Fantasy owners slowly shook their heads as soon as word went viral on the injury to Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
Jones began is third NFL season ablaze, leading the NFL in receiving yards through four weeks, and is still tops with 41 receptions for 580 yards and two touchdowns. But the Falcons are reportedly “pessimistic” about the foot injury Jones sustained against the Jets on Monday. According to National Football Post, Jones broke a screw in his foot that was implanted during a surgery two years ago.
Atlanta’s other big play receiver, Roddy White, has already been banged up with a sore hamstring. White has played every week, but has tallied an underwhelming 14 receptions for 129 yards with no touchdowns.
However, fantasy owners shouldn’t be panicking like the 1-4 Falcons likely are. The Falcons are third in the league in passing, and should continue to throw plenty.
Next on the Falcons depth chart, and maybe on fantasy waiver wires, could be Harry Douglas and Drew Davis. Both will have a chance to get adjusted to their more integral roles during the Falcons bye week. Douglas has been a steady No. 3 receiver for the last five seasons, averaging 30.5 receptions, 377 yards and a touchdown. Davis is more of the unproven wild card, notching four catches for 40 yards and a touchdown in 19 games over three seasons.
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While there has been no official word since Jones and the team is waiting on a second opinion, owners still need to protect themselves. It’s best to target Douglas on the wire, and keep a close eye on Davis’s progress during practice over the next two weeks.
Below are several other players to consider on the wire, and to replace any player’s on Miami or Atlanta, the teams on byes for Week Six.
Rueben Randle, New York Giants
Randle has had the same number of targets (38) as No. 2 receiver Hakeem Nicks, but has two more touchdowns after Sunday’s effort against Philadelphia. The struggling Giants are getting little help from their offense, but Randle could rack up plenty of yards in the coming weeks. The Giants face the Bears this week, whose secondary isn’t nearly as dominant as in 2012.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Wright, along with Nate Washington, were quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite targets in Week Five, and that shouldn’t change. Against an elite Kansas City secondary, Wright had six catches for 74 yards. Wright faces Seattle this week, but they looked less than stellar in Week Five and could be reeling.
Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets
Kerley and teammate Jeff Cumberland (see below), each caught touchdowns in Week Five for the upstart Jets. This week, Kerley could get plenty of looks against Pittsburgh.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Though it was a loss, Cutler’s Week-Five performance of 358 yards and two touchdowns against New Orleans might have been the best game of his career. Also, consider the Bears possessed the ball for a paltry 24 minutes. Given more time and the Giants coming to town, Cutler is a must add and start.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
It’s unclear right now if Foles will start in Week Six against Tampa. If you’re in a two quarterback league he could be a sleeper. Foles has thrown in a touchdown in seven of 10 games. He has also posted a triple-digit passer rating in consecutive weeks.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Washington and their porous 28th-ranked pass defense is coming to AT&T Stadium. In 15 career games against the Skins, Romo has completed 61 percent of his passes for 21 touchdowns. He’s a No. 1 QB option in any league format.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
Injuries and a poor offensive line have limited the Rams running game, but Stacy’s 78 yards on 14 carries earned him another start this week against Houston.
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
The Saints aren’t running the ball much, but Thomas still leads them in rushing, and is second on the team with 28 receptions and two touchdowns. He is a solid No.3 running back or No. 2 flex option in most any league.
Willis McGahee, Cleveland Browns
McGahee’s career was in doubt after this hit in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl, but he’s more than withstood the test of time and the grind involved with the running back position in the NFL. The Browns have ripped off three straight wins, and host a Lions team that have surrendered more than 120 rushing yards a game.
Chase Coffman, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons might be in panic mode, and could try something new. Coffman hasn’t appeared in a game this season. But his size, multiple injuries to Atlanta's offense, along with the praise that was heaped on the 26-year-old in the offseason from head coach Mike Smith, could finally mean some action. Coffman held the Missouri record with 20 touchdowns during his college career. Rookie Levine Toilolo could be another solid pick-up and stash.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
He looked poised to breakout after 77 yards and a touchdown in Week Four, and then fell back to earth with two catches for 15 yards against Seattle. This week, Fleener faces San Diego and its 29th-ranked pass defense.
Jeff Cumberland, New York Jets
Only in a desperate reach for the flex spot should Cumberland be started -- for now. Rookie quarterbacks love their tight ends, and Cumberland and Kellen Winslow are tied for the Jets lead with two touchdowns apiece. Either could be picked up this week.