Fantasy Football Fact or Fluke: Which bye-week heroes have staying power?

D'Onta Foreman can continue to be trusted in fantasy lineups coming off a three-TD game. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
D'Onta Foreman can continue to be trusted in fantasy lineups coming off a three-TD game. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

Fantasy managers knew Week 7 was going to be brutal for byes, yet it still hit pretty hard. Between injuries and the byes, my benches were empty and my scores were all over the place. Posting the season high score in one league while eking out only half of my season average points in another made for a roller coaster experience. Now that we’re looking ahead to a normal week, with no byes, we face a different challenge.

What do we do with those bye-week heroes who saved us? Do they deserve a place in our starting lineup even with the regulars back in action? What about the guys who played like they were on bye (Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, Calvin Ridley, Gabe Davis)? Who got burned by the bye-week duds?

Much FAB was spent on Zach Evans and Craig Reynolds only for the Rams to signal that they wouldn't rely on Evans against the Steelers well after waiver claims came and went, while Detroit finally woke up and got Jahmyr Gibbs the ball (not that it mattered for the Lions).

Let's examine the unexpectedly good and bad from Week 7 to figure out what to trust going forward.

Running backs

D’Onta Foreman, Chicago Bears

My DFS lineups would like to know where this was in Week 6, but better late than never for those who were able to add Foreman in the wake of all the Bears’ running back injuries. They fed him the ball to the tune of 16 carries and five targets, which he converted into over 100 yards and three touchdowns. Five of his touches occurred in the red zone. The Raiders aren’t exactly known for their defense, but neither were they a cake matchup for Foreman. He averaged 5.6 YPC, an improvement on his Week 6 number of 4.3 YPC, and he continues to outperform Darrynton Evans. Tyson Bagent looked very comfortable throwing him the ball and is likely to be back in action for Week 8 when the Bears travel to face the Chargers on Sunday Night Football. It’s a great matchup for opposing backs, so feel free to continue to start Foreman wherever you need RB help.

Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns

Welcome back to Cleveland, Mr. Hunt. With three rushing touchdowns in two games — both wins — Hunt is going to be welcomed back into fantasy lineups, too. He hasn’t been as efficient as Jerome Ford (in YPC), but he is seeing nearly as much work (22 rushes and four targets to Ford’s 28 rushes, six targets in the last two games). In the red zone, it’s been all Hunt (three attempts from inside the five-yard line in Week 7, three more in Week 6). Seattle isn’t a bad matchup for the Browns’ running backs in Week 8, and Ford hurt his ankle in the win over the Colts and is likely to miss time. Overall, it’s the touchdown opportunity and potential for additional work that tips the needle in Hunt’s favor if you’re looking for an upside RB play for Week 8.

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

I’ll admit that I straight up dropped Harris after his fourth 5-6 PPR fantasy-point performance in Week 5. It was in an eight-team family league with a very flexible roster, but still. So he scored his first touchdown of 2023 in Week 7 and I’m sure some people are happy they started him, but I’m not optimistic about his future outlook. Jaylen Warren has been outperforming Harris in the pass game, but also scored his first touchdown of the season in a surprise win over the Rams. This is a clear and dreaded split backfield on a team that doesn’t score too often. Jacksonville ranks as the fourth-stingiest rushing defense, allowing only 80 yards per game on the ground to opponents. Harris can remain on the bench for those with that luxury.

Wide receivers

Josh Downs, Indianapolis Colts

Downs is the real deal and it doesn’t matter who his QB is. He’s scored in back-to-back games now and went for over 100 receiving yards for the first time in Week 7 after coming oh so close in Week 5 (97 yards). He’s fantasy’s WR25 right now, with a majority of his productivity coming with Gardner Minshew at QB. Since Minshew is likely to be sticking around (see below), Downs is a player who fantasy managers from all leagues should be taking notice of (and adding). The Colts have faced some above average defenses this season, but Downs had his best fantasy day (21 half-PPR points, WR3 in Week 7) against the (formerly) best of the best Cleveland Browns. He is locked into my starting lineup in the leagues where I roster him.

Jake Bobo, Seattle Seahawks

The biggest surprise of this game wasn’t Bobo, it was DK Metcalf missing his first ever NFL game due to injury. That’s wild health! Of course, those things are related, as both Bobo and fellow rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba scored for the Seahawks in Metcalf’s absence. JSN led the team with seven targets, while Bobo and Tyler Lockett both saw five. The bad news here is that as soon as Metcalf returns, Bobo will recede into fantasy oblivion. Don’t bother picking him up unless we hear something unexpected about Metcalf this week.

Marques Valdes-Scantling, Kansas City Chiefs

Let me lead with the fact that MVS is rostered in only 3% of Yahoo leagues, so he likely benefitted no one with his 3/84/1 line. This one game’s fantasy output exceeded the previous six contests combined. On a day when Patrick Mahomes went off, Valdes-Scantling still saw only five targets. Rashee Rice is the only startable wide receiver for the Chiefs, especially since they won’t face the league’s best fantasy matchup again until Week 18.

Tight ends

Darren Waller, New York Giants

Waller isn't in the same category as most of these bye-week players. You’re still starting him every week, but the Giants are the team that makes me grind my teeth in my sleep this season. They finally look like a semblance of what everyone expected this summer and it took Tyrod Taylor to make it happen!?! More on Taylor below, but Waller hauled in 7-of-8 targets for 98 yards and a touchdown in the win over Washington. This was really great to see for those who can’t understand how the Giants can continuously fail to get their best receiver the ball week after week. We got a hint of things to come after Waller complained about it publicly (26 targets the past three games) but getting in the end zone at last is a sigh of relief for Waller’s managers. Still, there are a couple of reasons to pump the breaks on this being a sign of bigger things to come. First, the Giants are still the lowest-scoring team in the league. Second, when they get in the red zone, they usually think run Saquon Barkley or pass to Saquon Barkley. Third, and this is a lot like first, they don’t get in the red zone all that often. So we have to keep expectations in check for Waller, as we do for all TEs not named Kelce.

Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills

There’s a lot about this Bills game that I don’t understand, mainly the final score, but what is clear is that Kincaid is exactly who the Bills hoped/thought he could be. Catching all eight of his targets this week for 75 yards, Kincaid was the week's fantasy TE7. Importantly, he out-targeted Dawson Knox 8-3, and now Knox needs to have wrist surgery. Kincaid is the TE to roster on the Bills, though after Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen, production is as hard to predict as Buffalo's win probability.


Gardner Minshew, Indianapolis Colts

With Anthony Richardson on IR, it’s Minshew’s show in Indianapolis. In an oversize league I run with my students and colleagues at the University of Rochester (Brain Lovers League) we use Team QB. Minshew was a big reason I drafted the Colts because besides Richardson’s obvious potential, he’s one of the best backup QBs in the league. It took him only 15 completions to exceed 300 passing yards in Week 7 — against the previously noted worst fantasy matchup (Browns). Taking a page from Richardson’s book, he even rushed for two scores behind an offensive line that was mostly up to the task of handling Cleveland’s formidable defensive front. The drawback to Minshew is his four turnovers in each of the the last two games. The Saints won’t be as aggressive as the Browns on defense, but I expect this to be a major sticking point in Colts’ practice this week. With all 32 options on the table for Week 8, Minshew might not be getting the starting call for people in standard 10-team leagues, but after consecutive 300+ yard games and five total touchdowns, he should be in consideration in anything larger or a SuperFlex format.

Tyrod Taylor, New York Giants

Count me in as one of those desperate in a SuperFlex league who had to start Taylor due to byes and injuries only to realize that he was basically the sole reason I was even slightly competitive in my matchup. Taylor hasn’t been perfect, and he has had the benefit of Barkley being back on the field, but he has looked much better than Daniel Jones in his last two starts. Sacks and turnovers are way down while "big plays" are up (six completions of 20+ yards in Week 7). All signs still suggest that Jones will be the starter as soon as he is able, and if that isn’t in Week 8, Taylor may still struggle against a Jets defense that has a decent chance of getting Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed back for the game. You can find a better QB2 option, I’m sure!