As you rigorously prepare and research leading into each season and week of DFS, different factors are always going to change the landscape. “Next Man Up” is a series that examines players who are now being propelled into a starting role (thus creating a larger opportunity for that player), whether it be via injury, suspension or simply a change to the depth chart.
With it being Wild Card Weekend, there’s no need to stick to just one player on a four game slate. So here are the guys in each game that are either jumping into a starting position, or seem poised to see an expanded role.
Let’s start with the obvious, the three backup quarterbacks that are confirmed to be starting.
Matt Moore — QB, Miami Dolphins
Moore was expected to start on Sunday in Pittsburgh, and Ryan Tannehill has now been officially ruled out. The Dolphins beat the Steelers earlier this season by shredding them on the ground (Jay Ajayi’s first 200-yard game), but they may need to do things differently this time around.
Pittsburgh will be keying in on the run, and as heavy home favorites, Miami may have to start slinging the ball from behind. Moore isn’t a terrible option when looking for value, as he’s topped 200 yards and two touchdowns in all three of his starts this season (averaging 18.62 DKFP).
Brock Osweiler — QB, Houston Texans
Here’s your classic $72 million backup QB that was the starter but got benched three weeks ago and now is called upon to save the day in the playoffs. It’s no secret Osweiler was a massive disappointment this season, averaging just 12.4 DKFP.
However, if you’re looking for reason to believe he could be a solid contrarian value play at QB this week, there are some semi-encouraging performances to note. Osweiler had an above average game playing in Oakland in Week 11, completing 26-of-39 passes for 243 yards, a touchdown and an interception (15.02 DKFP).
His benching also may have lit a fire under him, as Osweiler had his best game of the season in Week 17 while relieving Tom Savage after the new starter was concussed — 253 yards and a TD along with a rushing TD (20.22 DKFP). Oakland ranked 25th in DKFP allowed to QB this season, so there’s some upside here.
Connor Cook — QB, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have it pretty bad right now after such a fantastic season behind Derek Carr. However, given the way Matt McGloin looked on Sunday, making the move to Cook has to give them a better chance at winning in Houston.
McGloin completed 6-of-11 passes for 21 yards before being knocked out with the shoulder injury in Denver. He’ll likely be ready to serve as the backup on Saturday behind the rookie getting his first start.
Despite throwing an interception, Cook appeared to be the far superior quarterback, completing 14-of-21 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos’ top ranked defense on its home field. Of course, Houston allowed the third fewest DKFP to QBs this season, so it’s not a great matchup, but seeing Cook’s early success in a hostile environment was encouraging.
Although there won’t be any new starting running backs this week (unless you count Lamar Miller’s return), there are a few rushers that’ve become significantly more involved over the past few games.
Zach Zenner — RB, Detroit Lions
I mentioned Zenner in this column last week, so I’ll be brief. He had another fantastic game against the Packers (110 combined yards and a touchdown on 24 touches), and now has 44.2 DKFP over his past two games. Theo Riddick was placed on IR and now Detroit’s coaches are talking as if Zenner will be a three-down back for them. Seeing that he went from 14 touches in Week 16 to 24 touches in Week 17, it seems like they’ve already made that decision. Playing in Seattle isn’t the most friendly matchup, but Zenner is in line to get as many touches as some of the most expensive RBs on the slate (sans Le’Veon Bell).
Aaron Ripkowski — RB, Green Bay Packers
Ripkowski’s playing time was distributed awkwardly last week as he hardly played in the second half, but he still led the Packers’ unpredictable backfield in snaps in the win over the Lions. Ripkowski carried the ball nine times for 61 yards, also hauling in both of his targets for 15 yards and a touchdown (15.6 DKFP). Other than a couple of short rushing touchdowns and a six-carry, 34-yard workload in Week 8, it was Ripkowski’s first fantasy-worthy performance. Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael will both play this week against the Giants, but it would appear Ripkowski’s role is on the up.
Paul Perkins — RB, New York Giants
Over the Giants’ past four games, Perkins has led the team in carries twice, and tied Rashard Jennings for the team lead on another occasion. The rookie set career-highs in Week 17 with 21 carries and 102 yards, as well as 13.2 DKFP. Over the last three contests, Perkins (4.8 YPC) has been noticeably outplaying the veteran Jennings (2.9 YPC) by a significantly margin. Their similar salaries ($100 apart) seem appropriate given the near-equal workload, but Perkins provides higher upside with his big-play and pass-catching abilities. Those two things could become very valuable if the Giants find themselves in a close game at Lambeau Field.
Although there’s no big news at receiver, there are a couple of next man up situations to monitor, including Randall Cobb’s injury status.
Paul Richardson — WR, Seattle Seahawks
After Tyler Lockett went down with an ugly leg injury on Christmas Eve, Richardson stepped into his role — catching 4-of-5 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. In Week 17 Seattle showed us that they intend to keep him in that role, catching 4-of-7 targets for 40 yards and taking a carry for five yards. All signs point to Richardson remaining a major part of the offense against the Lions, who ranked 25th in DKFP allowed to WR this season.
Geronimo Allison — WR, Green Bay Packers
This one you’ll need to monitor up until Sunday, as it sounds like Cobb could be trending towards a game-time decision. Allison has been fantastic in his absence, though. In two games without Cobb, Aaron Rodgers has had his two highest scoring fantasy outputs of the season. In the process, he connected with Allison on 8-of-13 targets for 157 yards and a TD (nearly 15 DKFP average). When healthy, Cobb’s upside is clearly higher, but given the way the offense is rolling right now, I’m not convinced Allison doesn’t maintain a similar role on Sunday even if Cobb does suit up.
For questions or comments hit me up on Twitter @julianedlow
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.