Several backup running backs have been shoved into the fantasy football spotlight due to injuries, and Michael Beller explains who you should prioritize on the waiver wire this week.
It doesn’t matter what time of year it is. Injuries always drive the action on the waiver wire. After a relatively light period for acquisitions one week ago, movements on the waiver wire should come at a frenetic pace this week. Running back injuries in Seattle, Baltimore, Atlanta and Kansas City have new players in the spotlight, all of whom should be universally owned after this week. What priority should you place on each individual member of the quartet? Find out below in our waiver wire recommendations for Week 12.
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks (Bid: All remaining money)
We’ve known for more than a month now that Rawls can deliver when given the opportunity. He took over for an injured Marshawn Lynch against the Bears in Week 3, and ran for 104 yards on 16 carries. Two weeks later, he racked up 169 yards and a score in the team’s loss to the Bengals. He proved right then and there that he was for real, and just needed a chance to be a consistent starter. He just might get that now that Lynch is dealing with a sports hernia that could have him out for the rest of the year.
Rawls had one of the biggest games for any running back this year in Seattle’s win over San Francisco, running for 209 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, while adding three receptions for 46 yards and another score though the air. Rawls has had four games with at least 15 carries this season. In those games, he has 530 rushing yards, 45 receiving yards and three total touchdowns, which translates to 25.2 points per game in standard-scoring leagues. He’s a must-start play every week Lynch is out. If Lynch is indeed out for the season, Rawls will be, at worst, a strong RB2 for the duration.
Buck Allen, RB, Ravens (Bid: All remaining money)
Allen got the first extended look of his career in Week 11 after Justin Forsett broke his arm, and he ended up playing well in a tough spot. Going up against the stout Rams defense, Allen had 67 yards on 22 carries and five catches for 48 yards. With Forsett out for the year, the Ravens will get a good look at what they have in the rookie out of USC. The Ravens used a fourth-round pick on Allen, which is nothing to dismiss in this day and age, especially when such a pick is used on a back.
Not only should Allen be a priority add on the waiver wire this week, but he also could pay immediate dividends. Baltimore faces the Browns and Dolphins in the next two weeks, a couple of run defenses that don’t really scare anyone. After that, however, Allen’s fantasy usefulness could hit a snag. The Ravens host the Seahawks, Chiefs and Steelers in Week 13 through Week 15. None is a great matchup, and all could run away and hide from the Ravens, forcing the game into the hands of new starting quarterback Matt Schaub.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons (Bid: $15)
Coleman ceded the starting gig in Atlanta to Devonta Freeman after the former suffered a fractured rib in Week 2. From there, Freeman turned into a star. Could we be seeing another reversal of fortune down south? Freeman left the Falcons’ loss to the Colts early with a concussion, opening the door for Coleman to take over as the primary running back. He didn’t do much with his opportunity, running the ball 17 times for 48 yards. It was his first game with at least 10 carries since Week 1, when he picked up 80 yards on 20 totes.
If Freeman makes it through the concussion protocol, he’ll be back in his familiar role next week. Still, it’s well worth grabbing Coleman off the waiver wire simply for the chance that he gets a start. If Freeman is indeed out in Week 12, Coleman would be an RB2 with the Falcons taking on the Vikings.
Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs (Bid: $15)
Well, we had the right process in identifying Charcandrick West as a likely Week 11 star. Unfortunately, no one can predict when an injury might strike. West left in the first half with a hamstring injury, and the unheralded Ware took advantage. He ended up getting 11 carries—five more than he had in his previous four games combined—and totaled 96 yards and two touchdowns.
Ware, who also played some baseball in college at LSU, is used to being buried on depth charts. He was behind the likes of Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue and Michael Ford during his career in Baton Rouge. For the time being, though, no one is ahead of him on the depth chart in Kansas City. If West is out this week, Ware will not only start, but would likely get the bulk of the carries.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Colts (Bid: $6)
Last year, Bradshaw reclaimed his previous fantasy glory by turning into one of the most dangerous receiving options in the Colts offense. The team re-signed him a little more than a month ago, and he has started making plays in the passing game again over the last two weeks. Bradshaw has three receiving touchdowns in the teams last two games, including two in the win over Atlanta in Week 11. Frank Gore suffered a quad contusion in the game, and while he returned to the game shortly after suffering the injury, there’s still a chance he’ll be at less than 100% against the Buccaneers next week. Bradshaw isn’t a priority add, but he’s worth claiming and stashing, just in case Gore’s injury proves more serious.
Shaun Draughn, RB, 49ers (Bid: $5)
Draughn is the last running back you want to go after on the wire this week, but he’s going to get opportunities so long as Carlos Hyde is out with his foot injury. Whether or not that translates into meaningful fantasy production is another story, but the chances will be there. He has had 20 touches in both of the team’s last two games, though he has just a total of 173 yards from scrimmage. The volume will be there. That alone makes him intriguing for the rest of the season.
Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers (Bid: $20)
Cam Newton is having a season to remember, which is made even more remarkable by the fact that he doesn’t have a true go-to wide receiver. But, it finally seems like someone is stepping up alongside Greg Olsen in the Carolina passing game. Funchess may not truly become that this season, but he is giving Newton another pass catcher upon which he can rely.
Funchess got a career-high eight targets in the win over Washington in Week 11, catching four of them for 64 yards and his second touchdown of the season. In the team’s first seven games, Funchess had seven catches, 20 targets, 90 yards and zero touchdowns. In the last three, the Michigan product has nine grabs, 14 targets, 176 yards and both of his scores. With the way the Carolina offense is clicking, Funchess has WR3 bona fides for the remainder of the season.
Leonard Hankerson, WR, Falcons (Bid: $14)
Hankerson returned from a month-long absence in Week 11 because of a hamstring injury and caught four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. Hankerson was largely a boom-or-bust player over the first six weeks of the season, putting together two games with at least 13 points in standard scoring leagues, and four more with fewer than five points. Having said that, he’s the No. 2 option in the Falcons passing attack, and that status should net him somewhere in the neighborhood of eight targets per game. He can parlay that volume into WR3 numbers for the rest of the season.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Bears (Bid: $8)
Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal have spent a lot of time on the sidelines this season, and we’ve seen Wilson take advantage of his increased role in those situations. He had one of his best games of the year in Week 11, catching four of his seven targets for 102 yards. Jeffery’s various maladies aren’t thought to be too serious, but he hasn’t been right all year. Meanwhile, Royal’s knee injury is proving more significant than originally though, and it could be a few more weeks before we see him back on the field. That means Wilson should be in a starting role for the foreseeable future.
Vernon Davis, TE, Broncos (Bid: $6)
With each passing week, Davis’ role grows in the Denver offense. He barely saw the field and didn’t get a target in his first game with the team. The following week, he caught two of his four targets for 19 yards. In his third game, he reeled in all six of his targets for 68 yards. As we often see with young quarterbacks, Brock Osweiler leaned on his tight end in the team’s win over the Bears, looking for him early and often. Gary Kubiak’s offenses have featured tight ends at every stop along the way in his career, and that could help turn Davis into someone who makes a big impact in the fantasy playoffs.