Prioritizing the Wire (Week 4): Which Running Backs Are The Top Names To Target?

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Already preparing to raid the Waiver Wire after Week 4? Let’s take a look at the running back options who may be available (owned in less than 60% of ESPN leagues) and prioritize who you should be targeting and who is better left for someone else:

  1. Joshua Kelley – Los Angeles Chargers
  2. Latavius Murray – New Orleans Saints
  3. Justin Jackson – Los Angeles Chargers
  4. D’Ernest Johnson – Cleveland Browns
  5. Brian Hill – Atlanta Falcons
  6. Malcolm Brown – Los Angeles Rams
  7. Sony Michel / Rex Burkhead / Damien Harris – New England Patriots
  8. Chase Edmonds – Arizona Cardinals
  9. Anthony McFarland – Pittsburgh Steelers
  10. Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1) Joshua Kelley – Los Angeles Chargers

Kelley shared the role with Justin Jackson in Week 4, though neither back was overly impressive:

  • Joshua Kelley – 9 carries for 7 yards
  • Justin Jackson – 6 carries for 9 yards

While the Saints aren’t a pushover in Week 5, the schedule starts to get much easier after that with the Jets, Dolphins and Jaguars. That’s going to put both Kelley and Jackson on fantasy maps, though Kelley should be the preferred option today as he’s been ahead on the depth chart (for now).

2) Latavius Murray – New Orleans Saints

While Murray is behind Alvin Kamara (obviously), he also has been getting ample touches. In Week 4 he turned 14 carries for 68 yards and 2 TD, giving him 12+ carries in three of the four games. Overall this season he already has 184 yards and he’s averaging 4.2 YPC. He’s not your typical handcuff, instead he has weekly FLEX value (though he’s not going to be a must start).

3) Justin Jackson – Los Angeles Chargers

Jackson stepped in to help fill the void left by the injury to Austin Ekeler, sharing the backfield with Joshua Kelley (as noted above). Kelley has had some fumbling issues, which could open the door for Jackson to take on an even bigger role. While he’s not going to be the top free agent target, he needs to be added to see how things play out.

4) D’Ernest Johnson – Cleveland Browns

Nick Chubb suffered a knee injury, and with Kareem Hunt missing practice time the Browns called on Johnson to help handle the work. Johnson responded to form a strong one-two punch for Cleveland:

  • D’Ernest Johnson – 13 carries for 95 yards
  • Kareem Hunt – 11 carries for 71 yards and 2 TD

While we’d expect Hunt to assume lead back duties if Chubb is forced to miss time, Johnson should assume the role Hunt had been filling (if not with a few more touches). We’ve seen that the secondary role can yield strong fantasy value, so Johnson is well worth adding.

5) Brian Hill – Atlanta Falcons

Since Hill hasn’t played this week, as of this writing, let’s instead just re-print an excerpt from last week’s column:

It will be interesting to see if Hill can take more and more opportunities away from Todd Gurley, though both were impressive in Atlanta’s Week 3 loss:

  • Todd Gurley – 14 carries for 80 yards (5.7 YPC) & 1 TD
  • Brian Hill – 9 carries for 58 yards (6.4 YPC) & 1 TD

Hill’s TD came on a 35-yard run. It’s definitely interesting to see the increased workload, after he had 3 carries in each of the first two games. This is a situation to watch, and if you are eying a potential RB option for later in the season stashing Hill makes sense.

6) Malcolm Brown – Los Angeles Rams

A week after Darrell Henderson dominated the backfield, things were vastly different against the Giants:

  • Malcolm Brown – 9 carries for 37 yards
  • Darrell Henderson – 8 carries for 22 yards

Of course Cam Akers is going to return, and that will only further complicate this situation. It could be a week-to-week rotation, and that’s going to make them all difficult to trust.

7) New England Patriots Running Backs

Is anyone truly ready to trust a New England running back? There’s three who are potentially on radars for the coming week, so we’ll just dump them all in one:

  • Sony Michel
  • Rex Burkhead
  • Damien Harris

Harris appeared to have the potential to emerge this preseason before the hand injury landed him on injured reserve. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots deploy the backfield, but the third round pick in 2019 has the potential to dominate the touches.

Things may come slowly, and Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel and others are never going to fully disappear. The potential is there to make an impact, but it’s impossible to trust Harris on a weekly basis until we see proof it’ll happen.

8) Chase Edmonds – Arizona Cardinals

It was an ugly performance for Kenyan Drake, against a Carolina defense that we’d have thought he’d feast against. He mustered just 35 yards and 13 carries (2.7 YPC), and in four games has not yet broken a run of more than 16 yards. Could the Cardinals start to give Edmonds a few more opportunities?

It’s not like he’s been great thus far, though we saw what was possible when he was given an opportunity last season. He’s not going to get significant run, barring an injury, but with bye weeks coming there’s a chance he could prove valuable enough.

9) Anthony McFarland – Pittsburgh Steelers

McFarland ended up on bye this week, though his potential to assume the secondary role in Pittsburgh remains. Given the injury history of James Conner that’s always going to have potential value, especially with bye weeks coming.

10) Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vaughn was a preseason sleeper for many, but he struggled to get many chances behind Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones. However with Fournette missing Week 4 and LeSean McCoy and Kenjon Barner forced from the game, Vaughn become Jones’ understudy. Vaughn didn’t have an impressive day, though he did find the end zone through the air (3 carries for 4 yards, 2 receptions for 22 yards and 1 TD). Depending on the injuries, Vaughn could see his role expand as the handcuff to Jones in the short-term.

Sources – NFL.com, ESPN

10 COMMENTS

  1. Have a choice between Hill and Valdez- Scantling with top 2 Green Bay WR’s not playing. Is he the better pick given that over Hill?

  2. Hey roto!

    Should I spend half my FAAB for edmunds?! My RBs are drake, j rob, d mont, fournette. Or should I pick up Murray, j Jackson, Lindsay, or d’ernest Johnson?

    Thanks for all your help!

  3. 14 Team, 1/2 PP, 6th waiver position

    RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Nyaim Heins and Latavius Murray

    WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Stefon Diggs, Nkeal Harry, Preston Williams and Hunter Renfrow

    TE: Travis Kelce, Robert Tonyan

    1. Nick Chubb was one of my keepers so I went ballsy in my draft by picking up (ok, I reached a bit) Kareem Hunt. Pick up DeErnest Johnson? Otherwise Malcolm Brown, Damien Harris or Justin Jackson? Or would you not consider any worth of playing/stashing at this point? (If more than one, could you please give me priority order?)

    2. Word on the street is Chubb is out for 6 weeks…hang onto him, right?

    3. I usually live by the “no rostering extra QB/TE/DST/K” unless special circumstances (bye week/elite/etc). With the uncertainty of the Chiefs/Patriots game, I picked up Robert Tonyan…any reason to stash him, Dalton Schultz or Mo Alie XCox?

    4. Is there anyone on my current roster you would consider droppable? Preston Williams? Any of the following worthy of a WR stash: Scotty Miller, Trequan Smith, Zack Pascal, Christian Kirk, James Washington, Breshard Perriman, Olamide Zaccheaus, Alshon Jeffrey or Tim Patrick

    5. DST…Patriots, Cowboys, KS City Cleveland or Houston?

    • 1) I like Johnson

      2) Yep

      3) Can’t drop Tonyan now!!

      4) I’d sticl with Williams over those guys

      5) Patriots (assuming they don’t have any COVID issues)

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