Big Ben OUT for Season, Drew Brees to Miss Six Weeks

Our team of experts look at the fantasy fallout from Big Ben and Drew Brees respective injuries and how they will affect the Steelers and Saints!

Big Ben & Brees Hurt

NEWS: Ben Roethlisberger will undergo a season-ending thumb surgery. Pittsburgh’s backup QB is Mason Rudolph.

ANALYSIS: Well folks, first we lost Andrew Luck to retirement. Now Big Ben is out and the injury bug also took a bite out of Drew Brees.

For the Steelers, this may be a knock-out blow to their postseason chances but there’s a reason they play the game every week and so will we. If you’ve lost Roethlisberger, secure the best backup you can if you don’t already have one. If you own a key piece of their offense, like JuJu or Conner, you can expect a dip in their production until Rudolph proves otherwise. It’s also possible the Steelers bring someone in but either way, this is an offense-wide downgrade.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is still a mid-level WR2 (WR18 to WR20 range) option but his consistency takes a big blow, as does his ability to provide those boom weeks (30+ fantasy points) that truly elite WRs with great QB play can provide. The flex potential of guys like Donte Moncrief and James Washington has evaporated in my book. I was higher on Washington between the two but I can’t trust them week to week unless I’m desperate. Vance McDonald is firmly a backup TE only. Lastly, James Conner loses a ton of value, like JuJu, and I would evaluate him as a low-end RB2.

Dynasty owners should use this opportunity to engage other owners to shop Rudolph. Maybe he’s the next Tom Brady (sarcasm), but I’ll go ahead and sell high before he lays a turd next week and proves what I assume him to be. It’s a risk but I don’t need him to be a lottery ticket and I’ll be happy to take a future 2nd round pick for him. If he’s on your waiver wire, snap him up. Redraft owners can likely ignore him unless they’re in 2QB leagues. I’m not paying much for him unless I really need him. This offense is in quarantine, you play them at your own risk!

NEWS: Drew Brees will miss six weeks due to a torn thumb ligament.

ANALYSIS: Brees is a fan favorite and a fantasy legend. Unfortunately, again like Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Brees’ absence is an offense-wide downgrade. Alvin Kamara remains a “set it and forget it” RB who should not escape your starting lineup. Michael Thomas isn’t quite as undeniable but you’d be foolish to bench him. Beyond those two stars, I’m not touching anybody. Latavius Murray isn’t in play for me and he’ll be hibernating on my bench for the next six weeks. Ted Ginn, Mr. Best Ball as I call him, definitely won’t be in play and I’d probably cut him loose if I have him. Same goes for Tre’Quan Smith. Jared Cook might be a matchup play in a pinch but I’m not feeling him until Brees’ return.

I expect this offense to really go conservative under Teddy Bridgewater, which is why I still like Kamara. I never liked Bridgewater’s arm strength and while I do feel he can be serviceable, he’s one of those dreaded “game-managers.” Like Tyrod Taylor or Mike Glennon or Brian Hoyer etc. These guys are fine to put up 14 to 20 points a week but it won’t be pretty or graceful. Avoid this offense and keep your expectations low!

  • Matt De Lima, Editor-In-Chief

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James Washington

What a huge week for fantasy owners! Firstly, Big Ben’s injury is a tremendous blow to the Steelers as a whole. While I like Mason Rudolph, I still feel that he is about a year away from being “ready.” This obviously hurts the value of JuJu Smith-Schuster quite a bit. Donte Moncrief can be dropped, but James Washington might see an uptick in value since he played college football with Rudolph. We are still waiting to hear about RB James Conner’s MRI on his knee, so the news in Pittsburgh could actually get worse.

The New Orleans Saints will be without starting QB Drew Brees for the next six weeks as he is out after undergoing thumb surgery. Brees is probably as important to the Saints as Patrick Mahomes is to the Chiefs. Without him, there is no engine. Yes, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas are still there, but they take a huge hit with Teddy Bridgewater as the starter. Look for a big push to the running game, so bump up Latavius Murray. Also, TE Jared Cook takes a hit as Teddy Bridgewater might struggle to find secondary receivers.

  • Dr. Roto, Senior Fantasy Expert

The injury news from Week 2 is crushing to fantasy football plain and simple. Brees and Roethlisberger are so vital to the success of their respective teams, as both organizations had major playoff expectations in 2019. The Steelers’ situation in my opinion is more dire and this is a major hit to WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, who goes from a high WR1 to a back-end WR2 immediately.  I am not excited about the rest of the Steelers’ projections with Moncrief and Co. not being fantasy relevant for the foreseeable future. There is now concern that RB James Conner could miss time with a knee injury. Pittsburgh’s offense is an absolute mess with a possible projected lineup of Mason Rudolph under center and Jaylen Samuels at RB in Week 3 against an improved 49ers’ defense. Oh boy.  

The loss of Brees in New Orleans could pose issues for tight end Jared Cook and any Saints wide receiver not named Michael Thomas. Teddy Bridgewater has a brutal matchup going into Seattle in Week 3 and the schedule won’t offer any easy roads early on as the Saints face Dallas at home followed by road trips to Jacksonville and Chicago in the next few weeks. Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas are must-start players, but fantasy owners better be prepared to now temper the expectations that were previously associated with two first round investments in the next several weeks. Hold on, it could get very bumpy for two players the fantasy world had ranked among the top-12 on a weekly basis.

  • Shawn Childs, Senior Fantasy Expert

Teddy Bridgewater

Next man up is often the motto when a player goes down with an injury and in the case of the Saints, the next man up refers to their best player, Drew Brees, going down and needing to be replaced by their next best player(s). Expect the Saints to lean heavily on Michael Thomas, and Alvin Kamara to be more of the focal point of the offense with Teddy Bridgewater under center. Brees has always been a master at manipulating the defense to get everyone involved, however, I would expect Sean Payton to focus on getting his best players in positions to succeed and they will need the most from Thomas and Kamara while Brees is out.

Pittsburgh’s loss of Ben Roethlisberger gives Mason Rudolph an opportunity to plant his seed as an NFL Quarterback. Rudolph has the benefit of having played with WR James Washington and putting up fantastic numbers during their time at Oklahoma State. The immediate schedule looks fairly favorable for Rudolph and the Steelers’ passing attack and I have full confidence in Rudolph to still maintain value for Smith-Schuster and Washington as a sleeper big-play threat

  • Frankie Fantasy, 2017 & 2018 Top 100 FFWC Invitational Winner

Mason Rudolph

From a fantasy perspective, this is obviously a major downgrade at quarterback for both teams. In my opinion, the loss of Brees hurts the value of Saints’ players more that Roethlisberger’s loss in Pittsburgh. Bridgewater held the ball and looked stiff in his relief appearance against the Rams. Look for the Saints to force-feed Kamara and Thomas while they make adjustments in the coming weeks. I don’t believe it’s such a big blow in Pittsburgh with Rudolph taking over at QB. Most will naturally gravitate towards James Washington because he played college ball with Rudolph but I like Jaylen Samuels. Look for Pittsburgh to ramp of Samuels’ snaps even if Conner is healthy. There was lots of chatter this summer about Pittsburgh using Samuels as a pass catcher. It looks like now is the time to see what they have in this young nucleus of players. I also advise not to trade or cut bait on JuJu Smith-Schuster. Pittsburgh may even up his targets in an attempt to stay competitive while they develop the new offense.

  • Mark Deming, Former No. 1 Fantasy Owner in the World

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Fantasy football owners were decimated by injuries in Week 2, particularly at the quarterback position. Two future Hall of Fame players suffered serious injuries. Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger will undergo season-ending elbow surgery while New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees will miss six week due to a torn ligament in his right thumb. Obviously, it is safe to drop Big Ben, but if Brees is your QB2, I would stash him on the bench. If he is your starter, you may be forced to scramble on the waiver wire. You could pick up each injured players’ replacement in Mason Rudolph or Teddy Bridgewater, but there are plenty of other quarterbacks who I would prefer still available in more than 50% of Yahoo leagues. There are three quarterbacks I would target on the waiver wire right now if I were in desperation mode: Josh Allen, Jimmy Garoppolo and Matthew Stafford (in that order). Allen proved he is the king of New York and can produce fantasy points both through the air and with his legs. Jimmy G was clearly rusty but is coming off a three-touchdown performance against the Bengals and Stafford has put up two very strong outings to open the season. However, if you are in a very deep league and can only choose between Rudolph and Bridgewater, go with the Steeler. He has 14 games left compared to Bridgewater’s six games before Brees’s expected return, and also looked much better than Bridgewater in Week 2. I also expect the Saints to rely much more on the running game whereas Rudolph will be asked to sling it, especially because the Steelers will be behind in most contests.

For all intents and purposes, the Steelers’ season is officially over. It was already going to be difficult for them to win the division with Lamar Jackson and the Ravens lighting up the box scores, but now with Ben Roethlisberger out for the season, the Steelers are forced to turn to Mason Rudolph, a guy who has never started an NFL game in his career. While I actually like Rudolph and saw some solid play from him on Sunday, there is no doubt that JuJu Smith-Schuster’s value will take a huge hit. Pittsburgh’s hyped WR1 moves from a top-6 receiver in fantasy football to a top-20 player among the wide receiver landscape. I do think Vance McDonald’s value will remain just about the same, but Donte Moncrief can be dropped. James Washington is someone I would hold as I’d like to see if Rudolph and Washington are able to obtain the chemistry they once had when they played together in college.

Not only did Pittsburgh lose to the Seahawks on Sunday, start 0-2, and downgrade from Big Ben to Rudolph for the entire season, but now there are concerns about featured running back James Conner. Conner exited the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury, and even if he is healthy enough to return for Week 3 against the 49ers, Conner’s fantasy stock has taken a huge hit. His first two games were not all that impressive and to be honest, I don’t think he is much better than backup running back Jaylen Samuels. Regardless, if you have Conner, you are most likely starting him. Hopefully you drafted his handcuff because Conner is in danger of missing at least a couple weeks. Expect Pittsburgh to be cautious with their franchise running back with the knowledge that 2019 is a lost season.

The Saints’ situation is a bit different. New Orleans did not start the season off 0-2, and their backup quarterback is much more established in Teddy Bridgewater. Not to mention, if all goes well, Drew Brees will be back on the field after the team’s bye week in Week 10.

You can’t really critique Bridgewater’s performance in Week 2 because he was thrown into a very tough situation unexpectedly and was playing against one of the best defenses in the league in the Rams. It’s still very telling that Michael Thomas finished Week 2 with exactly the same number of targets and receptions as he produced in Week 1 (10 for 13). The yardage was a bit less, but Thomas has started the season strong. I would expect head coach Sean Payton to utilize Thomas in as many advantageous matchups as possible, lining him up all over the field. As for the rest of the Saints’ offense, Jared Cook falls from a TE1 to a TE2, Tre’Quan Smith becomes irrelevant and Tedd Ginn Jr. may have one or two good games under Bridgewater, but is not someone I would start in any format.

It’s also interesting to note that Alvin Kamara had his worst outing in a very long time. While I expect New Orleans to lean on Kamara now more than ever, yesterday was the first time that the third-year running back failed to produce double-digit PPR points since Week 5 of last season. It’s only the second time he failed to reach 10 fantasy points in his last 18 games. Much of yesterday’s poor performance had to do with the physicality that the Rams’ defense brought and game flow. Although Kamara owners may be worrying a bit, Bridgewater loves to dump the ball off to his running backs and the first-round fantasy pick will remain an elite option for the rest of the season. Don’t worry about him.

  • Matt Brandon, Managing Editor 

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