If you want to have a successful draft, there's more than just having an in-depth knowledge of players. You also need an intimate understanding of the bye weeks. There aren't many owners who wouldn't love to have Aaron Rodgers on their team. But when he's on a bye (Week 8), who would be the best backup to start in his absence? That's valuable information, but most owners don't think about it. Wouldn't it be nice to have the backfield duo of Chris Johnson and Knowshon Moreno? Well, both of them are off in Week 6. It doesn't make sense to pass on them to avoid the bye-week conflict, though. Instead, it's a better idea to target Brandon Jacobs, who faces an awful Bills run defense that week, as a third running back in the middle rounds.
Below is a list of all the starting quarterbacks and running backs and their bye weeks for the 2011 season. More important, we've also included the best bye-week replacements for those starters. Although it's harder to avoid drafting running backs with the same bye based on values, it's still important to know which alternative runners have attractive matchups. What's more, it's also vital to know which No. 2 fantasy runners should thrive based on favorable opponents when your No. 1 running back is on a bye week.
Week 5 byes
Replacements: Romo and Flacco are the lone surefire No. 1 fantasy quarterbacks with a bye, although Bradford could join that list as a high-end sleeper in Rams coordinator Josh McDaniels' offense. If you land either Flacco or Romo on draft day, you should target Eli Manning (vs. Seahawks), Jay Cutler (at Lions) as your top reserve somewhere in the middle-to-late rounds. In larger leagues, David Garrard (vs. Bengals), Jason Campbell (at Texans) and Andy Dalton (at Jaguars) are nice options based on their matchups.
Replacements: Rice, Jackson and Hillis are the top running backs off in Week 5, although Bush could emerge into a nice fantasy starter as the top runner in Miami. Jones and Hightower are more likely to be drafted as potential flex starters in most leagues. The backs with the best matchups this week include Arian Foster (vs. Raiders), Jamaal Charles (at Colts), LeSean McCoy (at Bills), Darren McFadden (at Texans), Matt Forte (at Lions), Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. Seahawks), Ryan Mathews (at Broncos), Cedric Benson (at Jaguars) and Mark Ingram (at Panthers).
Week 6 byes
Replacements: Rivers is the lone No. 1 fantasy quarterback on a bye in Week 6, although Kolb could develop into a legitimate starting option if he looks good in Arizona. If Rivers is your starter, chances are you won't take him out of your lineup aside from this week. In his absence, consider Eli Manning (vs. Bills) and Matthew Stafford (vs. 49ers). Owners in deeper formats should also consider Alex Smith (at Lions), Ryan Fitzpatrick (at Giants) and Campbell (vs. Browns) based on their matchups.
Replacements: Johnson and Charles are clear-cut No. 1 fantasy running backs, and Moreno has a chance to develop into one of the better runners in the league this season. Mathews, a bust last year, also has a chance to be a more valuable asset in 2011. The remaining backs with the best Week 6 matchups include Frank Gore (at Lions), Rashard Mendenhall (vs. Jaguars), McFadden (vs. Browns), Michael Turner (vs. Panthers), Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. Bills), Hillis (at Raiders), Ingram (at Buccaneers), Benson (vs. Colts) and Ryan Grant (vs. Rams).
Week 7 byes
Replacements: Obviously, Vick and Brady are the two biggest fantasy quarterbacks with a bye this week. Manning is more of a low-end starter, although he does have one of the most favorable schedules among signal-callers in 2011. Fitzpatrick is a potential sleeper, but he's more of a late-round option. Owners who land Vick (who can be injury prone) or Brady should target Matt Ryan (at Lions), Ben Roethlisberger (at Cardinals), Stafford (vs. Falcons), Bradford (at Cowboys), Henne (vs. Broncos) and Tarvaris Jackson (at Browns).
Replacements: There are a number of strong running backs off this week, none more prominent than Gore, McCoy and Bradshaw. Benson could be a low-end No. 2 runner, especially with new coordinator Jay Gruden at the helm of the Bengals' offense. The backs with the best matchups include Chris Johnson (vs. Texans), Foster (at Titans), Rice (at Jaguars), Charles (at Raiders), Mendenhall (at Cardinals), Turner (at Lions), Hillis (vs. Seahawks), Bush (vs. Broncos), Ingram (vs. Colts), Lynch (at Browns) and Hightower (at Panthers).
Week 8 byes
Replacements: Rodgers is the lone superstar quarterback with a bye this week, although Ryan and Freeman will no doubt be drafted as No. 1 fantasy quarterbacks in most formats. Cutler and Sanchez are clearly fantasy backups or matchup-based options. If Rodgers, Ryan or Freeman is your top signal-caller after draft day, it's a good idea to go after Stafford (at Broncos), Orton (vs. Lions), Garrard (at Texans) or Fitzpatrick (vs. Redskins) to be your No. 2 option. Schaub (vs. Jaguars) could be a high-end No. 2 in smaller leagues.
Running backs: McFadden, Turner, Forte, LeGarrette Blount, Shonn Greene, Grant.
Replacements: There are an absolute boatload of strong running backs on a bye in Week 8, none more prominent than McFadden, Turner and Forte. Blount and Greene, who have major statistical upside both on the field and in fantasy drafts, are also off. The active runners with the most favorable opponents include Adrian Peterson (at Panthers), Chris Johnson (vs. Colts), Foster (vs. Jaguars), Maurice Jones-Drew (at Texans), Rice (vs. Cardinals), Moreno (vs. Lions), Jahvid Best (at Broncos), Benson (at Seahawks), and Hightower (at Bills).
Week 9 byes
Quarterbacks: Stafford, Garrard, Cam Newton, Donovan McNabb.
Replacements: This week doesn't offer up a surefire No. 1 fantasy quarterback on a bye, although Stafford clearly has the statistical upside to emerge into a top-10 option at his position barring injuries. Regardless, the signal-callers with the best matchups include Brees (vs. Buccaneers), Romo (vs. Seahawks) and Bradford (at Cardinals). If you're in a deeper fantasy league, it's also worth considering Campbell (vs. Broncos), Tarvaris Jackson (at Cowboys), Alex Smith (at Redskins), McCoy (at Texans), Dalton (at Titans) and Beck (vs. 49ers)
Running backs: Peterson, Jones-Drew, DeAngelo Williams, Best.
Replacements: Peterson and Jones-Drew, who will be two of the top five picks in numerous fantasy drafts, are off the field this week. The Panthers' duo of Williams and Stewart are also off the board. The remaining runners with the best matchups include Foster (at Texans), Gore (at Redskins), McFadden (vs. Broncos), Turner (at Colts), Moreno (at Raiders), Steven Jackson (at Cardinals), Hillis (at Texans), Greene (at Bills) and Felix Jones (vs. Seahawks).
Week 11 byes
Quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Brees, Roethlisberger, Schaub.
Replacements: Fantasy owners will be without superstar quarterbacks in Manning and Brees (who won't be benched in most leagues outside of injury) and two surefire starters in Roethlisberger and Schaub. As a result, grabbing a backup with a favorable opponent will be important in an effort to decrease the statistical blow caused by their absence. Those signal-callers with strong matchups include Ryan (vs. Titans), Bradford (vs. Seahawks), Cassel (at Patriots), Sanchez (at Broncos), Alex Smith (vs. Cardinals) and McCoy (vs. Jaguars).
Running backs: Foster, Mendenhall, Ingram, Addai.
Replacements: Foster and Mendenhall are both first-round locks in most leagues, and Ingram and Addai will be seen more often as potential flex starters. Clearly, Ingram has a ton of upside despite playing in a crowded backfield in New Orleans. Fantasy owners who do land Foster or Mendenhall would be wise to target running backs such as Jones-Drew (at Browns), Steven Jackson (vs. Seahawks) Hillis (vs. Jaguars), Bush (vs. Bills), Greene (at Broncos), Best (vs. Panthers) and Felix Jones (at Redskins) on draft day.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com or tweet it at Michael_Fabiano!