Last week was probably the worst one in a long time when it came to the amount of major injuries in the NFL.
With superstars like Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin, Chicago’s Jay Cutler, St. Louis’ Sam Bradford and Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne all suffering injuries that will keep them out weeks, months or the entire year, many fantasy football rosters were devastated.
So, because of all of these major injuries and with many teams off every week now due to byes, the waiver wire in fantasy leagues was probably busier this week than Macy’s is on Black Friday. And four of the most popular pickups were guys who will be filling in for some of the recently injured.
Here are the grades for four popular pickups that will be filling in for the fallen:
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Indianapolis Colts (WR)
It is a shame that someone who has been as remarkably durable as Reggie Wayne has been throughout his storied career tore his ACL on a play where he was not even grazed by another defender. But after a couple days of mourning his loss, fantasy owners have to find a replacement for Wayne’s steady production, and looking at a Wayne teammate might be the quickest way.
Wayne was targeted by quarterback Andrew Luck as often as the Penguin was targeted by Batman. Now, other Indy receivers will have Wayne’s targets and opportunities spread around to them, and the one Colts WR available in many fantasy leagues is Heyward-Bey.
Heyward-Bey has been injury-prone, drop-prone and has no nose for the end zone (12 TD in 63 career contests). But the guy has a couple things going for him, most notably above-average speed and having Luck throwing to him.
Heyward-Bey has a 975-yard campaign to his credit and has shown flashes of playmaking ability this year. Unfortunately, he has also had a couple high-profile drops that probably cost him touchdowns. He will get more passes thrown to him as a result of Wayne’s injury, though, so his numbers will increase no matter how many times passes slip through his hands.
Fantasy Impact Grade: B
Kellen Clemens, St. Louis Rams (QB)
Here is a quick synopsis of what Clemens has done during his eight-year career: He has completed 51.8 percent of his passes (bad), has a 7-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio (worse) and has a lifetime quarterback rating of 62.2 (unconscionable).
How much faith does St. Louis have in Clemens? The Rams asked Brett Favre to get off his tractor and start throwing spirals to Tavon Austin, according to ESPN. That’s a real vote of confidence for Clemens, huh? So if St. Louis has little faith in Clemens, why should fantasy owners?
Clemens is not known for having the ability to get the ball downfield, and ball security has never been his strong suit. To make matters worse, he is not working with a supporting cast filled with Pro Bowl players. St. Louis has not found a running back yet to replace Steven Jackson, the young receivers still are spotty at best and the offensive line has not been doing a great job of protecting its passers or opening holes for its running backs.
Clemens might not survive his first start against the Seattle Seahawks—thank goodness the game is not in Seattle—so Clemens’ fantasy worth is minimal, if not zero. He should not be used in a fantasy league unless you have exhausted every other available option imaginable, including calling Jeff George and begging him to make an NFL comeback.
Fantasy Impact Grade: D
Josh McCown, Chicago Bears (QB)
“Serviceable” is the perfect definition for McCown. Considering he has a lifetime TD-to-INT ratio of 38-to-44, “All-Star” would not fit as well.
The Washington Redskins made McCown look like Warren Moon back in Houston’s run-and-shoot days last Sunday, though. McCown came in for an injured Cutler and completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown and also added 33 rushing yards.
Unlike Clemens, who has a below-average running game, a leaky offensive line and an inexperienced and inconsistent receiving corps to work with, McCown has some talent around him. You do not have to be Joe Montana to complete a pass to Brandon Marshall or to dump the ball off to Matt Forte. Against poor pass defenses, McCown should put up decent numbers. But against better defenses, he would be a stretch to start in a fantasy league.
McCown will not pull a Philip Rivers and throw for 400 yards in back-to-back weeks. But if Cutler misses the next five games with his groin injury, McCown would not face a pass defense that is currently ranked in the top 14. Green Bay, Baltimore, Detroit, St. Louis and Minnesota are all rated 15th or lower at the present time.
McCown should not be a regular starter in leagues where only one QB per week is needed. God forbid you have to use him against a team using Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Peyton Manning. But as a one-week emergency stopgap or as a No. 2 QB in leagues where you need two QBs per week, McCown could be sneaky help.
Fantasy Impact Grade: B-
Peyton Hillis, New York Giants (RB)
Hillis went from Madden video game cover boy to a washed-up running back on the street in the span of three short years. Yet now, the guy has gone from a fantasy zero to a possible fantasy hero in one week’s time!
Hillis made a pretty amazing comeback last week when he totaled 81 combined yards and scored a touchdown in his first game with the Giants. He might be ready to do even more damage this week against the Philadelphia Eagles now that he has a better grasp of the Giants' offense and has another week of conditioning under his belt.
You will probably not have much time to utilize Hillis if you pick him up, though. Brandon Jacobs should be back from his hamstring strain soon, and the Giants’ top two running backs, David Wilson and Andre Brown, could both return at some point in the season. So, Hillis’ hold on a starting spot is shakier than Ronnie Hillman’s hold on handoffs in Denver.
Fantasy owners can start Hillis this week and hope for 75 yards and a touchdown. After this weekend, though, who knows how much he will play and how many touches he will get. And remember, Hillis ran himself right out of the NFL because he was not the same bruising runner that ran for 1,177 yards in 2010, so he is no 100-yard lock if he does play a lot over the next month.
Fantasy Impact Grade: C