins, then Cardinals and eventually the Bills as of December of last year. He finished up 2015 with a touchdown in three straight games. He became the clear #2 back this year after Karlos Williams was released and Reggie Bush immediately proved unworthy. So – he has surprising speed and scored two 50+ yard touchdowns last year. He is the clear #2 and McCoy has a history of getting dinged up. He’s not going to be reliable when McCoy is healthy but he has a lot of full-time work promised when McCoy is out. This week in Miami should be good. But the next weeks are NE, @SEA and then their bye so his short-term outlook is limited.
2. RB Derick Henry (TEN) – For those drafters who spent probably a 6th to 8th round pick on Henry, the payoff has not been there. He only had two runs last week against the Browns. He has not yet scored and while he ran for as much as 54 yards in a game, he also has three with fewer than 10 yards gained. In light of all the running back injuries this season and in the last week in particular, Henry seems ripe to be the next guy that traders and waiver wire hounds will crave. This lighter workload has likely done him good since he was so heavily used by Alabama last year.
Murray is on a pace for 304 carries this year when he made it past 217 only once in his six year career. In a year with so many injuries, can Murray really be one of the lucky, healthy few?
3. WR Corey Coleman (CLE) – Coleman hasn’t practiced yet this week and will not play. He is hoping to be cleared next week to practice and should know by Monday after his hand gets an x-ray. He only played in two games before injuring his hand but that was 2-69 in Philly and then 5-104 with two touchdowns versus the Ravens. And when he returns this time, Terrelle Pryor has already taken the #1 receiver mantle and Coleman won’t be as big of a focus by the opposing defenders.
His schedule would be NYJ, DAL, @BAL, PIT, NYG, bye, CIN, @BUF and SD. Have to like having six home games and only two road venues left to play.
4. Buccaneer wideouts/tight end – This will be interesting and you can get in on the ground floor of a starting wideout – if it actually ends up mattering that much. Vincent Jackson will miss at least the next eight weeks if not the rest of the season with a knee injury that initially was thought to be a torn ACL. That leaves a void and Humphries will remain in the slot and allow likely Donteea Dyer or Cecil Shepherd to take the split end spot. What the Buccaneers are losing is a veteran who had six targets per week but that never accounted for more than 44 yards this year.
The Buccaneers desperately need someone besides Mike Evans to step up and make a difference. Humphries has been as good as nine catches for 100 yards in the loss to the Rams. But was limited to only one catch the last two weeks against DEN and @CAR. When Jackson missed six games last year, Humphries stepped in for three games and never had more than five catches for 55 yards. In the final three games, Dye was the replacement but never did better than four catches for 31 yards.
The only real change was for the tight ends. Cameron Brate scored once on his two catches for 48 yards at Atlanta and then two games with single catches. The final three weeks saw Austin Sefarian-Jenkins turn in games of 3-29, 2-60 and 3-48 with a touchdown in the first two weeks. That was his best stretch of the year. Jackson’s absence may not be felt much at all and if anyone steps up, history says Cameron Brate is more likely to see better stats.
5. WR Kendall Wright (TEN) – His best year was 2013 when he turned in 94-1079-2 in his second season. He’s been dogged by injuries since, missing two games in 2014 (57-715-6) and six games in 2015 (36-408-3) during Marcus Mariota’s first season when the rookie rarely threw to a wide receiver. Wright was limited by a hamstring strain and only started back in Week 4. But OC Terry Robiskie two weeks ago said that he expected Wright to provide a boost to the offense. He only had one catch against Miami. Then HC Mike Mularkey said his focus was on fixing the passing game that once again had deteriorated to mostly just Delanie Walker.
Wright turned in eight catches for 133 yards with one score at home versus the Browns in Week 6. Yes – it was the Browns. But at least Mariota is back to looking for the former first-round pick who has more talent than any other wideout. His next opponents are IND, JAC, @SD, GB, @IND and @CHI. The Titans are going to attempt to continue to look for wideouts more and Wright is best positioned to benefit.
6. TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (HOU) – The Texans always rank low in tight end production each year and offensive coordinator George Godsey kept that tradition alive last year. Ryan Griffin was the top receiver with just 20 catches for 251 yards and two scores. C.J. Fiedorowicz only managed 16 catches for 201 yards that was just a string of one or two catch games for never more than 30 yards. But something changed.
Fiedorowicz suddenly entered the game plan in Week 4 this year when he caught four passes for 48 yards and one score. The next week in Minnesota was a new high with four receptions for 61 yards and then yet again last week when he caught six passes for 85 yards and his second score of the year. That’s actually better than DeAndre Hopkins for those three weeks. That’s better than any HOU receiver for that time period. No need to fight why the sudden change in game plans – the 3.01 pick from 2014 is finally being used consistently.
And an extra point…
Always interesting to look back – maybe a little painful too. Here are where the top 20 drafted running backs (Average Draft) are currently ranked in a PPR league.
Seven of the first 12 drafted (RB1 in a 12 team league) were at least painful flops if not just on injured reserve. Going to make it hard to spend that high pick next year. Perhaps it will be the full reversal. A decade ago, there may only have been three or four wideouts taken over the first two rounds. Now that may be running backs.