Five games into the season and you’ve got one guy with 41 catches, 580 yards and two touchdowns. Deeee-lish. Three games with over 100 yards and four out of five weeks with double-digit fantasy points in standard leagues; double-digit points in all five in PPR play. Fantastic. These were the joys celebrated by Julio Jones owners everywhere….until word came down after the Falcons’ Monday night loss to the Jets that Jones was hurt. And not just ‘sit out practice, miss a week’ hurt. We’re talking real hurt. Hurt hurt. Hurt your fantasy team hurt.
According to a variety of reports, Jones broke a screw in the foot he had surgically repaired just prior to his rookie season. Initial reports indicate that he’ll be sidelined for the remainder of the season, but he’s expected to seek a second opinion. Falcons coach Mike Smith has suggested that reports that Jones will miss the entire season are premature, but he also said that the initial diagnosis was not particularly encouraging. Bottom line – this ain’t good. Not good at all.
**THIS JUST IN – Jones is officially out for the remainder of the season
So now it’s time to try and replace Jones’ totals, right? Sure, if it were actually possible to replace those numbers. Jones’ 580 yards lead all other receivers in the NFL. His 41 receptions? Also number one. His fantasy points total in standard leagues ranks in the top five and the only players who have scored more or at least close enough to him to be considered a viable replacement would be Victor Cruz, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, and Demaryius Thomas. It is highly doubtful that there is anyone even remotely close on your waiver wire. If you’ve got a collection of high-end running backs, then perhaps you’ll be able to work out a deal for one of them. Or maybe you have a top tight end you can package up with another receiver or a lesser running back. But if you don’t have a significant strength from which to trade, then you’re stuck. Stuck working the waiver wire, that is.
Obviously, every league is different and what’s sitting out there on your waiver wire might be totally different from what I have sitting on mine, but based on the influx of emails, there are a few names available that seem to be pretty common throughout a majority of leagues. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Alshon Jeffery, WR CHI – If you’re playing in a league of 12 teams or more, then he’s probably no longer available. But those of you in leagues of 10 teams or less, you better put your waiver claim in for him now if you haven’t already done so. With Brandon Marshall nursing a sore foot, Jeffery has become the apple of Jay Cutler’s eye. Over the past two games, he’s seen 24 targets, made 15 catches for 325 yards and found the endzone once in each contest. He’s finally delivering on the potential we’ve been hearing about for two years now and what’s even better is that he’s becoming such a trusted target for Cutler, it is very likely that he continues to see a strong number of targets even when Marshall is healthy. Suddenly the Bears offense has balance and that’s exactly what they’ve needed.
Terrance Williams, WR DAL – Much more of a short-term option here as Williams playing time and targets is in direct relation to the health of Miles Austin who has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury. In his absence, Williams has hauled in 11 catches (12 targets) for 222 yards and one touchdown and should be one of the hottest commodities off the waiver wire, if he hasn’t been snatched up already. Only one problem here and that’s the fact that Austin practiced in full Wednesday and appears to be on track to return this week against Washington. The Cowboys will bring Austin along slowly so not to re-aggravate the injury (much like what happened to him back in 2011), so Williams should have one good week left in him before his value starts to vanish.
Harry Douglas, WR ATL – He’s the obvious choice for replacement given the fact that Roddy White also sustained a hamstring injury Monday night and is also expected to be on the shelf for more than just a week. He’s got the bye week here in Week 6, so he’s not going to provide much in the way of immediate help, but he’s definitely a solid long-term play, especially now that Jones is officially done for the year and White is out for another couple of games. Of course it’s unlikely that he produces at either one of their levels, but he’s all too familiar with the offense and he and Matt Ryan already have a nice rapport. Perhaps now that he’s No. 1 on the depth chart, he’ll take his game to another level; one that will help put you at least one step closer towards your fantasy playoffs.
Keenan Allen, WR SD – The Chargers wideout has emerged from the shadows here in the last two weeks and has now caught 11 passes (15 targets) for 195 yards and one touchdown in that span. With Malcom Floyd out and Vincent Brown failing to live up to his potential, Allen has seemingly emerged to take one of the primary receiver roles. With a distinct lack of depth in the team’s receiving corps, Allen should remain a strong target for the foreseeable future.
Jerome Simpson, WR MIN – A bit more of a longshot here, given the quarterback situation in Minnesota. However, should either Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman be under center and start airing it out, Simpson has been the guy with the most looks thus far and could be a huge help, particularly in PPR leagues. He’s seen 32 targets through the first four games, has made 19 catches for 342 yards but has yet to find the endzone. With any luck, that should change soon enough.
So while you’re not going to actually be able to replace the production that Julio Jones provided, you can certainly find some decent help for both the short and long-term. In the grand scheme of things you’re obviously downgrading, but if you’re unable to swing a deal without hamstringing yourself at another position, thus causing multiple downgrades, then you’ve just got to plod through like this. It’s certainly not ideal, but trying to make a reactionary deal, perhaps out of panic, is only going to hurt you in the end.
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at email@example.com.
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