Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Robert Woods (10) in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
When the first Week 11 inactives were released Sunday, the smattering of defensive players and lineman were a heartening set of names, at least for fantasy purposes, relatively free of impact pass-catchers and running backs.
In retrospect, things were a little too quiet.
Week 11 ended with fantasy teams tattered and torn, after injuries to A.J. Green, T.J. Yeldon, C.J. Prosise, LeSean McCoy, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Robert Woods, Giovani Bernard and Zach Miller. Throw in a concussion to Mark Ingram on Thursday night and the fantasy landscape is now what experts like to call a mess.
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A VERY EARLY LOOK AT THE WAIVER WIRE
Green's injury leaves the door open for rookie Tyler Boyd and veteran Brandon LaFell to assume larger roles in the offense. Boyd tied a career high with eight targets Sunday after Green's first-quarter exit. He also caught his first career touchdown pass. LaFell, meanwhile, has four touchdowns on the season but just two games with more than 75 receiving yards. While there isn't a clear-cut choice here, Boyd has intriguing upside and the Bengals – with just three wins – may want to see what their first-round pick is capable of.
As far as running backs go, there's a bit of a disappointing trend for the fantasy owner looking to make waiver wire moves – many of the injured backs were mired in time shares. Chris Ivory, Thomas Rawls, and Jeremy Hill are going to see big jumps in value, but they're owned in most leagues.
And while LeSean McCoy had thumb surgery, he could still play in Week 12.
A fantasy player's most attractive option in sifting through the replacement backs is probably Wendell Smallwood (owned in 9 percent of CBSSports.com leagues), who would need both Mathews and Sproles to miss significant time to have an impact – a gamble worth taking with fantasy seasons on the line. According to Pro Football Focus' Nathan Jahnke, Smallwood out-snapped fellow running back Kenjon Barner, 38-18, on Sunday.
THEO RIDDICK: FANTASY STUD?
Theo Riddick (eight receptions for 70 yards in Week 11) has already set career highs in touchdowns (four), rushing yards (310), and rushing attempts (79). Barring injury, he'll likely surpass highs in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and total yards by season's end.
Riddick has at least 75 total yards in his last three games And in point-per-reception formats, his 24 targets and 17 receptions make him an even more valuable piece of a fantasy backfield. Riddick's next two games – against Minnesota and New Orleans – should yield more of the same, as both teams give up 45 receiving yards or more per game to opposing backs (both falling in the bottom 10 in the NFL for that stat).
One thing to look out for, however – Riddick hurt a hand in the first half of the game Sunday. With a traditional Thanksgiving game on deck, a short week for an injured Riddick could make Dwayne Washington a decent speculative pickup.
– With Bills receiver Robert Woods going down, there's a small chance his replacement could be … Sammy Watkins, who will have a CT scan on his foot Tuesday. The Bills may be cautious rushing Watkins back (after the McCoy debacle earlier this season), but if he's healthy and good to go, it might be worth checking waiver wires for availability.
– He carries an incredible amount of risk, but Percy Harvin had the second-most targets (four) and played the second-most snaps (46) among Bills receivers on Sunday.
– At this point int he season, backup running backs must be rostered to combat injuries. One name to consider: newly-minted backup Denard Robinson, the No. 2 in Jacksonville, behind an oft-injured Chris Ivory in an offense that has featured both backs in the game plan since Nathaniel Hackett took over as offensive coordinator. Robinson averaged 4.2 yards per carry in 2014-2015, with 44 receptions on 61 targets over two seasons as the sometimes-starter for the Jags.
-Tajae Sharpe has a pair of 68 yard, one-touchdown games in his last two. He also has a wild matchup schedule coming up, with games against the Bears (third-most yards allowed to wide receivers), Broncos (fewest), and Chiefs (most).
– This year's Thanksgiving games are: Minnesota at Detroit, 12:30 p.m. Eastern; Washington at Dallas, 4:30 p.m. Eastern; Pittsburgh at Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m. Eastern.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com