The Must Stash: Week 12

Every Friday I will list 5 players who I think, if things go their way, will wind up in those waiver articles the following Tuesday. You don’t have to stash all of them – it depends on who you have on your roster, the depth of your benches, the scoring system of your league, etc. But these are guys that should at least be on your radar. 

Stashing players is only something that can occur in deeper leagues with large benches, so to make this information worthwhile, I will only be recommending guys that are under 20% owned on both Yahoo and ESPN, and in many cases, you’ll see percentages in the single digits. If you’re in a league where guys like Derrius Guice (53% on Yahoo, 53% on ESPN) or Deebo Samuel (64% Yahoo, 41% on ESPN) are on the waiver wire, you’re either in a league too shallow for stashing, or you should go pick those guys up right away.

Week 11 is in the books, and I’m sitting here marveling at the fact that Bo Scarbrough and Jonathan Williams are among this week’s top waiver claims. Both guys have spent most of the year on the practice squad. Williams has bounced around the league since 2016 and Scarbrough since being drafted in the 7th round last year. More than 5 years of combined NFL experience between the two of them and they’ve both become fantasy-relevant for the first time this week.

I thought both players looked good last week and can probably be considered their team’s #1 running back, at least for this week. Scarbrough is the type of physical runner that Detroit so desperately wants, as evidenced by their starting Tra Carson over Ty Johnson a few weeks ago and then promoting Scarbrough from the practice squad directly into the starting lineup. It’s not going to be pretty (and it’s not the way I’d use their running backs), but Scarbrough likely gets 10 to 15 carries and all the goal-line work. Williams is almost identical to Jordan Wilkins from a talent perspective and currently has the advantage of being the “hot hand” in the Colts’ backfield. Wilkins does not carry an injury designation for Thursday night’s game, even though he missed last week with an ankle injury. I’m not convinced he’s 100% and would not be surprised if he’s seldom used on TNF. By the time you read this, you’ll know whether I was right or wrong.

On to week 12. As I’ve written previously, the goal at this time of the year is to stash running backs. Receiver roles are pretty well established at this time of the year and even if an injury occurs, it might be weeks before a clear replacement player establishes himself and/or gets into a rhythm with the quarterback. With running backs, if the starter goes down you can immediately replace them with the next man up and get nearly the same production (with a few exceptions). In past weeks it’s been difficult to find more than one or two barely-owned running backs worth stashing. This week, I’m happy to report that I have five of them for you:

 

Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys (13% on Yahoo, 12% ESPN)

 

Tony Pollard’s ownership percentages have finally dropped under 15% after being close to 100% owned during Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout. Pollard played a lot in the first few weeks, but his role greatly diminished in week 4 when Zeke was deemed to be at full speed.

This is probably a great example of correlation not proving causation, but I find it interesting that the Cowboys went on a 3-game losing streak as soon as they started giving Zeke 90% of the snaps. In fact, Dallas is undefeated in games where Tony Pollard plays 10 or more snaps and they’re winless in games when he doesn’t. Obviously, a lot of that has to do with game-flow. A big lead means the Cowboys can rest Zeke and give carries to Pollard, but for a few weeks now we’ve seen Pollard get into the game in the first half and make some plays. Last week, Pollard lined up as a receiver early in the 2nd quarter and scored an impressive touchdown on a catch and run over the middle.

I’ve seen Elliott make plays like this before, but if Pollard can come in and do the same thing, there’s no reason for the Cowboys to lean heavily so heavily on Zeke. Giving Zeke the occasional rest will help him stay fresh for the Cowboys’ playoff run and it gives Pollard a chance to spark the offense. As evidenced by this play, Pollard could also be used to spell another veteran player that Dallas needs for their playoff run: Randall Cobb.

Assuming Dallas continues to give Pollard 5+ touches a game, Pollard can be one of those “better than nothing” RB2’s that you use in an emergency. But the upside here is that his role could increase a bit as the regular season comes to a close, whether that’s due to a decision by the coaching staff or an injury to Elliott.

 

Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals (10% on Yahoo, 14% ESPN)

 

I said last week that there was something wrong with David Johnson, but I still expected more than 0 touches on 9 snaps. I’m not sure what Kliff Kingsbury is doing here (or with Andy Isabella) but I can’t imagine Johnson is thrilled with it. If he’s not healthy enough to play, Kingsbury should have the decency to deactivate the veteran player so the TV broadcast isn’t constantly cutting to him on the sidelines with his helmet on. Treating respected, veteran players like this will get Kingsbury run out of the league pretty quickly, just ask Chip Kelly. 

If I had to guess right now, I’d say that Johnson gets placed on IR once Chase Edmonds returns to practice, but I really have no idea what the Cardinals are thinking. At the very least, it seems safe to say that Johnson is not part of their immediate future, leaving Kenyan Drake as the last man standing.

I don’t buy that he can carry the workload all by himself. Since his breakout game against the 49ers, where I suspect the 49ers expected to see more of Johnson and didn’t gameplan for him too much, Drake is averaging 13 carries for 51 yards and 6 catches for 9.5 yards. Sure, the touch count is nice and the catches are great for PPR, but the production hasn’t been there. Edmonds is a more talented running back than Drake and I still think he takes the bulk of the carries when he’s healthy enough to do so. That could happen as early as next week.

 

Rex Burkhead, RB, New England Patriots (6% on Yahoo, 15% on ESPN)

 

The Patriots 8-0 start was largely due to one of the easiest schedules in the history of the NFL, made easier by backup quarterbacks that were either forced to start or enter the game when the starter got hurt. In the second half of the year, though, we’re seeing the Patriots schedule take a turn for the worse. After getting whacked by the Ravens two weeks ago and playing a close game in Philadelphia last week, New England now faces three of the league’s top offenses in consecutive games – Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City.

Homefield advantage seemed like a foregone conclusion a few weeks ago, but the red hot Ravens are suddenly nipping at the Patriots heels for the #1 seed. The Patriots cannot afford to drop a game in this tough stretch, meaning they likely can’t afford to screw around with Sony Michel and his 3.3 yards per rush. Michels snaps and touches have plummetted in the last two weeks. He had a season-low 15 snaps and 5 touches against the Ravens, followed by 22 snaps and 12 touches in a close game against the Eagles. Burkhead has played more snaps over the past two weeks combined and has more total yards (82) than Michel (74) on five fewer touches.

As I said the last time Rex was on this list, he’s the most versatile running back that the Patriots have. Unlike when Michel or James White are on the field, defenses have to respect the threat of the run and the threat of the pass. Burkhead is a solid between-the-tackles runner and, while he’ll never be the receiver that White is, he’s above average in the passing game. I think it’s possible that the Patriots lean more heavily on Burkhead over this difficult stretch and make him a fantasy starter for the playoffs.

 

Wayne Gallman, RB, New York Giants (5% on Yahoo, 6% on ESPN)

 

Saquon Barkley only managed to gain 1 yard rushing in the Giants’ last game against the Jets and was sent to get an MRI on his shoulder afterward. The MRI didn’t reveal any damage, but the sore shoulder combined with the high ankle sprain Barkley suffered earlier in the season led to rumors that Barkley might get shut down for the remainder of the season.

I’m not putting much stock in these rumors – I tend to think it was baseless speculation intended to drum up interest in the team during the bye week. Barkley quickly dispelled the rumors, saying he planned to play as long as he could. But you never know for sure. It might be worth stashing Wayne Gallman just to see how Barkley looks in the first game after the bye. I think we’ll see one of three scenarios:

  1. Barkley looks completely healthy and has a nice game, in which case, all systems go for Barkley for the rest of the season and you can throw Gallman back into the player pool.
  2. Barkley struggles like he did in the Jets game and comes out of the game with a “Q” label next to his name. He likely continues to insist that he’s fine and intends to stay on the field, but the cries from fans and beat reporters to shut him down and preserve him for next season get a little louder.
  3. Barkley re-aggravates his ankle injury or takes a hit that worsens the condition of this shoulder. At this point, a trip to the IR would be a near certainty. The Giants respect Barkley’s wishes to stay on the field, even if he’s only at 80 or 90 percent, but if his condition gets any worse I think the team will intervene.

If you own Barkley and are getting ready to make a run through the playoffs, you need to handcuff him with Gallman. If you don’t own Barkley, Gallman could be a shock RB2 for the fantasy playoffs, when the Giants have a couple of favorable matchups against Miami and Washington.

 

Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets (0% on Yahoo, 1% ESPN)

 

The Giants aren’t the only New York team with a banged-up running back. Le’Veon Bell probably leads the league in nagging injuries right now – he’s been limited in practice with injuries to his ankle, knee, ribs, and shoulder at various points of the year. Similar to Barkley, Bell seems motivated to play and the team seems inclined to allow him to do so, but we may reach a point of no return. It feels like Bell is a hired gun that won’t be in New York very long, but it’s important to remember that his deal with the Jets is for 4 years with essentially 2 years of guaranteed money. Bell will be a Jet for at least one more season, so it’s reasonable to think the Jets might want to preserve him.

Ty Montgomery was the handcuff to Bell when the season started, but that role might have gone to Bilal Powell had it not been for the neck injury that ended his season (and nearly ended his career) in 2018. The Jets exercised caution getting Powell back onto the field. He barely played in the preseason, which allowed Montgomery to establish himself as the #2 guy and a trendy fantasy sleeper. Powell was then inactive for the first two weeks of the season and didn’t play significant snaps until week 6. But these days it seems that he’s moved ahead of Ty Montgomery in the depth chart. Powell has received more snaps and touches than Montgomery for four straight weeks and has gotten 7 carries in back-to-back games. If Bell ends up sidelined, I think we’d see Powell get at least 60% of the running back work. The best part about Powell is his skill in the passing game, which would make him somewhat of a matchup-proof RB2. We’ve seen Powell excel at this time of year before, and I think we might see it again in 2019.

That’s it for week 12. Feel free to weigh in and tell me who I missed.

 

Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Tom (@QBLTom)

Tom lives in an alternate universe where the Bostick onside kick never happened and Nick Foles still plays for the Eagles. There is mounting evidence that Brady is a system QB. #GPG

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