I'm not going to sugarcoat it: if you drafted Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook this year and didn't handcuff with Chuba Hubbard and Alexander Mattison, respectively, you've probably been in trouble this season.
CMC is done for the year after damaging his ankle again. Cook got carted off the field and will miss some time as a result of the injury. On top of those injuries, Derrick Henry got hurt a while back and might not be ready to return until the fantasy season is already over. Alvin Kamara has been dealing with a knee injury. It's a bloodbath at the top of the 2021 draft board, and waiver pickups may have been the only way to salvage your season if you drafted one of those studs to kick off your season.
And if that's the case, now is not the time to stop your waiver activity.
We've already hinted at who should be at the top of your target list, but there are several viable running back candidates to look for in an attempt to replace your injured stars — or add to your depth if you're one of the lucky ones.
All stats and info retrieved from FantasyPros. All players must be owned in fewer than 50 percent of leagues.
Alexander Mattison | Minnesota Vikings, RB
Yahoo: 50% owned | ESPN: 34% owned
Here's a player that I'm surprised isn't owned in more leagues — but hey, if people don't believe in the power of the handcuff, it's their loss. Mattison has started four games in his career, and he's had monstrous fantasy days in three of them. Two came this year — Weeks 3 and 5 — and he ranked as the day's RB7 and RB11 in those two outings, respectively.
He's a legitimate RB1 while Cook is out, with a mouth-watering matchup against the Lions coming in Week 14.
Jamaal Williams | Detroit Lions, RB
Yahoo: 39% owned | ESPN: 46% owned
D'Andre Swift is not expected to play in Week 13, though his injury doesn't seem as serious as it looked. That catapults Williams up the rankings, and he can come in handy for someone fighting for that final playoff spot or first-round bye as we near the conclusion of fantasy football's regular season.
Without Swift, Williams should have a hefty workload against Minnesota in both the run game and the passing game, with 20 total touches in a Thanksgiving snooze-fest serving as a good indication of that.
Dontrell Hilliard | Tennessee Titans, RB
Yahoo: 29% owned | ESPN: 24% owned
First it was Adrian Peterson and Jeremy McNichols. Then it was D'Onta Foreman. And though it's still largely Foreman's backfield while Derrick Henry is out — he had 19 carries for 109 yards — Hilliard was awesome in his own right. With 131 yards on just 12 carries, Hilliard was the explosive counterpart to the rumbling nature of Foreman's game.
We probably shouldn't expect this performance every time out, which is why Hilliard is ranked lower than some of the other names on this list, but this head-turning performance puts him firmly on the waiver wire radar.
Boston Scott | Philadelphia Eagles, RB
Yahoo: 19% owned | ESPN: 17% owned
Nick Sirianni somehow forgot that the Eagles had been absolutely dominating with the run game, and it was mystifying to see them struggle to generate any sort of offense against a vulnerable Giants defense. I don't think he's going to make that mistake again, and though Miles Sanders is still the guy you want to start here, Scott is certainly worth a look while Jordan Howard is sidelined.
Scott had 17 touches — 15 of which came on the ground to lead the team — and could build off that with a good matchup against the Jets coming in Week 13.
Oh, and no more fumbles this time, please?
Ameer Abdullah and Chuba Hubbard | Carolina Panthers, RBs
Hubbard: Yahoo: 37% owned | ESPN: 34% owned
Abdullah: 0% owned on both
Which one of these guys will surge ahead as CMC's primary replacement? It's kind of hard to say, and we probably won't have a clear answer until we get to watch some game action.
With that said, Hubbard was a top-15 running back in fantasy football from Week 5 to Week 8, when he was starting for Carolina, so we know that value is there even as the offense seems to get worse by the week. Abdullah might be the guy to target, though, as he has out-snapped Hubbard 73-38 in the past four weeks.
As we mentioned before, though, it's not an easy offense to watch right now, and it certainly might be one that is truly unplayable in fantasy football, and the schedule ahead is tough. But to completely pass over them if you're a CMC owner in need? I don't think that's the smartest move.
Kendrick Bourne | New England Patriots, WR
Yahoo: 23% owned | ESPN: 15% owned
Jakobi Meyers is still going to lead this team in targets more often than not, but it looks like Bourne is superseded Nelson Agholor in the pecking order for Mac Jones' targets. With 29 in the past six weeks and no less than four in any game, he seems to have found his floor. The ceiling probably can't get any higher than his two-touchdown game that we saw in Week 12, but he's not a bad option if you're looking for a wideout — and with injuries to A.J. Brown, Deebo Samuel and others, that's definitely a possibility.