Fantasy football players occasionally receive second chances when it comes to certain players. Those who stashed Ito Smith in advance of Week 2 had a tough decision to make when Devonta Freeman returned. Smith was understandably dropped in many leagues, despite Freeman having battled chronic lower body injuries since last season. With Freeman now on injured reserve, the stage is set for Smith to become a fantasy football league winner. Hopefully you heeded the advice to stash him (again in some cases) before the Freeman news broke. If you didn’t, trade for him before he eviscerates the Giants on Monday night and everyone realizes that he, not Tevin Coleman, is the one positioned to take Freeman’s role in the offense.
The best time to be on the lookout for potential fantasy football bench stashes is during the bye week-heavy portion of the season. Roster space is finite, even in the deepest of leagues, and owners must face tough decisions on a weekly basis. Injuries and bye weeks will cause a lot of panic moves to be made throughout the season. It feels like Christmas morning when a good player with a growing role on an efficient offense is made available. We’d be derelict in our duties as fantasy gamers to ignore these players and situations. This week’s edition of Tomorrow’s Newspaper is going to focus heavily on the wide receiver position. And unlike most weeks, you can make strong cases to start all of the players to be discussed depending on your league size.
Cameron Meredith, WR, Saints
It almost feels like cheating to include a Saints receiver in this column every week. Ted Ginn being placed on injured reserve necessitates the inclusion of Cameron Meredith to the Tomorrow’s Newspaper rotation. Tre’Quan Smith projects to be the one who slides into Ginn’s role, as he did during his Week 5 explosion. Readers of this series have already had two chances to stash him. And while he should take priority if both are available, fantasy gamers shouldn’t forget about Meredith.
Cameron Meredith has been a long-time favorite of the RotoUnderworld community going back to his days as a Chicago Bear. A 6-3 receiver with a 10.83 (89th-percentile) Agility Score catching passes from Drew Brees in a high-powered offense is about to see his role increase, as it has steadily been since his season debut in Week 3, and nobody seems to care. Granted this week’s match-up against Baltimore isn’t ideal for fantasy purposes. And he projects to match up with Marlon Humphrey and his 42.7 (No. 4) Coverage Rating on Player Profiler. But for the love of God, don’t cut him or Tre’Quan Smith if they happen to underperform. While starting one or both this week can be justified in the right situation, these are long game plays.
D.J. Moore, WR, Panthers
Enough went wrong for D.J. Moore in Week 6 to keep him off the radar of fantasy gamers. Most teams would bench a player after one first half fumble, much less two (2017 John Ross nods in agreement). Fortunately, the Panthers like being a good football team and know what they have in Moore. Despite the turnover issues, he recorded season highs in Snap Share (43.1-percent), routes run (17), targets (5) and receiving yards (59). Though he hasn’t finished higher than WR39, the gradually increasing opportunity is a cause for optimism.
While Torrey Smith is still seeing more playing time than D.J. Moore, the rookie has been more productive and efficient. Moore slays the PlayerProfiler efficiency metrics with a 66.9-percent (No. 4) Target Premium, 3.38 (No.8) Yards Per Pass Route, Yards Per Target and 2.68 (No. 7) Fantasy Points Per Target. Yes he’s done this on only 13 targets through five games. But his role is increasing every week and his QB is one of fantasy football’s preeminent buy-low-ish candidates. Moore is a first-round NFL draft pick with a prospect profile that screams future NFL superstar. You know what to do.
Damion Ratley, WR, Browns
The Cleveland Browns offense looks nothing like it did in Week 1. Gone from the starting lineup are Tyrod Taylor, Carlos Hyde and Josh Gordon. In their place are three exciting rookies in Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and Damion Ratley. Of those three, only Ratley will be widely available in fantasy leagues given his relative anonymity. Little do your league-mates know that this is the free square wide receiver play of the week.
Damion Ratley is reaping the benefits of the myriad of injuries (and releases) suffered by Browns receivers this season. In his first career game with more than one offensive snap played, he thoroughly outplayed Antonio Callaway. Cleveland has been looking for a competent field stretcher since trading Josh Gordon. With a 23.1 (98th-percentile) College YPR, Ratley fits that bill. With a Total Target Distance of 145 yards last week, the team seems to think so too. And now he draws a Tampa team that has given up ten TDs in five games to WRs.
Anthony Miller, WR, Bears
Sticking with the 2018 rookie class, we’d be remiss not to talk about Anthony Miller. Taylor Gabriel has deservedly been the toast of the Underworld town this week. But with Mitchell Trubisky settling in as an every-week fantasy starter, acquiring all of his weapons makes sense. Especially when one of those players was the most dominant receiver in college football over the last two seasons. And with Allen Robinson battling a groin injury, it makes even more sense to stash both Gabriel and Miller.
Week 6 was Anthony Miller‘s first game back after dislocating his shoulder in Week 3. He scored a 29-yard TD and was a Mitchell Trubisky overthrow away from a second score. Also worth noting is his season-high 67.7-percent Snap Share, the same as Taylor Gabriel recorded. He makes for a great consolation prize for owners who missed out on Gabriel on waivers. And with a match-up against the Patriots looming, he makes for a great under-the-radar deep league dart throw.
Maurice Harris, WR, Washington
Not every end-of-bench stash has to be sexy. There are times where a player’s team and supporting cast don’t matter nearly as much as their projected opportunity. And with all of the pieces of Washington’s offense falling by the wayside, Maurice Harris becomes interesting if all of the other players we’ve talked about are rostered. Though he hasn’t had flashy stats, he has drawn 12 targets in the two games since the team’s bye. With Jamison Crowder‘s ankle injury likely to cost him a few weeks, Harris will continue to man the slot. Which is never a bad thing when Alex Smith is your QB.
There’s nothing about Maurice Harris‘ prospect profile that stands out. An undrafted free agent with a 7th-percentile College Dominator Rating, 28th-percentile height-adjusted speed and 39th-percentile agility (and all at under 200 pounds) shouldn’t excite you. If anything should excite you, it’s that his non-Jordan Reed competition for targets includes perennial underachievers in Josh Doctson, Michael Floyd and Brian Quick. None of this matters as much as the opportunity he’s projected to see in the slot with Jamison Crowder out of action. Chase the targets, because it’s the quickest path to fantasy points.