The replacements were the stars Thursday night, which hasn’t happened since Keanu Reeves was singing awful songs in jail. We had a hint last night would happen, but it became an even bigger thing than the thing we were expecting.

Ramses Barden has always had talent, but his opportunities have been scarce, and therefore so has his recognition. His 138 receiving yards while filling in for Hakeem Nicks last night eclipsed his total yardage in any of his previous three seasons, and that single-game output also now represents 41 percent of his 336 career yards. He’s now likely Wally Pipped Domenick Hixon, the injured Giants wideout who could lose his No. 3 job, with Barden receiving a more prominent role.

Barden’s fantasy value will then remain minimal upon Nicks’ return, and he’ll be isolated to being only a reaching flex play in deep leagues once bye weeks thin out the weekly talent pool. Instead it was Andre Brown that created the fantasy implications, and far more likely, the fantasy mess.

With David Wilson still gnawing on his dog bone after struggling with ball security and pass blocking early in the season, Brown’s name was called last week when Ahmad Bradshaw left the Giants’ win over Tampa with a neck injury. He started last night too after Bradshaw was unable to recover quickly during a short week. The decision then for Bradshaw owners who were relying on him as their RB2 after investing a mid-round pick was easy: make a waiver claim on Brown immediately, and use him as an emergency play.

Expectations were already high after Brown had 71 yards last week despite entering the game in the second quarter. Now after last night’s 113 yards and two touchdowns, his overall totals through just over six quarters of football this year are rather, well, good. He has 184 yards on 5.6 yards per carry with three touchdowns while adding 36 receiving yards. That’s all worth 42 fantasy points, and several naked runs through your neighborhood.

Brown is big (6’0″, 227 pounds), and he provides far more size than Wilson. He has a similar build to former Giants power back Derrick Ward, and that’s not an accident according to Jerry Reese, the man who first drafted Brown in 2009, and then was able to re-sign him after the fourth rounder bounced around to seven other teams.

From the New York Post:

“When we drafted him he reminded us of how we used Derrick Ward in screens, a big, tough inside runner but with more speed than Derrick,’’ Reese said. “That’s how we liked him back then. He bounced around, but we feel fortunate to get him back. We definitely like him.’’

We like him too, Jerry. We like him a lot.

But soak Brown in while you can, fantasy owners, because he’s created a problem. While it would be ideal if Brown was just handed the starting job even once Bradshaw returns, that’s extremely unlikely. The Giants are paying Bradshaw $3 million this year, and it was only last August when the 26-year-old was signed to a four-year contract worth $18 million, with $9 million guaranteed. The end game of that contract combined with Bradshaw’s age puts the Giants — and therefore also you — in a difficult position.

It’s not a massive contract, but it’s still a significant paycheck for a running back in a league where players at the position are increasingly receiving a minimal commitment. And at his age Bradshaw isn’t old, but he’s not young either. He’s in the muddled middle in terms of running back age, and he’s now missed five games over the past two years due to various injuries. We won’t call him injury prone, because that still feels like an arbitrary label as far as Bradshaw is concerned, with this year’s neck injury much different that last year’s ankle ailment.

But here’s what we know about the Giants, and their approach to Bradshaw: it’s a cautious one, and they made that clear by spending a first-round pick on the position last spring in the form of Wilson.

Even with Wilson struggling early in his rookie season, his long-term potential and the Giants’ major investment in his future present a problem. They can’t and won’t give up entirely on him because of that draft investment, and they can’t and won’t give up on Bradshaw due to their financial investment. The result? Likely a three-headed monstrosity of some kind, with Wilson on the extreme low end while he maybe gets a carry or two per game and is then utilized as a kick returner and pass catcher in open space, and a time share will evolve between Bradshaw and Brown.

Even if Brown is on the high side of that split, you lose, Brown owner who soiled several garments last night. That’s because if you’re a Brown owner then you’re almost definitely also a Bradshaw owner. So while Thursday’s euphoria rivaled the birth of your first child in terms of its tear-inducing glory, the high could be short-lived. By being awesome, Brown could devalue both himself and Bradshaw, and thereby torpedo two of your assets.

The solution? Keep those handcuffs on Brown right now, and hope that quickly once Bradshaw is healthy either he forces head coach Tom Coughlin’s hand, or Bradshaw reclaims his job.

Yep, that’s not much of a solution. But right now, it’s your only option.

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