New York Jets quarterback Mike White
New York Jets quarterback Mike White, center, looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 31, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)


Mike Shara


Yikes. The big injuries and absences are really starting to pile up now, aren’t they?  As we start to make our way to the halfway point of the NFL schedule, the war of attrition has really begun in earnest. Look at the list of players who were likely chosen in the first three or four rounds of your fantasy draft that are out: George Kittle, Christian McCaffery, James Robinson, Dak Prescott, Julio Jones – combine those injuries with Bye Weeks and at times it seems that there are more talented players unavailable than available every week. Then this weekend came perhaps the biggest blow of all for the fantasy players who drafted him: Titans running back Derrick Henry, the best player at his position and possibly the best player in the NFL period, is out for at least six weeks due to a foot injury that will require surgery.

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If you are one of the (un)lucky folks who were riding Henry and his gaudy statistics to glory in the first half of the season but are now facing the prospect of reaching your league’s playoffs without him active on your roster, your mind is probably scrambling right now trying to think of how to replace him. Here’s the thing – you can’t, so don’t try.

Yes, of course the Titans have backup running backs who will do their level best to fill the gigantic hole Henry leaves in their lineup. Jeremy McNichols is probably the next man up on the roster, and he’s probably worth a flyer on the waiver wire. They are even auditioning Adrian Peterson this week and he might have some life left in his legs to help you out for the rest of the season, but it’s somewhere between doubtful and impossible that you’ll be able to rely on either of them for reliable production week in and week out.

The secret is to think outside of the box. There is no replacing a first round pick who suffers a major injury in any fantasy sport. Ask anyone who drafted Ronald Acuna Jr. or Mike Trout in their baseball pools this year or anyone who rostered James Harden or Anthony Davis in their basketball pool. You can draft another guy at the same position (in fact, you almost kinda have to), but if a player still hasn’t already been drafted in your pool at this point in the season, they’re not going to be much more than a wish.

So, Mike, why the hell am I reading this column then?

The reason you’re reading is so that I can encourage you to think outside the box a bit here and draft Taysom Hill or Mike White. I know, I know – “they’re quarterbacks, dummy” – just hear me out. Those two quarterbacks are going to replace injured starters for the Saints and Jets respectively and both of them have the potential to be very productive – more productive than whoever will replace Derrick Henry. In fact, White already threw for over 400 yards and 3 TDs against a pretty good Bengals defense. Then, once you’ve got yourself a shiny new quarterback, maybe you can trade the more famous guy who was your previous QB1.

Other players in your league might be willing to trade a useful running back in exchange for a big name like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Matt Stafford. If they’re lacking a big name as their QB1, they might just bite in order to make a run at the playoffs. Maybe they have a running back on their bench that they could stand to part with in order to upgrade. All you have to do is beat them to Hill or White on the waiver wire.

A move like this is all about deepening your roster and strengthening your overall lineup in order to make possible transactions that will benefit you down the road. Is it a risk? Absolutely, but you’ve just lost one of the best players in fantasy football – possibly for the rest of the regular season. You have to take chances if you want to stay afloat. Certainly, this is a risky strategy, but playing it safe at this point will get you nowhere but a nice, comfortable eighth place finish. You might as well lay all your cards on the table, push all your chips to the middle of the table and take your chances. Maybe by the time your league’s playoffs roll around, you’ll even be able to activate Henry from the Injured List and ride him to victory along with your new QB. To get to that point, though, you have to stay alive. Thinking outside of the box in cases like this is probably the only way you can make that happen.

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