Running Backs: Working The Waiver Wire Part I
How many times have you heard that you can only lose a draft in the early rounds, not win one? Well, you hear it with consistency because, for the most part, it is accurate. There are the exceptions (if you drafted Peyton Manning last year, you probably had a hard time not being competitive down the stretch), but for the most part, safety is the way to go in the early rounds.
It’d be great to draft your eight/nine starters in the first eight/nine rounds, but the odds of you hitting on each one of those picks is rare, making your ability to dig deep and find value late essential. But your research shouldn’t end there; this is something you need to do on a weekly basis in order to be successful. We will help you as the season goes on with constant waiver wire advice (full with a recommended percentage of your budget in which to bid), but why not get a head start on the competition?
Over the next week, I’ll be taking a look PFF’s staff rankings and identifying players that project as strong Plug’N’Play options for specific weeks. Here’s a look at the running backs.
Fred Jackson (BUF): Even with a reasonably healthy C.J. Spiller to open the 2013 season, Jackson saw a nice workload (34 touches compared to Spiller’s 41) in an effort to keep Spiller fresh for the entire 16 game regular season. While I do love the upside of Spiller again in 2014, it is hard not to like the limited downside of his 33-year-old backup. In fact, Jackson recorded at least 95 total yards or a touchdown in more than 73 percent of games in which he touched the ball 10-plus times last season, production that provides great return on investment. The Bears were, by far, the most friendly defense last season in terms of allowing fantasy points to running back (32nd in rush yards allowed, 32nd in rush yards per carry, and 31st in rush touchdowns) while Jackson averaged 5.63 yards per touch and scored in both games against the Dolphins last season. San Diego was the stingiest of these three defenses, yet they allowed 4.6 yards per carry and 14 scores despite playing a schedule that featured a majority of pass-first offenses that ranked in the top-half of the league in pass attempts. Jackson received nearly two carries per game inside the 10 yard-line last season, and considering he cashes those opportunities into six points about one-third of the time, the Bills secondary back has strong TD/yardage upside to start this season that any other back ranked outside the Top 25 doesn’t.
Week 1 @ Chicago Bears
Week 2 vs Miami Dolphins
Week 3 vs San Diego Chargers
Chris Johnson (NYJ): First of all, the hate has gone WAY too far on a player that has surpassed the 1,400 yard plateau each year in his career. But for the purpose of this exercise, let’s say you’re not buying the artist formerly known as CJ2K (I think he’s underrated, but I’m perfectly fine with dropping this nickname). How can you not at least like this five week stretch that has him opposing the league’s worst defense in terms of rushing touchdowns allowed (Washington), a notably bad run defense covered in the Fred Jackson review (San Diego), a team with the best quarterback in the game who opposing offenses just want to keep off the field (Denver), and two of the five most run-on defenses from a year ago (New England and Buffalo)? Could Chris Ivory cut into Johnson’s workload? Sure, but with Johnson slated to make twice as much as Ivory this season (and more than Ivory plus the next three highest paid running backs on the roster added together), I’m expecting him to receive most of the work in the first half of the season, giving the soon to be 29-year-old every chance to prove that there is still gas in the tank. He did, after all, record 889 total yards and eight touchdowns over the final two months of last season.
Week 4 @ Washington Redskins
Week 5 @ San Diego Chargers
Week 6 vs Denver Broncos
Week 7 @ New England Patriots
Week 8 vs Buffalo Bills
Come back tomorrow to see what running backs will carry your squad down the stretch.