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Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 1

How high was your level of concern that we might not experience an NFL regular season? Anyone who wondered whether Week 1 matchups would transpire as expected is just days away from witnessing all 32 teams in their season openers. While you have been anticipating the onset of regular-season games, you have also been focusing your time and energy constructing rosters in leagues of all formats.

Once your teams were assembled, you may have been satisfied with the results. But that initial enthusiasm might have diminished after you re-examined your rosters. This could easily include the running backs that you selected during your drafts. Regardless of why you are now considering your waiver wire options, this article is designed to help you uncover the best backs to target on the Week 1 waiver wire.

These recommendations will appear in three tiers - beginning with the most enticing options and progressing to suggestions for fantasy GMs that are struggling with desperation. You will also find a group of backs that can be dropped in order for you to secure your replacements. After you've finished this breakdown, you can also find the latest news and data-driven analysis from the team at RotoBaller that is designed to maximize your scoring potential in Week 1.

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Frontrunners - Week 1 Waiver Wire Running Backs

These backs should be your top priorities among the options that are available on most waiver wires. Some will be more beneficial in PPR formats than standard. All players have 60% or less ownership in typical fantasy leagues.

 

Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

44% rostered

Edmonds presents an enticing combination of talent and the opportunity to perform in an Arizona offense that places running backs in a position to thrive. He remains available in over 50%, of all leagues, due to the presence of Kenyan Drake, who begins the year as the Cardinals’ RB1. Drake has earned this distinction after finishing second in touchdowns (eight), and sixth in rushing yardage (643) from Weeks 9-17.

However, he has averaged 114 attempts and 150 touches during his four NFL seasons and remains untested by the challenges of performing as a high-volume back for 16 games. This elevates Edmond’s potential for achieving standalone value. Edmonds has also displayed his ability to flourish with feature back responsibilities, by bursting for 126 yards and three touchdowns in Week 7.

If Drake in on your roster, it is highly recommended that you seize Edmonds as an insurance policy. All other fantasy GMS are encouraged to secure Edmonds, who will soar to RB1 status if Drake becomes unavailable for any reason.

 

Chris Thompson, Jacksonville Jaguars

37% rostered 

Jacksonville’s decision to jettison Leonard Fournette has ignited interest in Devine OzigboRyquell Armstead, and James Robinson, as the fantasy community attempts to determine which back will benefit most from Fournette’s departure. However, Thompson was destined to receive a sizable share of the 100 targets that Fournette collected last season even before Fournette was released. He built a track record of flourishing as a receiver when Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was his head coach in Washington. That includes last season when Thompson was third among backs in targets (35/7.0 per game) and receiving yards (268/53.6 per game) before a protracted toe problem sidelined him from Weeks 6-12.

Weeks 1-5 Targets Targets/Game Yards/Targ Recepts Yards TDs
Austin Ekeler 41 8.2 8.7 39 356 3
Christian McCaffrey 39 7.8 7.2 31 279 1
Chris Thompson 35 7 7.7 25 268 0
David Johnson 33 6.6 7.5 24 247 2
Le'Veon Bell 32 8 5.2 27 166 1
Alvin Kamara 31 6.2 7.8 26 241 1
Tarik Cohen 31 6.2 4.1 20 128 1
James White 30 7.5 5.9 22 178 1
Leonard Fournette 30 6 4.8 20 143 0
Devonta Freeman 26 5.2 6.7 22 173 1

He also led all backs in receiving yards (493) in 2017, before being sidelined during Washington's last six contests (fractured fibula). He has missed 17 contests since 2017, but that should not overshadow his on-field accomplishments. This includes finishing among the top nine backs in targets per game during each of his last three seasons. Thompson’s pass-catching proficiency should keep him highly involved in a Jacksonville attack that will be operating with an unending array of negative game scripts. That will supply you with a valuable flex option in PPR leagues.

Year Targets Targets/Game Recepts Yards TDs
2019 58 5.3 42 378 0
2018 55 5.5 41 268 1
2017 54 5.4 39 510 4
2016 62 3.9 49 349 2
2015 48 4 35 240 2

 

Darrel Williams, Kansas City Chiefs

19% rostered

After Damien Williams made his decision to opt-out of the 2020 regular season, former Raider DeAndre Washington was initially a popular choice to capture backup duties behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire. However, it was Darrel Williams who commandeered the most first-team reps during training camp and ultimately prevailed in competition with Washington and second-year back Darwin Thompson. Williams joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and accumulated 308 total yards on 56 touches during 2019. He also provided a glimpse of his ability to function effectively in Andy Reid’s attack by accruing 109 total yards on 14 touches in week 3, including 62 yards on the ground.

Williams has now commandeered Kansas City’s RB2 responsibilities and will share touches with Edwards-Helaire as the season launches. This has vaulted him into consideration among this week's most enticing targets on your waiver wire. He also provides a viable insurance policy for anyone who has secured Edwards-Helaire for their rosters.

 

In The Running - Week 1 Waiver Wire Running Backs

These backs remain available on the waiver wire but are not necessarily must-adds.

 

Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles

45% rostered

Scott’s journey into the fantasy landscape began slowly. He was selected 201st overall by New Orleans during the 2018 NFL Draft before Philadelphia signed him from the Saints' practice squad later that season. He started 2019 as an afterthought within the Eagles’ backfield, which was comprised of Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, and Darren Sproles. This limited Scott to just 38 offensive snaps from weeks 1-13. But he suddenly burst into relevance as a valuable component in Doug Peterson’s offense when injuries depleted the Eagles’ backfield.

Weeks 14-17 Receiving Yards Targets Yards/Target Receptions
Christian McCaffrey 361 47 7.7 41
Austin Ekeler 275 29 9.5 23
Boston Scott 199 25 8 23
Melvin Gordon 173 26 6.7 22
Kareem Hunt 167 19 8.8 17
Tarik Cohen 150 30 5 25
Miles Sanders 150 22 6.8 18
Saquon Barkley 147 17 8.6 14
James White 133 19 7 15
DeAndre Washington 125 22 5.7 18
Duke Johnson 116 21 5.5 14
Devonta Freeman 115 21 5.5 17
Aaron Jones 107 16 6.7 10
Jalen Richard 100 12 8.3 10
Joe Mixon 97 10 9.7 9

He accumulated 355 total yards from weeks 14-17, including 151 rushing yards on 38 attempts. He also captured 23 of his 25 targets, while finishing third among all backs with 199 receiving yards during that four-game sequence. That includes his career-high 84 during Week 17. With only Corey Clement below him on the depth chart, Scott’s late-season performances have solidified his role as Philadelphia’s RB2 behind Sanders. It has also injected him into the collection of viable roster additions.

 

Devine Ozigbo, Jacksonville Jaguars

12% rostered 

There were clear indications during the offseason that a long-term relationship between the Jaguars and Fournette was unlikely. Armstead was the preferred insurance policy for anyone with Fournette on their rosters, while Ozigbo was likely to receive a modest workload. But Armstead has now been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list twice. This provided Ozigbo with an expanded platform to showcase his capabilities, and he has secured lead back duties entering Week 1. Ozigbo was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by New Orleans in 2019, then was later claimed off waivers by Jacksonville.

He only registered six snaps until Week 17, before collecting 12 touches during the Jaguars’ season finale. Qzigbo also averaged 371 rushing yards on 88 attempts during his first three seasons at Nebraska, before exploding for 1,082 yards on 155 carries (7.0 yards per attempt) in 2018. His rushing attempts will be interspersed with Robinson’s while Thompson will absorb the vast majority of targets. That elevates Ozigbo among this week’s most enticing roster additions.

 

James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars

2% rostered

Jacksonville's failed efforts to trade Fournette were well-documented and were followed by the Jaguars' disinterest in extending his 5th-year option. This should have built a fortress of red flags that shielded fantasy GMs from the temptation of selecting Fournette. The potential existed for several Jaguars to experience an expanded touch total if Fournette was released. But Armstead was the prime candidate to assume RB1 responsibilities if that scenario occurred. However, Armstead’s extended absence during training camp cleared a path for Robinson to seize a role within the backfield.

The undrafted free agent then responded by performing impressively during camp. Robinson also stockpiled 3,207 yards and 30 touchdowns on the ground during his final two seasons at Illinois State. Now Robinson is primed to share carries with Ozigbo, while Thompson performs as the backfield’ pass-catching specialist. Robinson should be available on your waiver wire and is worthy of a roster addition.

 

Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts

20% rostered

Jonathan Taylor averaged a whopping 309 attempts and 2,058 rushing yards per season during his three years at Wisconsin. But he only accumulated 42 receptions and 407 yards as a receiver. He will begin this season splitting carries with Marlon Mack, while Hines will operate as Philip Rivers’ primary receiving weapon from the backfield.

Hines tied for seventh among all backs in targets during 2018 (81), was eighth in receptions (63), and 15th in receiving yards (425). But his snap count percentage shrunk from 44% to 32% last season. This resulted in a drop for his per-game averages in targets (5.1-3.6), receptions (3.9-2.8), and yardage (26.6-20). But Hines still paced the Colt backfield in each category, as Mack was relegated to minimal involvement (17 targets/14 receptions/82 yards). Rivers’ reunion with Frank Reich could propel Hines to a role that replicates Danny Woodhead’s usage when Rivers and Reich were with the Chargers. This supplies you with a viable flex option in PPR leagues.

 

Dark Horses - Week 1 Waiver Wire Running Backs 

This group consists of running backs that can be added if you are willing to wait for the possibility of a larger role during the year, or consider your situation to be desperate due to injuries.

 

Benny Snell, Pittsburgh Steelers

13% rostered

Snell manufactured 426 yards on 108 attempts (3.9 yards per attempt) during his 2019 rookie season, although he was a complete non-factor as a pass-catcher (4 targets/3 receptions/23 yards). He did average 73.6 yards per game during the five matchups in which he received 16+ carries and tied for fifth in yards after contact per attempt (2.8). But that failed to elevate Snell into strong consideration as an enticing roster option during most of the offseason. The Steelers’ fourth-round selection of Anthony McFarland also appeared to relegate Snell to a modest role within the allocation of backfield touches.

However, Snell shed weight and performed effectively during training camp. This appears to have launched him into the Steelers’ RB2 role which has presented fantasy GMs with the incentive to add him. His stock will soar even further if James Conner is sidelined for any reason. This also makes Snell an outstanding addition for anyone that has Conner on their rosters.

 

Bryce Love, Washington Football Team

12% rostered

While Antonio Gibson became a popular topic following Adrian Peterson‘s release, he was already rostered in over 70% of all leagues when that news was announced. He had become an intriguing roster component due to his unique combination of size (6’2”, 220-pounds), speed (4.39-40 yard dash), and versatility. The departure of Pederson elevates Gibson’s stock even higher. But since he is unavailable in the majority of leagues, this presents you with motivation to target Love.

He finished second overall in rushing yards during his third season at Stanford (2,118) and averaged 8.1 yards per attempt. But he experienced a torn ACL in 2018 which required two surgeries before he resurfaced during training camp. He should attain an ongoing role in Scott Turner’s Washington offense while sharing touches with Gibson and J.D. McKissic. While this could keep Love embedded within a committee, he could also confiscate a significant percentage of touches.

 

Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers

9% rostered

Kelley has not received the same level of interest that has been attained by other members of his rookie class. But he has a legitimate opportunity to capture a consistent weekly workload. Austin Ekeler is cemented as LA’s primary back and will perform as the Chargers’ exceptional pass cashing weapon from the backfield. But the team will allocate rushing attempts to multiple backs, and Kelley is competing with former seventh-round draft pick Justin Jackson for the opportunity to split carries with Ekeler.

Kelley appears to have overcome the hurdles of a condensed offseason that prevented him from experiencing the usual team activities. Jackson had shared first-team reps with Ekeler during the initial portion of training camp, but Kelly quickly earned his own percentage of first-team involvement. Kelley also provides a physical presence that should ensure an ongoing role as the Chargers’ power back, and should also vault him beyond Jackson on the depth chart. That should provide your incentive to add him this week.

 

Also-Rans - Time To Say Goodbye

These backs can be dropped in order to secure a running back with greater potential to bolster your scoring during the year.

 

Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

27% rostered 

While the arrival of Fournette was an unfavorable development for Ronald Jones, it sent Vaughn’s declining stock into a devastating freefall. The rookie appeared to have a genuine chance of becoming Tampa Bay’s lead back after the Buccaneers selected him during Round 3 of last April’s NFL draft. But anticipation that Vaughn could make an immediate statistical impact has been increasingly squashed during the summer. The dramatic reduction in team activities created his first significant hurdle.

His limited time to form a favorable impression with Bruce Arians and Tom Brady was constrained even further when he was placed on the COVID-19 list. This forced an extended absence from training camp, which was followed by underwhelming performances after Vaughn arrived. These factors cemented him under  Jones on the depth chart, while the addition of Fournette has pushed Vaughn even further from relevance. That should compel you to locate a player that is not an afterthought in his team’s offense.

Justin Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers

22% rostered

Jackson generated nearly 5,500 rushing yards (5,440) and produced 41 touchdowns during four seasons at Northwestern (2014-2017). He has also provided flashes of his ability to accrue yardage at the professional level by rushing for 190 yards in Weeks 12-15 of 2018 and assembling 142 yards on 18 attempts last September. But Jackson has also contended with multiple injuries during his tenure with LA (calf/ hamstring) and is currently hampered by a toe issue. This has created an absence from daily camp activities, which has been detrimental to Jackson.

Kelly's stock has surged. as he has performed effectively during camp. This will increase his acceleration toward the Chargers' RB2 role. Jackson might not be healthy for the Chargers’ opener. If rushing attempts are distributed between all three backs whenever Jackson does return, Ekeler and Kelly are destined to commandeer larger roles than Jackson. This will restrict his ability to deliver points, which supplies your incentive to locate a more favorable roster option.

Carlos Hyde, Seattle Seahawks – 26% owned

The number of backs that are clearly droppable will expand as we progress into the regular season. This recommendation only applies if you are attempting to make a roster addition, and cannot locate a clear candidate to release. A healthy Chris Carson will commandeer a massive workload as Seattle’s lead back, after finishing fifth in rushing attempts (278/18.5 per game) and fourth in yards after contact (734). Rashaad Penny will begin the year on the reserve/PUP list, and Hyde would accrue attempts if Carson is sidelined. But he does not present fantasy GMs with a definitive insurance policy that is comparable to must-own backups Edmonds, Alexander Madison, Latavius Murray, and Tony Pollard. Rookie DeeJay Dallas would also be included in the backfield mix if Carson is unavailable. This eliminates the possibility that Hyde would automatically absorb the same touch total that had been allocated to Carson. Anyone who has the opportunity to add an unquestioned contributor can consider dropping Hyde in order to make the transaction.



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