Another NFL week, another batch of injuries to big name running backs that could lead to a mad dash to the waiver wire for Fantasy football. In Week 4, it was Nick Chubb, Austin Ekeler and Kenyan Drake, who were all forced out of their games Sunday, leaving questions about their availability moving forward — and pushing their replacement options into a potentially significant role in Week 5 and beyond.
The most serious injuries look like they were to Ekeler, who left in the second quarter with a hamstring/knee injury, and Chubb, who left with a knee injury. Both were unable to return to their games, and we learned Monday Chubb will be going on injured reserve with an MCL injury — though it isn't believed to be season ending, per coach Kevin Stefanski — and Ekeler suffered a serious hamstring injury that will likely also land him on IR. That means some new names could be viable on the waiver wire, plus you might need some help if you are relying on either player — or if you've got one of the Lions or Packers backs, since this is their bye week.
For the Chargers, Joshua Kelley will likely step into the primary role, but that's no guarantee. If Kelley is available in your league, make sure you add him, but he probably isn't, so you'll also want to grab Justin Jackson, who should be the top priority on waivers heading into Week 5.
We know the Chargers want to use multiple backs, and that's what they did Sunday after Ekeler's injury. Per TruMedia and PFF, Jackson played nine snaps in the second half of the game to 14 for Kelley, and that's pretty close to the split you should expect moving forward. Neither is the playmaker Ekeler is, but both should see a few looks in the passing game in addition to their rushing opportunities, which could make both starting options in Week 5 against the Saints.
D'Ernest Johnson looks like he should be the No. 2 priority on waivers heading into Week 5 after he ran for 95 yards against the Cowboys Sunday. The Cowboys couldn't stop anyone in Cleveland's running game — the Browns ran for 307 yards on 7.7 yards per carry — but Johnson actually led the team with 13 carries. I wouldn't expect Johnson to lead the team moving forward, obviously — Kareem Hunt should be a top-five back as long as Chubb is out — but the Browns like to use multiple backs, and it wouldn't surprise me if he saw another dozen or so carries in Week 5 against the Colts, and he could be a flex starter.
The third back who left Sunday's games with an injury was Kenyan Drake, who exited after a hard hit late. It's not clear what the injury was — and coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters after the game he didn't believe it was "anything major," for what it's worth — but it's still worth watching. Especially since Chase Edmonds looks like he could be a star if he gets a bigger opportunity.
Edmonds has been a thorn in Drake's Fantasy appeal all season, and he did it again Sunday, scoring a touchdown on a short reception to finish with five catches for 24 yards on six targets, with 16 yards on the ground. He hasn't been super productive, but he's stolen a handful of carries from Drake each week while earning 17 targets to five for Drake.
If Drake were to miss time, Edmonds figures to get the bulk of the 20.8 carries and 5.5 targets per game the duo typically splits and would be a must-start option in all formats. Drake's injury doesn't look as serious as those of Ekeler or Chubb right now, but this is a reminder that Edmonds could be an elite Fantasy back if he ever gets the opportunity.
Head over to Heath Cummings' Believe It or Not column for more on some of Week 4's biggest narratives, and here's who else we'll be chasing on the waiver wire in Week 5.
Early Waiver Targets
DEN Denver • #5
Age: 29 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Bridgewater is never going to be a Fantasy superstar, except maybe in Week 5 against the Falcons. He had a strong game Sunday, his first multi-touchdown game of the season, and he's really doing a good job of getting the ball to his playmakers, completing at least 70% of his passes in three straight games. You'd like to see more touchdowns than five in four games, but the Falcons have given up nine passing touchdowns in their first three games heading into Monday Night Football, so it's a great opportunity for him to add to that total. If you've been relying on Matthew Stafford or Aaron Rodgers as your starter, Bridgewater is an excellent bye week option.
JAC Jacksonville • #10
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Shenault left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury late, so we'll have to keep an eye on that, because he's looking like someone Fantasy players will want to have on their side the rest of the season. He's seen six targets in each of the past two games and has nine rush attempts overall through four games, so the Jaguars clearly want to get the ball in his hands, and he's got the ability to make plays with the ball in his hands, something this Jaguars receiving corps desperately needs outside of DJ Chark. If Shenault is healthy, he's worth snagging and stashing on your bench for a possible breakout.
DAL Dallas • #86
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
At some point, the Cowboys are going to play a normal game where Dak Prescott doesn't have to throw the ball an absurd amount, and we'll see what kind of role Schultz has then. But for now, there's no reason Schultz should be available on the wire in any league, and that was true before his four-catch, 72-yard, one-touchdown game in Week 4. He has 17 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns in three games since Blake Jarwin went down with a season-ending injury, and should be viewed as a top-12 tight end moving forward.
Tee Higgins WR
CIN Cincinnati • #85
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
Higgins followed up his two-touchdown Week 3 performance with one that was probably even more impressive Sunday. He was second on the team in Week 4 with four catches for 77 yards on seven targets, and came very close to catching two touchdowns. He has out-targeted A.J. Green 16 to 11, and has been much more impressive overall than the former All-Pro. The Bengals have a good quarterback who they let throw often, and Higgins looks like the No. 2 option right now. He could emerge as a starting-caliber Fantasy option here.
NO New Orleans • #10
Age: 26 • Experience: 4 yrs.
This might be bad timing for Smith with Michael Thomas possibly returning in Week 5, but you've gotta be impressed by what he's doing right now. In three games without Thomas, Smith has 13 catches for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Smith will have to prove he still has a significant role when Thomas returns, but he's showing he can be another playmaker in this offense. Both he and Emmanuel Sanders will be worth low-end bids in Week 5.
Scott Miller WR
TB Tampa Bay • #10
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Miller has quickly earned Tom Brady's trust, and he's seeing deep targets every week as a result. That could lead to some frustrating performances — he had two catches for 11 yards in Week 2 — but has also led to at least 13.3 PPR points in the other three games. With Chris Godwin sidelined, Miller is the No. 2 option in this offense, and he's looking like he could be a No. 3 WR for Week 5 against the Bears.