News & Analysis

How to prioritize injury replacements for Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey on fantasy football rosters

There were plenty of players who left Week 2 with injury. Even if you limit the list to just fantasy relevant players, there are a ton of players whose departures will impact almost every fantasy roster. However, no names were bigger than Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley.

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According to Ian Rapoport, McCaffrey has a high-ankle sprain that will hold him out for four to six weeks. Rapoport also reports that Saquon Barkley has a torn ACL, which will end his season.

Here is how each team is expected to replace its lead back and how hard you should try to acquire their replacements.

Replacing Christian McCaffrey

When McCaffrey left the game in the fourth quarter, backup Mike Davis took all of the remaining snaps. Davis had been playing a little more than usual in the first three quarters. He's an experienced backup — his most notable role was in 2018 with the Seattle Seahawks, playing more of a receiving role while Chris Carson handled the majority of rushing duties.

The only other halfback on the roster is Trenton Cannon, who has primarily been active on special teams. Reggie Bonnafon was the primary backup for the Panthers last season and has been on the practice squad for Carolina to start this season. It is very likely that Bonnafon will be brought up to the active roster.

The expectation is for Davis to see the majority of snaps and at the very least function as the receiving back. I think he sees the majority of the carries as well, considering the Panthers trusted him to be the primary backup and he also has experience running the ball. Bonnafan will also likely see a few touches, but not enough to interfere with Davis.

Our strength of schedule tool has the Panthers with a top-eight matchup for running backs in each of the next two weeks. This makes Davis the most sure thing among the running back pickups from the waiver wire — you can pick him up and feel comfortable starting him. In leagues with deep benches, it could be good to add Bonnafon in case he gets elevated from the practice squad and surpasses Davis before McCaffrey is able to come back.

Replacing Saquon Barkley

What ends up happening with the Giants' running back situation will have longer-lasting fantasy implications than Carolina's because of the severity of Barkley’s injury. The Giants running back situation has more uncertainty and the Giants have a tougher schedule for running backs. Our strength of schedule tool shows the Giants with the third-worst running back situation the rest of the season.

Dion Lewis took over the running back duties after Barkley's departure — he was the only other halfback on the active roster. Wayne Gallman was a healthy inactive, as the Giants assumed they wouldn’t need a third running back.

Lewis has historically been more of a role player in the passing game, while Gallman also has a history in New York playing more pass snaps than run. If the Giants don’t bring in another running back, I would expect Lewis to be the starter and end up with more snaps than Gallman, though Gallman should see significant playing time. Gallman could always outplay Lewis and push for early-down duties.

The bigger concern is that the Giants will probably bring in another running back. Ian Rapoport reported that Devonta Freeman should be in New York today for a visit and workout. If Freeman is added to the roster, he'll certainly be the one seeing the majority of the touches. 

Freeman would be the top waiver wire target of the week if this is the case because he would likely be a RB2 the rest of the season. In many leagues, people have been holding onto Freeman waiting for a situation like this. In the leagues where he is available, he's the player to jump on.

Even if it doesn’t end up being Freeman, the Giants are likely to add a back who can contribute as a rusher more than a receiver. If we don’t have clarity on who the third back for the Giants is by the time waiver wire time hits, definitely make a claim for Lewis and Gallman to see if they work out, but don’t use too much of your FAAB on either.

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