As the fantasy playoffs approach, it is essential to optimize your roster. Now is the time to get rid of players who will likely never comfortably fit into lineups while adding insurance players at running back, where injuries strike more frequently and often with a more significant impact than at other positions.
You don’t want to scramble to the fantasy football waiver wire during the playoffs when your starter gets injured, so here is an in-depth list of the top NFL running backs to roster behind your regular starters. Grab them now if they are available. Not every RB situation is included, as sometimes the insurance option isn’t always apparent. Yet these are several situations where we have a good read on who you should roster for necessary depth behind your top RBs.
Alexander Mattison: The primary backup to Dalvin Cook, was drafted in many leagues because of Cook’s injury history. But Cook has managed to stay healthy, and Mattison has been dropped in some leagues. Most savvy fantasy leaguers who have Cook on their teams still have Mattison on the bench. But this is a reminder for those who have gotten comfortable with starting Cook every week that Mattison still needs to be pinned to the bench for potential use at any time. Don’t consider cutting him based on Cook staying healthy to this point of the season.
Jordan Mason: The undrafted rookie has navigated his way to the top of the depth chart behind Christian McCaffrey. We all know the injury history in recent seasons for McCaffrey. Mason would likely be the first guy to lead in a timeshare or committee situation in the event of another McCaffrey injury.
Jaylen Warren: Najee Harris has continued to soldier through some injuries and is still producing well enough. But Warren is the apparent next man up at RB for Pittsburgh. He is versatile and is averaging five yards per carry.
Deon Jackson: He was a top fantasy football waiver wire add when Jonathan Taylor missed time earlier this season. Jackson had 28.1 PPR points in Week 6, and he is an essential roster insurance add for those who have Taylor on their fantasy teams.
Zamir White: The rookie has looked both physical and fast in brief snippets of action. Josh Jacobs has been playing through some injuries, so adding White as a preventive measure is essential. Ameer Abdullah would complement White as a pass-catcher in such a situation. Still, White would project to be an immediate starting fantasy option if pressed into a more significant role at any time.
Joshua Kelley: Kelley has returned from a knee injury and appears to have locked up the backup job behind Austin Ekeler. In a scenario where Ekeler is out, Kelley would at least project to be the lead ball carrier and primary goal-line option for the Chargers.
Chuba Hubbard: D’Onta Foreman is the clear lead running back for the Panthers, but he is currently dealing with a foot injury, and Hubbard is his top complement. Hubbard will be the preferred ball carrier for Carolina if Foreman misses any time.
Dontrell Hilliard: He would likely produce the best fantasy numbers of any Tennessee RB if Derrick Henry was to miss any time. Hilliard is a dual threat who can find the end zone as both a receiver and runner.
Myles Gaskin: Both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson have dealt with frequent injury concerns during their careers, especially in the case of Mostert. Mike McDaniel comes from the San Francisco coaching tree, where one RB will not usually dominate the carries. If either Mostert or Wilson misses any time in the weeks ahead, Gaskin could re-enter the Miami RB picture.
Melvin Gordon: Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon share the workload in Kansas City. A Pacheco injury would require a more physical complement to pair with McKinnon, and Gordon may have a good shot of passing Ronald Jones on the depth chart in that scenario.
Darrell Henderson: JaMycal Hasty stepped in as a relief option when Travis Etienne left early in Week 12. But he is a scatback type, and Henderson would likely be better suited to be the main ball carrier and TD threat if Etienne was out at any point.
Gary Brightwell: A Saquon Barkley injury might lead to a timeshare between Matt Breida and Brightwell. But Breida has often dealt with injuries, and Brightwell is bigger and more physical. He would project to be the preferred short-yardage RB.
Scott Engel is a fantasy football writer for The Game Day and is a member of the FSWA. Engel is also the Fantasy writer at the official site of the Seattle Seahawks.