We’re entering the time of the season when playing the waiver wire is critical. Even the best-constructed teams will need help, either because of injuries, bye weeks, or changes in role. It’s becoming increasingly tough to stash players who aren’t producing yet, but a huge edge if you’re able to. If you’ve won at least three games through five weeks, consider taking fliers on some backup running backs. The ones who are currently thrust into starting roles will be highly sought after, but they won’t be the only ones holding relevance this season.
As always, all rostership levels are based on Yahoo leagues. Your mileage may vary depending on your provider and league settings.
Darrel Williams, RB Kansas City Chiefs (19% Rostered)
I included Williams in last week’s edition of this column — hopefully, you listened. Williams was essentially free in almost all leagues after Week, but this week, everyone will be attempting to get him. As I laid out last time, he had been seeing an increase in snaps anyway — 36 percent in Week 4 with Edwards-Helaire healthy. Now, CEH is out for at least a few weeks. The running back role in Kansas City (post-Mahomes ascension) is never quite as productive as we’d like since Mahomes rarely checks down. Still, Williams will be a back-end fantasy starter at absolute worst.
Devontae Booker, RB New York Giants (8% rostered)
Booker, like Williams, will be the starter in New York for at least a few weeks, with Saquon Barkley suffering an ugly ankle injury. He’s not quite as strong of an add as Williams, since it’s entirely possible that the Giants offense — now missing their starting QB, RB, and a variety of WRs — falls flat entirely. However, they were adequate with Booker and Mike Glennon leading the way on Sunday. Booker scored two touchdowns — one rushing, one receiving — and saw four targets and 16 carries. That level of usage should support some degree of fantasy relevance, even without the touchdowns. Booker is a fine pick if you can’t get up to Williams.
Other Backup Running Backs (various)
While they don’t all fit the strict criteria of this space, there are some other backs that could be overlooked in your league. I prefer all of: Alexander Mattison (76%), Tony Pollard (75%), AJ Dillon (66%), Sony Michel (49%), and Kenneth Gainwell (41%) in the long run over Booker, and possibly Williams. Most of these guys will be rostered in stronger leagues, but I’d be remiss to not at least mention them. All of them could (or have) step into a workhorse role with one injury to a starter. Assuming Dalvin Cook returns in Week 6, most of them won’t help you now but could win you the league later on.
Darnell Mooney, WR Chicago Bears (45%)
Mooney has now led the Bears in receiving yards two weeks in a row. I wonder if anything else in Chicago coincides with that? Mooney is proving himself to be new quarterback Justin Fields’ preferred option. It sounds like Fields is projected to play in Week 6, so expect Mooney to continue to see a large volume of work. He didn’t do much with it in Week 5, but the opportunities are there. It won’t always be pretty, but he’s a solid fill-in if you need receiving help now that byes and injuries are ravaging rosters.
Michael Gallup, WR Dallas Cowboys (46%) and Will Fuller, WR Miami Dolphins (41%)
Both players are a week or two away from returning, which means it’s the last call. This is for teams who can afford to waste a roster spot for a short time. Both players have explosive roles and Fuller, in particular, should see a solid target share given Miami’s injuries to the position. Gallup is somewhat thinner but would be an every-week starter if one of the Cowboys’ other receivers missed time.
Evan Engram, TE New York Giants (31%)
This isn’t a great time — or season for that matter — to need a tight end, but here we are. All five of the players on the Giants who’ve seen more targets than Engram are carrying some type of injury designation into Week 6. The Giants should increase their pass rate with Barkley missing the next few games. Or maybe they should decrease it with Daniel Jones out? What they should do is take the week off, but that’s not an option. Either way, Engram could be in line for some of the leftover work. He never seems to produce as much as his freakish athleticism would imply, but we can’t be picky at this point. If you need help at the position, he’s probably your best bet.
Miami Defense (15%)
I’m far from a defensive talent evaluator, but I think the Dolphins’ D/ST against a dysfunctional Jaguars offense is a mismatch. They also have a solid matchup in Week 7 against Atlanta who ranks 5th in points allowed to D/ST. Be sure to follow our Defense and Kickers Streaming article for expanded thoughts, but I’m scooping up Miami this week.
(Don’t forget to pick up Josh Gordon if you haven’t yet)