If you are only focusing on starting skilled position players during the offseason, training camp and throughout your fantasy football drafts, your fantasy squad will be as doomed as Terrell Owens’ Indoor Football League career.
Backup quarterbacks, running backs and receivers can have fantasy value, too! Some may only have value when the injury-prone starters in front of them tear their yearly ACLs or bruise their buttocks, and some may have value just because they rack up a lot of yards and scores with the little playing time they are given, but you cannot just forget about second-stringers when putting together your fantasy cheat sheets.
So here are eight non-starters that fantasy football owners should keep an eye on:
Tim Tebow, New York Jets (QB)
At worst, Tebow will be on the field five to 10 plays per game for the Jets in their Wildcat package, with likely some of those snaps coming down by the end zone. And at best, Tebow could be the starting quarterback as soon as the first month of the season if Mark Sanchez continues to be a turnover factory.
Tebow may not be the prettiest passer, but his nose for touchdowns (12 passing TD, six rushing TD in 2011) and rushing yards (71 more than Michael Vick last year) forces fantasy owners to watch him.
John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals (QB)
Kevin Kolb makes multiple millions more, so he is Arizona’s starting quarterback—for now. The strong-armed Skelton threw for 1,913 yards in half a season in 2011, and if he wrests the starting job away from Kolb he would have all-world Larry Fitzgerald and first-round phenom Michael Floyd as his wide receivers while having another year of experience under his belt.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans (RB)
Tate was Arian Foster’s backup last season and still managed to out-rush several starting running backs. His 942 yards was more than Pittsburgh’s Rashard Mendenhall, Carolina’s DeAngelo Williams and Buffalo’s Fred Jackson each put up.
Tate’s straight-ahead rushing style works perfectly with Houston’s zone-blocking scheme, hence his 5.4 yards per carry last season. Even if Foster does not encounter any anti-awesomeness in his hamstring again, Tate could still run for 1,000 yards.
Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs (RB)
Hillis is only two years removed from a season where he amassed 1,177 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns. With Jamaal Charles coming off a torn ACL, and with Hillis not being the cover boy for Madden ‘13, Hillis could return to his blue-collar rumbling form and be a fantasy force once again.
David Wilson, New York Giants (RB)
New York’s top tailback, Ahmad Bradshaw, has more metal in his feet than there is at a Metallica concert, so there is always a chance one shoestring tackle might sideline him for weeks. That’s why Wilson was drafted in the first round by the Giants. This speedy rookie could be thrust into a starting role at any time depending on Bradshaw’s shaky health.
Michael Bush, Chicago Bears (RB)
Bush proved he could be a full-time starter by rushing for 977 yards with the Oakland Raiders last season, yet the best deal he could get in the offseason came from the Bears, who already have Matt Forte. It is unclear how the Forte-Bush carry splitting will shake out, but Bush is someone who should not be ignored on fantasy draft day.
Evan Royster, Washington Redskins (RB)
The jury is still out on whether Roy Helu will turn out to be the next Jim Brown, so Royster is someone to peg during the middle-to-late rounds of fantasy drafts. He averaged an outstanding 5.9 yards per carry during his rookie campaign and finished the season with back-to-back 100-yard games. If Helu stutters at all at season’s start, Royster will steal his spot.
Randy Moss, San Francisco 49ers (WR)
We all witnessed how awful Moss looked and behaved as he bounced from New England to Minnesota to Tennessee to retirement in 2010. But after taking a year off, Moss may be coming back with fresher legs and a finer attitude as he makes one last hurrah before concluding his Hall of Fame career.
Moss will probably not beat out Michael Crabtree or Mario Manningham on the depth chart, but if San Fran uses him as a long-range threat in three-wide receiver packages he can still be valuable, especially in distance leagues where longer touchdowns are worth bonus points.