Jay Ajayi’s injury is not only sad news, but makes the fantasy football picture even less clear in the Eagles backfield. Which Eagles running back should you pick up from your waiver wire: Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement or Josh Adams? The answer is yes, both Smallwood and Clement are worth a waiver wire add. Adams is worth a speculative pickup in deeper leagues, and worth watching for future weeks in 10 to 12 team leagues.
I would prioritize Smallwood over Clement, but I would not spend a lot of FAAB dollars on either player. The Eagles appear to be headed toward the dreaded RBBC (Running Back by Committee), which is what we saw when Ajayi missed time earlier this season. In FAAB formats, I would limit myself to 20% of my budget for Smallwood or Clement.
When Ajayi missed time this season, there were some weeks when Clement was the lead back, while Smallwood emerged most recently. Neither player has looked spectacular, causing many to wonder if the Eagles will look to acquire another running back in the trade market. Smallwood is likely to get the first look on Thursday night, but don’t be surprised if the team turns to Clement early if Smallwood does not perform. NFL.com’s Graham Barfield explains why Smallwood has a slightly brighter outlook than Clement.
“For what it’s worth, Wendell Smallwood’s snap rate was increasing for four-straight games prior to Jay Ajayi’s injury (30% > 35% > 47% > 49%). Has caught 3 balls in each of Carson Wentz’s starts this year,” Barfield notes.
Don’t Start Either Smallwood or Clement in Week 6
While the recommendation is to prioritize Smallwood over Clement, I am not confident either back is going to have a massive workload. If you end up acquiring either player from the waiver wire, make sure to leave them on your bench for Week 6. It is not clear how the Eagles are going utilize both backs, and you risk having very low production in your lineup by starting either back.
Clement has not played since Week 3 when he had his most productive week. Clement rushed for 56 yards on 16 carries and added three receptions against the Colts.
Some astute fantasy analysts have wondered if Adams could be the long-term play based on his talent level. During the pre-season, there was some talk Adams had a chance to win the starting job, but the former Notre Dame running back got a late start thanks to injuries. Eagles coach Doug Pederson spoke about what he liked about Adams before the season started.
“I thought Josh did a nice job with the amount of play time that he got,” Pederson told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “All the running backs were going to get some time outside of Sproles. So it increases Josh’s reps just a little bit. And I thought Josh did a nice job. He did a really good job in protection, No. 1, catching the ball out of backfield, and some of the runs, you can see how big and powerful he is when he hits the edge.”
Heading into Week 6, Smallwood has a slight edge in waiver priority over Clement. If I have room for both on my roster, I would try to make a play for both backs until the Philly roster shakes itself out. In dynasty leagues and deeper fantasy formats, Adams is worth a speculative add. Don’t forget Darren Sproles is also expected to be in the mix as well, making the Eagles backfield a bit of a mess.