The two most bloated bye weeks are approaching and luckily for fantasy football owners the 2016 season is still providing players worthy of a waiver-wire pickup at a point in the season when the wire is typically picked clean.
In Week 8, as well as Week 9, six teams will be on byes, by far the most in any single week this season. The New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Dolphins will all rest up in Week 8, leaving fantasy football owners in standard and weekly leagues scrambling for options at every position.
Most experienced owners have already prepared contingencies through the draft, but injuries have crippled benches this season. The loss of usually reliable fill-ins or stars like running backs Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy, as well as quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger, leave gaping holes in lineups but the waiver wire still has several options to help owners.
Even the fear of injury has left owners unsure whether to start superstars like the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles or the Bills' LeSean McCoy.
Below are several of Week 7’s top performers who are available on the wire, however, not everyone is worthy of a pickup. Here’s our advice on who to consider before Week 8.
Byes: Giants, Rams, Steelers, 49ers, Ravens, Dolphins
Kevin Hogan, QB, Cleveland Browns
Stepping in for a concussed Cody Kessler, the fifth-round rookie draft choice Hogan impressed with his 100 rushing yards and a touchdown but showed his age by going 12-for-24 on pass attempts for 100 yards and two interceptions. Since Hogan’s owned in 0 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, he will undoubtedly be available, and with both Kessler and McCown down with injuries it might be tempting to pick up Hogan, but it's best to stay away. He won’t have the job for long this season.
Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber, RBs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin’s absence since Week 2 has left Tampa Bay in dire need of running backs, and both Rodgers and Barber stepped up big time to gain a combined 238 rushing yards with two touchdowns. Rodgers was most impressive with 154 of those yards, while Barber clocked 7.0 yards per carry. It was also the second straight 100-yard game for Rodgers. Barber’s owned in 0 percent of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, and Rodgers 73 percent and 34.5 percent, respectively, so clearly Barber is the most attainable option.
With Martin’s status uncertain due to injury, either is worth a gamble, especially with Tampa Bay’s next matchup against Oakland.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
There’s a huge reason why Patterson’s owned in just 2 percent of Yahoo and 1.1 percent of ESPN leagues. Those seven receptions Patterson recorded in Week 7 were the second highest single-game total of his career, and the team-high 67 yards against Philadelphia were his highest tally since 2013. Patterson has scored touchdowns in consecutive weeks, but again that’s the first time since 2013. Quarterback Sam Bradford was pummeled for 6.0 sacks in Week 7 and Minnesota’s leading receiver Stefon Diggs was covered quite well, both occurrences that won’t happen on a regular basis, bringing any potential value for Patterson down even more. Stay away.
Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
The rookie Thomas didn’t score a touchdown for the fourth straight week but he did record his first 100-yard receiving game and notched double-digit receptions for the first time as well. Sadly, many owners have already pounced on Thomas, who’s becoming one of Drew Brees' favorite targets. He’s available in 27 percent of Yahoo and 36.6 percent of ESPN leagues, and he’s second on the Saints with 49 targets and three touchdowns. However, if Thomas is somehow available in your league, snatch him up.
Jack Doyle, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Perhaps it’s been Andrew Luck’s inconsistency, which is directly attributed to his poor offensive line, but Doyle’s a must own. He’s second on the Colts in targets (33) and tied with leading receiver T.Y. Hilton with four touchdown receptions, and second with 282 receiving yards. In PPR leagues he may not be worth the risk as Doyle’s averaging a little over four catches a game, but in other formats, Doyle’s a low-risk high reward player. He’s available in 70 percent of Yahoo leagues and 85.1 percent of ESPN leagues.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Tight end Tyler Eifert, once he was healthy, was expected to return to the Bengals as Andy Dalton’s No. 2 receiving option, but LaFell’s filled the void quite well and fantasy owners will pounce on him in Week 8. LaFell’s owned in just 12.8 percent of ESPN and 12 percent of Yahoo leagues. He’s scored four touchdowns over the last three games and has now surpassed A.J. Green in that category. LaFell’s catch rate isn’t terrific, snagging 27 receptions off 42 targets, but Dalton is clearly looking for him if Green isn’t open. So in non-PPR leagues, LaFell’s a valuable pickup for the rest of the season.