1) Emari Demercado
Because of to the shortage of available RBs at this point in the season, Emari Demercado tops this list due to James Conner’s injury which forced Demercado into action.
At the very least, if you roster James Conner, you absolutely need to put in a claim for Demercado this week.
If Conner can’t go, Demercado would profile as a virtual RB2 this week considering the lack of depth and true RB2s at the position and considering he did finish as RB16 on the week despite Conner starting the game.
In his very limited action Sunday after Conner got injured, Demercado averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 10 totes, caught a pass for 12 yards, and scored a touchdown.
Once has to imagine without Conner and facing the high-scoring Rams, Demercado would be the de-facto every-down back for Cardinals in a game where they run tons of offensive plays.
Even if the Cardinals fall behind the Rams and find themselves passing out of pure necessity, Demercado did receive a fair amount of passing down snaps even the prior week when Conner was healthy as he hauled in three catches, so he should still benefit via checkdowns, screens, and sideline balls.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 8, 2023
After Conner departed with a knee injury and didn’t return, Demercado was the only Arizona tailback to get a carry thereafter. Given the fact that James Conner has actually never played a full schedule in six seasons, the undrafted TCU product might see his first career start in Week 6 against the Los Angeles.
Rostered in less than 1% of all ESPN leagues, Demercado is likely worth a claim even if you don’t own Conner with bye weeks and injuries already hampering the top class of RBs.
If you’re looking for one final piece of evidence to blindly convince you like you’re a CEO who hates remote work, look no further than the fact that Demercado’s snap % has actually gone up in every single game (5% in Week 1, 12% in Week 2, 18% in Week 3, 35% in Week 4 – per FantasyPros), and he was already averaging a 29% snap share before Conner’s injury, so maybe the coaches have more faith in him than your average team’s backup RB.
2) Josh Downs
While it is early, thus far Josh Downs has looked like a superbly-agile route-running master with phenomenal hands.
When Downs is locked in, his suddenness in and out of breaks and his ability to slice through defenses is reminiscent of Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson.
Regardless of Anthony Richardson’s recent injury, Downs should still receive his fair share of targets even with Minshew taking the snaps as a result of his sheer talent level.
Downs is the clear-cut #2 receiver in Indy like Jim Irsay is the clear-cut town drunk, and Downs is looking like he has the skills to eventually usurp Michael Pittman for the top spot in a year or two, or if Pittman ends up leaving the Colts via trade or release in the future.
Anthony Richardson ↗️↘️ Josh Downs.
— Indy SportsOne (@IndySportsOne) October 8, 2023
It likely comes as no surprise then that among all Colts pass-catches, Downs ranks 2nd in receptions, targets, yards, YAC, and catches resulting in 1st downs (per ESPN). He also leads the team in catches for 20+ yards with four.
Downs has shown a decent floor too, as he has had at least three targets in every game, has had at least five targets in 4/5 of his games, and has never finished with fewer than five fantasy points in a game.
Moreover, Downs has played at least 73% of snaps in every game and is averaging a 76% snap share on the season (per FantasyPros).
Downs’ numbers aren’t too shabby compared to all NFL wideouts either.
Among 2023 WRs, Josh Downs ranks:
- Tied for 22nd in receptions (per ESPN)
- 17th in YAC (per ESPN)
- 22nd in YAC per reception (per Pro Football Reference)
- 33rd in receptions per game (per Pro Football Reference)
- Tied for 35th in receiving yards (per ESPN)
- Tied for 28th in catches for 20+ yards
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 2, 2023
Downs led the Colts in receptions and yards on Sunday, both of which were career-high marks, and hopefully he can keep it going next week against the Jaguars who could force the Colts to throw due to the nature of Jacksonville’s high-octane offense.
3) Sam Howell
While watching Sam Howell and the Washington offense is the far from pretty, his numbers through a quarter of the season are undeniable considering the other top free-agent quarterbacks like C.J. Stroud have likely been scooped up in your league.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 10, 2023
In terms of this year’s crop of QBs, here’s how Howells stats compare:
- 2nd in completions to only Kirk Cousins
- 3rd in percentage of on-target throws (per Pro Football Reference)
- 6th in passing yards
- 5th in intended air yards and completed air yards (per Pro Football Reference)
- 10th in completions for 20+ yards
- 11th in completion %
- 14th in fantasy points among QBs
- Tied for 13th in passing TDs
Rostered in 17% of ESPN leagues, this could be one of the last weeks Howell is still available if he has another productive outing in Week 6 against Atlanta.
ARE YOU SERIOUS? ????
Sam Howell finds Jahan Dotson in for the HUGE @Commanders TOUCHDOWN
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) October 1, 2023
Howell has shown at least above average timing, anticipation, and accuracy in the majority of his outings, and while he might lack the arm talent or mobility of a modern prototypical franchise QB, Howell has enough mobility to extend plays when he needs to and enough arm strength to hit the throws Eric Bieniemy asks of him.
Additionally, Howell does have a monstrously-tall tight end in Logan Thomas, a dominant RB in Brian Robinson, and a decent trio of receivers in Scary Terry, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel to take a some of the pressure off.
If Bieniemy intends on using Howell even 1/20th of the way he used Mahomes, you have to figure Howell at least makes for a decent streaming option this week, and he likely improves your backup QB situation on your fantasy team should your QB1 face an injury or a bye week.
Sam Howell’s night will end on this TD pass. Good ball, trusting Dyami Brown. Howell misfired on two throws on drive but was exceptionally accurate all night otherwise.
19/25, 188 yards, 2 TDs.
Tonight won’t calm the Howell hype. Exciting performance. pic.twitter.com/FRPC7gtV4O
— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) August 22, 2023
Beware though, Howell and the Commanders do have the 6th-highest pressure-per-dropback percentage (per Pro Football Reference) and Howell has been sacked more than any other QB, so you might have to be patient like last week due to a slow Washington start.