Christian McCaffrey will be sidelined for at least a month after suffering an ankle injury against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
After the game, McCaffrey said he was “fine,” though the injury appears worse than he expected. The Panthers star suffered a high-ankle sprain and it’ll be four-to-six weeks before McCaffrey returns to the field, as Pro Football Action relays.
For the Panthers (0-2 on the season), it doesn’t make too much sense to rush McCaffrey back. This season was intended to be about building a new culture and growing under head coach Matt Ruhle. It wouldn’t be surprising if the team was more cautious with their running back and he sat out even longer than anticipated.
For fantasy owners, this is a crushing blow. McCaffrey had been dominant in his one-plus games this season, scoring four touchdowns in the six quarters he suited up for.
Let’s take a look at some running backs for McCaffrey owners (or Saquon Barkley owners) to attempt to pick up this week in an effort to mitigate the loss.
Panthers Mike Davis
Veteran running back Mike Davis will get first crack at replacing McCaffrey. He rushed only one time on Sunday, netting one yard. He had eight catches out of the backfield for 74 yards in addition. Davis has averaged 3.6 yards per carry across his time with the 49ers, Seahawks, Bears and Panthers.
Rams Darrell Henderson
The second-year running back replaced Cam Akers, who left the Rams-Eagles game with a rib injury, on Sunday and looked impressive, running for 81 yards on 12 carries and catching two balls for 40 yards (also had a rushing touchdown).
Henderson is available in 62% of leagues and is in position to solidify the role of No. 1 back in Los Angeles, as Jovan Alford of Pro Football Action writes. Fellow running back Malcolm Brown injured his finger late in the contest, though Henderson was seeing time ahead of him prior to the ailment.
49ers Jeff Wilson Jr. & Jerrick McKinnon
The 49ers were a team decimated by injuries. Running back Raheem Mostert will miss 2-to-4 weeks with an MCL sprain and Tevin Coleman will miss multiple weeks with a knee sprain.
That opens up the door for the remaining healthy backs in San Fran. Jerrick McKinnon, who the team inked to a massive four-year, $30 million deal back in 2018, is the likely starter. McKinnon didn’t play in 2018 or 2019 after a torn ACL threatened his career.
Many will flock to McKinnon in waivers this week, though I suspect this to be more of a time-share than is being led on.
Jeff Wilson Jr. hasn’t had much run during his three seasons in San Francisco, though avid fantasy players may remember his opening up the 2019 season as a touchdown vulture. During the first two 49ers games last year, Wilson recorded four rushing touchdowns on 18 total attempts. He netted 52 yards on the ground during the pair of games.
Chargers Joshua Kelley
If Joshua Kelley is still available on the waivers, scoop him up. The former UCLA running back is creeping into RB2 territory. The Chargers ran the ball 44 times on Sunday (passing just 33 times) and Kelley saw 23 of those. Los Angeles’ line is proving to be better in 2020, as Scott Spratt of Football Outsiders details.
The Chargers have so far showed an improvement in their run-blocking from 4.37 adjusted line yards last season (13th) to 4.60 through two weeks this season (10th).
There’s risk in Justin Jackson coming back from injury and stealing a bigger piece of the rushing pie. However, I envision Kelley have a Melvin Gordon-type share of the offense throughout the season.
OK, this one is a trade and a hefty one. Fournette found the endzone for the first time as a Buccaneers and appears to have passed Ronald Jones III slightly as a top back in Tampa.
On Sunday, Fournette saw 26 snaps out of the backfield, compared to 21 for Jones (LeSean McCoy stole 11 snaps). I still believe in Jones as a fantasy option, though this is a two-headed monster of a backfield that should have plenty of scoring opportunities. I wouldn’t worry about giving up significant assets to get LF back in order to stabilize my running back position if I lost McCaffrey or Barkley.