Each week of the NFL campaign we will sift through the deeper options at each position with an eye on identifying streaming fantasy commodities with valuable matchups to consider.
Do you need replacement options for injured or suspended players? Or are you merely dealing with depth issues? We have some choice names to consider for those seeking widely available options at each position.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
Available in nearly 40 percent of ESPN leagues heading into a matchup with a Chargers defense allowing the fourth-most points per drive (2.27) in the league, Manning has undoubtedly become a streaming option at the position. The Giants have opened up the passing game over the past two games, with Manning lofting 96 attempts -- second only to Carson Palmer -- over this pass-happy sample. The Chargers' pass rush brings elite talent to the field, but Manning's quick delivery and L.A.'s depleted secondary should help him overcome any pressure concerns from the pocket.
Josh McCown, New York Jets
It's the New York edition at signal-caller this week, as we actually have some interest in McCown for those in truly deep and desperate situations. If Manning is the realistic streamer for 10-team setups, McCown is ideal for formats that go far deeper or use two quarterbacks. The veteran journeyman completed 90 percent of his attempts against the Jaguars' blitz on Sunday and has now connected on 75 percent of his passes with no interceptions and a robust 9.6 yards per attempt against the blitz this season, per ESPN Stats & Info. Per the matchup metrics, Cleveland has the fourth-highest blitz rate in the league, suggesting McCown could thrive against his former team's strategic preference on defense.
Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings
It's safer to invest in and deploy Latavius Murray this week than McKinnon, but for those who can't land the former in fantasy free agency, the latter does offer some promise in Chicago on Monday. The Bears have allowed the most points per drive (2.33) in the NFC this season, and McKinnon -- an athletic player in elite percentile territory when it comes to SPARQ testing -- tallied 110 total yards and two touchdowns against Chicago late last season. More relevantly for point-per-reception leagues, you can expect McKinnon to consume a rewarding share of targets and routes in space against a Chicago front seven that is missing its top two coverage linebackers this week. Another option in this same archetype is Andre Ellington of Arizona, who could see game script aid his usage against a Cardinals offense that could be compelled to pass often as road dogs in South Philly on Sunday.
Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens
Fumbling issues could fell the fantasy fun for Collins if his ball security issues persist, but it's become glaringly clear he's the team's best early-down option over the past two weeks. With the Raiders allowing generous per-carry (4.2) and per-game rushing rates (ninth-most yards allowed) to tailbacks this season, Collins could reward daring managers who are willing to assume the low floor his specialized role bears. Additional upside could come from favorable field position against an Oakland team now trusting utterly subpar quarterback play, placing Collins in an intriguing tier as a DFS and flex flier for Week 5.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals
The market is understandably wary of trusting Brown, given his long injury history and inconsistent usage when active over the past season-plus. Let's allow recency bias to outweigh the more enduring concerns, as Brown was on the field for an encouraging 63 percent of the Cardinals' offensive snaps in Week 4 and saw a team-best 14.6 air yards per target in the process. With this rich air-yards allotment, Brown's ceiling is actually quite high for this meeting with an entirely exploitable Philly secondary, particularly on the outside. If Brown can net some reps against raw rookie Rasul Douglas -- he of the 18th percentile 40-yard time and safety-like athletic profile -- he could be this week's surprising splash play superstar.
Robby Anderson, New York Jets
You won't find many safe, high-volume receivers in this column, given the nature of ownership trends. The market rightfully hoards players with impressive opportunity rates, but so far has ignored Anderson, given a profile that appears dependent on big-play production. It's true that Anderson's catch rate of 50 percent spells real risk for fantasy investors, but I'm not sure we appreciate the upside found in his usage rates; the speedster is averaging an awesome 18 air yards per target over the past two games en route to 26.6 yards per catch. The Browns, meanwhile, have allowed the sixth-most yards per catch (14.2) to receivers this season and prove suspect in deep coverage at safety. If and when Anderson gets behind the Browns' secondary on Sunday, we could witness a series of rewarding big plays if McCown can again capably navigate the blitz.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New York Jets
Is this too many Jets? It's quite possible. Then again, the goal of this content series is to illuminate players we believe are widely available for managers to consider as plug-and-play options, so we're going to tread into some poor rosters as a result. That said, "ASJ" has passed the eye test so far this season, as he appears light on his feet despite a hulking frame. Seferian-Jenkins has been targeted on nearly 21 percent of his routes over the past two weeks, above the team average of 18.9 percent over this sample. The Browns have surrendered the most fantasy points to tight ends among AFC teams this season, aiding an already promising window for production for Seferian-Jenkins.
Evan Engram, New York Giants
This is just getting silly at this point, as the New York theme pervades the recommendations this week. The Chargers have been solid against tight ends this season, but Engram's deployment and alignment trends mimic that of a third wideout more than a traditional in-line tight end. The evidence is strong, however, for Engram to become a viable starting option for those seeking streaming support at tight this week. Consider Engram is second behind only Rob Gronkowski in routes run from the tight end position over the past two weeks, and yet, his target-per-route rate is higher than Gronk's over this sample.
While the Ravens' defense has seen a bump in popularity on waivers this week, it's still available in nearly 30 percent of ESPN leagues. Baltimore's stop unit is due for a strong showing against a suspect signal-caller for Oakland, as EJ Manuel is under center for the Raiders this Sunday. Manuel is near the bottom in yards per dropback and QBR since 2013, and the Raiders' struggling backfield personnel simply isn't well equipped to punish a Baltimore front that could prove vulnerable against the run. If the Ravens can slow down Marshawn Lynch, this could be a fun fantasy day for Baltimore's D/ST.
New York Giants
For a defense that allowed the fewest points per drive last season, while returning nearly an identical group on that side this season, there is some positive regression in the fantasy production department due for the Giants' D/ST. The Chargers have the league's 11th-highest turnover rate and ninth-highest punt-per-drive rate, while Los Angeles' struggling ground game could play into the hands of a ball-hawking New York secondary.
Individual defensive players
Cory James, Oakland Raiders
On the field for nearly every defensive snap over the past two weeks, James has tallied 21 tackles over this busy sample. The Ravens are among the league leaders in rushing attempts and short passes, which could funnel more tackle opportunities to James in the second level.
Micah Hyde, Buffalo Bills
As the play-making centerfielder for the Bills' speedy and aggressive defense, Hyde is found at 13th in fantasy points per game among safeties (using ESPN's standard IDP scoring key). Facing a Bengals team increasingly targeting its tight ends and backs the past few weeks (Andy Dalton set a career best in completions to these positions last week), Hyde could be busy in clean-up duty.
Emmanuel Ogbah, Cleveland Browns
We don't hear much about the individual defensive exploits from Cleveland, but Ogbah is emerging as a productive edge talent over the past several games. With 12 tackles and two sacks over the past two showings, meeting a porous Jets line could spell another strong showing. I also admire any available shares of Buffalo's Lorenzo Alexander, who has been absolutely awesome as a play-maker off the edge for the Bills this season.