Prioritizing the Wire (Week 1): Which Running Backs Are The Top Names To Target?


Already preparing to raid the Waiver Wire after Week 1? Let’s take a look at the running back options who may be available (owned in less than 50% of ESPN leagues) and prioritize who you should be targeting and who is better left for someone else:

  1. James Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars
  2. Joshua Kelley – Los Angeles Chargers
  3. Malcolm Brown – Los Angeles Rams
  4. Nyheim Hines – Indianapolis Colts
  5. Adrian Peterson – Detroit Lions
  6. Myles Gaskin – Miami Dolphins
  7. Peyton Barber – Washington Football
  8. Chase Edmonds – Arizona Cardinals
  9. Jerrick McKinnon – San Francisco 49ers

James Robinson – Jacksonville Jaguars

The talk had been that Robinson would assume lead back duties in Week 1, and he ultimately was the only running back to get a carry. However, did he deliver? Let’s look at the numbers:

  • Rushing – 16 carries for 62 yards (3.9 YPC)
  • Receiving – 1 catch for 28 yards

The Jaguars got the W and it would appear that Robinson should continue to get chances. However it was hardly an impressive performance from the undrafted rookie and we can’t say with certainty that the team won’t start looking at other options.

The opportunity makes him worth grabbing, but at the same time it’s hard to get overly excited and think of him as a potential RB1 off this one performance. For now he’s more of a low-end RB2/FLEX, though that still has ample value.null

Joshua Kelley – Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have always seemed to go with a timeshare at running back, and the departure of Melvin Gordon didn’t change that philosophy for Week 1 as a rookie emerged to share time with Austin Ekeler:

  • Austin Ekeler – 19 carries for 84 yards
  • Joshua Kelley – 12 carries for 60 yards and 1 TD

Ekeler is the pass catcher, but would it be surprising to see Kelley get regular work on early downs? With Tyrod Taylor at quarterback it makes sense to go with a run heavy approach, and that would keep the fourth round pick as a significant factor in the offense.

Malcolm Brown – Los Angeles Rams

Brown shared the workload with Cam Akers on Sunday night, and delivered the far more impressive performance:

  • Malcolm Brown – 18 carries for 72 yards (4.4 YPC) & 2 TD
  • Cam Akers – 14 carries for 39 yards (2.8 YPC)

It makes sense, as the rookie Akers didn’t have a typical preseason to prepare for the NFL. Still Akers was listed as the starter heading into the game and you have to wonder if the Rams will make a change so quickly. Brown has the potential to be the more productive runner, at least early in the season, and needs to be added just in case.

Nyheim Hines – Indianapolis Colts

The initial fear is that Marlon Mack has torn his Achilles, and that would sideline him for a long time. That would leave Jonathan Taylor to carry the early down load, something many thought would happen anyways, but it also could provide more opportunity for Hines. He and Taylor actually shared the chances, both running and receiving, against the Jaguars and both proved to be productive:

  • Nyheim Hines – 15 touches, 73 yards, 2 TD
  • Jonathan Taylor – 15 touches, 89 yards

Before we get overly excited about Hines, how often can we expect him to find the end zone twice? How often can we expect the running backs to split 17 targets (Marlon Mack was targeted 3 times before his exit)? Hines needs to be on your target list, but if the TD weren’t there he wouldn’t look quite as impressive. Proceed with caution.

Adrian Peterson – Detroit Lions

There were questions as to how Detroit would roll out their running game, after the somewhat surprising addition of Peterson. However we got some answers, at least for one week:

  • Adrian Peterson – 14 carries for 93 yards
  • Kerryon Johnson – 7 carries for 14 yards
  • D’Andre Swift – 3 carries for 8 yards and 1 TD

Both Swift and Peterson added 3 receptions as well. It appears that the team opted to ride the hot hand, something we’d expect them to continue with moving forward. In other words all three should be owned, but none should be trusted as a starter barring some clarity to the situation.

Myles Gaskin – Miami Dolphins

Did Gaskin get more run because the Dolphins were playing from behind, or did the poor performance from Jordan Howard lead to a change in thought process? Look at the breakdown in carries:

  • Myles Gaskin – 9 carries for 40 yards (4.4 YPC)
  • Matt Breida – 5 carries for 22 yards (4.4 YPC)
  • Jordan Howard – 8 carries for 7 yards (0.9 YPC) & 1 TD

Gaskin added 4 catches for 26 yards as well. It’s not like the game was a complete blowout, as it was 7-3 at the half and 14-3 heading into the fourth quarter, so this appears to be a performance based decision more than game flow (though time will tell).

While Gaskin faces some stiff competition, the usage and performance makes him an intriguing target for fantasy owners.

Peyton Barber – Washington Football

All eyes were on Antonio Gibson after Adrian Peterson was released, and while he had the more efficient Week 1 (4.0 YPC) it was Barber who got the volume (17 carries vs. 9 for Gibson) and scored 2 TD. Of course Barber averaged a mere 1.7 YPC, failing to break a run of more than 8 yards. Barber may be the short-term play, until the coaching staff is comfortable with Gibson, but he’s nothing more than that right now.

Chase Edmonds – Arizona Cardinals

Edmonds is an ideal handcuff for Kenyan Drake, and that’s about it. Drake turned 16 carries into 60 yards and 1 TD in Week 1, while Edmonds was given just 6 carries for 26 yards. He did add 3 catches for 19 yards and 1 TD, which helped to boost the perceived value, but he’s a depth option just in case Drake misses time.

Jerrick McKinnon – San Francisco 49ers

How the 49ers were going to deploy their running backs was an interesting question heading into Week 1, and while Raheem Mostert was the clear workhorse (19 touches, 155 yards, 1 TD) seeing McKinnon be a bigger factor than Tevin Coleman is notable:

  • Jerrick McKinnon – 6 touches, 44 yards, 1 TD
  • Tevin Coleman – 5 touches, 24 yards

McKinnon averaged 8.0 yards/carry and was targeted 5 times in the passing game. Injuries have cost him the past two seasons and it’s clear that he’s not going to operate as the lead man right now. Still if he can get into the 10-12 touch per game range he should prove to be a solid option in all formats. With that in mind, consider him worth stashing (especially in PPR formats).

Sources – ESPN,


    • Michel is tough to value because you never know what New England is going to do. I wouldn’t argue with the first few, though I’m not hot to drop Michel

  1. I lost Marlon Mack as my RB4, still have Josh Jacobs and CEH but James Connor is my RB3. I have Chase Edmonds and Darrell Williams on the bench as well. Should I target Malcolm Brown with waiver spot #3 or get Connor’s handcuff, Benny Snell?

  2. Hey prof! With the Thomas injury in NO, anyone you’d suggest picking up who might have a bigger role over the next few weeks? Sanders is gone in mg league (.5ppr).

  3. 14 Team, 1/2 PPR.

    RB’s:. Nick chubb, Leonard fournette, Kareem hunt, Tony pollard, latavius Murray and Darrell williams.

    1. I have the top waiver priority!! Stick with my status quo or pick up: Benny snell, Nyaim Himes, Peyton Barber or Josh kelly. (Any and all options worthy of biting waiver position)

    2. If picking up someone, who would you drop?

    • Krysta…it may be too late but I’d definitely add Nyheim Hines as he will share a lot of opportunities with Jonathan Taylor in a strong offense. Snell will likely resort back to backup when/if Connor returns. Of your group to drop, my humble opinion is Darrell Williams or Tony Pollard, probably Pollard as he won’t see much action unless Zeke is injured. Post your decision if you don’t mind.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here