Injuries are the ceaseless current in the NFL, beating against all the boats that are just trying to get to the opposite shore unscathed. Four more running back injuries have created opportunities on the waiver wire, though at least two of those backs would have been on our radar even if the starters on their respective teams were completely healthy. We start with those two players, who could really help swing leagues as we enter the home stretch of the typical fantasy regular season.
Karlos Williams, RB, Bills (Bid: $30)
Playing his first game in more than a month, Williams starred for the Bills in their win over the Dolphins in Week 9. He got just nine carries, but turned those into 110 yards and two scores. Williams would be at the top of the waiver priority list, even if LeSean McCoy were fully healthy. Indeed, his first touchdown came before McCoy suffered a shoulder injury. However, with McCoy already looking iffy for the Bills’ Thursday night game with the Jets this week, fantasy owners should be moving heaven and earth to get Williams on their rosters.
Williams has done damage with limited opportunity all season, racking up 382 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns on 56 touches. That translates to 1.33 fantasy points per touch. As a comparison, Devonta Freeman is averaging 0.85 points per touch. Of course, Williams small sample size inflates his point-per-touch number, but it also illustrates just how deadly he has been with his chances this year. Do whatever it takes to snag him from the wire.
Brandon Bolden, RB, Patriots (Bid: $8)
James White, RB, Patriots (Bid: $8)
With Dion Lewis out for the year after tearing his ACL in Week 9, the pass-catching back role in New England is up for grabs. After Lewis left the win over Washington, Bolden caught three passes, including an 18-yard touchdown, while White had three carries but was shut out of the passing game, indicating that Bolden is slightly ahead in the pecking order. Lewis was inactive in Week 7 with an abdomen injury, and White had two carries and three catches in that game, but Bolden was also out with a hamstring problem. There aren’t many tea leaves for us to read, but Bill Belichick doesn't make it that easy on the fantasy community.
This can be a lucrative job, but it’s hard to imagine one back taking over the role the way Lewis did. Belichick never looks the other way after a fumble like he did with Lewis not once, but twice, early in the year. The Patriots are even less likely to give a running back an extension in the middle of the season, but they did that with Lewis, as well. He was a special player for this year’s Patriots, and it’s unlikely they replace him with just one guy. Bolden and White should both be claimed, but it’s possible they piece this role together while letting LeGarrette Blount own nearly all the carries.
James Starks, RB, Packers (Bid: $23)
It doesn’t really matter that Eddie Lacy left the Packers’ loss to the Panthers with a groin injury—that just sweetens the deal for Starks. The bottom line is that Starks has been the better back in in Green Bay all season, and he’s finally getting his chance to take over the starting gig for good. The Panthers held Starks in check on the ground in Week 9, but he caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. In the four games where Starks has had at least 10 touches, he has scored double-digit fantasy points three times, falling short only against the Chiefs in Week 3.
Even if Lacy is able to suit up against the Lions next week, Starks will be in the backfield when the Packers first take the field. We saw that this is still a potent offense, and Starks has proved himself a dangerous weapon for Aaron Rodgers in the passing game. He’s just barely behind Williams in terms of waiver priority this week. They’re the true prizes of the waiver wire in advance of Week 10.
Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers (Bid: $6)
It took eight games, but Funchess finally showed signs of life for the Panthers. The rookie out of Michigan caught three of his four targets for 71 yards and a touchdown in the team’s win over Green Bay in Week 9. As good as the Panthers have been this year, they clearly need someone to step up alongside Greg Olsen in the passing game. Ted Ginn and Corey Brown are fine depth players, but it’s more than a little ridiculous that Cam Newton has to lean on them as his starting receivers.
Funchess, whom the Panthers selected early in the second round, has it in him to be a consistent, dangerous second weapon behind Olsen. At 6’4” and 225 pounds, he can be another big, physical target for Newton in the red zone. Understand that he ran just nine routes in the win against the Packers, so he’s still being utilized sparingly Funchess was mostly a tight end in college so he’s still learning the game outside the numbers, but the Panthers could give him every opportunity to learn it at full speed over the second half of the season.
Kamar Aiken, WR, Ravens (Bid: $7)
The Ravens were on bye last week, so nothing has changed since we checked in on Aiken in the waiver wire recommendations following Week 8. With Steve Smith out for the season, Aiken is the top receiver in Baltimore. In the game-and-a-half that Smith missed with a back injury earlier in the year, Aiken had nine catches for 155 yards and a touchdown while leading the Ravens with 16 targets. He played well after Smith’s season-ending Achilles injury two weeks ago, finishing that game with six catches for 62 yards.
At the very least, he’s the No. 1 option in a passing game and should average somewhere in the neighborhood of eight or nine targets per week. That alone makes him relevant in all fantasy formats.
Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Titans (Bid: $9)
When Mike Mularkey took over the Titans last week, he insisted that Green-Beckham would get more time and targets. Mularkey followed through on that immediately, which makes Green-Beckham a very intriguing player for the rest of the year. The rookie set season highs in receptions (five), targets (10) and yards (77), leading the team in targets and getting more looks than Harry Douglas and Justin Hunter combined (nine). Kendall Wright has missed two straight games with a knee injury, and the widespread belief is that he’ll be out for at least a few more weeks. That means Green-Beckham should continue to be Marcus Mariota’s favorite target, along with Delanie Walker.
There’s no doubting DGB’s athleticism and talent. He’s 6’5” and 237 pounds, making him a threat both in the red zone and stretching the field. Of all the receivers listed among this week’s waiver wire pickups, he’s the one who could really force his way into fantasy starting lineups regularly over the second half of the season.
Taiwan Jones, RB, Raiders (Bid: $6)
Latavius Murray suffered a concussion against the Steelers, leaving his status for the Raiders’ Week 10 matchup with Minnesota in doubt. Jones and Marcel Reece are next up on the depth chart, and early signs point to Jones taking over as the primary back if Murray does have to miss some time. Murray has completely dominated the work out of Oakland’s backfield this year, so we can’t really glean anything from looking at the scraps that Jones and Reece have picked off the floor. Reece, however, has always been a catch-first running back, and it stands to reason that the Raiders would like to keep him in that role. That would open the door for Jones to be the lead back, though it is worth noting that he has handled the ball just 20 times this year.
Murray isn’t expected to be out long, if at all, and the Vikings present a tough matchup for any running back. Jones is well worth a claim, but don’t fall over yourself to get him. Murray owners should be willing to throw a few more bucks at him, just in case.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins (Bid: $7)
Ben Roethlisberger is out with a foot injury, and Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan are all on byes in Week 10. If you’re looking for a one-week streamer at quarterback, look no further than Cousins. There’s no better matchup for a quarterback right now than the New Orleans Saints, and that’s exactly the defense Cousins will square off with next week. The Saints have allowed 10 passing touchdowns in the last two weeks, and have now surrendered the most points per game to quarterbacks. In their last four games, the Saints have given up 15 touchdowns through the air while intercepting just two passes.
Cousins has a great tight end in Jordan Reed, and DeSean Jackson has finally put his hamstring injury in the past. Drew Brees, meanwhile, will almost certainly force Cousins and the Washington offense to lean on the pass given the way he has been playing for the last month or so. Cousins is the best, widely available stream play for Week 10.