With the top-ranked fantasy quarterback and defense – as well as the third and fourth ranked wide receivers – taking a break, this is one of the most challenging bye weeks owners will experience this season. It’s no simple task to replace Drew Brees, or the ball-hawking secondary of the Chicago Bears, but you have to try if you want to stay atop the standings.
However, there are arguably 10 top fantasy players sitting the bench this weekend (if you count Cam Newton and Steve Smith, which is debatable at this point), which makes combing the waiver wires a bit of an exercise in futility. There is no substitute for Brandon Marshall’s production who has gone unnoticed, and a suitable Maurice Jones-Drew-like performance isn’t just coming out of nowhere. Obviously, you should have a serviceable backup on your roster to make these weeks less stressful, but for those owners who decide to roll with a one quarterback or one tight end roster – or get hammered with multiple players on a bye – refuge needs to come from somewhere.
Enter this week’s Rent-a-Players, those guys who are owned in a low percentage of leagues, yet have the capacity to break out in an emergency situation. I am not going to list 10 players to fill in for all 10 who are out this week – the likelihood of finding that many needles in the haystack is like finding dignity in a Kardashian – but I will suggest the best matchups to exploit on your way to making your team respectable in the face of bye week adversity.
On Bye: QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Rent-a-Player: QB Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (@ Miami Dolphins) – 19% owned If there was one thing evident in St. Louis’ upset victory over Arizona last week, it was that Sam Bradford, when given time, can throw a beautiful deep ball. And while Miami has been one of the surprises of the season (in that they have actually won a couple games and been more competitive than expected), the Rams have been no slouch, either. Bradford has a few young receivers to spread the ball to, and Miami is sporting a 27th ranked pass defense that have given up 18 plays of 20 or more yards and seven touchdowns. I like Bradford for adding about 300 yards and a couple more TDs to his resume this weekend.
On Bye: WR Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears
Rent-a-Player: WR Armon Binns, Cincinnati Bengals (@ Cleveland Browns) – 3% owned Armon who? Playing third fiddle on a Bengals offense led by receiving wunderkind A.J. Green and slash threat Andrew Hawkins, Binns doesn’t exactly jump off the screen when thinking about receivers to plug and play for the week. But when you look at the matchup, and the fact that he is averaging 12.4 yards per catch, he is a nice play against a Cleveland secondary that was scorched by the Giants last week. Sure, he is third on his team in targets, but with Browns cornerback Joe Haden returning from a suspension just in time to shadow Megatron Jr., that leaves Binns as the second in line for looks from the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton. Give him a peek in deep leagues.
On Bye: WR Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
Rent-a-Player: WR Brandon Stokley, Denver Broncos (@ San Diego Chargers) – 8% owned Stokley has been mentioned here before, but after watching San Diego continue to leave Colston open over the middle all game last Sunday night, it is even more clear to me that the former Colt is a steal for this weekend. With Chargers DBs working to take away Demaryius Thomas, Stokley will get all warm and fuzzy in his role as Peyton Manning’s security blanket, dropping into the open to haul in his third touchdown of the season and continuing to be used as a veteran chain-mover.
On Bye: RB Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Rent-a-Player(s): RBs LaRod Stephens-Howling & William Powell, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Buffalo Bills) – 6% & 2% owned The Arizona O-Line is in shambles, as evidenced by Kevin Kolb playing the last couple games from his back, but with Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells both on injured reserve, the job is up for grabs. Stephens-Howling is returning from a hip injury, but has shown great burst when given opportunities in the past. Powell, the rookie from Kansas State, will also be given a shot, and if he can repeat his preseason numbers (which, obviously, were against third stringers) of 5.9 yards per carry and three touchdowns, you’ll see a new number one in the desert. You can flip a coin, but I’m taking Powell just for fun.
On Bye: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
Rent-a-Player: RB David Wilson, New York Giants (@ San Francisco 49ers) – 18% owned Suggesting you start a rookie with fumbling problems against a rush defense that yields just more than 80 yards per game and is looking for redemption after a playoff loss last year is, admittedly, stupid. However, taking Wilson this week is less about volume and more about hitting one out of the park. While spelling Ahmad Bradshaw last week, Wilson ripped off a 40-yard touchdown run, and his playing time has been ticking up ever since his Week 1 fumble on national television. Besides, with Bradshaw toting the rock nearly 30 times last week, New York is going to need to spell him more this week against a stout Niners front. It’s a risky play, but you’ll look like a genius if Wilson breaks out, and he is always good insurance in case Bradshaw goes down yet again.
On Bye: TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
Rent-a-Player: TE Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders (@ Atlanta Falcons) – 5% owned OK, so he hasn’t splashed the endzone yet this season, but Myers has caught all but one of his 17 targets through four games for a beastly 14.3 yards per catch. Atlanta is a Top-10 pass defense, and Carson Palmer doesn’t inspire confidence the way he used to when he was wearing tiger stripes, but Myers is an up-and-coming pass catcher, and when most of the other top tight ends are spoken for, sometimes desperate measures are called for.
On Bye: D/ST Chicago Bears
Rent-a-Team: San Diego Chargers (vs. Denver Broncos) – 12% owned I went back and forth a couple times with this one, finally settling on San Diego instead of Indianapolis (against the Jets) for one reason: turnovers. The Chargers give up plenty of points, but you can get away with that in fantasy if you have a nose for the ball, and this team’s six interceptions and four fumble recoveries on the season make them the Toucan Sam of the waiver wire. Plug them in and hope Peyton Manning has flashbacks to his Monday Night Football debacle against Atlanta.
Of course, in order to acquire some of the players mentioned above, you’ll have to drop one of your underachievers. Through five weeks of the season, here are some solid drops to make room on your roster, brought to you by Dez Bryant:
– RB Andre Brown, New York Giants
– RB Jackie Battle, San Diego Chargers
– WR Mike Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
– RB DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
– RB Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
– QB Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
– QB Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
– WR Alshon Jeffrey, Chicago Bears