Fantasy football mailbag: Mark Andrews replacements, what to make of Ty Chandler and more

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You have questions, we have answers! This week, we have questions about tight ends, what to make of Cooper Kupp and some inquiries about running backs Ty Chandler and Austin Ekeler. In addition to answering these questions, I’ll also finish things off with a special Thanksgiving food ranking to celebrate the best holiday of the year!

Can you please deep dive into potential TE replacements? I lost Mark Andrews in 75% of my leagues, there is nothing on the wire and my trade deadline has passed.Steve B.

 I feel for you and for many other fantasy managers who are now dealing with the injury to Mark Andrews, one of the only reliable tight ends in 2023.

While the TE position has always been hit or miss, the miss rate in 2023 seems to be at a staggering level. Add to this a season ending injury to Andrews, along with Dallas Goedert set to miss multiple weeks with a fractured forearm, and things continue to get worse at the position. So, what to do?

I will assume that Trey McBride is not an option in your league as he has been snapped up in most, if not all, competitive leagues. With this said, the pickings are slim. Like a Thanksgiving turkey after a few days of leftover sandwiches. If Isaiah Likely is available, he would be the first option.

He has started five games this season, but has played in all 11. Despite this, he has just 9 receptions and 89 yards on 12 targets from Lamar Jackson. But Jackson eagerly uses his tight end position whenever he can. Even without Andrews, Jackson will look to the position to make up for a lack of weaponry at WR outside of Zay Flowers.

Another option you may want to look at is Jonnu Smith in Atlanta. He is currently rostered in 27% of leagues and he ranks No. 16 at the position in half point PPR leagues, two spots higher than teammate Kyle Pitts, who is still rostered in 82% of leagues.

In 10 games in a run first offense, Smith has still managed to catch 35 passes on 45 targets, totaling 423 yards and 2 TDs. Whether Desmond Ridder returns, or Taylor Heinicke continues to play at QB, Smith has been a constant presence in the offense. If you can procure him, he could just be your best bet coming off his bye week.

Is Ty Chandler anticipated to take on a larger share of the MIN backfield? — Jason M.

What do I do with Ty Chandler after this week? On potential league winner alert? — Kevin J.

There is always a chance to find a league winner late in the season. Chandler might just be the one this season if he holds the RB job in Minnesota.

With Kirk Cousins out, Minnesota will be forced to use the run game more often to help Joshua Dobbs. Even when Justin Jefferson returns, the run game will be important as Jefferson gets acclimated to Dobbs and shakes off the rust.

Chandler looked good, averaging 7.3 yards on 10 rushes. But he was not the lead back, as Alexander Mattison had 81 yards on 18 carries. Chandler looked better and he should get more work, but he may not take over the position the way we want him to with Mattison now back. Minnesota brought back Mattison over Dalvin Cook for a reason. They like him. Now that he is back, expect him to continue to get enough work to make Chandler a risky play.

Chandler is a great handcuff if you are fighting for a playoff spot, but he will be hit or miss on a weekly basis unless Mattison once again misses time.

Will Cooper Kupp be relevant at all this season? — Kevin J.

It is strange to think Kupp has been so bad this season. The toll taken on his stats by injury has been astounding.

After coming into the year as the prohibitive favorite to be WR1 for fantasy managers, Kupp ranks outside the Top 60  in receptions with just 24 and is also outside the Top 60 in yards at 375. The Rams have been able to stay afloat due to the magical rookie season of Puka Nacua, who has 69 receptions for 897 yards and three TD in 10 games.

With injuries continuing to pile up for Kupp (coming off the field again on Sunday), this looks to be a lost season. He may flirt with relevance in some games. But the idea that he’ll finally push back towards his WR1 preseason status in the remaining games does not look good.

How concerned should I be for Austin Ekeler? My trade deadline is this week. — Gabriel M.

Very. While Ekeler has never been a run-first running back, having only 102 carries to this point in the season is a bit concerning. As is his 396 rushing yards, which rank him No. 35 in the NFL.

Most of this is made up for in the passing game for the Los Angeles Chargers. But this aspect of his game has also been missing a bit in 2023. Through the Chargers’ Week 11 game against the Packers, Ekeler has just 24 receptions for 254 yards and one receiving TD in seven games played.

In 2023, Ekeler has averaged 14.5 carries for 56.5 yards and 4.4 receptions per game. In 2022, Ekeler was averaging a similar 12.0 carries and 53.4 yards rushing. But he also contributed 107 receptions for 722 yards and 5 receiving TDs, averaging 6.3 receptions per game.

Having lost four of their past six games, maybe the Chargers will look to help remedy their situation by getting Ekeler untracked in the passing game, but there’s no guarantee of that, and any sort of late season miracle for fantasy managers is looking iffy at best.

Finally, a Thanksgiving side dish ranking…

Many will be confused to not see mac and cheese on my list. I absolutely love it. But in my family, we have never had it on Thanksgiving. And also, sorry Scott Dochterman, no cottage cheese for me here. Although I also love it.

5. Corn — I love corn any time of year.

4. Yams — Never liked them growing up. But now, I cannot get enough.

3. Mashed Potatoes — Especially my sister’s. They are always delicious and go great with turkey.

2. String Bean Casserole — I know many do not like it, but I love it. I even love the French-fried onions on top.

1. Stuffing and Gravy — It better not be Stove Top. Or else.

(Photo of Ty Chandler: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

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