Starting running backs are falling by the wayside with increasing regularity. On Sunday, Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers and Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns became the latest to succumb to the injury bug.
Ekeler is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with hamstring and knee issues, while Chubb was put on injured reserve with a sprained knee, which will keep him out for about six weeks. Add them to the already sidelined Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, and the first round has been a virtual minefield for fantasy teams.
Who might be able to step into the void and fill their spots? Or should fantasy GMs just take their lumps and try to improve elsewhere?
Recommended bids based on a free agent acquisition budget (FAAB) of $100 for the season.
Chargers running back Joshua Kelley has 258 total yards and one touchdown over his first four weeks in the NFL. He's about to get a much larger workload with Austin Ekeler sidelined. (Photo: David Kohl, USA TODAY Sports)
RB Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers ($25). The rookie is probably rostered in most leagues, but he should be this week's top target if available. Kelley didn’t do much (9 yards rushing, 26 receiving) when Ekeler left Sunday's game, but he’s in line for a significant workload increase for at least the next couple weeks. The Chargers offense has been productive enough that backup Justin Jackson ($10) could also have some short-term fantasy value.
RB Damien Harris, New England Patriots ($18). Harris is the counterbalance on the injury pendulum, beginning the season on the sidelines with a finger injury but making his 2020 debut on Monday night. But do we dare put stock in a Patriots running back? His 17 carries for 100 yards is a strong endorsement, especially with Sony Michel on IR. James White and Week 3 star Rex Burkhead will still be in the mix, but Harris has a chance to shine — even more so if Cam Newton isn't ready to return in Week 5.
TE Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers ($18). Tight ends tend to be hit-or-miss, but Monday night's three-TD performance is the kind of explosion that leads to wins. Perhaps when Davante Adams was declared inactive on Monday night, we should've figured Tonyan was in for a big game. He had a touchdown catch in each of the previous two weeks. Now, he's fantasy's No. 2 tight end on the season behind Travis Kelce.
WR Tim Patrick, Denver Broncos ($15). Stepping in for the injured Courtland Sutton, Patrick caught six passes for 113 yards and a touchdown on Thursday. Don’t overlook him. Patrick has played more snaps than any other Broncos receiver this season.
RB D’Ernest Johnson, Cleveland Browns ($11). In the wake of Chubb's injury, No. 2 back Kareem Hunt vaults into the top tier of fantasy running backs, especially after the Browns rushed for over 300 yards in Week 4. However, he'll need a break at times and Johnson showed he's capable of toting the rock as well (95 yards on 13 carries).
WR Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($8). With Chris Godwin out and Mike Evans hobbling, Tom Brady and the Bucs may have to turn to Miller more often. The second-year wide receiver caught five passes for 83 yards and a TD against the Chargers.
TE Mo Alie-Cox, Indianapolis Colts ($6). If you need a tight end upgrade, but can't land Tonyan … go gargantuan. The Colts may have found a keeper in the 6-5 former basketball player. He scored for a second consecutive week and may not last much longer on the waiver wire.
RB Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints. Giving star Alvin Kamara an occasional break, Murray has some standalone value if he's on your waiver wire. Barring a Kamara injury though, it's probably not going to get any better than Sunday's 14 carries for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
RB Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals. Edmonds is most likely already on someone's roster, but on the off chance he's not … Kenyan Drake has been a major disappointment this season. Plus, he's dealing with some injury issues of his own. Edmonds may need to step in at some point.
RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Leonard Fournette missed Week 4 and may not be ready to return on Thursday. LeSean McCoy has an ankle injury. Ronald Jones has been unimpressive. Why not take a shot on the one back who hasn't had a real chance thus far?
WR Nelson Agholor, Las Vegas Raiders. With rookies Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards out, Agholor caught all four of his targets for 44 yards on Sunday. The Raiders may have to throw even more to keep up with the Chiefs this week.
Also, be sure to check last week's waiver wire picks to see if any of those players are still available in your league.
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