The trade deadline came and went Tuesday, and while there were some interesting rumors going around, it ultimately ended up being pretty quiet. However, there’s no shortage of other news for Fantasy players to keep up with from around the NFL even before teams start practicing for Week 9.
The Packers and Ravens coronavirus positives have thrown their plans into disarray, with serious Fantasy implications especially brewing in the Packers backfield. Plus, the Cowboys placed Andy Dalton on the reserve/COVID-19 list after a positive test, and the Cowboys may have a new starting quarterback. But I’ll start this roundup of Tuesday’s news with an injury we just found out about to one of the best surprises of the season:
Myles Gaskin has a sprained MCL
Gaskin suffered the injury in the closing minutes of Sunday’s game against the Rams and is expected to miss three games. That’s a tough blow for Gaskin and for Fantasy players, as he had emerged as a viable every-down back, ranking 17th in PPR scoring for the season while averaging 55.3 rushing yards and 28.3 receiving yards per game with 30 receptions and two touchdowns in seven games.
Now, the Dolphins are left scrambling for upcoming games against the Cardinals, Chargers, and Broncos. They acquired DeAndre Washington from the Chiefs prior to Tuesday’s deadline, and he’ll join a running back room with Matt Breida and Jordan Howard at the top of the depth chart. Howard has been a healthy scratch for the past few games, but that’s likely because he doesn’t play special teams, so I would expect him back out there moving forward, likely splitting work with Breida.
That’s the split we expected before Gaskin took the starting job and ran with it: Howard handling the short yardage work and Breida in the passing downs and splitting the rest of the work. The addition of Washington does add a new wrinkle, but with just a week of practice to get up to speed, he’ll likely just be sprinkled in for Week 9. Howard and Breida are worth targeting on waivers with small bids, but neither is likely to be more than a No. 3 RB for Fantasy, with Breida getting the edge for Week 9, given how often the Dolphins have looked for their running backs in the passing game. Unless one of these players runs away with an every-down role, it’s going to be a bit frustrating, especially since Miami’s offense didn’t look great in Tua Tagovailoa’s first start last week.
Let’s hope someone emerges with a lion’s share of the work Sunday and can be a useful starter until Gaskin is healthy enough to return. And I do have a sneaking suspicion it could be Washington, who averaged 20.5 PPR points per game in three starts for the Raiders last season. The Dolphins have already signaled they aren’t thrilled with the Breida/Howard combination, after all.
The Packers might be down their top three running backs Thursday
A.J. Dillon tested positive for COVID-19 after Sunday’s game and Jamaal Williams was considered a high-risk contact in the tracing program, so neither will be available for Thursday’s game against the 49ers. And Aaron Jones is still very much in doubt as he continues to work his way back from a calf injury. Jones was listed as a limited participant in Tuesday’s walkthrough, which is an upgrade, though since the Packers didn’t actually practice, it’s hard to say how much that means.
You should be planning for Week 9 as if Jones won’t be there, which means Tyler Ervin and practice squad-er Dexter Williams will likely be the Packers backs Thursday. Williams, a fifth-round pick in 2019 who ran the ball just five times last season, seems likely to be the primary rushing option, with Ervin likely to be used more as a pass catcher. The matchup against the 49ers is tough enough that you probably don’t want to rely on either as anything more than a desperation play, but these are desperate times for many of you.
Andy Dalton placed on reserve/COVID-19 list
It might not be Ben DiNucci starting in Dalton’s place, either. According to Ian Rapoport, the Cowboys are considering activating Cooper Rush from the practice squad or turning to backup Garrett Gilbert to start in Week 9 against the Steelers. Rush threw a grand total of three passes in three seasons with the Cowboys after signing as an undrafted free agent, while Gilbert has six pass attempts since being a fourth-round pick in 2014. Rush should be familiar with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore‘s playbook, at the very least, while Gilbert has at least been around for a while. Jerry Jones admitted Tuesday that DiNucci starting in Week 8 was, “frankly, more than he could handle.”
No matter who starts for Dallas, it shouldn’t change the prognosis much. Maybe Rush will be an upgrade on DiNucci, but he’s facing a Steelers defense that leads the NFL with an 11.5% sack rate and 35.0% pressure rate — the latter of which is more than eight percentage points higher than the No. 2 defense. The Cowboys offensive line struggles mean this is likely to be one of the worst offenses in the league moving forward, and the matchup in Week 9 might make them the worst projected offense. Ezekiel Elliott is still a No. 2 back thanks to volume alone, but Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are all more like flex plays, ranked in that order.
The trade deadline was mostly a dud
Will Fuller didn’t get traded, for instance. There were reports that the Packers were interested, but they couldn’t agree on a price for the receiver. That’s good news for Allen Lazard, who should be back from IR soon — though maybe not by Thursday. If he is able to return at full speed, Lazard has No. 2 Fantasy WR upside as the second option behind Davante Adams, and the fact that nobody has really shined in his absence only helps his case.
The Patriots did acquire Isaiah Ford from the Dolphins in an interesting move. The Patriots receiving corps was lacking difference makers even before Julian Edelman (knee) and N’Keal Harry went out, so Ford could play a role for them right away as a slot receiver. Ford has 18 catches for 184 yards on 29 targets for the Dolphins, and was playing around 65% of their snaps in the early season before seeing a reduced role lately. In deeper leagues, Ford is a sleeper worth considering.
Ravens: Seven close contacts will be added to reserve/COVID-19 list
Marlon Humphrey was diagnosed with coronavirus in recent days, and reports indicate the Ravens intend to keep seven players away from the team for at least a few days as part of the contact tracing program. We don’t know who those players will be, but they will still have the chance to play Sunday if they don’t turn up positive tests. At this point, there is no indication that game won’t be played.
Bruce Arians won’t commit to how much Antonio Brown will play
“It could be 10 plays, it could be 35 plays. I wouldn’t anticipate 60 plays, for sure, but we’ll just see how it goes” – Arians on Antonio Brown’s role in his Bucs debut
That’s not helpful. The safe bet is on the lower end, even if Chris Godwin (finger) isn’t cleared to play. The Bucs have been getting along just fine with Mike Evans, Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson (plus Rob Gronkowski and the running backs), so they should have the luxury of working Brown in relatively slowly. Of course, it’s possible he’s in game shape and hits the ground running, but if you have to make a decision on whether to start him this week, I would lean toward keeping him on the bench. If Brown is awesome right away, great; you’ve got a valuable new piece for the stretch run.