Jamaal Charles owners, this column is dedicated to you. When Charles fell to you with the fourth pick in the draft, you were absolutely giddy with excitement. He was going to be the centerpiece of what was surely to be your championship-winning fantasy team this year. But two weeks later, the excitement is gone. Now you’re curled up in the fetal position and openly weeping as visions of torn ACLs dance through your nightmares.

But cheer up, friends. The season is far from over. Sure, you might not ever be able to truly replace Charles’ production on your team, but you have to try. Now stop crying, get out of bed and put some pants on, because the Backup Plan is here for you.

So same deal as usual: these aren’t player you necessarily wanted to start this week, but due to injury, byes or general suckery, you have to. It’s your backup plan. Here’s a rundown of some of the top widely available fill-ins by position and which guys I think they’ll be better than this week.


Matt Hasselbeck vs. Denver

Yahoo: 26 percent owned, ESPN: 15 percent owned

You thought he was done, didn’t you? Not so fast, says Tim Hasselbeck’s brother. Matty Hass dropped a 358-yard, one touchdown performance on the Ravens defense last week, and as bad as the Baltimore defense looked, the Broncos defense is likely worse. Champ Bailey and top pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil have been limited all week and may not play, so Hasselbeck should get plenty of chances on Sunday.

Guys he’s better than this week: Eli Manning, Jay Cutler

Andy Dalton vs. San Francisco

Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 6 percent owned

Andy Dalton has the same amount of passing touchdowns as Cam Newton and has thrown fewer interceptions. No, that is not an endorsement of Dalton over Newton; it’s just a fact. But Dalton did have an impressive 332-yard two-score performance against a painfully mediocre Denver secondary last week, and this week he faces a 49er defense that let Tony Romo throw for 345 yards with a punctured lung last week. Start him if you need him.

Guys he’s better than this week: Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez

Chad Henne vs. Cleveland

Yahoo: 41 percent owned, ESPN: 38 percent owned

Chad Henne had a really bad day against Houston last week, but here he is, groveling at your feet and begging for your forgiveness. Henne had just 170 yards passing last Sunday, but that was against a Texans team that clearly is playing at a level—or six levels—above where the Dolphins currently are. The Browns are more Miami’s speed, so Henne should be in for a better result this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Kyle Orton, Matt Cassel

Running Backs

Dexter McCluster vs. San Diego

Yahoo: 50 percent owned, ESPN: 29 percent owned

Dexter McCluster is 5-foot-7, 170 pounds. No, this is not a joke. He may be no bigger than a high school freshman, but he does hold fantasy value, especially in a PPR league. Thomas Jones is already collecting Social Security benefits and Jamaal Charles is gone and your tears aren’t going to bring him back, so it could be worth taking a flier on a guy who could see a lot of touches once the Chiefs trail the Chargers 48-0 in the first quarter.

Guys he’s better than this week: Thomas Jones, Ryan Grant

DeMarco Murray / Tashard Choice vs. Washington, Chester Taylor vs. Seattle

Yahoo: 13 / 10 / 1 percent owned, ESPN: 6 / 2 / 3 percent owned

Ugh. There’s not much positive to say about any of these players, but Felix Jones and Beanie Wells are both banged up, so any of these guys could have some opportunity this week. Recommending any one over the other is difficult, however, as there’s a better chance of you starting at quarterback for the Patriots this week than there is of accurately predicting which running back will hold more value. Flip a (three-sided) coin, click add, and just hope you picked the right one.

Guys he’s better than this week: Ehh. Be sure to check the injury reports.

Ben Tate vs. New Orleans

Yahoo: 77 percent owned, ESPN: 88 percent owned

Yes, I know I’ve recommended him three weeks in a row, and yes, he’s more than likely owned in your league. But he was very good in Weeks 1 and 2, and he’s still un-owned in 23 percent of Yahoo leagues and 12 percent of ESPN leagues. This should not be. Arian Foster looks to be in worse shape this week than he was last week, so unless your league deducts points for 100+ yard, 1+ touchdown performances, make sure Tate is owned in your league.

Guys he’s better than this week: Shonn Greene, Mark Ingram

Wide Receivers

David Nelson vs. New England

Yahoo: 38 percent owned, ESPN: 14 percent owned

Many of you likely never heard of David Nelson before last week, but he turned himself into one of Week 2’s waiver wire sensations with 83 yards and a score on Sunday. It’s been years since you’ve even considered starting a Bills player against the Patriots, but it may be time to start again with Nelson. He may not match is Week 2 numbers, but 60 yards and a score is clearly not out of the question.

Guys he’s better than this week: Reggie Wayne, Percy Harvin

Jabar Gaffney vs. Dallas

Yahoo: 14 percent owned, ESPN: 5 percent owned

Don’t look now, but the Redskins passing offense is actually putting up fantasy points! It’s shocking, but it is true. And while placing Jabar Gaffney in your starting lineup could induce vomiting, he’s playing well enough to be with your attention this week. The Cowboys defense can be scored against, and the Jabar-wockey has totaled 50+ yards in each of his first two games. If he can find the endzone this week, he’s worth a spot on your team.

Guys he’s better than this week: Dwayne Bowe, Chad Ochocinco

Nate Washington vs. Denver

Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 6 percent owned

Remember when I said that thing before about the Broncos defense not being that good? If not, scroll back up and read it again. You back? Ok good. So, as I said, the Broncos defense is no good, meaning the Titans will likely be able to throw on them. Washington has had 67 and 99 yards in two games so far, and with Britt hampered slightly by his hamstring, the good times could continue against Denver.

Guys he’s better than this week: Jordy Nelson, Devery Henderson

Tight Ends

Fred Davis vs. Dallas

Yahoo: 52 percent owned, ESPN: 38 percent owned

Here’s another guy recommended last week that will likely continue to be recommended until he is universally owned. He has 191 yards and a touchdown in two games. For comparison’s sake, that was Donovan McNabb’s average passing line last season. No, I don’t have any idea what that comparison means, but I’m running out of ways to tell you to start Fred Davis. Start Fred Davis.

Guys he’s better than this week: Vernon Davis, Owen Daniels

Jermaine Gresham vs. San Francisco

Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 16 percent owned

Yes, the tight end section this week is the exact same as it was last week. But really, both these guys should be playing on your fake team. Gresham had a solid game Week 1, and while he didn’t play that well last week, he gets a San Francisco defense that should be easy to score on in Week 3. The 49ers have given up more than 120 yards to tight ends so far this season, so Gresham could be in store for a solid Week 3.

Guys he’s better than this week: Kellen Winslow, Tony Gonzalez

Defense/Special Teams

Carolina vs. Jacksonville

Yahoo: 4 percent owned, ESPN: 1 percent owned

You shouldn’t need to be told that streaming a defense against a rookie quarterback is a great fantasy move. It doesn’t really matter whether the Panther defense is good or bad; what does matter is that Jaguars rookie Blaine Gabbert is making his first career start. Jacksonville will likely lean heavily on the running game, but when they do throw, you can expect the Carolina defense to capitalize on a few rookie mistakes.

Defenses they’re better than this week: New England, New York Giants

Arizona vs. Seattle

Yahoo: 29 percent owned, ESPN: 10 percent owned

It’s definitely possible that the Cardinals have the NFL’s worst defense. But it’s equally plausible that the Seahawks boast the saddest offense in the league. Arizona may be hapless on defense, but even they can stop the incredibly low-powered attack that is the Tarvaris Jackson and Marshawn Lynch-led Seattle offense. If the Cardinals can’t hold Seattle to under 20 points and force a turnover or two, there really is no more hope for them as a franchise. Stream accordingly.

Defenses they’re better than this week: Dallas, Chicago

  1. Random Collmenter says:

    beanie is in my flex but is now going to be a game-time decision. should i start percy in the flex since he’s a guaranteed starter? if i don’t and beanie doesn’t play, i’d have to start javon ringer since it’s an afternoon game.

    also, gates is looking doubtful for a start. who should i pick up – kendricks, dickson, cook, evan moore, or watson?

  2. tj says:

    is David Nelson a better start then Anquan Boldin this week? I’m worried about Boldin not being a true #1 receiver on the Ravens, however he will be covered like one. Many have predicted NE v Buff to be a shootout, what do you think?

  3. Josh Vitale says:

    @Random Collmenter: I would wait as long as you can before lineups lock, but if you get to that point and Beanie still seems questionable, Percy isn’t a horrible play. The Vikings are awful, but he still gets his touches. As for your TE situation, Evan Moore seems like a decent play this week. McCoy has been looking for him, and the Miami defense is no good.

    And, by the way, Random Collmenter is a fantastic username. Kudos.

  4. Josh Vitale says:

    @tj: I do like Nelson, but Boldin should be better this week. Believe it or not, the Titans have been one of the league’s top pass defenses through two weeks. The Rams, on the other hand, have not, so I expect Boldin to improve this week.

  5. Dezzed says:

    I’m looking at a struggle in the TE position since I managed to draft J-Finley early and get J-Graham late (hoping to use one of them as trade bait in the near future)…would Graham be my best option to start since Rodgers throws to everyone?

  6. hahaha says:


    How is that a struggle? A struggle is drafting Owen Daniels/Antonio Gates/Marcedes Lewis in your 4 leagues with no backups. That’s a struggle. Drafting Finley and Graham is a luxury.

  7. hahaha says:

    @Josh Vitale:

    You’re not worried about his snap count? I’m in the same predicament but with no Dickson. Looking to pick up Moore/Kendricks/Watson/Cook.

    If you like Moore the most for this week who do you like long term? I know a lot of people are high on Kendricks but he’s making some ugly drops.

  8. MikeonaBike says:

    With Beanie as a GTD, who should I start in my flex (or should I roll with Beanie)? I have:
    Dexter, Julio, MSW, Knox and David Nelson. Return yards count and no PPR.

  9. Harry says:

    Hey! I’ve got someone offering me Reggie Wayne and Dez Bryant for Manningham and Ryan Fitzpatrick in a trade. I know Fitz is valuable but I’ve still got Vick and Stafford on my roster, and I don’t really have another WR option on my bench except Bowe. Thoughts? Thanks!!

  10. ringo says:

    Someone in my league recently dropped Julio Jones, I intend to pounce on him but I don’t know which corresponding WR to drop… Mike Thomas or Denarius Moore, they both are in pretty similar situations, should be #1 options for underwhelming run first teams, I am leaning towards keeping Mike Thomas over Denarius which would totally waste my waiver claim for this week but whatever… any thoughts?… Thank You

  11. Random Collmenter says:

    thanks for the advice. since evan moore plays in the early game, i wouldn’t be able to plug gates in if he does play…. how about dickson, kendricks, jeff king, zach miller?

  12. Josh Vitale says:

    @Dezzed: Finley still has to be your guy there. He’ll likely finish as the No. 1 TE option this season, and he really should be in your lineup every week, regardless of matchup.

    @hahaha: I do like Kendricks the most long term, but if he doesn’t start picking up his production he’s in trouble. He’s got the best opportunity of those guys, but he’s not playing to his potential now.

    @Harry: With both Vick and Stafford, Fitzpatrick is 100 percent expendable. Wayne is going to be a bit down this season, but the trade really boils down to Manningham for Wayne and Dez, which would be a steal for you. Pull the trigger.

    @MikeonaBike: If Wells plays he’s clearly the best option, but if he’s out I do like Nelson a lot this week. Should be a lot of passing that game, and he’ll benefit.

    @Random Collmenter: The Ravens secondary is atrocious, so Kendricks. H’s struggles, so he’ll get some opportunity against a defense that got shredded by the great Matty Hass last week.

    @ringo: Mike Thomas has a crappy QB situation, but he’ll have better long-term value than Moore. And I like Jones well more than both.

  13. Jeremy says:

    So it’s lookin like Tolbert is a go, do you suggest starting him or Eric Decker in rb/wr spot?

  14. Josh Vitale says:

    @Jeremy: I’m actually a big fan of Decker, but just not this week. The Titans defense hasn’t let a receiver go over 55 yards so far this season, and they’ve only allowed one passing touchdown, which was a screen to Ray Rice. I like Decker going forward as a solid WR3/4, but not this week. Tolbert is the better play.

  15. Megatron Lives says:

    Which WR would give me immediate gains and results for the rest of the season? .5PPR, Return Yards/TDs count
    Jacoby Ford, Hines Ward, Jabar Gaffney, Greg Little, Austin Collie, Lee Evans, Tedd Ginn

  16. eltoo says:

    Trying to fill the hole that JC superstar left in my heart with ben tate. if he has another big week is the job his to lose?

    In a PPR league i’m trying to settle on my last RB, and 2 flex positions. Tentatively I have it as:

    RB: Tate
    Flex: Hightower
    Flex: Kellen Winslow

    Not loving Winslow would you start Denarius or Lance Moore over those listed? Gracias

  17. mike simpkins says:

    Have 3 QB’s, Cam, Brees and Stafford. Could use help at WR. Which QB would you trade and what could I expect in return at WR?

  18. mark says:

    Ok got Tate, Jacobs, Starks, and Hightower PPR which 2? Also just need 1 ppr Denarius, Donald ‘Full’ Nelson, MSW or Mike Thomas…Thanks love the site visit daily…

  19. Commish Cauda (formerly Mike) says:

    12-team, 0.5ppr, all TDs opts

    Lost Charles. My RBs are DeAngelo Williams, Jacobs, Benson, Scott and Helu.

    My WRs are Fitz, Mike Williams (TB), Burleson, Julio Jones & Little

    Trade Vick & Mike Williams FOR Matt Ryan & LeSean McCoy?

  20. Commish Cauda (formerly Mike) says:

    That should be, all TDs 6pts

  21. Josh Vitale says:

    @Megatron Lives: The most immediate benefit would likely come from Jabar Gaffney. Long term, however, the best value on that list would probably be Jacoby Ford.

    @eltoo: I would definitely start Lance Moore over Kellen Winslow. Should be a lot of passes thrown in a NO vs HOU game, and Lance will likely be a bigger part of the offense this week.

    @mike simpkins: I would see if you could sell high on Cam for a solid No. 2 type receiver. Mybe buy low on a Mario Manningham-level player. But, if its a one-qb league you could also trade Stafford and go for a slightly higher-level WR as well.

    @mark: Tate and Hightower, and David Nelson this week.

    @Commish Cauda (formerly Mike): I like the idea of that trade, but it leaves you too thin at WR. Maybe see if the guy will take a Burleson or Little instead of a MW.

  22. nick m. says:

    I’ve been offered my Fred Jackson and Eli Manning for his Matt Stafford. PPR league, 4pts per passing TD. My other RB’s are AP, Beanie, and SJax. Would break my depth (especially with injury prone RB’s) but I am currently trotting Grossman, Eli, or Bradford out there. Pull the trigger?

  23. Diamondoug says:

    In a very tough small money league, I have a nice deep team.

    .5 point PPR …. so at # 3 WR do I start Dez Bryant, or for the safe play either Percy Harvin or Lance Moore ?


  24. friar says:

    Jahvid Best for Ingram and Maclin. Which side would you rather have in a 14 team league with standard scoring rules?

  25. Josh Vitale says:

    @nick m.: I think you have to hold Fred Jackson. He’s playing very well, and he has virtually no competition for carries. And I love Stafford this year, but you could do worse than playing matchups with the three QBs you have. I’d hold.

    @Diamondoug: If Dez is playing, you have to go with him. He’ll likely have a big week with Austin out.

    @friar: Jahvid Best, in a vacuum. He’ll end up being a stud this season, and Ingram is fighting with too many other people to get touches. But if you have solid RB depth and need help at WR, that wouldn’t be a bad trade.

  26. friar says:

    Thanks for the advice. The slightly more nuanced situation is that my team is loaded with RBs (MJD, McFadden, Best, Tolbert) and pathetic at WR (Manningham, L. Moore, M. Thomas, N. Washington, Henderson). I found a potential trade partner who is weak at RB and stacked at WR (White, Fitz, Maclin) and I’m trying to come up with a a good trade offer.

    Would you recommend I offer Tolbert for Maclin, or propose the trade I mentioned above (Best for Maclin/Ingram), or some other combination I haven’t thought of? I want to help myself as much as possible while also proposing something the other guy will go for.

  27. tyrion says:

    Nice article!

    In a 12 team, ppr which 1 of these guys do I play at flex this week?:
    Hightower, J-Stew, or Sproles (we also award pts for returns so he’s been really good through 2 weeks)

    And if Steven Jackson plays this week, do I start him?

  28. chivas_irons says:

    trade mcGahee
    D. Nelson?

    Thanking you in advance, good luck in week 3

  29. MIck says:

    Do I roll the dice with Dez Bryant Monday night or go the safer route with AJ Green against SF?

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