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Running Backs Waiver Wire - Week 1 Pickups and Adds

As the offseason has advanced relentlessly toward the long-awaited kickoffs of Week 1,  you have expended your time and energy preparing meticulously for your drafts. Once your rosters were constructed you may have been satisfied with the results. But that initial enthusiasm can often diminish after you have reviewed your league’s rosters.

This could easily include your crucial decisions as you selected your running backs. That is understandable during the unpredictable flow of drafts as impulsive selections, technical issues, and crucial needs at certain positions can conspire to leave you underwhelmed with your final results. Regardless of why you are now considering your waiver wire options, this article is designed to help you uncover the best backs to target.

These recommendations will appear in three tiers - beginning with the most enticing and progressing to runners that are available if you are struggling with desperation. You will also find a group of backs that can be considered droppable in order for you to secure your replacements. After you've finished this breakdown, you can also find our other news and articles that are designed to help you begin Week 1 with your most potent lineups.

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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. Some will be more beneficial in PPR formats than standard. All players have 60% or less ownership in typical fantasy leagues.  

Justice Hill, Baltimore Ravens - 27% owned

When Hill delivered a sizzling 4.40 at the NFL Combine, it underscored the same level of explosiveness that enabled him to run for 3,539 yards and 30 touchdowns during his three collegiate seasons. But the 5'10", 200-pound rookie also displayed unexpected power during the preseason. This should help him secure an integral role within a ground game that is the foundation of Baltimore's offensive philosophy. The Ravens averaged 35 rushing attempts per game in 2018 and finished third in run play percentage (47.7%). That rose to a whopping 64% from Weeks 11-17, after Lamar Jackson ascended into the starting role. Hill’s attributes should vault him into a significant workload as the season progresses, as he shares touches with Mark Ingram in the Ravens' run-heavy approach. He possesses an exceptional blend of strength and agility, along with the potential to explode for huge plays. This could provide savvy owners with a significant boost to their championship aspirations, and he should be owned in all leagues.

Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers - 28% owned

Melvin Gordon's continuing quest for a new contract has built a lingering cloud of uncertainty surrounding his availability. This has been sustained throughout his absence, while also igniting Austin Ekeler's ADP. The elusive and powerful Ekeler has garnered a larger workload than Jackson during the preseason and will procure the most touches if Gordon's protracted holdout continues. However, Eckler's ability to function with an extensive workload on a weekly basis is questionable. This maintains Jackson's fantasy relevance while Gordon is absent. Jackson delivered the proverbial mixed bag during his expanded role last December, while Gordon was sidelined with an MCL sprain. Jackson averaged 60.5 yards and 5.76 yards-per-carry in Weeks 13/15 but manufactured an anemic 12 yards/1.71 yards-per-attempt in Week 14. But barring a sudden modification in Gordon’s stance,  Jackson presents potential owners with a greater opportunity for yardage and fantasy points than most available options entering Week 1.

Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins - 50% owned

This section originally contained a recommendation to add Devin Singletary. Then his ownership percentage ignited following LeSean McCoy’s release. But even though Singletary’s availability is dissipating, Ballage can be located on the waiver wire in 50% of all leagues. Kenyan Drake has superior name recognition with owners, finished at RB14 in PPR leagues in 2018, and procured a career-best 73 targets. But he was also entrusted with fewer carries than he received in 2017 (133/120). His ownership remains extremely high (92%) even though he does not have the unwavering confidence or support of his current coaching staff. He should share opportunities with Ballage, who averaged 5.3 yards-per-carry with his 36 attempts in 2018.  75 of his yards occurred on one burst in Week 15, but any fusion of his size and speed can result in more big plays during 2019. Even though he manufactured 56 receiving yards last season, he did accumulate 469 on 44 receptions in 2016 (Arizona State). Ballage is capable of performing effectively as a rusher and pass-catching resource for Miami and is a viable addition for all rosters.


In The Running - Week 1 Waiver Wire Running Backs

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

Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders - 14% owned

Josh Jacobs is firmly entrenched as the feature back for the Silver and Black. But Richard will continue his responsibilities as the Raiders’ pass-catching specialist in the backfield, after establishing new career bests in multiple receiving categories during 2018. Richard tied for seventh among all backs with 81 targets, after collecting 6+ in seven different contests. He also finished sixth in receiving yards (607) and was seventh in receptions (68). Richards’ reception total tied him with Jared Cook for the team lead, while he also tied for third in targets and receiving yards. Richard also finished ninth among receiving backs in Football Outsiders' Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR-138) and ninth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA-17.4%). Despite a sizable transformation of defensive personnel, the Raiders will frequently struggle to contain opposing offenses. This will force Oakland to play from behind, and compel Jon Gruden to target his primary receiving back. That elevates Richard into consideration in PPR leagues.

Ty Montgomery, New York Jets, 16% owned

Exactly two years ago, Montgomery’s ADP was 37. But a decline in relevance ensued as he averaged just 434.5 total yards and missed 11 different games during the past two seasons. However, he is now healthy, and his role should be more defined under Adam Gase than it was while he was sharing touches with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in Green Bay. His versatility has placed him directly under Le’Veon Bell on the Jets’ depth chart, as Montgomery was on the field for 90% of the Sam Darnold’s snaps during Weeks 1-3 of the preseason (43 of 48) according to Pro Football Focus. This vaulted him beyond (former teammate) Elijah McGuireBilal Powell, and Trenton Cannon, and would have enormous ramifications if Bell would miss any game action. Speculation has also emerged that Montgomery might share touches with Bell while the former Steeler continues his progression into game shape. Montgomery’s level of involvement in the Jet offense makes him a viable roster addition, particularly in PPR leagues.

Damien Harris, New England Patriots - 22% owned

The Patriot backfield was already jampacked with prospective options for Bill Belichick distribution of touches even before the addition of Harris (Sony Michel/James White/Rex Burkhead But it is highly unlikely that Belichick would deploy a third-round pick on the 5’11”, 215-pound rookie and abstain from involving him in the offense. Michel should maintain a role as the primary ball carrier, with a workload that mirrors last year’s 16 attempts-per-game. White will accumulate the majority of targets, and Burkhead will siphon a small percentage of touches.  But Harris should confiscate most of the 74 carries that were designated for White when Michel was in the lineup last season. He could also commandeer goal-line touches and would absorb an extensive workload if Michel is sidelined for any reason. The potential for sizable responsibilities within a potent rushing attack provides your incentive to secure him.


Dark Horses - Week 1 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.

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings - 24% owned

Dalvin Cook presents owners with a dream scenario due to his desirable combination of skills - vision, speed, and elusiveness - and the opportunity to utilize them while operating with an extensive workload. Two factors that enhance his prospects of finishing among the fantasy scoring leaders are Mike Zimmer’s dogged commitment to a ground-oriented approach and the arrival of Gary Kubiak to further entrench the Vikings' emphasis on a consistent rushing attack. While that is primarily beneficial to Cook, Mattison is the proverbial next man up if Cook encounters another unwanted health issue. Mattison will also accrue touches during plays in which Cook exits the field for any other reasons. The 5’11”, 220-pound rookie has the talent to supply standalone value, as he delivers resolve and decisiveness with every rushing attempt. Mattison presents Cook owners with the ultimate insurance policy after their significant investment in the Vikings’ RB1. But he can also become a vital component to all owners if his responsibilities expand during the season.    

Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs - 45% owned

Thompson appeared poised to seize a consistent role in the Chiefs’ explosive attack. Then the addition of LeSean McCoy blew the projections for Thompson and Damien Williams into smithereens. But even though the workload for both backs will be impacted by McCoy’s reunion with former coach Andy Reid, Thompson is still a legitimate roster addition. He bolted for 1,044 yards and 14 touchdowns in the ground for Utah State in 2018 while averaging 6.8 yards-per-carry. He also forced 48 missed tackles, produced 765 yards after contact (according to Pro Football Focus), and accrued 351 receiving yards for the Aggies. The 5’8”, 195-pound Thompson ran impressively throughout the preseason (12 carries/60 yards) and delivered a strong performance against the Bengals in Week 1 (51 yards/1 touchdown). Those factors helped him surpass Carlos Hyde on the Chiefs' depth chart and owners should not underestimate his potential to garner an increasing role during the season.

Tyler Johnson, Detroit Lions - 0% owned

This is a recommendation for deeper leagues, or for anyone who might not be overly familiar with Johnson' potential to emerge as a receiving back in 2019. Kerryon Johnson remains the Lions' undisputed starter and is primed to resume the proficiency that he achieved during Weeks 3-11 (72.6 rushing yards-per-game). He will also benefit from an expanded workload as a pass-catcher, while C.J. Anderson will function as (Kerryon) Johnson's backup. But (Tyler) Johnson can infuse a level of explosiveness into the Lion backfield that could result in an ongoing role. He accumulated 4,196 all-purpose yards during his tenure at Maryland, including 1,592 in 2017. He also delivered a sub 4.4 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and can utilize that speed to reach the edge and burst beyond opposing defenders. Despite the addition of J.D. McKissicJohnson remains a candidate for touches and could absorb a larger role as the season progresses.


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.

Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns, - 55% owned

Hunt’s percentage of ownership had actually eclipsed 60% at the onset of Labor Day Weekend, and owners in 55% of all leagues remain enamored with the idea of owning the former Chief. If you are among them, then it is wise to reassess the commitment that you have made. He will be affixed to your bench until November because the earliest that he could contribute to your team’s production will be Week 10. Your leagues will be rapidly approaching the postseason at that point, and the best-case scenario would involve the limitations of sharing touches with Nick Chubb. Even if Hunt could conceivably help you during the fantasy playoffs, he can only do so if your team is participating. It is recommended that you abstain from keeping a roster spot in purgatory until November and secure a player who can boost your scoring earlier in the year.

Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 39% owned

Peyton Barber’s unexceptional output during his three professional seasons includes 47 career games with a 3.8 yards-per-carry average. In 2018 it also required 234 attempts for Barber just to reach 871 yards. But despite his ineffectiveness, Jones has failed to supplant Barber on Tampa Bay’s depth chart. This is a disturbing indictment of Jones’ deficiencies, which relegated him to just 23 carries in 2018. He could not even attain a 2.0 yards-per-carry average (1.91), and his -1.5 average in Week 8 (2 carries/-3 yards) embodied his disastrous struggles as a rusher. He remains a non-factor in the Buccaneers' passing game after managing just seven receptions in 2018 and ceding receiving back responsibilities to Dare Ogunbowale. Jones will not touch the ball with great frequency, nor is he capable of generating sizable yardage when he does. This supplies your motivation to locate a better option.

Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers - 12% owned

Hyde briefly appeared in this section before his trade to the Texans. But the focus will now shift toward anyone who is allowing Williams to inhabit a valuable roster spot. Aaron Jones has demonstrated repeatedly that he is the most effective back within Green Bay’s stable of options. Williams has been unable to approach Jones’ level of explosiveness, and cannot replicate his potential to deliver big plays. At this point, the prevailing argument for keeping Williams on your roster is the prospect that he will commandeer the Packers’ RB1 role if Jones is sidelined. However, this is hardly a given, as Dexter Williams could easily vault above him on the depth chart.  The other issue with this scenario is the extreme likelihood that Williams will deliver underwhelming production. This would be consistent with the results of his first two seasons, as his 3.7 yard-per-carry average over 32 games has been widely discussed. There are more inspiring choices available for your rosters.

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