Draft Strategy

Fantasy Draft Strategy: Bye Week Replacement Players

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While there are several schools of thought when it comes to drafting quarterbacks and tight ends for fantasy football purposes, a lot of people feel most comfortable addressing one or both of the positions early in the draft.

Fantasy Football 2013Bye Week Replacements

While there are several schools of thought when it comes to drafting quarterbacks and tight ends for fantasy football purposes, a lot of people feel most comfortable addressing one or both of the positions early in the draft. If you use a pick in the first five rounds on a quarterback or tight end in standard scoring leagues, you’re likely only taking those players out of your starting lineup for bye weeks. Don’t worry about backing them up later in the draft with the best available player at the position. Think strategically about which fantasy backups have potentially favorable match-ups in the one week that you plan on using them and target those players in the later rounds of your draft.

In 2014, there are generally five quarterbacks and three tight ends that will be drafted before the end of the fifth round of 12-team leagues. Below are bye-week replacement options that can be targeted for each of them, based on talent, opportunity and match-up favorability.

Use this guide on draft day and you’ll have a strategic advantage when filling out the back end of your roster.

Quarterbacks

 

Peyton Manning

Denver Broncos | Bye: Week 4

Replacement Option #1

Ryan Tannehill

Miami Dolphins | Week 4 Opponent: Oakland

Tannehill and the Dolphins travel to Oakland in Week 4 to face a Raiders defense that gave up 23.7 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2013, tied for fifth worst in the NFL. In the offseason, Oakland lost two key members of its defense with the free agency departures of Lamarr Houston and Vance Walker, and 2013 first-round pick D.J. Hayden is still struggling to stay healthy in the Raiders secondary. Meanwhile, Miami will be shifting to an up-tempo offense in 2014, with new offensive coordinator and former Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor attempting to bring elements of the Chip Kelly offense to South Beach. Tannehill had 23 or more fantasy points in three of his last five games in 2013 and a juicy match-up in a revamped offense makes him a perfect bye week replacement for owners that invest in Peyton Manning on draft day.

Replacement Option #2

Eli Manning

New York Giants | Week 4 Opponent: Washington

Only the Minnesota Vikings gave up more points in 2013 than the Redskins and Washington’s defense allowed 22 fantasy points per games to opposing quarterbacks. The Redskins added two veterans to the secondary during the offseason, but long-time Steeler Ryan Clark was already starting to show his age in 2013 and Tracy Porter had a forgettable year in Oakland. The Giants will surely look to take advantage of a poor Washington back line, with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo bringing elements of Green Bay’s offense to the Big Apple after serving as the Packers’ quarterbacks coach for the last two years. While Eli is coming off his worst season since becoming the Giants’ full-time starter in 2005, he is still capable of putting up solid fantasy numbers and a match-up with Washington should pose a good opportunity. Besides, it’s always fun to back up one Manning with another.

Other Replacement Options

Ben Roethlisberger vs TB, Alex Smith vs NE, or Teddy Bridgewater vs ATL

Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers | Bye: Week 9

Replacement Option #1

Andy Dalton

Cincinnati Bengals | Week 9 Opponent: Jacksonville

Despite being a top-5 fantasy quarterback in 2013, Dalton is generally being drafted as the 17th or 18th QB off the board this season. A lack of week-to-week consistency and a change to a new offensive scheme under Hue Jackson are mostly to blame for Dalton’s lack of perceived value in 2014, but a home game against the Jaguars makes him the perfect bye-week fill-in for Aaron Rodgers owners. Jacksonville gave up the third most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks last year and despite the additions of Red Bryant and Chris Clemons on the defensive line, the Jaguars should be susceptible through the air again this season. Dalton has shown that he can put up big numbers in the right situation and this match-up looks to be one in which the fourth-year pro can capitalize.

Replacement Option #2

Carson Palmer

Arizona Cardinals | Week 9 Opponent: Dallas

Palmer and the Cardinals visit the Cowboys in Week 9 for a match-up against a Dallas defense that gave up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last year. The Cowboys ranked last in total defense in 2013, giving up more than 415 yards per game. Dallas did little in the offseason to turn things around on that side of the ball. Henry Melton was the big free agent acquisition, but the team bid farewell to DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee has already been lost for the season with a knee injury. Palmer had the highest yardage output of his career in his first year with coach Bruce Arians, including several 20+ point fantasy efforts throughout the season. In a potentially high-scoring match-up against what was a historically-bad defense a year ago, Palmer should make for a nice week-9 spot play.

Other Replacement Options

Ryan Fitzpatrick vs PHI, Teddy Bridgewater vs WAS, or Johnny Manziel vs TB

Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints | Bye: Week 6

Replacement Option #1

Jake Locker

Tennessee Titans | Week 6 Opponent: Jacksonville

The Titans host a Jacksonville team in Week 6 that was already noted for giving up the third most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2013. Locker has yet to prove himself in the NFL, but he showed flashes in an injury-shortened season last year, including a 326-yard effort against San Francisco. Ken Whisenhunt revitalized Philip Rivers’ career as the offensive coordinator in San Diego last year and he’ll be looking to bring that same magic to Tennessee as the head coach. Locker has a physical talents and an improving arsenal of young receivers and he should be able to make strides under Whisenhunt’s tutelage. It would be risky to count on Locker as an every-week fantasy starter, but as a replacement player with a favorable match-up, he pairs nicely with Drew Brees.

Replacement Option #2

Geno Smith

New York Jets | Week 6 Opponent: Denver

Smith had a rocky rookie campaign in 2013, but he had productive games even with one of the league’s worst receiving corps. The addition of Eric Decker and Jace Amaro should help the Jets aerial attack and Smith also offers fantasy owners the potential for production on the ground. Only seven quarterbacks rushed for more yards last season and Smith tied Cam Newton for the most rushing touchdowns at the position with six scores. However, the bigger appeal here is the match-up. Denver’s record-setting 2013 offense forced a lot of opponents into catch-up mode, which contributed to the Broncos giving up the 8th most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Despite the addition of players like DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib, Denver’s defense will fell victim to similar circumstances this season, as Peyton Manning and company show no signs of slowing down offensively.

Other Replacement Options

Ryan Tennehill vs GB, Eli Manning at PHI, or Joe Flacco at TB

Matthew Stafford

Detroit Lions | Bye: Week 9

After the big three at the quarterback position, fantasy owners are generally able to catch their breath for a few rounds before the tier-two guys start coming off the board. ADP data currently suggests that Stafford is the next quarterback being selected and he shares a bye week with fellow NFC North QB Aaron Rodgers. See the above breakdown on potential Rodgers replacements for details, but options for replacing Stafford in Week 9 include Andy Dalton vs JAC, Carson Palmer at DAL, Ryan Fitzpatrick vs PHI, Teddy Bridgewater vs WAS, or Johnny Manziel vs TB.

Andrew Luck

Indianapolis Colts | Bye: Week 10

Replacement Option #1

Josh McCown

Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Week 10 Opponent: Atlanta

McCown had a breakthrough season filling in for Jay Cutler in Chicago last year, earning the veteran a two-year $10-million contract with the Bucs during the offseason. While the arsenal of receivers in Tampa Bay is hardly the caliber McCown worked with as a member of the Bears, he’ll still have big targets in Vincent Jackson and first-round pick Mike Evans. In Week 10, McCown faces an Atlanta defense that gave up the seventh most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2013, including 487 passing yards and four touchdowns in two meetings with the Mike Glennon-led Buccaneers. McCown may not match last year’s 19.5 fantasy points per game in 2014, but he should be able put up that kind of production at home against the Falcons.

Replacement Option #2

Chad Henne

Jacksonville Jaguars | Week 10 Opponent: Dallas

This option comes with an element of risk, since Henne could lose the starting job to rookie Blake Bortles by Week 10. Assuming he is still at the helm of the Jaguars offense, Henne has a very favorable match-up at home against the Cowboys. As previously noted, Dallas gave up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2013 and ranked last in the NFL in total defense. Henne finished the season strong last year, averaging almost 21 fantasy points per game over Jacksonville’s final three contests. With the addition of rookie receivers Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson and a running game bolstered by newcomer Toby Gerhart, the Jaguars should be able to put up solid numbers against a porous Cowboys defense.

Other Replacement Options

Sam Bradford at ARZ, Matt Schaub vs DEN, or E.J. Manuel vs KC

 

Tight Ends

 

 Jimmy Graham

New Orleans Saints | Bye: Week 6

Replacement Option #1

Delanie Walker

Tennessee Titans | Week 6 Opponent: Jacksonville

Walker was a serviceable fantasy option in 2013, catching 60 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns in his first season with the Titans. He managed double-digit fantasy production in four games and he could do so again in Week 6 against the Jaguars. Jacksonville gave up the third most fantasy points to opposing tight ends last season and Walker had eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown in two games against the Jaguars. Improved play from Jake Locker and an overall better offense under Ken Whisenhunt further solidifies Walker as a solid replacement option for Jimmy Graham owners.

Replacement Option #2

Jace Amaro

New York Jets | Week 6 Opponent: Denver

As noted in the quarterback section, Denver gave up a lot of fantasy points in 2013 as teams tried to keep up with Peyton Manning’s offense. The Broncos gave up the eighth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, making the Jets rookie an intriguing option in Week 6. Amaro has yet to win New York’s starting spot, but it will be hard for the talent-needy Jets to keep him off the field as the season progresses. Last year at Texas Tech, Amaro amassed 106 catches for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns. Amaro can also split out as a wide receiver, which could happen with the Jets.

Other Replacement Options

Marcedes Lewis at TEN, Scott Chandler vs NE, or Levine Toilolo vs CHI

 Julius Thomas

Denver Broncos | Bye: Week 4

Replacement Option #1

Dwayne Allen

Indianapolis Colts | Week 4 Opponent: Tennessee

Allen had some preseason buzz in 2013 and caught a 20-yard touchdown in the Colts’ first game of the year. Unfortunately, he also suffered a season-ending hip injury in that game. Coby Fleener stepped in and was targeted 87 times on the year, but with Allen back on top of the tight end depth chart, he figures to be the more productive member of Indianapolis’ passing game. In Week 4, Allen draws a match-up with a Titans defense that allowed the sixth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends a year ago and lost it’s only Pro-Bowler when cornerback Alterraun Verner departed to Tampa Bay via free agency. New defensive coordinator Ray Horton should get the Titans moving in the right direction. However, his scheme often takes a while for players to grasp, making Allen a nice bye week fill-in early in the year.

Replacement Option #2

Levine Toilolo

Atlanta Falcons | Week 4 Opponent: Minnesota

Tony Gonzalez was a huge part of the Falcons passing game over the last five seasons and while Toilolo certainly won’t be mistaken for Gonzalez, the second-year man from Stanford will do his best to replace the future Hall of Famer in Atlanta’s starting lineup. In limited action as a rookie, Toilolo saw reps in the red zone and caught two touchdown passes from Matt Ryan. At 6’8”, 265 pounds, Toilolo will make for a big target around the goal line in the Falcons’ high-powered offense. With a match-up against a Vikings defense that gave up the second most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2013, he’s worth taking a chance on as a one-week substitute for Julius Thomas owners.

Other Replacement Options

Antonio Gates vs JAC, Heath Miller vs TB, or Anthony Fasano vs NE

Rob Gronkowski

New England Patriots | Bye: Week 10

Replacement Option #1

Eric Ebron

Detroit Lions | Week 10 Opponent: Miami

With his propensity for missing games (other than the bye week), Gronk is somewhat of a special circumstance. So, we’ll reach to the higher end of the backup fantasy tight end ranks for the first replacement option. Ebron was the Lions’ first round draft pick this year after three successful seasons at North Carolina and the uber-athletic rookie has a lot of fantasy upside in Detroit’s high-octane passing game. Gronk owners will hope to use Ebron just once, but he’s a decent insurance policy for the New England touchdown machine. That one week that you hope to use him features a juicy match-up against a Dolphins defense that allowed the fifth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2013.

Replacement Option #2

Jared Cook

St. Louis Rams | Week 10 Opponent: Arizona

Cook is another replacement option with a little more than one-week appeal. He was a popular sleeper pick at this time last year, as the athletic big man was moving from a conservative offense in Tennessee to a more prominent role with the Rams. However, after an incredible seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the 2013 season opener, Cook was largely a disappointment for the rest of the year. He’s still one of Sam Bradford’s better receiving options and in Week 10, Cook draws a match-up with a Cardinals defense that was absolutely terrible against tight ends last season. Arizona conceded a league-worst 13.2 fantasy points per game to the position, including Cook’s aforementioned explosion in Week 1.

Other Replacement Options

Marcedes Lewis vs DAL, Heath Miller at NYJ, or Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs ATL

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