Must-Add: Latavius Murray, RB, MIN
Dalvin Cook is out for the season with a torn ACL, and the Vikings have been leaning heavily on him. Before his injury, Cook had played 160 offensive snaps compared to 48 for Jerick McKinnon and 16 for Murray; without Cook, the team will need a feature back and in my book that’s likeliest to be Murray. He’s coming off ankle surgery and if I’m totally honest, he looked lethargic on film in the second half Sunday: heavy-footed and hesitant. But Murray is a season removed from 12 touchdowns, he’s 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he’s 27 years old, and at least before his surgery was considered a burner, having run a sub-4.4 40 at his pro day with good change-of-direction skills. Murray is known for not having the greatest football sense — it was common for him to run into the backs of his linemen during his time with the Raiders — and there’s a reason the Vikings were relying so heavily on their prized rookie Cook. But now Murray gets a chance to anchor a run-and-play-defense team behind an improved offensive line. I admit he has a low fantasy floor, but he has the highest ceiling of any free agent you could acquire.
Must-Add: Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy, RBs, SEA
Chris Carson is also probably done for the season with a broken ankle, putting the perpetually in-flux Seahawks backfield back into the blender.
Carson had clawed his way up the depth chart into a starting role and looked okay Sunday night against the Colts, and now the two veterans he outpaced will get a crack. I prefer Rawls to Lacy, but nobody knows what Seattle will do. (They also have a converted rookie wideout, J.D. McKissic, who scored two touchdowns versus Indy, but he’s awfully small to be a featured player.) Rawls is often injured — though he was a healthy scratch in Week 4 — but is a better stylistic comparison to Carson: a try-hard banger who runs through brick walls. Lacy is a very large man who once upon a time scored 24 TDs in his first two pro seasons, but he hasn’t proven a good fit with a Seattle offensive line that struggles to give him a long runway. The truth is, though, either one of these Seahawks RBs makes sense as a waiver add.
Must-Start: Doug Martin, RB, TB
The Buccaneers are sending mixed messages on how quickly they’ll fit the Muscle Hamster back into their backfield plans now that his three-game suspension is over, and rightly so: There’s no reason to give Thursday night’s opponent, the Patriots, any insight into their plans. Jacquizz Rodgers had several slashing, powerful runs Sunday against the Giants and is a serviceable player; it wouldn’t be a shock to see Tampa coach Dirk Koetter work Martin in slowly. But if I’ve been hanging onto Martin since August, it’s time to deploy him in my fantasy lineup.
I acknowledge the risk — Martin was a huge bust coming back from a severe hamstring injury in 2016 — but the reward is too sweet to bypass. New England can’t stop anybody, and Martin’s ability is among the best in the NFL. He’s a risk I’m willing to take.
Trade For: Jay Ajayi, RB, MIA
Fortune favors the bold. Ajayi hasn’t found the end zone in three games and the Dolphins’ offense should’ve been shut out in back-to-back games against the Jets and Saints. (Only a late meaningless timeout rescued Miami from a scoreless Week 3.) Of course things look dire for the Fins! If they didn’t, why would Ajayi’s owner consider trading him?
The player himself has looked fine, has stayed healthy, and has shown glimpses of the elite vision and change-of-direction skills that belie his 223 pounds. The problems with Miami go far beyond Ajayi, and there’s a chance — especially when Jay Cutler is involved — they could be unsolvable. But I’m in the business of acquiring fantasy assets on the cheap, and Ajayi is an excellent player. Lowball the Ajayi owner in your league with a couple bench trinkets you aren’t using anyway, and see if they’ll bite. If and when Adam Gase figures out how to stop his team from committing penalties and key mistakes, Ajayi will benefit.
Must-Stream: Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU
I was willing to chalk Week 3’s big numbers up to some fluke plays against a bad New England defense, but Watson was legitimately impressive Sunday against the Titans. He nailed throws at all three levels, and looked like a completely different player from the kid who struggled on a Thursday night in Week 2.
His growing pains aren’t entirely behind him, but Watson’s combination of mobility (both inside and outside the pocket), arm strength and moxie have made up for some inconsistent mechanics, and he’ll be a popular waiver add in Week 5. The Texans play the Chiefs in a national TV game Sunday night, but fortunately it’s at home. If you’re dealing with a bye week for Matt Ryan, Drew Brees or Kirk Cousins, Watson is your man.
Christopher Harris runs HarrisFootball.com, where you can find more info on the “Harris Football Podcast,” with new episodes every weekday.
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