Heading into week 6 of the NFL season, fantasy football is becoming a war of attrition with injuries and absences due to bye weeks starting to take their toll. As players on your team go down or lose some value, it’s vital that you get some fresh legs in to take their place especially at the shallow position or running back.
With that in mind, here are the top 7 running backs who are available in over half of ESPN leagues who are worth a look on the waiver wire in the rough order that I would pick them up. The Percentages in parentheses are the ESPN ownership as of Tuesday night. If you have a team-specific question drop it in the comments at the bottom of the page or find me @ZT_Sports on twitter.
1. Zac Stacy-St. Louis Rams (1.2%)
Stacy didn’t have much of a track record before Coach Jeff Fisher gave him the starting nod Sunday against Jacksonville. Even though a game agains the Jags is far from a tough task, Stacy looked good with 78 yards on 14 carries. He was targeted on a pass but didn’t convert a catch. The Rams need a lead back with Daryl Richardson’s struggles, and Stacy is expected to get the start again this week against Houston despite missing late fourth quarter action with a rib issue. The Texans run defense is in the middle of the pack, but have allowed double-digit fantasy points to opposing RBs every week of the year in ESPN Standard scoring. They allowed 153 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground to the 49ers last week, so it’s not a horrible matchup this week if you need to plug-and-play Zac this week.
2. Pierre Thomas-New Orleans Saints (15.5%)
Thomas is one of the Saints’ myriad of weapons that they’ll look to use as they travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the Patriots. Thomas is even more valuable in PPR leagues since the Saints throw the ball so much, and he gets very involved in the passing game. Last week, he caught nine passes for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding 36 yards on a season-high 19 carries. With Mark Ingram sidelined, it’s Thomas and Darren Sproles who are carrying the load with Thomas getting plenty of work. He looked good against Chicago, but is always high risk since the Saints gameplan can include or exclude him on a weekly basis. He’s a solid flex play if you’re fishing on the waiver wire for an option especially in PPR leagues.
3. Marcel Reece-Oakland Raiders (3.7%)
Depending on the health of the Raiders backfield, Reece could be in a great situation. He looked solid in week 5 getting some much needed yards as the Raiders closed out their win against the Chargers. He finished with 32 yards on the ground and 25 yards receiving on three catches. His worth for this week does depend on Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings status since they’ll take his carries if they are active. With Oakland’s bye in week 7, the Raiders will be cautious with both which I think will leave plenty of action for Reece this week against the Chiefs
4. Willis McGahee-Cleveland Browns (22.2%)
McGahee has looked better each week since joining the Browns and last week rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. With Brandon Weeden back under center, the Browns will need to run the ball more which should result in plenty of touches for the veteran. This week Cleveland takes on the Lions who have allowed the sixth-most points per game to opposing RB’s so are a solid matchup for McGahee.
5. Andre Ellington-Arizona Cardinals (4.0%)
Ellington has been impressive in his rookie season and turned in another solid performance with 83 total yards on just 11 touches last week agianst the Panthers. He’s been, by far, the best Cardinals running back but Coach Bruce Arians isn’t sure he can handle the full workload. If and when he takes over, he’ll be a great option, but he’s still risky with Rashard Mendenhall getting goal line work and stealing lots of carries.
6. Brandon Bolden-New England Patriots (5.7%)
Bolden doesn’t look like he’ll be a feature-back for New England, but continues to earn his share of touches as a third-down option and change of pace back. Whether Stevan Ridley or LeGarrette Blount is the main option out of the backfield, Bolden will get enough passes to make him a fringe play in PPR leagues. Last week, he caught a season-high six passes for 40 yards and ran for 24 more on five carries. He’s definitely stuck in a time share, but is still worth a look.
7. Donald Brown- Indianapolis Colts (1.1%)
Another player in a time share that’s getting some valuable work is UCONN product Donald Brown. He had a rushing TD against Seattle this week and has a higher average lately than Trent Richardson. He’s still well behind Richardson in the time share, but he’s showing he can contribute when he gets the chance. With Ahmad Bradshaw out for the year, Brown is worth a stash if you have the roster space and could pay off if he earns more touches.
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 waiver targets at each of the following positions: QB, WR, TE, D/ST.