When injuries ravage a position, most NFL teams employ the “next man up” philosophy. Simply put, if your starter gets hurt, his immediate backup steps in. If that guy gets hurt, it’s time to shine for the backup’s backup.
Not every case is so cut-and-dry, given the number of tandem backfields we see, but as we dive into the Cleveland Browns, there is definitely a hierarchy to pay attention to as you look to set your fantasy football waiver claims for this week.
It’s been a rough road for the Browns recently. Nick Chubb missed Week 6 with a calf injury, and Kareem Hunt, already dealing with ankle and wrist issues, left Week 6 with a calf injury of his own. The two had been sharing the workload, with Chubb being the primary ball-carrier and Hunt serving as the complementary pass-catcher, but both could be missing for the Browns’ Week 7 game — which is Thursday night.
It is unclear as to what Chubb’s status will be, but the latest reports say Hunt will miss the next 4-6 weeks. Given the short week, it’s time for the next man up.
When setting your waiver claims for the week, if you need help at running back, D’Ernest Johnson should be your top priority. The former AAF standout for the Orlando Apollos should be the one to see the bulk of the carries in this run-first offensive scheme, if Chubb doesn’t play. Johnson has proven capable of finding the holes between the tackles, flashing some speed on outside-zone runs, and he should even be good to catch a few passes out in the flat.
The workload could be even more abundant this week as the Browns are also dealing with injuries to Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and are still without Jarvis Landry.
Though Johnson should be your top priority, you are also going to want to set a contingency pick for Demetric Felton. The former UCLA scat-back returns punts for the team but will also help with the third-down pass-catching work for the offense. His value shines brightest in PPR formats, as he’s got great speed, so if the Browns can get the ball to him in space, he could break off a few nice runs after the catch.
Even if you don’t have an immediate need for running back help, putting in for both Johnson and Felton is a smart move. You can never have enough depth at the position. Repairing a fantasy backfield can be a daunting task, so if you build your squad and your bench properly, injuries won’t take too severe a toll on you as you always have a “next man up.”
Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice.