Wednesday morning greeted the fantasy community with bad news. The Lions placed Ameer Abdullah on IR because of his foot injury. Doug Martin will miss the next three weeks with his hamstring ailment. Adrian Peterson will have surgery on his torn meniscus, according to multiple reports. Most early timetables suggested he would miss a few weeks, but if he goes through with the surgery, it could cost him the rest of the fantasy season.
Vikings backups Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata are likely on rosters in leagues where they should be owned. Charles Sims was drafted in all competitive leagues, so there’s no further pivot for owners to make in Tampa Bay. The value discussion surrounding those players is interesting, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The biggest news came from Detroit, and most fantasy owners can still make a move to react to that injury.
Dwayne Washington remains available in 90% of Yahoo leagues and 89% of CBS leagues. The sixth-round rookie out of (coincidentally enough) Washington left Zach Zenner in his wake in the preseason to win a role as Detroit’s goal-line back. He converted in short yardage in Week 1, plunging into the end zone from a yard out in Detroit’s 39–35 win over Indianapolis. With an expanded role at the end of last week’s game, Washington ran for 31 yards on four carries, flashing the speed that paired with his size to make him an intriguing late-round pick in this year’s NFL draft.
Don’t get the Detroit backfield twisted: Theo Riddick will likely take over as the primary runner, with Washington playing a larger supporting role. Riddick ran for 45 yards and a touchdown on seven carries in Week 1, and 37 yards on 11 totes in Week 2. We know he’s one of the most dangerous receivers out of the backfield in the league. He has nine catches for 91 yards and a touchdown this season, and Washington isn’t going to eat into his receiving share much, if at all.
Still, at 5' 9", Riddick isn’t exactly built to handle the rigors of being an every-down back. Now that Washington will have a full week to prepare for an increased role, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take 35% of the Lions’ carries this week. If he handles them well, that could be the floor for him going forward. There’s enough upside here to make Washington worth adding in all formats where he’s still available. As for Riddick, get him into your lineups this week.
Sims will get a three-week run as the starter for the Buccaneers with Martin on the shelf because of a hamstring injury. Obviously, Sims’s value increases significantly as the starter, taking him from a fringe flex play to a low-end RB2.
The road ahead, however, is daunting. Tampa Bay’s next three games are against the Rams, Broncos and Panthers. Carlos Hyde and Christine Michael have gashed the Rams this year, but they still feature a strong front seven. The Denver and Carolina defenses speak for themselves. The Buccaneers then have a bye in Week 6, which would give Martin a month to recover and get back for Week 7 against the 49ers. Sims may be more prominent over the next three weeks, but the best course of action could be to trade him while his value is at its likely peak.
Finally, if Peterson does undergo surgery to repair his meniscus, it would go completely against the early reports we heard from the Vikings that Peterson would miss a few weeks before returning to the field. Surgery could knock him out for a few months, depending on the severity of the tear. That’s something we wouldn’t know until after the procedure, so it’s truly wait-and-see time for the Minnesota backfield.
What we know for sure is that McKinnon and Asiata will split duties for the Vikings. Reports out of Minnesota suggest that the script has flipped since the last time the two engaged in a committee in 2014. While Asiata will retain goal-line work, it’s McKinnon who’s expected to handle the majority of the carries, with Vikings beat reporters pegging his share at 65%. McKinnon is the better athlete and receiver, and if the reports are correct, he should be in line for something on the order of 16 to 18 carries plus targets in an average game with Peterson out.
Volume can be one of the great determiners of success, especially for a running back, but the player still needs to prove he can do something with it. Right now, McKinnon’s RB2 status is more theory than fact. McKinnon has shown enough, however, to project as an RB2 for the rest of the season, assuming Peterson does miss months and the expected workload comes to fruition. He may be ceding those ever-valuable goal-line carries to Asiata, but his home-run ability, combined with 16-touch-per-game volume, is an enticing mix.
McKinnon has a tough matchup with the Panthers this week, but that alone shouldn’t scare you away. I have him slotted as my No. 23 back this week, ahead of Frank Gore and Giovani Bernard. Just like Sims, however, it’d be worth at least checking with the Peterson owner to see what he might be willing to part with to lock up the Minnesota backfield. Asiata, meanwhile, cannot be started. You do not want to rely on touchdown-or-bust players.