It is often said that running back is the most difficult position to find in fantasy football. This year has put that to the test, as the two top drafted backs (Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley) have appeared in a total of four games this season, and this week has put this to the test even further. A handful of injuries to top running backs popped up in the past seven days, which has put their fill-ins on the fantasy radar.
And that will be our focus today: the most important set of running back replacements that we’ve seen in any week so far this season. Here are the Week 8 ESPN Fantasy waiver-wire adds of note.
Note: All players on this column are available in at least 50% of leagues on ESPN.com
Carlos Hyde, RB, Seattle Seahawks (5.0%): Chris Carson is now dealing with a midfoot sprain that forced him out of action early in Week 7 and thrust Hyde into a more prominent role. He delivered with 15 carries for 68 yards and a score, plus three total catches. While not the same level of explosive player, Hyde is used to toting big workloads; he is coming off of a 1,000-yard season in Houston and should be equipped to handle 20 rushes in any game that Carson misses. Hyde is an essential add.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (48.5%): With Joe Mixon out due to an injury, Bernard turned in a 20.6-point performance, handling 13 carries and adding five catches and a receiving score. Mixon did not practice this past week, and it would stand to reason that he is iffy for Week 8. Bernard is a top-20 option until Mixon returns and is a must-add.
JaMycal Hasty, RB, San Francisco 49ers (3.5%): With news that Jeff Wilson Jr. is headed to injured reserve, Hasty has a very good chance to settle in as a short-term starter for the 49ers, who essentially rested Jerick McKinnon in Week 7 after a heavy workload in the previous weeks. Hasty had an awesome camp, and no one schemes up runs better than Kyle Shanahan. He is a must-add in all leagues.
Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers (45.4%): While Aaron Jones seems likely to return in Week 8, Williams would represent a fantastic option in the event that Jones (calf) is unable to go. As he reminded us in Week 7, Williams is one of the best non-No. 1 backs in the NFL, piling up 19 carries and four catches to go along with a score. A quality add as an important stash on your bench at the very least, with the chance to be an invaluable part of your roster.
Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants (36.2%): Shepard was a popular drop after spending four weeks on injured reserve, but in his return to action in Week 7, he reminded us of how capable he is. He has played in two full games this season, has six catches in each of those two games and has at least six targets in every game he has played since Nov. 19, 2018 (except for Week 2 of this season, when he left early due to injury). He is an add in all leagues.
Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (49.5%): In a year when we have preached the importance of rostering a second quarterback because of the weekly possibility of a game being moved or altered, Burrow needs to be rostered in more than 50% of leagues. He has three efforts with at least 20 points this season and is coming off the best game of his young NFL career. He leads the NFL in attempts and completions and is third in passing yards, as the Bengals have been forced to throw the ball perpetually. He’s so good and so fun to watch.
Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo Bills (39.3%): If I told you a player is on pace for a 90-catch, 1,075-yard season, you’d tell me that’s the type of player you want on your roster, right? Good news: Beasley is now on pace for just about 90 catches and 1,075 receiving yards this season after his sixth straight game with at least 10 fantasy points. While he may not be a massive touchdown-maker, Beasley piles up catches in bunches, and quarterback Josh Allen is a vastly improved player this season.
La’Mical Perine, RB, New York Jets (11.1%): The Jets are starting to commit to Perine as their lead back, despite Frank Gore‘s persistent role that will never entirely fade. But as the season wears on, it will behoove the Jets to continue to develop their rookie fourth-rounder. Perine showed well in Week 7 with 11 carries (the same number as Gore) for 39 yards and a touchdown, while also adding a pair of catches on three targets. He’s a potential flex option if his workload grows.
Wayne Gallman, RB, New York Giants (0.7%): With Devonta Freeman (ankle) leaving the Week 7 game early, Gallman was pressed into extensive action for the G-Men. There have been no concrete indications as to whether Freeman will be available in Week 8, but in the event that he is out, Gallman seems like the next man up in the Giants’ backfield. He’s an adept pass-catcher and explosive enough runner to merit flex consideration.
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers (20.7%): Aiyuk’s talent is already apparent — he can scoot! Couple that with the way coach Kyle Shanahan creatively incorporates his offensive skill players, and the future is bright. Unfortunately for San Francisco, Deebo Samuel is now once again banged up with a hamstring injury. While his absence earlier this season did not foretell massive volume for Aiyuk, he should get more involved if Samuel misses games this time around, as the rookie becomes more comfortable and familiar within this offense.
Rashard Higgins, WR, Cleveland Browns (0.2%): With Odell Beckham Jr. (ACL) expected to miss the remainder of the season, Higgins will be stepping into an expanded role. He made good on his opportunity in Week 7, catching all six of his targets for 110 yards, and he figures to be a busy man going forward. Cleveland has long liked the raw talent of Higgins, who has a chance to earn his keep in Beckham’s absence. He is an add and stash for those looking for wideout help.
Harrison Bryant, TE, Cleveland Browns (0.7%): It’s unclear how much time Austin Hooper will miss after undergoing surgery for appendicitis late last week, and he has been solid of late with three straight games of double-digit scoring. His absence meant Bryant, the 2019 Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in college football, was counted on even more, and he responded with a pair of touchdown grabs on five targets. He’s a good athlete and a guy who might also need to shoulder a heavier load if both Hooper and Beckham are out again in Week 8.
Richard Rodgers, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (4.0%): The Eagles are in an unfortunately familiar spot, having to find replacements for their stars, which includes tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, each of whom is on injured reserve. Rodgers played plenty in Week 7 and delivered a total of 85 receiving yards on six catches, as he was the only Eagles tight end to see a target in the win over the Giants. The Eagles may need Rodgers again this Sunday, and the best matchup of the season is on the horizon: the Cowboys.
Marquez Callaway, WR, New Orleans Saints (0.1%): The Saints were thinned out at wide receiver in Week 7 as Emmanuel Sanders landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, while Michael Thomas remains uncertain to play in Week 8 because of a hamstring injury. Callaway — an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee — stepped up in a major way with eight catches for 75 yards. Neither Thomas nor Sanders figures to be out much longer, but monitor Callaway if you’re looking for a last-minute step-up replacement in a deep league.