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Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 14

It is almost inconceivable that we have officially entered the fantasy postseason. Congratulations to those of you who have prepared diligently for your drafts then managed your rosters with unwavering dedication throughout the regular season. Your efforts have now placed you in a position to secure your leagues’ championships.

This critical week provides the opportunity to focus on building lineups that will advance through the fantasy playoffs. It is strongly recommended that you bolster your chances of winning your leagues by examining the Weeks 14-16 matchups for backs that you are considering or currently own. This will maximize your planning process by establishing which backs will encounter formidable defensive units, and which runners will perform against vulnerable opponents.

This article will assist you in locating the players to target in order to fulfill your championship aspirations. These recommendations will appear in three tiers - beginning with the most enticing and progressing to runners that are available if you are contending with desperation. You will also find a group of backs that can be dropped in order for you to secure your replacements. Here are the most viable waiver wire options at the running back position.

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Frontrunners - Week 14 Waiver Wire Running Backs

These backs should be your top priorities among the runners that are available on most waiver wires. Some will be more beneficial in PPR formats than standard. All players have 60% or less ownership in typical fantasy leagues.

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings - 30% owned

The need for Cook owners to handcuff Mattison has been a weekly recommendation in this column throughout the season. This provides a massive insurance policy if Cook suddenly became unavailable, as Mattison would operate as the Vikings’ lead back for the duration of time that Cook is a spectator. This scenario occurred during the third quarter of Minnesota’s matchup with Seattle, as Cook departed with a chest injury. Mattison then accumulated 73 total yards on eight touches, while Cook never reemerged in the lineup. Cook’s status will be monitored, and he could conceivably return this week. However, owners that have already secured Mattison will avoid a potentially catastrophic drop in scoring if Cook is absent. Unfortunately, that scenario could develop for other Cook owners that failed to take the precaution of adding Mattison previously. He now becomes the primary back to target for owners in 70% of all leagues and could function as an RB1 during an enticing matchup with Detroit.

Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs - 5% owned

The 5' 8" 200-pound rookie was included among this column's waiver wire recommendations in Weeks 2-3 due to his enticing combination of versatility and aggressiveness. Those attributes did not translate into an ongoing role for Thompson from Weeks 1-12, as he registered just four carries. However, fantasy relevance often ignites due to a convergence of unexpected factors, and this applies to Thompson as we enter the fantasy playoffs. Injuries to Damien Williams (ribs), and Darrel Williams (hamstring)  depleted Kansas City’s backfield in Week 13, which launched Thompson into a significant role. He ultimately led the Chiefs in attempts (11) and rushing yards (44), while also generating his first career touchdown. There will be uncertainty regarding the availability of both Damien and Darrel Williams when your waiver process occurs. However, this should not preclude you from targeting Thompson as a roster addition. He could operate as the lead back within one of the league's high-octane attacks. This would make him a highly productive resource as the playoffs unfold.

Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins - 50% owned

Guice has now accumulated 31 touches since returning from his knee injury, including 10 carries in each of his last two matchups. He maximized those opportunities in Week 13 by exploding for 129 yards and two touchdowns. This provided evidence that Guice can function as a valuable component for owners despite the constraints of a congested Washington backfield. He has averaged 81.3 total yards since Week 11, while also producing three touchdowns. Adrian Peterson has averaged 50.3 total yards with his 35 touches since Guice's return, after averaging 14.4 carries and 61.4 yards-per-game from Weeks 1-9. Peterson had been quietly effective during that sequence, but his workload was destined for a downturn once Guice reemerged in the lineup. Chris Thompson also resurfaced in Week 13, although he was limited to 29 total yards on four touches. Even though the Redskins should operate with a distinct three-back rotation, Guice will garner enough opportunities to unleash his effective combination of speed and power. This delivers the potential for favorable weekly scoring if Guice is deployed in your flex position.

Raheem Mostert, (San Francisco) - 14% owned

Mostert was presented with the opportunity to perform with an expanded workload in Week 13, and capitalized by exploding for 146 yards and a touchdown with his 19 attempts. He also averaged a sizzling 7.7 yards-per-carry. Mostert has delivered impressive performances during the past two years. That includes the 250 yards that he accrued from Weeks 6-9 of 2018 before a broken arm abruptly concluded his season. He also assembled 162 yards on 25 attempts in Weeks 2-3. However, he was relegated to just seven attempts during San Francisco’s next matchup, while Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida combined for 29 carries. This provides a reminder that Kyle Shanahan’s usage of running backs can be altered at any point based on in-game developments. Tevin Coleman owners who were negatively impacted by his limited involvement in Week 13 (five carries) can attest to the potential for inconsistent touch distribution within the 49er backfield. This does not affect Mostert’s viability as a roster addition, and he can be deployed in the flex. But there is a risk in planning for a massive workload this week.


In The Running - Week 14 Waiver Wire Running Backs

These backs remain widely available on the waiver wire but are not necessarily must-adds.

Bo Scarbrough, Detroit Lions - 44% owned

We have now witnessed three consecutive matchups in which Scarborough has been deployed as Detroit’s primary back. During that span, he has accumulated 236 rushing yards on 53 attempts (4.5 per-attempt). That includes the 83 yards that he accrued on a season-high 21 carries against the Bears in Week 13. During that three-game sequence, Scarbrough has confiscated the vast majority of opportunities on the ground, as Ty Johnson has just nine carries, and 29 yards/3.26 per-carry during that span. J.D. McKissic has also rushed just three times for 12 yards since Weeks 12, while Scarbrough has seized RB1 responsibilities. The 6’1”, 235-pound Scarbrough has also been entrusted with five red zone carries since Week 11, and has provided Matt Patricia with enormous incentive to continue utilizing him as the Lions’ workhorse back. His remaining matchups are not necessarily favorable (Minnesota/Tampa Bay/Denver). But there is also a shortage of backs on your waiver wire that are averaging 17.7 attempts-per-game.

Benny Snell Jr., Pittsburgh Steelers - 34% owned

Snell provided a glimpse of his capabilities by accumulating a team-high 78 rushing yards on 17 attempts (4.4 per-carry) in Week 6. He has now cemented his fantasy relevance by bolting for 161 yards on 37 attempts (4.3 per-carry) during his last two matchups, while clearly operating as the Steelers' most proficient rusher beyond James Conner. Jaylen Samuels can function as a receiving back but has been consistently underwhelming as a runner (2.8 yards-per-carry). Snell has been far more effective and has earned lead back responsibilities whenever Conner is absent - which has occurred with far more frequency than Conner owners would prefer. Snell should remain highly involved in Pittsburgh’s offensive strategy by operating with a favorable workload while Conner’s shoulder injury lingers. Conner owners should also secure Snell as they await the return of Pittsburgh’s lead back. That will provide critical roster protection while Conner is affixed to the sideline.

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens - 13% owned

Edwards has not captured the attention that has been garnered by more prominent handcuffs like Mattison and Tony Pollard. But his usage provides a weekly reminder that he remains a viable waiver wire target for Mark Ingram owners. He has averaged 7.6 attempts-per-game which has risen to 9.4 per game since Week 11.  Edwards also generated 167 yards on 22 carries in Weeks 11-12 and has also collected 21 red zone carries during the season. The second-year back would accumulate significant yardage if he were suddenly operating in Ingram’s role. This supplies the incentive for Ingram owners to make a savvy roster addition by securing Edwards at the onset of their fantasy playoffs. That will prevent the unwanted scenario of losing Ingram, then experiencing a massive decline in scoring while a competitor elevates Edwards into their starting lineup. This situation can easily be avoided as he is still available in over 85% of all leagues.


Dark Horses - Week 14 Waiver Wire Running Backs 

This group consists of running backs that can be added if you are willing to wait for the possibility of a larger role during the year, or consider your situation to be desperate due to injuries or byes.

Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks - 55% owned

Penny is included among this week’s recommended roster additions, due to the potential that he could be launched into a significant role at any time during the remaining weeks. Chris Carson’s propensity for fumbling propelled Penny to a season-high 14 carries in Week 12, and he capitalized by exploding for a season-best 129 yards and a touchdown. Penny’s performance should supply Seattle’s offensive decision-makers with the confidence to trust him with a respectable workload once again. Carson could commandeer a large percentage of touches this week. But any reoccurrence of ball-security issues could also launch Penny into a sizable role at any point in the fantasy postseason. Penny had performed on just 18% of Seattle’s offensive snaps during the seven games in which he had been active from Weeks 1-11. But that percentage rose significantly to 46% after Carson’s penchant for fumbling reemerged. The prospects of a similar scenario should persuade potential owners to secure Penny this week.

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys -14% owned

Since Week 7, Pollard has averaged 4.8 carries and 5.8 touches-per-game. While that is not a workload that will justify standalone usage, he has displayed an enticing blend of speed, size, and versatility that would enable him to thrive if his touches expand for any reason. He has already demonstrated his ability to explode for significant yardage with a larger workload by bolting for 103 yards on 13 carries in Week 3. Pollard has also revealed his capabilities as a receiving weapon by accumulating 44 yards and a touchdown in Week 11. The prospects of favorable scoring with an increased touch total have elevated Pollard into premier handcuff territory. It also presents Elliott owners with an opportunity to shield their roster from a devastating situation if Elliott is sidelined. Pollard is an unquestioned roster addition for whose home run potential would propel him to RB1 status if Elliott is absent.

Ryquell Armstead, Jacksonville Jaguars - 1% owned

Leonard Fournette’s workhorse role with the Jaguars has not changed, and neither has the need for his owners to secure Armstead on their rosters. Fournette is now averaging 18.3 attempts per-game after collecting 14 in Week 13 against Tampa Bay. He has also captured 65 of his 81 targets while functioning as the quintessential centerpiece of Jacksonville’s offense. That has consistently quashed Armstead’s usage throughout the season (30 touches), including season highs of six carries in Week 8, and five receptions in Week 9. But the configuration of responsibilities for both backs dictates that Armstead would automatically attain a mammoth touch total if Fournette would be unavailable. If you are a Fournette owner, this provides the rationale for you to safeguard your roster. Otherwise, you are at risk of having your scoring diminish significantly through the sudden absence of Fournette.


Also-Rans - Time To Say Goodbye

These backs can be dropped in order to secure an RB with greater potential to bolster your scoring during the year.

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals - 90% owned 

If you deployed a first-round pick on Johnson, you did not envision dropping him at the onset of the fantasy playoffs. But it is important to avoid focusing on Johnson’s brand name, and equally necessary to ignore the investment that you made while selecting him. If you strictly examine the facts, there is no reason to continue utilizing a roster spot on Johnson. He has been limited to 19 rushing yards on 10 attempts since Week 6 and his role has been eviscerated since the arrival of Kenyan Drake. The former Dolphin will continue commandeering a significant percentage of touches, while Chase Edmonds has also been elevated into the backfield equation after recovering from his hamstring issue. This could reduce Johnson’s opportunities even further, and there are too many obstacles impeding Johnson from delivering a productive outing during the final weeks of the season. It may be difficult to jettison Johnson from your roster, but there are running backs that are more likely to provide you with fantasy points.

Royce Freeman, Denver Broncos - 66% owned

There is nothing that is trending favorably for Freeman whether it relates to his usage, his production, or the evolving components that surround him in Denver's offense. He averaged 15.3 touches/78.6 yards-per-game from Weeks 1-3, and 14.25 touches/59.75 yards-per-game from Weeks 1-8. But he has now averaged just 4.75 attempts-per-game since Week 9, including an anemic total of seven during his last two matchups. The dramatic reduction in his workload has also suppressed his output, as Freeman has averaged just 23.4 rushing yards-per-game since Week 6 while failing to exceed 40 yards during that span. Freeman’s current statistical ceiling should be avoided, and there is no aspect of his degenerating situation that should compel owners to retain him on their rosters. Dropping him this week will allow you to locate an alternative option that could deliver more scoring.

Duke Johnson, Houston Texans - 54% owned

Prior to Houston’s Week 13 matchup with New England, we had progressed into December without a modicum of evidence that Bill O’ Brien would modify his usage of the Texans’ backfield components. Carlos Hyde had consistently functioned as the lead back (16.3 touches-per-game), while Johnson was designated for a single-digit touch total regardless of how proficiently he performed. However, Johnson exceeded 10 touches (14) for just the third time this season when he faced the Patriots, and he responded by generating 90 total yards. This might create optimism that he can function as a reliable flex option. But the more likely scenario is a return to the deployment of Hyde in an RB1 role that has been consistent throughout the season. This will reduce Johnson’s potential to deliver output that can be beneficial during the postseason. This is highly problematic for anyone who is contemplating the use of Johnson in any capacity, which removes all reason to keep him on your roster.

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