This week is a tough one for many fantasy football owners at the most difficult position to build up depth. Running back is always tricky with only so many carries to go around and so many timeshares across the NFL. This week, though, is especially tough with Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris, Doug Martin, and the recently-returned Le’Veon Bell all on bye’s this week.
If injury or bye weeks have driven you to the waiver wire, there are some solid options if you know where to look. Here are the top five RB’s available in over 50% of ESPN leagues (ownership percentage included). They’re listed in the general order I would claim and play them this week.
1. Rashad Jennings-Oakland Raiders (1.2%)
Jennings is the best one-week add, but doesn’t have as much long term value as Danny Woodhead who is #2 on the list. Last week, Jennings stepped in for the injured Darren McFadden and Marcel Reece and ran for 45 yards on 15 carries and added 71 yards on eight receptions. He didn’t find the end zone but showed he can be a contributor when he’s the running back in the Raiders offense.
If he is again this week, he makes a solid flex play and could even be an RB2 if bye weeks are inflicting their torment on you this week. Jennings and the Raiders take on San Diego in the super-late Sunday Night game, and if DMC and Reece are both sidelined as expected Jennings is a nice play. The reason his long-term value is limited is that both McFadden and Reece are due back before long and he’ll return to the bench.
2. Danny Woodhead-San Diego Chargers (20.8%)
Despite his diminutive stature, Woodhead continues to grow into a larger role every week for the Chargers and becomes more of a fantasy factor. He’s a three-time returner to my weekly top ten waiver wire pickups (for this week’s click here) since he keeps getting the ball out of the backfield especially in the passing game. He has double-digit touches in the last three weeks and is a must own in PPR formats. He has 50+ all-purpose yards in each of those games and found the end zone for the first two times this season against Dallas in the Chargers win on Sunday.
The Chargers love to throw the ball, and since Woodhead is their passing-down back expect him to get plenty of action and attention all night long as the Chargers face their division-rivals in Oakland. The Raiders have given up over 20 points to opposing RBs in each of their last two games, so Woodhead and Ryan Mathews both make solid starting options in week 5.
3. Jason Snelling-Atlanta Falcons (37.4%)
Snelling wasn’t able to be very involved last week for Atlanta since they fell behind the Patriots and had to play catch-up. He finished with just nine touches and 34 all-purpose yards, but he did get more carries than Jacquizz Rodgers which is a good sign for his owners.
His value his week is tied directly to the availability of Steven Jackson. If Jackson plays, Snelling will be a change-of-pace option with little value. However, if Jackson remains sidelined another week, Snelling could be in for a nice Monday Night as the Falcons host the Jets who they should be able to get a lead against and rely on Snelling to grind out yards on the ground.
4. Willis McGahee-Cleveland Browns (23.8%)
Of all the options on the list, the one closest to a “feature-back” is probably McGahee as he continues to grow into his role with the Browns. Cleveland signed him off the street after trading Trent Richardson, and he’s only played two games this season. The first game he didn’t play much and struggled to just nine yards on eight carries, but did look much better last week running for 46 yards on 15 carries against the stout Bengals defense.
McGahee and the Browns host the Thursday Night game this week which is becoming known as a fantasy wasteland with low-scoring, fairly ugly games. However, the Bills have given up 100 yards on the ground in every game this season except for their last game when the Ravens seemed to forget that Ray Rice is good. The Browns should give McGahee and his backfield-mates more of a chance, and I expect a solid flex-play game out of Willis this week.
5. LeGarrette Blount-New England Patriots
Blount has the potential to go off in any game or to completely disappear based on Bill Belichick’s gameplan. He’s been a big part the last two weeks leading the Patriots in rushing with 65 and 64 yards. He broke a 47-yard touchdown against the Falcons last week and was pretty impressive as the powerful vertical runner he can be.
This week New England faces the Bengals in Cincinnati making Blount a flex option depending on how much of the rushing load he gets to carry. He’s high-risk, but the potential is there for a third solid game in a row.
This list of RB’s is part of my weekly waiver wire focus. If you need further help constructing your team, check out my top ten waiver wire picks of the week as well as my top 5 waiver targets at each of the following positions: QB, WR, TE, D/ST.
If you have any specific questions about your roster, you can find me on twitter @ZT_Sports or leave a message in the comments at the bottom of the page and I’ll answer them as quickly as I can.
All scoring references are based on ESPN Standard scoring and are current through week 4.