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Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 2

Were you among the owners who were extremely satisfied with your situation at running back entering Week 1? Some of you might still be confident in the players that are contained on your rosters. However, many of you are now disenchanted with your current options at the position.

It might be beneficial to remind you that exactly one year ago, Phillip Lindsay was owned in just 2% of all leagues. After he accrued 104 total yards in his Week 1 debut, savvy owners who added him were presented with a 107-yard rushing performance in Week 2. You may not locate a 1,000-yard rusher on this week’s waiver wire. But there are options that could become valuable resources toward achieving your championship aspirations.

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 2 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.  

Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams 9% owned

When Los Angeles matched the $3.25 million offer that Detroit had presented to Brown, it clearly indicated the Rams’ commitment toward keeping Brown within their mix of backfield options. But as speculation persisted regarding Todd Gurley’s ability to operate with a sizable workload, rookie Darrell Henderson became the preferred target of choice during the draft process (ADP 88). But when the potential timeshare actually came to fruition in Week 1, Gurley accumulated 97 yards on 14 carries, while Henderson only touched the ball once.  However, Brown vaulted into relevance by accruing 53 yards on 11 attempts and generating two touchdowns. Even though the touch distribution could vary on a weekly basis, Brown’s usage should create discomfort for anyone who owns Gurley and Henderson. It should also motivate you to pursue Brown on your waiver wires, as he is currently available in 91% of all leagues.

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals - 13% owned

Throughout much of the off-season, it would have been difficult to envision Bernard as a viable roster option. Not only did Joe Mixon appear primed to retain his success of 2018 (1,268 rushing yards/1,464 total yards), but the Bengals had also invested in Rodney Anderson and Trayveon Williams during the NFL draft. However, Cincinnati presented Bernard with a two-year extension on September 3, Anderson is on IR (torn ACL), Williams is contending with a foot issue and Mixon’s status is uncertain following an ankle injury. If Bernard is suddenly operating as Cincinnati’s RB1 this week, then the value of this versatile back will soar. Mixon has already missed four games in the past two seasons, and Bernard averaged 89 total yards during those contests. He also generated 63 total yards when Mixon was absent in Week 1. Bernard can be expected to maintain a weekly role within the renovated Bengal attack regardless of Mixon’s health. 

Justice Hill, Baltimore Ravens - 32% owned

Baltimore’s unconditional commitment to a ground-oriented approach was highly anticipated prior to Week 1.  But Lamar Jackson unleashed an aerial assault on Miami’s talent deficient secondary and shredded the Dolphins for 324 yards and a whopping five touchdowns. Mark Ingram was utilized on 14 carries (107 yards/7.6 per-carry), while Gus Edwards led the Ravens with 17 attempts (56 yards/3.3 per-carry). Hill also manufactured 27 yards on seven attempts (3.9 yards-per-carry). But neither Edwards’role or Hill’s usage should become a source of massive concern for anyone who is considering the addition of Hill. Baltimore was operating within a game script that will not be replicated with any frequency, and Hill’s immense talent was not required. The 5’10” 200-pound rookie remains worthy of investment, as his touch total will normally exceed the allotment that he received during Baltimore’s season opener. The patience that you can exercise now will be rewarded by Hill’s explosiveness and big-play potential as the season progresses.


In The Running - Week 2 Waiver Wire Running Backs

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

Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins - 19% owned

It was logical to bypass Thompson throughout much of the draft process, due to the nebulous situation that engulfed Washington’s entire backfield. But his reemergence as an integral component within the Redskins' offense has vaulted him among this week's recommended options. Thompson led the team in targets (10), and receptions (7) in Week 1,  and should now garner an expanded role while Derrius Guice is sidelined (knee).  Thompson has mixed productive outings with a collection of health issues during his career. This includes being sidelined for six games in each of the last two seasons (fibula -2017/ribs-2018). In 2017 he was on pace to construct a breakout season, after establishing new career highs in total yards (804) and receiving yards (510) during his first 10 contests. He is currently injury-free and his increasing responsibilities should result in respectable production. Thompson has officially resurfaced as a legitimate starting option in PPR leagues, and can confidently be targeted on your waiver wires.

Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers43% owned 

After weeks of speculation regarding the touch distribution between Jackson and Austin Ekeler, Jackson ultimately was entrusted with nine touches, while Ekeler commandeered 18. Ekeler took full advantage by exploding for 154 total yards and three touchdowns. But Jackson was also effective with his opportunities, averaging 9.5 yards-per-carry with his six rushing attempts. The Chargers have no incentive for reconsidering their stance on negotiations with Melvin Gordon. Because Ekeler and Jackson have demonstrated the ability to accumulate yardage whenever they are provided with opportunities. Even though Ekeler should continue to confiscate the majority of touches, Jackson will garner enough carries to sustain usage as an RB3/flex in your lineups. This supplies your motivation for adding him to your rosters.

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings - 21% owned

Mattison was recommended as a roster addition during last week’s article, and his Week 1 performance entrenched him as a back to target on your waiver wire. Dalvin Cook demonstrated the proficiency that should cement him as a season-long RB1 by assembling 111 yards and two touchdowns with his 21 attempts. But Mattison was also effective, producing 49 yards with his nine carries. Mattison supplies the potential for skyrocketing value if Cook is absent for any reason. But he also provides a distinct standalone presence if Cook eludes the health issues that have sidelined him for 17 games. Mattison would be the top waiver priority if he enters any given week as the Vikings’ RB1, and the competition to add him would be intense. Cook owners should avoid all risk associated with that scenario by securing Mattison as an insurance policy now. All other owners should be equally aggressive in seizing Mattison at his current ownership level.


Dark Horses - Week 2 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.

Mike Davis, Chicago Bears - 15% owned

Davis is not going to lead the Bears in touches on a weekly basis. However, he did garner more opportunities in Week 1 (11) than David Montgomery (7), and Tarik Cohen (8). Davis also performed on 41/56%, of Chicago’s offensive snaps, while Montgomery was limited to 28/38%. Cohen played on 51/70% of the snaps while operating predominantly from the slot. This distribution of touches was maddening for Montgomery owners. But the third-round pick will eventually collect the largest percentage of rushing attempts, while the elusive Cohen will be deployed most frequently as a receiver. However, Davis' dual-threat capabilities were previously on display with Seattle during 2018 (514 rushing yards/4.6 per-carry/34 receptions), and he also tied for seventh among all backs in rushing yards before contact per rushing attempt (2.9) according to Pro Football Reference. Matt Nagy should be compelled to keep him involved in the Bears attack for the foreseeable future, which makes him a viable flex candidate for deeper rosters.

Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs - 33% owned

When Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde were located above Thompson on the depth chart, the 5’8”, 200-pound rookie possessed enough talent to provide owners with a legitimate option to target him for their rosters. Hyde has been vanquished, and LeSean McCoy now joins Williams as the primary backs within Andy Reid’s explosive offense. But even though Williams and McCoy combined for 23 of Kansas City's 26 carries in Week 1, this does not diminish Thompson's viability as a roster addition. It is premature to dismiss his ability to perform effectively in a consistent role for the high octane Chiefs as the season advances. He supplies the team with versatility and aggressiveness as an inside runner and his responsibilities should eventually expand.  At that point, you will contend with your league opponents during any attempts to add him. Now is your opportunity to secure him before that scenario occurs.

Kalen Ballage, Miami Dolphins 50% owned

There is justification for having questions about Miami’s backfield, just as there is a reason for concern about every aspect of the 2019 Dolphin roster. However, it has become increasingly clear that yet another coaching staff will eschew the opportunity to entrust Kenyan Drake with their team’s RB1 responsibilities. Ballage was deployed as the starter in Week 1, although his output was uninspiring (6 touches/12 total yards). However, Drake’s results were also substandard (6 touches/27 total yards). It is conceivable that the Dolphins will trail by significant margins throughout much of the season, just as they did against the Ravens in Week 1. This will impact the workload of both Dolphin backs. But that does not alter the fact that Ballage will share opportunities when they do exist within Miami’s rushing attack. This should compel you to include him on him your rosters, and hope that his touch totals results in higher production.


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

Some of you are resolute in your belief that Hunt should occupy a spot on your roster. He is a former rushing champion, so a certain degree of this commitment is understandable. However, you are forcing yourself to endure an enormous waiting period before it is even conceivable that you can use him. He will not be eligible to perform until November 10, when the Browns host Buffalo. This is only three weeks away from the fantasy postseason in many leagues. Even when he does resurface, you are also lacking any guarantee that he will garner a sizable workload. Nick Chubb could maintain his status as Cleveland’s primary back throughout the season. Holding onto Hunt is not comparable to waiting on a player who is expected to reclaim a significant role because Hunt’s eventual usage is uncertain. That should entice you to add a player that can boost your scoring well before Hunt’s Week 10 return.

Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 59% owned

Barber has displayed consistency throughout his career. Unfortunately, the constant component has been underwhelming output during every matchup. The fourth-year back entered 2019 with a 3.8 yards-per-carry average, has managed just 32.3 yards-per-game during his 48 games, and manufactured unexceptional results once again in Week 1 (8 attempts/33 yards/4.1 yards-per-carry), Former second-round pick Ronald Jones has been unable to usurp Barber on the Buccaneers’ depth chart. But Jones displayed noticeable improvement when he lined up against San Francisco (13 attempts/75 yards/5.8 yards-per-carry) which could create a path for a heavier workload. This is not a recommendation to sprint toward your waiver wire and secure Jones because neither back has provided enough incentive to trust them in your lineups. However, you have witnessed Barber’s ceiling with extreme frequency. There is no rationale for retaining him if you can locate another option that provides higher potential to accrue fantasy points.

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