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Week 3 Running Backs - Waiver Wire Pickups and Adds

After two weeks of game action, anyone who drafted Leonard Fournette, Devonta Freeman, or Joe Mixon has already been confronted with having their early-round pick sidelined due to injury. That has automatically launched the unwanted process of monitoring a situation that is fraught with uncertainty for those of you who own Fournette and Freeman, while assessing the best plan for targeting a replacement. Meanwhile, Mixon owners are already aware that they are contending with an absence of at least 2-4 weeks.

This serves as a reminder that there is often the viable rationale for handcuffing backs that you drafted in the first two rounds, regardless of what others who make declarations to the contrary may tell you. This can be dependent upon the specifics of your league's roster requirements, and the nuances surrounding your team. Still, any Mixon owner whose roster already contains Bernard has evaded a problematic situation.

Of course, there are other issues that you may be facing with your rosters, and regardless of why you are now considering 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 droppable in order for you to secure your replacements. Here are this week's most desirable waiver wire options at the running back position.

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Frontrunners - Week 3 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 50% or less ownership in typical fantasy leagues.  

Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals - 30% owned

The sixth-year back was included in last week's waiver wire targets. However, he might have appeared to be the most questionable suggestion among the group after receiving just two touches in Week 1 compared to 22 for Mixon. But the workload distribution was vastly different in Week 2, as knee concerns for Mixon increased Bernard's involvement (10 touches) while resulting in a snap count that replicated Mixon’s (39/39). While that was also a byproduct of both backs sharing the field on certain plays, the lingering rationale toward rostering Bernard - particularly for those who already own Mixon- is his proven ability to deliver respectable numbers when he is given the opportunity. That scenario will now occur as Mixon recovers from the sudden surgery that transpired after a particle in his knee dislodged during last Thursday night’s matchup. Any Mixon owners who adhered to last week’s advice by adding Bernard have already avoided a massive issue. For everyone else, Bernard is now this week’s top waiver target at the running back position.

Javorius Allen, Baltimore Ravens - 8% owned

Allen remains an ongoing annoyance to Alex Collins owners, as the tandem has received identical touch totals (20) through Baltimore’s first two contests, along with matching snap counts in Week 2 (42/49%). Game script has played a significant role in the usage of both backs, as the Ravens immediately seized a commanding lead over Buffalo in Week 1, and fell behind quickly against Cincinnati in Week 2. Still, the Ravens’ coaching staff has displayed a definitive commitment to keeping Allen as a contributor to a much larger degree than Collins owners would prefer. But that does not prohibit you from adding Allen, who has also generated two rushing touchdowns, and will not face any threat from oft-injured Kenneth Dixon until after Week 8 (IR). This presents Allen with an unquestioned opportunity to collect touches, which provides further impetus for adding him to your roster.

Jordan WilkinsIndianapolis Colts - 32% owned

While his 10 carries tied him for the team lead with Marlon Mack in Week 2, Wilkins amassed 61 yards with those opportunities (6.1 YPC) and has now manufactured 101 yards on the ground during his first two games. Even though he will continue to split carries with Mack and Nyheim Hines, the 6’1” rookie tied with Hines for the lead in offensive snaps among that trio in Week 2 (24/39%), and should remain an integral component in the Colt rushing attack. He has the versatility to deliver respectable numbers as he operates in his role, which should result in an adequate weekly floor, with the probability of desirable point totals during multiple weeks of the year. All of which should supply potential owners with the incentive to secure him while you can. Because his availability on the waiver wire could end abruptly.


In The Running - Week 3 Waiver Wire Running Backs

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

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers - 42% owned

The elusive second-year back was included with last week’s recommendations, and his ownership percentage has risen by 23% since that time. Still, even though Ekeler provides stand-alone value, and the potential for high-quality production if incumbent Melvin Gordon is forced to the sideline, he has not persuaded most of you to secure his services. Even last week’s reminder that he had generated 40 yards and a touchdown on six attempts against Buffalo in 2017 did not create massive interest before he shredded the Bills for 98 total yards on 14 touches in Week 2. But he has now accumulated 224 total yards through two contests, and Gordon owners should confiscate him while they can. This will help you avert the possible crisis of being unable to locate a serviceable replacement if Gordon is forced from the lineup. Ekeler can also supply other owners with a suitable replacement during bye weeks.

Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts - 48% owned

It is amazing how quickly he was mentally discarded by a sufficient number of owners for his ownership percentage to reach this level. Once it was clear that his problematic hamstring would keep him affixed to the sidelines as the regular season began, the collective overreaction coerced over 50% of potential owners to ignore him completely. Now, he has returned to the lineup and should commandeer a healthy portion of the opportunities that will be dispersed to the Colts’ stable of running backs. Mack was allotted 11 touches and 18/30% of the Colts' offensive snaps in Week 2, while Wilkins and Nyheim Hines (5 touches/1 receiving touchdown) remained firmly in the mix. Even though Wilkins remains an inviting option to target, and Hines will continue to siphon opportunities, the presence of both rookies will not keep Mack from sustaining an adequate workload. Nor should it dissuade you from securing him for your roster.

Corey Clement, Philadelphia Eagles - 23% owned

Here's a quick review of the fluctuations in Clement's potential value status during the past two weeks. First, he entered the season as the apparent RB2 behind Jay Ajayi, who nevertheless was a prospective candidate to capture a more sizable role. Then he degenerated to a viable drop option, after Darren Sproles joined Ajayi in commandeering a significantly higher snap count (29/40%), while Clement was relegated to just five touches and 13 snaps. But the appeal of owning Clement has re-materialized after he was allotted 11 touches, 42% of the offensive snaps, and generated 85 total yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay in Week 2. That included his 55 receiving yards, which were amassed as Clement collected five of his six targets. Sproles' absence from the matchup (hamstring), and Ajayi’s back issue during the contest, boosted Clement’s level of opportunity. But he capitalized on the increased workload, and has resurfaced as a roster option.


Dark Horses - Week 3 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 due to injuries or byes.

Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons - 1% owned

Devonta Freeman's knee injury not only launched Tevin Coleman into high-end RB2 status, but also elevated both the opportunity and value for Smith. The rookie suddenly became a shrewd roster addition in deep leagues, and a feasible option for anyone who was already invested in the Falcon backfield. He then capitalized on his opportunity to become involved in Atlanta's Week 2 game plan by amassing 56 total yards on 10 touches, including 49 yards on the ground. Freeman's injury will prohibit him from returning for at least another week, and his absence could conceivably extend even further. This makes Smith an enticing addition for those who have been rostering backs with a less favorable outlook.

Mark Walton, Cincinnati Bengals - 0% owned

The combination of Mixon's absence, and Bernard's ascension into Cincinnati's RB1 role have elevated Walton into backup responsibilities behind Bernard. The 5'10", 200-pound rookie was selected in Round 4 by the Bengals last April, but will be active for the first time this week. He can bring a level of explosiveness to the Cincinnati backfield, and is a capable receiver and pass protector. The Bengals have averaged 24 attempts per game in their first two contests, and even though Bernard has exceeded 20 carries twice in his career, it is likely that Walton will receive touches whenever Bernard leaves the field. Savvy owners in deeper leagues that have the roster space should contemplate grabbing Walton.

Marcus Murphy, Buffalo Bills - 1% owned

LeSean McCoy's rib injury during Buffalo's Week 2 matchup lifts Murphy into consideration for anyone who opted to draft McCoy. Even if Buffalo's 30-year old RB1 is able to return for the team’s difficult Week 3 trip to Minnesota, another abominable game script could occur for the talent deficient Bills. That would compel Sean McDermott to rest McCoy when games are completely unwinnable - just as we witnessed in Week 1. Meanwhile, if McCoy is sidelined, Murphy would minimally share the workload with Chris Ivory, and could easily ascend into the responsibilities of a primary back. While there is a minuscule sample size from which to judge Murphy, the precipitous plunge that has transpired with Chris Ivory's output since 2015 is evident (1,070 yards/7 touchdowns), as his career-best numbers have dropped to uninspiring averages since that time (410 yards/2 yards). It is difficult to ascertain how effective Murphy will be when he is on the field. But there are multiple factors that could quickly supply the answer.


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.

Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns - 61% owned

Even though the fourth-year back has been tasked with laboring in one of the league’s most crowded backfields, it would appear that Johnson has demonstrated the proven ability to thrive as a receiver, while also functioning as an underrated rusher. However, if the Browns are predisposed toward confining him to a suppressed workload, then it is wise to locate another back who is the recipient of more opportunities. Despite finishing at RB11 in PPR leagues in 2017, and stockpiling 188 receptions from 2015-2017, Johnson has been limited to a grand total of 11 touches during Cleveland’s first two contests. While it is logical to believe that the Browns might bolster his touch total, the needs of your roster entering Week 3 may not allow you the luxury of waiting for that to occur.

Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns - 34% owned

It should also be virtually impossible to retain excitement for the concept of keeping Chubb on your rosters, as his workload has been more microscopic than Johnson’s. He has only carried five times during the Browns’ first two games, and he has not recorded a reception. Any avenue toward procuring a desirable workload has been clogged by Cleveland’s propensity to deploy Carlos Hyde, who has been allotted 40 touches - 38 of which have occurred on the ground. Hyde has only averaged 2.8 YPC, and the potential exists for Chubb to siphon opportunities. But even though Chubb possesses more talent than several other rookies who appear in this week's dark horse category, the other newcomers have a greater likelihood of collecting touches in Week 3 than Chubb. While that remains unfortunate considering his level of talent, he simply does not provide sufficient value entering Week 3.

C.J. Anderson, Carolina Panthers - 39% owned

The reasoning behind last week’s recommendation to drop Anderson was reinforced after he rushed just three times in Week 2. He has now been allotted 10 carries during Carolina’s first two encounters, and has yet to register a catch, while Christian McCaffrey has garnered 38 touches during that span. That includes the 22 that he collected while performing on 94% of the team's offensive snaps in Week 2, including 14 receptions for 102 yards. His repeated usage as the Panthers’ receiving back was expected, but Anderson’s minimal deployment as a runner (12% snap count) solidifies the fact that he will not be implemented with enough frequency to warrant keeping him on your bench. He does not provide McCaffrey owners with the same protection as a handcuff that other RBs can deliver, since McCaffrey’s responsibilities would be distributed to a cluster of Panthers, while automatically prohibiting Anderson from receiving a sizable workload. This should motivate his owners to locate a more viable option.

More Waiver Wire Adds and Pickups

Check out RotoBaller's famous fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!