The pickings in fantasy football leagues are getting slimmer than Popeye’s girlfriend, Olive Oyl.
Injuries and byes are obliterating fantasy rosters across the nation. While millions of fantasy owners are shoving each other out of the way for Cincinnati’s Marvin Jones like he is the biggest sale item on Black Friday, there are several other players who could fill roster holes.
You can never count out any players in fantasy football unless they have torn their ACLs or are named Tim Tebow.
Here are three examples of players fantasy owners might have given up on who should be picked up this week.
Jason Campbell, QB, Cleveland Browns
If you thought Brandon Weeden would be back starting at quarterback for Cleveland in a week or two, toss that idea in the trash along with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ playoff hopes.
Campbell went into Kansas City this past Sunday and threw for 293 and two touchdowns against a Chiefs defense that has allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL. Even more surprising, Campbell, who is known for checking down to running backs faster than Chris Johnson runs, actually completed a few passes of 15-plus yards.
Campbell has already been announced as the starting QB for Cleveland’s next contest against the Baltimore Ravens.
Considering it is obvious that the Browns' coaching staff does not hold Weeden in high regard, Campbell could parlay his success into a starting gig from here on out if he keeps playing well.
Just do not bank on Campbell continuing to throw like Brian Sipe. His previous career history suggests he is mediocre at best.
If he does start through the rest of the season, his schedule is also extremely tough. Cleveland’s four remaining road games are against Pittsburgh, New England, Cincinnati and the New York Jets. All four are in the top half of the league in pass defense.
Stevie Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills
Many fantasy owners probably dropped Johnson during his horrendous four-week stretch when he either did not play (missed one game due to back injury and personal issues) or did not play well (nine receptions for 79 yards and zero touchdowns in three contests).
Johnson reemerged against New Orleans this past weekend, catching seven passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
Considering that Johnson had three straight 1,000-yard years and scored 23 touchdowns between 2010 and 2012, there is no reason to think he cannot be productive fantasy-wise the rest of the way.
If Johnson can keep his brittle body on the field and off the injured reserve, he should have no trouble piling up yards and touchdowns. Even with Buffalo losing quarterbacks at a record rate, Johnson should do okay as long as Buffalo does not end up with Matt Leinart or Brady Quinn throwing to him.
Buffalo will probably trail in many of its games too, so the Bills should do plenty of passing in the second half of several contests.
Johnson has a knack for getting meaningless chunks of yardage during fourth-quarter garbage time, which should work well for him from a fantasy perspective.
Golden Tate, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Seattle receivers just cannot stay healthy. Somehow, Starbucks must be to blame.
Percy Harvin is on the mend from his hip surgery and hopefully will return within the next month, but even if he does, Tate should still be targeted regularly now that Sidney Rice is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Tate is a playmaker. He is not going to rack up receptions and will not be among the league leaders in 100-yard games, but he makes big plays (great for distance leagues) and scores touchdowns (great for TD leagues).
With Rice sidelined, Harvin still getting into shape and Doug Baldwin as his only competition for catches, Tate has no choice but to post some decent numbers.
Look for Tate to keep up the good work coming on the heels of his best game of the season—a 93-yard, two-TD effort on national television against the lowly St. Louis Rams. Until Harvin returns, Tate should be QB Russell Wilson’s favorite target, so 60-90 yards and a touchdown per week in Seattle’s next couple of contests is not unreasonable or unthinkable.
Given that the NFL has become a pass-first league, you would think the fantasy waiver wire would be loaded with available receivers.
When checking my league’s free-agent list, though, all I see are mediocre veterans (Tennessee’s Nate Washington), young No. 2 receivers who could be breaking out but are no sure things (Cincinnati’s Jones) and inconsistent fantasy performers whose values bounce up and down weekly (Minnesota’s Jerome Simpson and New York’s Rueben Randle).
Jones is probably the hottest receiver pickup in fantasy leagues this week. Tate and the aforementioned Johnson should be the second- and third-most popular pickups at the position.