There have been points a’plenty in the 2020 NFL and yet injuries continue to mount and change who it is that is actually accruing those fantasy points. We lost Austin Ekeler and Nick Chubb for a few weeks and it is sometimes hard to remember that there have only been four games. Fantasy rosters are undergoing constant changes and owning the backups to your best players has never been more important.
Typically, injuries tend to get lower every week and become minimal later in the year. We’ll see if a lack of conditioning in the summer will continue to make such a negative impact.
Six things going into the weekend:
- Game changes – The Broncos-Patriots game moved to Monday at 5 P.M. EST on ESPN. The Bills-Titans game will be played on Tuesday at 7 P.M. EST on CBS. The Chiefs-Bills game that was to be on Thursday will be moved to “the weekend” because they would only have had two days between games otherwise.This is assuming the Bills-Titans game is played since the COVID-19 situation in Tennessee is teetering on a disaster if they do not get their infections under control. Aside from the Titans, the pandemic hasn’t been a huge factor in playing NFL games but we have 13 weeks to go and 31 other teams have to avoid being a problem.
- RB Raheem Mostert (SF) – He’s back to limited work in practices on both Wednesday and Thursday and appears likely to to play. He was little used as a receiver in 2019 but opened the year with four catches for 95 yards in addition to his 15 rushes. What will be notable is the production that Jerick McKinnon continues to supply. He’s taken 14 rushes in each of the last two games and caught seven passes in the loss to the Eagles last week. Moster handled 15 of the 23 rushes in Week 1 when healthy. This backfield could be turning into a messy situation and that is not counting that Tevin Coleman will return at some point.Worsening that is the fact that all the defensive injuries on the 49ers mean they can no longer just rely on their rushing effort to win games. These 49ers are heading in a direction no one could foresee six weeks ago.
- RB Cam Akers (LAR) – The 2.20 pick of the Rams in the NFL draft was expected to take a leading role in the otherwise mediocre backfield. He’s been out since suffering a painful rib injury in Week 2. Akers returned to limited work on Wednesday and then a full day on Thursday. In Week 1, the distribution of carriers was Akers (14), Darrell Henderson (3), and Malcolm Brown (18). More confusing was that Week 3 saw Henderson (20) and Brown (7) trade places. And Week 4 was Henderson (8) and Brown (9).The one to watch is Akers. If he meets expectations, he becomes a reliable primary back. But the Rams view Henderson as the faster, better open-field runner and Brown as the bigger, more powerful back. Akers was hoped to be both. Playing at Washington and then at San Francisco should help determine if anything reliable will ever come out of this backfield for 2020.
- RB D’Ernest Johnson (CLE) – Nick Chubb injured his MCL in Week 4 and was placed on injured reserve and will miss several weeks. Going into last week, Kareem Hunt was nursing a groin injury and even though Chubb left the game, Hunt only carries 11 times. He’ll be the primary fantasy play for the Browns backfield and his groin should be even better this week after scoring twice in Dallas last Sunday.But Johnson takes over for Chubb and he ran for 95 yards on 13 carries in Dallas. He only carried four times last year as an undrafted rookie and he played four seasons at South Forida as a dual-threat. His pedigree is less important than his new opportunity playing in one of the top rushing offenses in the NFL. He’s worth watching against the Colts and Steelers because starting Week 7, the Browns schedule lightens up significantly with the Bengals, Raiders, Texans and Eagles to follow.
- RB Josh Kelley (LAC) – Austin Ekeler suffered a serious injury to his hamstring and will miss at least a month or more. That thrusts the rookie Kelley into a starting role with Justin Jackson stepping up to become the new No. 2 back. This week faces the Saints, but after that are the Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars, and Raiders. There will be more fantasy points generated by this backfield. Kelley was the fourth-round pick that already ran 42 times but has only averaged 3.3 yards per carry and lost a fumble in each of the last two games. He should improve against a weaker schedule provided he holds onto the ball.Justin Jackson is in his third year with the Chargers after being a seventh-round pick in 2018. He’s been behind Melvin Gordon and Ekeler but provided up to 50 carries in a season with a career rushing average of 4.8 yards. He gained over 1,300 total yards all four years at Northwestern. Neither back is likely to have a big game in New Orleans, but whichever looks better should end up as the lead back when the schedule clears up starting in Week 6.
- TE Albert Okwuegbunam (DEN) – In the spring and summer, researching and reviewing the rookies is always enjoyable and along the way, you notice several players that stand out even though they weren’t first-round picks. Most won’t end up doing much but a few – and often as a surprise – end up as starters with fantasy value. One of those “probably not, but you never know” guys was Okwuegbunam. The 6-5, 259-pound three-year starter at Missouri totaled 98 catches and 23 touchdowns and became the 4.12 pick by the Broncos.Noah Fant has a firm hold on the starting gig in Denver after being the 1.20 pick in 2019. But Fant sprained his ankle and hasn’t practiced this week. If he’s out, Okwuegbuna could see some playing time and he runs a 4.58 40-time. It’s always good to see players that were picked deeper in the draft get at least a brief chance to show if they belong in the NFL. Probably not. But – you never know.