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NFL Fantasy: Replacing Dalvin Cook and other injured backs

This week was rough for RBs in fantasy. The waiver wire is thin, but here are a few options of how to replace injured players.


One of the least predictable things in fantasy football is injuries. You have no way of knowing when they’re coming and they can devastate your team. Week 4 was a particularly painful week as we lost players like Dalvin Cook, Chris Carson and Ty Montgomery.

While the waiver wire is pretty bare this week, here are a few options to replace the weakened RB position.

RB Week 5 pickups

I’ve listed the names along with their ownership percentage in ESPN fantasy leagues. If you are using a different platform, you can look them up and find out what that number is for you. These numbers are subject to change after the release of this article.

So, here we go…

1. Alfred Morris (Dal) – 7.3% of leagues

With Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension looming, his backups are a good waiver pickup while they are still available. Between the two choices, Morris seems like a more likely touches candidate than Darren McFadden. While McFadden averaged 5.1 yards a carry in the preseason, he has yet to see playing time during the regular season. Morris has been limited to six touches behind Elliott so far, but he has been efficient, averaging 12.8 yards per carry. He is an easy pickup that has potential, especially if Elliot will misses time.

2. Matt Breida (SF) 8.5%

This one is more of a deep sleeper, but Breida has potential to become more of a factor as the season progresses, especially in PPR formats. While he hasn’t been incredibly productive so far (71 yds on 20 carries), he is a potential lottery ticket if Carlos Hyde gets injured. In addition, don’t forget that his head coach in San Francisco is Kyle Shanahan, who got plenty of mileage out of two running backs in Atlanta last year. Breida could see increased usage as the campaign continues, especially if the 49ers are looking for more ways to make things happen on offense. This one certainly isn’t where you should put all of your hopes at this point, but if you’ve got the space for another RB on your team, he is a good stash that might pay off in the long run.

3. Alex Collins (Bal) – 25.6%

Baltimore has become notorious in the past few years for their committee approach to the backfield. But with Terrance West’s near disappearance after a strong beginning, Buck Allen and Alex Collins have been competing for snaps. While Allen saw a combined 35 touches in the first two weeks, he totaled ten in the third and fourth weeks. Collins is only averaging eight touches per game, but his use has increased since Week 1 and he is averaging 8.2 yards per carry, almost five yards a carry more than Allen. His comparative efficiency and expanding usage suggests he is the preferred fantasy back in Baltimore. While the matchup against Oakland isn’t necessarily the most attractive, there is long-term value here.

4. Eddie Lacy (Sea) – 45.3%

Speaking of frustrating running back committees, have you met the Seahawks? They seem to more running back candidates than Mike Glennon has turnovers this year. However, with Chris Carson (ankle, lower leg) on IR and C. J. Prosise (ankle) questionable for Sunday, Eddie Lacy seems to be the #1 back here. Thomas Rawls still stands to see a portion of the snaps, but he has only produced four yards on five attempts so far this year. Besides that, Lacy is the better pass-catcher of the two and has been more productive than Rawls. While expectations should be tempered, the matchup this week seems encouraging and he will continue to see opportunities in the foreseeable future as Russell Wilson heats up the entire offense.

5. Andre Ellington (Ari) – 46.2%

While Chris Johnson is technically the number one back in the desert after David Johnson’s injury, Ellington led the team in snaps (46) and targets (14) last week and has been more productive than (Chris) Johnson. Johnson still stands to see a significant amount of snaps, but Ellington seems to have greater fantasy value on this team. With a tempting matchup against Philadelphia this week, Ellington will likely see double digits targets again this week and could have a productive outing. This committee is still developing (Kerwynn Williams is still active), but if you are in need of a running back, you could do worse than Andre Ellington.

6. Wendell Smallwood (Phi) – 56.6%

If Smallwood (knee) suits up Sunday against Arizona, he is a viable flex play. His use has greatly increased since Darren Sproles (knee/forearm) got injured and while LeGarrette Blount is the obvious down-to-down running back, Smallwood led the team in snaps last week. Also, much like several of the other RBs on this list, he has upside as a pass-catcher and check down guy on a team that has had its share of WR struggles. With his increased workload and red zone potential, he is a low-ceiling flex play if he is healthy.

7. Alvin Kamara (NO) – 59.9%

While Mark Ingram is still the clear leading back for New Orleans, Kamara has increasing value for his pass-catching ability in a pass-heavy offense. With Adrian Peterson’s return seeming to be entirely useless to fantasy owners, Kamara is a sneaky pickup with potential going forward. The only caveat is that New Orleans has only faced one competitive defense so far this season and their defensive struggles limits their offensive ability. However, he is becoming a more trusted target for Drew Brees and could  see an uptick in touches. If Kamara is available in your league, he could be worth picking up as long as you don’t expect to play him Week 5 (bye).

8. Aaron Jones (GB) – 66.8%

The rookie from UTEP took advantage of his first attempts this year against the Bears defense, racking up 49 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. With both Ty Montgomery (ribs) and Jamaal Williams (knee) questionable for Sunday’s start vs Tampa Bay, Jones stands to see an increase in snaps and touches. Even if both players were suited up, Jones would still have flex appeal, particularly in PPR leagues, based on his performance last week and his comparative health. Besides Jones’ increased usage, the Packers’ next matchup against Dallas seems to be appealing as well. While there’s certainly some risk here, there is also upside.

9. Latavius Murray (Min) – 77.6%

With Dalvin Cook’s disappointing MRI results this week, Latavius Murray is in line for the majority of snaps in this backfield. While we could talk about how he’s only averaged 2.7 yards per carry, the fact is that he will have plenty of opportunities behind Minnesota’s improved offensive line. If he is still available in your league, pick him up ASAP.

10. Duke Johnson Jr. (Cle) – 79.7%

With Isaiah Crowell being largely unproductive this season (shocker), it is a surprise that Johnson has seen as few total touches (10) as he has. But what he has done with his few opportunities (57 yds and two TDs) has been impressive. If the Browns can get their offense in any semblance of the word “together”, Johnson may see more opportunities. If that is the case, expect his fantasy value to increase greatly. While he is taken in just under 80% of leagues, that number is based on his limited usage so far and not his potential. If he is still available in your league, pick him up now.

Conclusion

So there you have it. There obviously aren’t a ton of RB options at this point, but one thing about fantasy that is equally fun and frustrating is how quickly things can change. Keep you eyes out for sleepers and continue to read the fantasy columns on our site for more hints!

Comment below if you think there are other running backs who should be on this list!

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Jon Denner

Been a Cubs fan since I visited Wrigley Field at age 5 and saw them get demolished by the Mets.

Been a Pats fan since 2004, Bears are my home team.

NFL Fantasy: Replacing Dalvin Cook and other injured backs

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