With the fantasy playoffs coming and the byes over, it’s time for your waiver wire approach to change.
No longer are you stashing players for future impact. If you have a chance at the playoffs, you know your established starters. Unless injuries strike, you don’t want to take a player off of waivers and slide him right into your lineup.
It’s also time to clear out guys you won’t ever start in favor of depth. If you are not going to use mediocre or unreliable players like Frank Gore or Michael Crabtree, cut them loose. What you need now is insurance at the all-important running back position. It’s the only position where your top player can suffer an injury and the backup becomes immediately relevant. You should be rostering the top NFL backups of your starting running backs if they are available. If your starting running back gets injured, you will not have to fight for his services on the waiver wire If you add him now.
This approach, however, does not work at other positions. Backup NFL QBs are usually not the types you will want to start at all in fantasy, and the position is deep in one-QB leagues anyway. When a No. 1 NFL WR is injured, the No. 2 guy on the team is often already rostered if he is fantasy relevant. So focus on the preventative measures at RB for your playoff push.
In some cases, such as New Orleans or the Chargers, two RBs are already useful and widely owned. Otherwise, here is a quick rundown of who you need to add or own as the handcuffs to your starting RBs if applicable. The backup to add is in parentheses. We list situations where the handcuff is clear, possibly unowned and the starter is usually or often a regular and important part of your lineup, even as a flex. Even if the backup is nowhere near as talented or productive as the current starter, an opportunity for adequate statistical output will be there if the starter gets injured.
Rams: Todd Gurley (Malcolm Brown)
Giants: Saquon Barkley (Wayne Gallman)
Chiefs: Kareem Hunt (Spencer Ware)
Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott (Rod Smith)
Panthers: Christian McCaffrey (Cameron Artis-Payne)
Of course, that does not mean there are not any other adds to be made off waivers this week. There are indeed a few who have become relevant mostly because of injuries. Of the backup RBs listed above, Burkhead, who just came off injured reserve for New England, could fill in as either a runner if Sony Michel gets hurt again or as a receiver if James White goes down. Burkhead is only owned in 8.8 percent of leagues.
Lions RB LeGarrette Blount (18.5) rushed for 88 yards and two TDs on Thanksgiving against the Bears defense, one of the best units against the run in the league. It is unclear when Kerryon Johnson may return from a knee injury and Blount has proven he is not quite done yet.
Jaguars RB Carlos Hyde (38.8) could get significant work this week against the Colts with Leonard Fournette suspended for a week. In the same game, versatile Colts rookie RB Nyheim Hines (29.9) will be in line for quality duty if Marlon Mack is out with a concussion. He’ll be a respectable flex play in point-per-reception leagues.
Tampa Bay WR Adam Humphries (28.2) is somehow being ignored in many leagues despite 26 catches and four touchdowns in his past five games. With some other WRs like Marques Valdes-Scantling and Golden Tate disappointing recently, Humphries can plug a hole if you need it.
At tight end, Jonnu Smith (5.5) had a 61-yard TD reception on Monday night and has scored in three of his past four games. Jets rookie Chris Herndon (9.9) has double figure PPR totals in four of his past six games and is deserving of regular starting consideration.
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