If you told me that Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Austin Ekeler, J.K. Dobbins, Aaron Jones, and Kenneth Gainwell would get hurt in 2023, I wouldn’t be shocked. Things happen to running backs, though that seems like a large list of fantasy talent to lose.

But if you told me it would happen before the end of week 2? I’d shake my head and laugh it off. Yeah, that’s a fantasy manager’s mentality: Imagine the worst possible thing, and you almost come to expect it. But that doesn’t mean it would actually happen in real life.

But here we are.

It doesn’t take too long to see how good your fantasy starters are performing. It might be a few games, but eventually even the slow starters tend to come around. But usually…oh yeah. David Montgomery. I knew I was forgetting somebody. Except Taylor, all those injuries happened in less than eight quarters of football. And that’s only the running backs.

Anyway, while starters tend to show their cards in a few weeks, you often don’t find out how well you did at drafting depth until the bye weeks start, or we’re farther into the season. But managers are being pressed, right now, to find starter-worthy talent for week 3 on their rosters. And if you’re looking exclusively to the waiver wire, something went very wrong on draft day.

Now, don’t misunderstand: The unusual number of prominent injuries happens to coincide with an unusual amount of waiver wire guys who can make a difference immediately. I don’t recall fantasy teams finding so many players who have actually lived up to the waiver wire hype before. Even if it’s only a game or two, quite a few guys are worthy starters and helping fantasy teams win games. And in the case of Puka Nacua, setting NFL records for receptions as well. Always take a look and see who might be available.

But if that’s your only plan, you made mistakes during your draft or auction. Your best replacement shouldn’t necessarily be the guy who took over for an injured starter. It should be a talented player on your bench who is sitting there for just this kind of situation. That’s what a bench is for, right? When people debate the factors of luck vs skill in fantasy football, I think they’re on the wrong track. It’s not just luck and skill. It’s mostly luck and preparation. There’s obviously some skill in working trades or analyzing one player over another, but preparation is an essential part of the game. And part of your preparation should always be to make sure you have enough talent to be competitive, and create a roster where every player earns their spot. It’s sometimes an evolving roster, but you have to be prepared to call up replacements, even in week 3.

While we usually see which managers were prepared over the course of the season, we’ll find out about many of them in the next month. Trades are unlikely, and most of your competitors have a good idea who to target when waivers run. In many cases you’ll be looking to the guys you already have to get you through until your star comes back, or as a full-time replacement. And whatever you thought of your team before these past two weeks, you’ll gain some concrete knowledge over the next few. I hope they make you proud when called into the lineup. Otherwise, you’ll have to get really creative. Drumming up talent when your bench looks weak and your starters are hurt? Now that takes skill. Good luck this week.

Are you dealing with a major injury to a starter? Has your bench come through for you already? What’s your strategy if you’re not liking your options very much? Share your thoughts below.