DeMarco Murray's injury has potentially opened up a huge opportunity for rookie Joseph Randle in Week 7.
Consider this the calm before the storm.
Week 7 in the NFL has just two teams heading into their byes—New Orleans and Oakland—but the heaviest bye weeks in fantasy football history are on tap the following two Sundays.
That puts a huge onus on winning the waiver-wire battle this week because it is going to be real competitive next Tuesday night.
A well-positioned team can suck up "market share" when six teams are off in both Week 8 and Week 9. That is the most teams idle in a given week in NFL history. The next three weeks will have half of the league's 32 teams off with byes.
Some good fantasy crunch-time options are going to be dropped to deal with these byes. Adjust your rosters, via trades or waivers, to take take advantage of that.
We break down the top waiver options for Week 7 in this six-part slideshow. Enjoy.
Note: For reference, CBS Sports leagues are the model for all ownership percentages.
Quarterbacks to Add
We are going to assume you already know the following are viable bye-week replacements—despite being available in over 20 percent of leagues—in this order: Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams; Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals; Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers; and Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens.
Let's get under the hood of the depth of the position in fantasy play.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
Regardless of the Eagles' looming decision on Michael Vick's hamstring and starting status, Foles did enough against a good Bucs defense on Sunday to warrant a roster spot in standard fantasy leagues. Vick is a perpetual injury risk, and the Eagles offense is just behind the Broncos in averaging three-plus touchdowns per game. Apparently, it doesn't matter which quarterback starts for the Eagles.
Foles won't be anyone's first choice off waivers this week, but he might emerge as the most important one.
Quarterbacks to Monitor
Josh Freeman, Minnesota Vikings
Speaking of quarterback controversies, the Vikings have one because Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel could not run away with the role. Freeman is likely the next man up and has at least been fantasy starter-worthy in the past.
Take the flier here if you own one of these quarterbacks hitting a bye in the next few weeks:
- Peyton Manning (Week 9)
- Drew Brees (Week 7)
- Matthew Stafford (Week 9)
- Colin Kaepernick (Week 9)
- Andrew Luck (Week 8)
- Philip Rivers (Week 8)
- Jay Cutler (Week 8)
- Joe Flacco (Week 8)
- Eli Manning (Week 9)
- Terrelle Pryor (Week 7)
- Carson Palmer (Week 9)
- Chad Henne (Week 9)
- Matt Schaub (Week 8)
It is about to get real competitive for decent quarterback substitutions, as you can see.
Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What a difference a bye makes for a rookie quarterback trying to ingrain himself into the offseason.
Glennon has the nice set of weapons that Freeman left behind in Tampa Bay, as Glennon made Vincent Jackson the highest-scoring fantasy receiver in Week 6. Mike Williams (hamstring) is expected back this week too, according to the Tampa Tribune's Mike Cummings.
The Bucs might have something with this power arm, and there should be some garbage time to come in the second half of the season.
Quarterbacks to Ignore
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Yes, Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) makes Palmer intriguing, but Fitz is banged up, and Palmer has underperformed even with the most modest of expectations in fantasy. You don't mess with the Seahawks secondary on purpose, so ignore Palmer this week and consider him down the road when the matchup is more favorable and Fitzgerald is healthier.
Thad Lewis, Buffalo Bills
No one could have foreseen Sunday's performance from Lewis, who was the fifth-highest-scoring fantasy quarterback in a standard league last week. That came without Stevie Johnson (back/personal) too. Lewis might be an option for those who are desperate in two-quarterback leagues, but he is still closer to the bottom five in quarterback options than the top five performers like he was on Sunday.
Running Backs to Add
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
Yes, the Rams play a difficult schedule in the NFC West, and it is an especially tough one for a running back, but Stacy has taken over the Rams' running-back-by-committee approach and can be picked up in the 30 percent of leagues where he is still available.
Not only did Stacy manage 20 touches on Sunday, but he played 38 of the 47 snaps for the Rams, according to ProFootballFocus.com. The grinder is now a top-25 fantasy running back.
Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants
David Wilson won't need season-ending surgery, according to Fox Sports' Mike Garafolo, but The Star-Ledger's Conor Orr reports Wilson will be re-evaluated after a "few weeks." That will keep the ball in the hands of Jacobs, who erupted last Thursday night for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
Jacobs won't win you any fantasy leagues in the postseason, but he can help you through the bye weeks. The schedule is favorable the next two weeks (against Minnesota and at Philly), and Michael Cox and Da'Rel Scott won't be taking many touches away from him like they did from Wilson.
Joseph Randle, Dallas Cowboys
Bryan Broaddus of Dallascowboys.com tweets that Randle will start at running back in place of DeMarco Murray (knee) at Philly. Murray is likely to miss Week 7, according to ESPN's Todd Archer and Adam Schefter, while Lance Dunbar is dealing with a hamstring issue that has kept him out the past two weeks. That makes Randle arguably the most important running back add of the week in those deeper leagues. He is owned in just four percent of leagues.
Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers
Tolbert is coming off a huge week, vulturing touchdowns from DeAngelo Williams both in the running and passing games. While Tolbert doesn't get a lot of touches, he can get the important ones against a St. Louis Rams defense that has allowed the second-most points to running backs in fantasy play this season.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers
Hunter has three touchdowns in four games and serves as the handcuff to 30-year-old running back Frank Gore in one of the most run-heavy offenses in football. Still owned in just 39 percent of leagues, Hunter is an undervalued commodity who should be added as running back insurance in all leagues—still.
Running Backs to Monitor
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
Ellington won't fully unseat Rashard Mendenhall as the Cardinals' feature back because of his slight stature, but we have made sense of the rotation now. Ellington—not Stepfan Taylor, Alfonso Smith or the long-forgotten Ryan Williams—is the handcuff for Mendenhall owners. Ellington is getting enough of the touches to be useful as a flex option when the bye weeks are heavy. Just don't use him in Week 7 against Seattle.
Chris Ogbonnaya, Cleveland Browns
He was a lot more interesting before the Browns signed Willis McGahee, but Ogbonnaya was productive in the passing game this past week with seven catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. If he continues to be the receiving back, you can make him a starter as a flex in PPR leagues during the bye season. We just aren't convinced that he will be an every-week performer.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers; Shane Vereen, New England Patriots; Andre Brown, New York Giants
The trio is all still likely a month away from returning from the PUP and Designated for Return IR lists, but there is hope they can be fantasy contributors during crunch time. If you have your top backs already through byes, you will want to take fliers on these potential impact players in lieu of stashing short-term options who you won't play in the coming weeks.
Running Backs to Ignore
Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet, New Orleans Saints
You can lust over Robinson's preseason performance or even his potential all you want, but we have already learned how frustrating the Saints' running back rotation is in fantasy. Darren Sproles is still the only Saints back to own, and Pierre Thomas will get the starts and goal-line touches in most weeks.
Robinson and Cadet were just circumstantial scorers for the Saints in a tough game against the Pats. The Saints also have their bye in Week 7, reason enough to ignore him. Mark Ingram (toe) can be back in Week 8.
Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks
Yes, Michael got nine carries in a blowout of the Jags a few weeks ago, but he hasn't been active since. Robert Turbin is still, and has been, the handcuff for Marshawn Lynch owners. Turbin is right behind Hunter as one of the most undervalued commodities in fantasy. Michael should not be owned outside of keeper leagues.
Wide Receivers to Add
Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks
Harvin won't return to practice because of the short week, according to 710 ESPN Seattle's Liz Mathews, but he is eligible to be activated on the Seahawks roster, and reports have been encouraging that he can come back sooner rather than later from his preseason hip issue. Harvin will be a statistical monster in the Seahawks' short passing game and is a must-have receiver now for fantasy crunch time.
This writer hasn't liked him much, but the mediocrity of Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and other Seahawks receivers has changed that tune. Pick up Harvin now before it is too late. He is available in over 40 percent of leagues.
Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons
With Julio Jones (foot) out for the season and Roddy White (hamstring/ankle) not close to 100 percent—or even out—Douglas has emerged as a must-add fantasy option in all leagues. Matt Ryan is going to make someone outside of Tony Gonzalez productive in the passing game, and Douglas just might develop into Ryan's No. 1 outside threat in the interim. For the rest of the season, Jones' injury will thrust Douglas into a full-time starting job too.
Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles
Here is the thing about the Eagles' secondary targets: A backup quarterback tends to have the best rapport with backups. As long as Nick Foles is in play to start for the Eagles, you need to consider Cooper a viable fantasy option. Track Michael Vick's status amid his hamstring issue closely. For now, add Cooper just in case. A favorable matchup against the Cowboys looms.
Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
We have waited for Cam Newton to develop a target behind aging Steve Smith, and LaFell has finally stepped up his game, reeling in three touchdowns in the past three games. LaFell isn't a top-30 receiver yet, but Newton can help him get close to that. Consider LaFell a must-add if you need help during the bye weeks.
Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers
Sanders won't push Antonio Brown to be his team's primary target, but he is a solid No. 2 in an offense that projects to have to throw the ball quite a bit. Even with Le'Veon Bell's return, the Steelers will still rely on Ben Roethlisberger's right arm. They also have been through their bye week. Sanders is a solid option to get you through the bye season at least.
Wide Receivers to Monitor
Rueben Randle, New York Giants
There are multiple problems we have with trusting Randle's production and it has nothing to do with talent or preparation.
Randle had an offseason to work with Eli Manning when Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks were out amid contract squabbles. Randle is a legit starting receiver, but he will still have to play third fiddle to Cruz and Nicks in a Giants offense that will still struggle to keep Manning upright and away from errors.
Randle really needs a Nicks trade—or injury—to be truly trustworthy in fantasy. The former is now a possibility, according to the New York Daily News' Ebenezer Samuel.
Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
Jones has potential, but you still have to rank him low in the Andy Dalton pecking order. A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert figure to get more targets on a weekly basis than Jones. Watch this talent, though. Jones can be a sleeper if you're desperate when the bye weeks get real heavy in Week 8 and Week 9. The Bengals face the Jets and Miami in those weeks, though.
Jacoby Jones, Baltimore Ravens
He is back from injury and is a starter opposite Torrey Smith, but the Steelers are next on the schedule, and they are still a top-10 team against wide receivers, boasting the fourth-best passing defense. Pick up Jones only if you're desperate for a temporary fill-in. He at least has his injury behind him.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) is not 100 percent, and Floyd is emerging as a fantasy-quality young talent, but the Seahawks are next up on the schedule, and their secondary should not be one to contend with, especially when weighing fringe fantasy options like Floyd. Watch him for future production when the matchup is more favorable.
Wide Receivers to Ignore
Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints
The rookie has potential, and Drew Brees makes fantasy sleepers out of a number of targets in any given week, but the Saints are on bye in Week 7. Stills can be left on the waiver wire in most leagues and be considered under the radar for the following waivers run.
Marquise Goodwin, Buffalo Bills
The rookie has potential, but the Bills' quarterback situation is still dicey, and Stevie Johnson (back) should be ready for Week 7. Goodwin is behind Johnson and Robert Woods in a passing offense that won't muster much in the coming weeks (at Miami, at New Orleans, versus Kansas City and at Pittsburgh).
Tandon Doss, Baltimore Ravens
Doss wasn't fantasy-viable with Jacoby Jones out with injury, so with Jones back, you cannot expect much going forward. His Week 7 was an aberration.
Kris Durham, Detroit Lions
Durham has gotten a lot of targets with Calvin Johnson (knee) nursing an injury, but we still expect Ryan Broyles (knee) to get healthier and more of the targets in future weeks. Durham is not a good play against the Bengals secondary this week, and the short term should be all you are looking at with him.
Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
The former second-round pick caught a short touchdown in Week 6, much to the dismay of Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron owners, but he still has issues with drops and is a bad third option in an offense that just doesn't have the same juice with Brandon Weeden back under center again.
Tight Ends to Add
Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings
Bad quarterbacks and lack of red-zone throws have cost Rudolph his top-10 standing among fantasy tight ends and dropped his ownership to under 50 percent. A breakthrough Week 6 of nine catches for 97 yards and a touchdown makes him a solid starter in all leagues again, especially because his bye week is out of the way.
Rudolph is good enough to be a set-him-and-forget-him fantasy starter at the roller-coaster tight end position. You might even drop your starter heading for a bye (not Jimmy Graham, mind you) for this guy and just leave him there the rest of the season.
Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions
Fauria is the Cris Carter of fantasy tight ends: All he does is catch touchdown passes. At this position, that is enough—even once. Fauria did it three times in Week 6 and has five TDs for the season in a pass-friendly Lions offense that has moved away from Brandon Pettigrew as a red-zone option at the position.
Fauria will be keyed on more in the red zone moving forward, but he presents matchup issues at 6'7", even if you try to stop him. He is the player we thought Zach Sudfeld would be.
Tight Ends to Monitor
Dallas Clark, Baltimore Ravens
Clark has had his moments this season after replacing the elite Dennis Pitta (hip), but those moments have been too few and far between. A treacherous run of solid pass defenses looms for the Ravens in the coming weeks, facing Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati, the New York Jets and Pittsburgh again. Clark might not be as useful through Week 11 as some others during the heavy part of the bye season. Pitta could be a factor—maybe—thereafter.
Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Backup quarterbacks thrust into starting roles tend to pull their scout-team receivers up with them in fantasy. That is clearly the case with the undrafted rookie tight end out of Rutgers. Mike Glennon has shown some juice, and Wright is now someone to watch in deeper leagues after his seven-catch, 91-yard performance on Sunday.
A converted wide receiver, Wright told the Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman on Monday:
Mike and I came in together as rookies and spent a lot of time in the offseason getting our timing down. You never thought we'd be the two hooking up together at this point, but it happened. ... It's definitely starting to click. I had to learn the ins and outs of a new position, learning how the linebackers and safeties are going to cover me.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
Reed's biggest fantasy contribution is not so much his production as much as his keeping Fred Davis off fantasy radars. This timeshare is not quite in Reed's favor enough to make the rookie out of Florida a viable fantasy starter just yet.
Tight Ends to Ignore
Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills
Chandler has proven healthy coming off knee surgery and has been fantasy viable before, but the Bills have an uncertain situation with their quarterback, and Chandler cannot be counted on to score consistently. Consider him still off the fantasy radar in standard leagues.
Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams
Jared Cook is still the Rams' tight end of choice, even if Kendricks has vultured touchdowns from him. Kendricks is too uncertain to get a target in any given week to consider in most fantasy leagues.
Other tight ends who rose up to score some fantasy points this week but are not consistent enough threats to be options going forward are Benjamin Watson (New Orleans), Cory Harkey (St. Louis) and Michael Hoomanawanui (New England).
Defense/Special Teams to Add
Ignore what Thad Lewis did in his first start; the Bills still are an offense to take advantage of from a streaming defense perspective. The Dolphins are a lot better defensively than you might think, and playing at home against the Bills coming off a bye lines them up as a potential fantasy-starting option this week.
San Diego Chargers
A top-notch fantasy unit a year ago, that was an impressive performance by the Chargers against the Colts on Monday night. Yes, they will have to travel cross-country on a short week, but the Jags offense scares no one.
Defense/Special Teams to Monitor
St. Louis Rams
St. Louis had a huge performance against the error-prone Matt Schaub and the Texans, but you cannot jump on the Rams' upstart defense in their matchup at Carolina, necessarily. Cam Newton can do a lot more damage than Schaub and T.J. Yates did on Sunday. Watch the Rams for matchups down the stretch, but don't make this a starting unit this week.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Texans are putting what should be a good defense in uncompromising positions, so you cannot trust what was supposed to be a top-five fantasy unit right now—especially not at Kansas City. This could be a rebound week, though, in a marquee matchup, so watch the Texans for potential rewards in the stretch run.
Defense/Special Teams to Ignore
Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants
The only good news with these deplorable units are the fact they each face each other on Monday night. Both the Giants and Vikings have featured awful quarterback play and been among the 10 most generous units in fantasy to opposing defenses. Be afraid of this matchup, be very afraid.
Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns
Unlike the Vikings and Giants, these units have outperformed expectations to date. The problem that they face are very unfavorable matchups against the likes of Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Don't start these units in any leagues against those studs.
Kickers to Add
Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
Are you stubborn fools believers yet? Crosby has a potent offense, has been through his bye week and had a track record—before 2012—of being an elite kicker in fantasy. You have to ride this guy here on out, especially with the injuries to Randall Cobb (leg) and James Jones (knee).
Phil Dawson, San Francisco 49ers
A slow start has left Dawson available in 25 percent of leagues. A rebound performance in Week 6 puts him back among the must-have kickers in all fantasy leagues. If you miss out on Crosby and have Garrett Hartley or Sebastian Janikowski on bye, pick up the awesome Dawson.
Kickers to Monitor
Garrett Hartley, New Orleans Saints
Like we have said with Crosby, two of the best traits a kicker can have are an elite quarterback and having his bye week in the rear view. That will be Hartley after this week, so consider stashing him when he is dropped this week.
Shaun Suisham, Pittsburgh Steelers
You cannot be overly confident in the Steelers' offensive production, but Suisham has already gotten past his bye and is coming off a productive week. The Steelers figure to play a lot of defensive games in the coming weeks, so there could be more field-goal battles on tap for Suisham.
Kickers to Ignore
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders
OK, so the Raiders are not completely worthless, but SeaBass is heading into his bye week. There are at least 20 kickers you should rather have for the stretch run in fantasy, despite the name brand of Janikowski.
Nick Novak, San Diego Chargers
While you should love what he has done to date and the potential blowout looming at Jacksonville, you also have to admit the possibility of merely five extra points this week. Novak isn't quite a starter-quality kicker in Week 7.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.