Week two has yet to conclude and already, millions of fantasy players are ready to call it quits on the young season. Monday, news came through that Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson and San Diego Chargers all-purpose running back Danny Woodhead both sustained serious knee injuries in their week two matchups with the Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars respectively.
Peterson, a first-round pick of the Vikings in 2007 and arguably one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, tore his meniscus in the second half of Sunday night’s win over the Packers. As NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal reported, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer later said Peterson was “going through the evaluation process” and may not even miss Sunday’s game against the defending NFC champion Carolina Packers.
If Peterson does indeed miss time, this will be yet another season in which the 2012 NFL MVP will not play in all 16 games; the last time Peterson played in all 16 games in consecutive seasons was the 2008 and 2009 seasons, his second and third campaigns in the league. Since 2009, Peterson has been on the field for all 16 games just twice: 2012 and 2015, though he did come close with 15 in 2010. The rushing problems that plagued the former first-round pick at the end of the last season have continued into 2016, as Peterson has totaled just 50 yards on 31 carries through the first two games.
As for Woodhead, Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk was one of the first to officially confirm the report that the former undrafted running back had torn his ACL. Woodhead now becomes the second San Diego offensive weapon to sustain a torn ACL as wide receiver Keenan Allen, a high-round fantasy pick by many, tore his in the week one loss to Kansas City. Like Peterson, Woodhead’s problems with durability continues as this is the second time in three years the two-time Harlon Trophy Award winner won’t make it past September. In 2014, the same year Peterson missed the majority of the season due to a child abuse scandal, Woodhead suffered a broken fibula but returned last year with a career-high 80 catches.
With both coming off fantastic 2015 seasons and being productive at a position where few are reliable for fantasy anymore, many players have staked their entire seasons into both Peterson and Woodhead. Even if Peterson returns, the injury could still very well affect him and lead Mike Zimmer, a coach smart enough to not make the future Hall of Famer do all the work on a torn meniscus, to give backups some snaps.
But, the loss of these two stars doesn’t at all mean your fantasy season is done with. In fact, here are five running backs you should definitely look into picking up if you still want to take home the cash prize your league has.
Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns: Let’s start off with one of the few bright spots on an 0-2 Cleveland Browns team that already is turning to their third quarterback of the year following injuries to both Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown. Already in his third season out of Alabama State, Crowell is averaging 6.5 yards a carry and, with two early touchdowns, is set to surpass his career-high of eight from his rookie season in 2014. With McCown set to miss time due to a left shoulder injury, expect Hue Jackson to have new starter Cody Kessler rely heavily on the run game and short passes, two areas where Crowell is sure to get plenty of touches — and plenty of points for your fantasy squad. Pounce quickly, though, as Crowell is owned in 72.3 percent of ESPN leagues and that number is quickly rising!
Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles: Like Woodhead, Sproles is an all-purpose running back that can do damage on land, through air, and on special teams. Somehow owned in just 50% of ESPN leagues, adding Sproles is a cheap, low-key option that rookie quarterback Carson Wentz may enjoy turning to as a safety blanket. With Sproles, you should know by now what you’re getting from him and with there literally being a 50-50 chance of getting him, make your acquisition now!
Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys: You have my word that me always praising Alfred Morris has nothing to do with him being an alum of Florida Atlantic University, but what I will proudly and honestly say is that the former NFC rushing champion is potentially a steal for your fantasy roster. Early on, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys have made it clear that if Ezekiel Elliott fumbles or struggles to get anything going, they’ll quickly make the change to Morris and Sunday, the move paid off as the one-time Redskin scored the game-winning touchdown against the team that drafted him. Elliott is without a doubt going to get the bulk of the carries, but two strong games for Morris to start off the Cowboys’ season may be enough to get him some more carries.
Reggie Bush, Buffalo Bills: I know, it’s probably crazy that I’d have Reggie Bush, a backup who hasn’t had a productive season since 2013, as someone you’d want to put on your fantasy team as a replacement for these two stars. But, think about things for a second: Rex Ryan and the Bills are clearly desperate to make things work on offense after firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman last week and Bush, the former All-Pro kick returner, may provide that spark the former Jets coach is looking for. You’re likely not going to see Bush put up the numbers he did in New Orleans or Miami, but with him being owned in just 3.8 percent of ESPN leagues, the veteran playmaker may not be the worst addition.
Fozzy Whittaker, Carolina Panthers: Surprisingly, this is the only real option on this list that is an injury replacement for a player on his own team. With reports coming in from Panthers coach Ron Rivera that starter Jonathan Stewart has already been ruled out for Sunday’s matchup with the potentially Peterson-less Vikings, you may want to sneakily add the 27 year old Whittaker to your fantasy team as soon as the clock hits zero for Monday Night Football. Just 33 yards shy of setting a career-high in rushing yards with 146 after 100 yards in relief duty on Sunday, expect Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton to turn to the veteran Whittaker in hopes of getting his explosiveness and playmaking to pay off against an NFC title contender. The best part of all this, you ask? Whittaker is only owned in 0.7 percent of ESPN leagues at the time of this writing!
[Featured Image by Jim Mone/AP Images]