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Week 1 Running Backs - Waiver Wire Pickups and Adds

After months of painstaking preparations toward determining how to draft your collection of running backs, you may have initially believed that you had successfully navigated the unpredictable flow of the live draft process. But when you reviewed your roster, that optimism faded, as you realized that this critical position had not been completely addressed.

Maybe there was a technical or mental error during the fast-paced selection process. Maybe you now want to add one more runner to your stable. Or maybe, you are one of the unfortunate Jerick McKinnon owners and are now confronted by the impact of suddenly losing a player that you envisioned as an integral component for your team. While we all acknowledge the inherent risk of injury when we construct our rosters, the effect remains excruciating.

Regardless of why you now want to consider your waiver wire options, this article will assist you in locating the best players to target. These recommended options 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 considered as droppable in order for you to secure your replacements.

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Frontrunners - Week 1 Waiver Wire Running Backs

These backs should be your top priorities among the runners that are available on most waiver wires, and they are most likely to provide the boost in scoring that you are attempting to find. While some of these runners will be more beneficial in PPR formats, every back in this group has either captured an expanded workload as the result of injury or has proven that they could eventually be productive if a convergence of factors enhances their roles. All players had 50% or less ownership levels throughout all fantasy leagues when this article was originally written, although the ascending value of Alfred Morris, Matt Breida and James Conner has propelled their percentages beyond that number.   

Alfred Morris, San Francisco 49ers - 49% owned

While there is no good time for a season-ending injury to occur, it is particularly brutal when one of the early round picks that you planned on having as a significant point producer is lost before your season even begins. Anyone who drafted McKinnon in the hopes that he would function as your high-end RB2 is now experiencing significant, and undeserved pain. At least there are viable solutions, as Morris and Matt Breida will immediately assume sizable roles. The 29-year old Morris bolted for 89 yards on 19 attempts during the preseason, and his proven track record of success under Kyle Shanahan makes him an enticing roster addition. Morris stockpiled 2,885 yards and 20 touchdowns while functioning as Washington's primary back when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator (2012/2013). He has also demonstrated the ability to flourish in a workhorse role, which Breida has yet to accomplish. Morris also averaged 4.8 YPC last season while operating as the temporary RB1 with Dallas, and the only question surrounding his viability is whether you can win the sprint against your competitors to secure his services. His ownership percentage has been rising rapidly from 37% since Sunday, and that trend will continue as the week progresses.

Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers - 43% owned

Breida’s ownership percentage is also escalating quickly in the aftermath of McKinnon’s season-ending injury. He will also requisition a desirable touch total, and new owners will be receiving the 49ers' primary receiving back. Even if Morris gradually procures a higher snap count as he learns the playbook, there is a level of certainty with being the RB2 for Shanahan that doesn’t often exist with other environments. Breida should receive 10-12 touches per game, which would expand his opportunities beyond last season’s average of 7.9. At a minimum, his role should also remain comparable to Tevin Coleman’s during Shanahan’s final season with Atlanta in 2016 (353/34.4% snaps). The daily ascent of his ownership level will continue until Sunday, when he faces a daunting Week 1 matchup with Minnesota.

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers - 42% owned

The expectation that Le'Veon Bell would report to the Steelers this week, and commandeer a significant workload on Sunday has diminished with each passing day of Bell's continued absence. While uncertainty continues to rise regarding his status for Pittsburgh's matchup with Cleveland, the prospects of Conner garnering a substantial role during the contest are also increasing. This has also propelled an ongoing surge in his percentage of ownership as the Steelers' Week 1 kick-off approaches. Conner averaged 6.3 YPC and generated a touchdown with his 19 preseason carries, while appearing to run with greater proficiency than he did during his 2017 rookie year. Bell owners should not hesitate to target Conner as a roster addition, as he could conceivably function as Pittsburgh's RB1 this week, while supplying you with ongoing protection should Bell suffer an injury after his prolonged absence.


In The Running - Week 1 Waiver Wire Running Backs

These backs remain available on the waiver wire, but are not necessarily must-adds. However, they are worthy of inclusion on your rosters if the top options are not available.

James White, New England Patriots - 47% owned

Amid the offseason focus on first-round pick Sony Michel, and the versatile Rex Burkhead, White has not garnered the degree of attention that his numbers should warrant. He quietly finished ninth among all backs in targets (72), and 10th in receptions (56) during 2017, while also tying for sixth in red zone targets (11). He will remain a vital contributor when the season launches, as  Michel will not be a factor until he fully recovers from surgery on his troublesome knee. Burkhead will be in the lineup against the Texans, but he has been contending with his own knee problem, and will share touches with White on Sunday. White has proven his effectiveness as a receiver, along with his reliability in pass protection, which will help him remain involved in the Patriots’ attack throughout the season. His snap count should exceed last year’s total (384/33.6%), and he is a viable roster addition.

Jordan Wilkins, Indianapolis Colts - 28% owned

There is no justifiable reason for Wilkins’ ownership to reside even remotely near its current level. An accumulation of factors has presented the 6’1”, 215-pound rookie with an opportunity to perform an extensive role in the refurbished Indianapolis offense. Not only will he be operating behind an improved offensive line, but the return of Andrew Luck should raise the proficiency of a Colt attack that ranked just 31st in total offense (284.6 YPG), and 30th in scoring last season (16.4 PPG). This should bolster the unit’s ability to sustain drives, and Wilkins also has the size and agility to maintain a frequent presence within the revamped offense throughout the season. If Marlon Mack’s protracted hamstring issue continues to linger, Wilkins should also line up as the team’s RB1 during their Week 1 matchup with Cincinnati. That makes the concept of adding Wilkins even more enticing.

Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos - 23% owned

Whether you reviewed Denver’s numbers during the preseason, watched video of the team's games, or allocated time toward doing both, the results repeatedly confirmed that Royce Freeman should be the team’s RB1. He was finally named as the Broncos’ starter after it originally appeared that Booker would be lining up with the lead back responsibilities in Week 1. While the decision to begin Sunday's matchup with Booker as Denver's primary rusher would have been questioned, his value while operating as Denver's passing catching back still provides owners with a potential option in PPR leagues. He could receive an adequate workload on a weekly basis, even as Freeman captures the majority of rushing attempts, and Phillip Lindsay siphons snaps as an occasional change of pace component. Booker could still collect enough touches to supply you with adequate numbers for the minimal investment of simply adding him to your roster.


Dark Horses - Week 1 Running Backs Waiver Wire

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.  They could also supply you with an adequate bye week or short-term injury solution.

Corey Clement, Philadelphia Eagles - 24% owned

Clement performed on 256/22.6% of Philadelphia’s offensive snaps as a rookie and possesses the strength and athleticism to handle a more expansive role. However, Jay Ajayi should be lining up as the Eagles’ primary back for an entire season, after joining the team in Week 9 last year. Ajayi averaged 36% of the team’s snaps during seven games, although that rose to 45% in his final four contests. Darren Sproles will return after having his 2017 season concluded abruptly in Week 3, and is an additional threat to pilfer snaps and targets as the season begins. Still, Clement is worthy of a roster spot, primarily if you have room for a back whose talent could eventually propel him to a larger role.

Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers - 30% owned

Montgomery's stock has plummeted significantly in comparison to one year ago when he was being selected early in the third round of fantasy drafts. Now? He resides on the waiver wire in 70% of all leagues. While the enthusiasm surrounding him was excessive last season, the indifference that exists today is equally disproportionate to the level of output that he can achieve in his pass-catching role. While fantasy owners are engrossed in examining the competition for carries between Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones, Montgomery will be allotted targets consistently, while performing in a sustainable role if he can maintain his health. This makes him a reasonable candidate for anyone in PPR leagues.

Mike Gillislee, New Orleans Saints - 3% owned

New Orleans' decision to secure the 27-year old Gillislee with a one-year contract suddenly supplies owners with an additional roster option. His value could surge just as swiftly if he commandeers short-yardage and goal-line responsibilities with the Saints, even if that role is short-term. He did amass 13 touchdowns in 2016/2017 and is capable of confiscating that aspect of the team's allocation to running backs until Mark Ingram returns. If Gillislee performs proficiently, it is also conceivable that he would attain an ongoing role, considering the unstable relationship between Ingram and Sean Payton.


Also-Rans - Time To Say Goodbye

As the season commences, there aren't any running backs with a substantial percentage of ownership that simply should not be on rosters at all, although that will occur in upcoming weeks. For now, we will focus on three backs that have some ownership, but can easily be dropped.

Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs  - 14% owned

Even though there are varying opinions concerning handcuffs, I am among those who are proponents in certain situations. As a result, if you are a Kareem Hunt owner who has opted to protect your first-round investment, your decision is understandable. But if you have included Ware on your roster in the hopes that he will confiscate enough touches to warrant weekly consideration as a fantasy option, then that spot could be utilized more effectively. While he may receive some touches, he is not a significant threat to Hunt’s workload. After Ware averaged 82 YPG during his first six games in 2016, his production declined to just 53.6 YPG during his remaining eight contests, even though he was allotted 15 carries per game. Ware has not demonstrated that he is the gifted runner that some have perceived him to be, and non-Hunt owners should strongly consider alternative options.

Doug Martin, Oakland Raiders  - 13% owned

Based upon his uninspiring performance during limited preseason snaps, there is nothing that should compel you to join Jon Gruden's inexplicable affinity for the 29-year old Martin. While teammate Chris Warren led all backs in rushing yards during August, Martin struggled to a 3.86 YPC average. It would have been worse had he not broken one 16-yard run, as he essentially resembled the same unimpressive runner who only managed 2.9 YPC in 2016 and 17. Even if Gruden stubbornly keeps Martin involved in a complementary role behind Marshawn Lynch to begin the year, Warren will eventually return from his knee issue, and Jalen Richard's superior ability to accrue yardage makes him a better roster addition than Martin.

Frank Gore, Miami Dolphins - 10% owned

Gore represents a precipitous drop-off from the previous options, both in terms of excitement and the instant opportunity to ignite your weekly scoring. The 35-year old Gore did finish at RB19 and just missed his 10th career 1,000-yard season in 2017 (961). But he also logged the eighth most carries among backs (261) in order to reach that total (261), while manufacturing a 3.7 YPC average. He would procure a greater workload if Kenyan Drake develops a health issue, but is not à feasible roster stash at this time.


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