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Fantasy Football: 5 Running Back Replacements for Saquon Barkley

It will not be easy for fantasy owners to fill Barkley's roster spot

Saquon Barkley, the running back who was probably one of the first players taken in any fantasy draft, left Sunday's game against Chicago with an apparent knee injury. Barkley was already off to a rough start to his season after getting bottled up against Pittsburgh in the opener, but now the fear is he tore his ACL and is done for 2020.

 

Barkley was not the only marquee running back to get hurt on Sunday as Christian McCaffrey (ankle), Raheem Mostert (knee), and Cam Aker (rib) also suffered injuries. But for now, Barkley's appears to be the most severe. The Giants won't be able to simply replace a player of Barkley's talents but fortunately, fantasy owners have a wider pool to choose from. Here are five backs that may be available in your league for those Barkley owners searching for a fresh body.

 

Dion Lewis, New York Giants (5 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues)

The most obvious choice is Lewis, the man who, for now, is tasked with replacing Barkley as the Giants' lead back. A free-agent pickup this offseason, the Giants are Lewis' sixth team in his 10-year career, although he only has appeared in a game for four of them. A broken leg basically cost him all of 2013 and '14 but he's also been effective at different points in his NFL journey. He's averaging 4.3 yards per carry in his career and has been a productive receiver out of the backfield. On Sunday, he finished with 20 rushing yards on 10 carries with a touchdown and added four catches for 36 yards on five targets. While he's no lock for fantasy success moving forward (especially if the Giants decide to sign another running back), he figures to be an attractive target on the waiver wire this week.

 

Darrell Henderson Jr., Los Angeles Rams (31 percent owned)

Cam Akers left Sunday's game against Philadelphia on the Rams' opening drive with a rib injury. As we await further information on his condition, it was Henderson and not Week 1 darling Malcolm Brown, who made the most of the additional opportunities. Henderson ran for 81 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Eagles, finishing the day with more total yards and touches than Brown. Brown was a popular waiver-wire pickup after Week 1, so there's some uncertainty with how the backfield work will be distributed with this offense, but if Akers is sidelined, it's a lot easier to feed two mouths than three. Brown also is dealing with a finger injury, so that could sway the timeshare more in Henderson's favor.

 

Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers (23 percent owned)

Raheem Mostert was one of several key 49ers injured in Sunday's win at MetLife Stadium over the New York Jets. Mostert went 80 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game before leaving with what was later reported to be a mild sprain of the MCL in his knee. He will have an MRI to determine the severity of the injury, but it looks like he will miss some time. Tevin Coleman will remain in the mix for San Francisco, but it was McKinnon who made the most of Mostert's absence, running for 77 yards on three carries, including a 55-yard TD scamper. McKinnon has largely been forgotten since he's missed the past two seasons because of his own knee injuries, but there's a reason the 49ers signed him to a big free-agent deal in March 2018. Now that's he appears to be healthy, McKinnon may get his chances in what is a running back-friendly offense.

 

Devonta Freeman, free agent (11 percent owned)

Freeman is reportedly meeting with the Giants on Tuesday so he may not be a free agent much longer. Even though New York has Dion Lewis, as well as Wayne Gallman on the roster, Freeman could see significant work right away, which instantly boosts his fantasy appeal. A fourth-round pick by the Falcons in 2014, Freeman was one of the most attractive fantasy RBs for a couple of years because of his dual skill set as a runner and receiver and the offense he played in. He posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2015 and '16 and also caught 127 passes and scored 27 total touchdowns (22 rushing) in that span. But things went downhill after that including an injury-plagued 2018 campaign that saw him play in just two games. Last season, he was highly ineffective for Atlanta (3.6 ypc), leading to his release in March. Only 28, Freeman should have plenty left in the tank, it's just a matter of finding the right fit. If he does sign with the Giants or another team that needs a healthy back, he could be fantasy relevant sooner rather than later. He's worth a speculative add if you have the roster space. Lamar Miller is another current free agent who could find a new home this week given the running back injuries that occurred on Sunday.

 

Mike Davis, Carolina Panthers (2 percent owned)

Christian McCaffrey left Sunday's game with what was reported to be a lower leg injury. Others have said it's his ankle and whether it's a tweak, the dreaded high ankle sprain or something else, no doubt his owners are holding their breath. There's no replacing an elite player like McCaffrey, the guy who was probably the No. 1 pick in just about every league, and that's certainly the case for his own team. Davis is McCaffrey's current backup, so it stands to reason that he'll get the first crack. He had just one rushing yard on Sunday but caught all eight of his targets for 74 yards in Carolina's loss to Tampa Bay. If Davis gets the same amount of receiving work as McCaffrey that alone makes him an appealing add in PPR leagues, but there's definitely risk in trusting him given the state of the Panthers' offense. Carolina also has Trenton Cannon on the roster and Reggie Bonnafon on the practice squad, and it's possible they could look to the free-agent market for help if McCaffrey's injury is a long-term deal.

 

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