Every week, there’s a reason to be cautious about certain players. Sometimes, that leads to last-minute changes in your lineup. That’s why I’ve been breaking down some intriguing options to replace any players who are questionable ahead of their games. If you needed an emergency replacement last week, hopefully you took this column’s advice.
However, there are no promises this week because running backs are a tough breed to manage. That’s why getting them early in drafts is so important—a player like James Robinson doesn’t come around often. It doesn’t help that a handful of running backs have dealt with injuries this week. Joe Mixon has an ankle issue and didn’t practice on Wednesday and Thursday. It also caused him to miss some time in last Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis. Two other running backs to keep an eye on are Josh Jacobs and Ronald Jones. Both are presumably healthy, but the circumstances surrounding the Raiders’ COVID-19 situation are murky. It’s best to be prepared just in case the Raiders-Buccaneers game gets postponed. If you find yourself sitting Mixon, Jacobs, or Jones this week, these guys could be solid replacements.
Justin Jackson (RB - LAC) | Starting in 38% of leagues
When Austin Ekeler went down, it was Jackson who became the biggest benefactor. He saw 15 carries for 17 yards and five receptions on six targets, all while seeing 24% more snaps than rookie Joshua Kelley did. It’s only one game, but if Jackson sees a similar line of work against Jacksonville, it could be enough to get him double-digit points. As it stands, Jackson was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice, so keep an eye on his status ahead of Sunday’s game. If Jackson is unable to suit up, Kelley would be a fine replacement. Let’s assume the Chargers go up big on the Jaguars. Then, I’d see why Kelley would be a smarter start over Jackson (Kelley is starting in only 15% of leagues). However, Jackson is a more all-around back, and those are usually safer to bet on in PPR leagues. The Jaguars’ defense has given up the second-most points to running backs this season, per ESPN, so Jackson could be running all over Jacksonville this Sunday.
James White (RB - NE) | Starting in 22% of leagues
In three games played this season, White has averaged four carries, which is abysmal for a running back. BUT he’s a legend in the receiving game. That may be an exaggeration, though White is basically another wide receiver in New England. He’s seen 17 targets over his last two games, which has helped him produce 12.9 and 15.3 fantasy points, respectively. San Francisco hasn’t been the easiest team for running backs, but there’s nothing to suggest White’s role as a pass-catcher will be diminished. Depending on your situation and league scoring settings, White may be a solid start.
Jerick McKinnon (RB - SF) | Starting in 46% of leagues
The injury to Raheem Mostert opens up another door for McKinnon this week. When Mostert missed games earlier in the season, McKinnon was treated like a feature back. If those games are any indication, I’d expect McKinnon to get at least 13 carries and four targets—and that’s just his floor. Even though JaMychal Hasty saw all of the fourth-quarter carries in last week’s game against the Rams, I’m not worried about him taking too many snaps away from McKinnon in what should be a closer game. The 49ers have targeted their running backs more than any other team in 2020, which means there are plenty of looks to go around.
Free Agent Options
J.D. McKissic (RB - WAS) | Rostered in 37% of leagues
I almost put McKissic as a ‘Bench Option’ until I saw he was available in more than 60% of leagues. What are we doing here, people? McKissic has been featured in my weekly Waiver Wire column before, and for good reason. He surprisingly leads all Washington running backs in snaps and targets. That’s reflected in his performances over the last four games. He’s averaged 10.8 points, though his fantasy production and involvement in the run game have increased. McKissic is a sneaky good start in Week 7 against a suspect Dallas defense, so don’t be afraid to promote him if one of your starters can’t play.
Giovani Bernard (RB - CIN) | Rostered in 6.5% of leagues
As I mentioned in my Waiver Wire column this week, Bernard holds immense value as Joe Mixon’s backup. Mixon has missed multiple practices this week due to an ankle injury, which bodes well for Bernard. His ability in the passing game is a bonus, too. Honestly, it feels like Bernard has one huge game every year before he’s supplanted by the starter again. Of course, the only way Bernard can have another breakout performance is if Mixon misses Sunday’s game against Cleveland. If that happens, Bernard would likely need to be in most fantasy lineups. He would be the Bengals’ immediate RB1. Unless Samaje Perine turns into Barry Sanders, this would be Bernard’s backfield.