Fantasy football: Which running backs will take advantage of injuries

No one likes turmoil, especially with your fantasy roster. And even less so when it happens at such a crucial point in the season. But turmoil is unavoidable, inevitable even. Just as the fantasy football playoffs are set to kick off, a number of pitfalls have arisen regarding productive running backs.

There was the Kareem Hunt video and his subsequent release. So fantasy owners sprinted to acquire Spencer Ware. We knew Melvin Gordon was going to be sidelined for at least Week 13 days beforehand, so you’re not going to find Austin Ekeler available.

Sunday saw Matt Breida aggravate an ankle injury, then sit for much of the game before tweaking it again. Also, James Conner left Sunday night’s game with what later was described as a leg “contusion.” Hopefully that is all it is, and not something more serious, but he left the game and didn’t return.

The good news is, these injuries open up other options — if you can beat your league rivals to them on the waiver wire. Or in other cases, new names have emerged who could inherit larger roles than expected.

Gordon’s injury prompted a rush for Ekeler, and he got plenty of work — 13 carries for 21 yards plus five catches for 22 yards on eight targets. The problem is, rookie Justin Jackson performed much better — 63 yards on just eight carries with a TD, plus another 19 receiving on just one catch. In short, expect Jackson to be more heavily involved in the future should Gordon miss more time.

With Breida limited to start then later ruled out, Jeff Wilson Jr. performed satisfactorily — 15-for-61 rushing, 8-for-73 receiving, plus a fumble. If Breida misses time, Wilson appears set to inherit that workload. However, with the Broncos, Seattle again, then the Bears, his schedule isn’t inviting.

Jaylen Samuels came in to relieve Conner. In limited work, he had 2-for-5 rushing and 3-for-20 with a touchdown receiving. Though it appears Conner’s injury isn’t serious, it serves as a good reminder to grab Samuels as a handcuff.

We also saw the return of some players who have been out for a while. Rex Burkhead was back for the Patriots — 7-for-20 rushing, 2-for-21 receiving. He will cut into some of Sony Michel’s and James White’s work, but not enough to make him usable. Don’t waste the roster space. An even worse idea would be adding James Develin, based on his two-TD day. He had just four carries and 5 yards. There’s not enough usage there to make him fantasy viable.

Kenneth Dixon’s career has been mired by injury and suspension. He returned Sunday from an ankle injury and got eight carries for 37 yards. He potentially could wrestle away the primary job from Gus Edwards, but don’t count on it happening soon. Dixon is more of a speculative keeper/dynasty option.

So if your RB corps was damaged by this week’s chaos, get ready to call an audible, and make sure you call the right one.

Make the grab

Dante Pettis WR, 49ers

If suffering from re-loss of A.J. Green, Pettis could fill in nicely. When Marquise Goodwin returns, Pettis still should be viable. Monitor Pierre Garcon’s status, but Pettis is better player at this point and hopefully would not sacrifice workload in lieu of Garcon.

Antonio Callaway WR, Browns

He had two near-TDs on Sunday — one called back for penalty, one he fumbled before scoring, both on the same drive. He is explosive and involved. Gets to face a crumbling Panthers defense this week, then Bengals in Week 16.

Curtis Samuel WR, Panthers

Had a season-high 11 targets this week. With QB Cam Newton nursing a sore shoulder, Samuels on crossing routes will remain viable.

Zay Jones WR, Bills

Despite QB Josh Allen’s tendency for mistakes, he can make big plays. And Jones will be on the receiving end of many of those.

Time to panic

Cam Newton QB, Panthers

Made some poor decisions and lacked zip in four-INT meltdown. Reportedly dealing with a shoulder problem — replaced by backup Taylor Heinicke on last play so Hail Mary could reach end zone.

David Johnson RB, Cardinals

So much for new coordinator Byron Leftwich saving DJ’s fantasy season. Rookie Chase Edmonds got carries inside the 10, two for TDs. Consider Johnson a situational starter at this point. Lower TD expectation when making decisions.

Carlos Hyde RB, Jaguars

Leonard Fournette is back from suspension this week, and Hyde showed Sunday why he is inadequate as a cuff. You would rather have T.J. Yeldon.

Michael Crabtree/John Brown WRs, Ravens

In three weeks with Lamar Jackson as the starting QB, they have a combined nine catches. Combined. Over three weeks.

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