Ronnie Hillman (Denver Broncos)
With Willis McGahee out at least 6 weeks, Ronnie Hillman steps into the picture as a potentially solid replacement. We don’t know how much of a time-share he will have with Lance Ball, but I think Hillman is the back who comes out on top in the last few weeks. Peyton Manning knows when to run the ball, and running backs have typically done pretty well with him under center. Hillman is a bit smaller than Ball, but he still may see some goal-line work. McGahee owners should be the first ones to pick up Hillman, but any team looking for some help at running back should also take a look at Hillman.
Beanie Wells (Arizona Cardinals)
Beanie Wells is slated to return to the field this week, and I don’t see LaRod Stephens-Howling being a factor except for third downs as long as Wells is healthy. The Cardinals offense has been absolutely pathetic for most of the season, but Wells may give them some help. He put up huge numbers in a couple games last year, and I think he can do it again. However, keep in mind that Wells will be facing some stout defenses in the coming weeks, with the Seahawks, Bears and 49ers all playing against the Cardinals. I see Wells getting 6-10 points per game, so don’t expect top-tier numbers, but LeSean McCoy owners could do a lot worse at the moment.
Julian Edelman (New England Patriots)
With Rob Gronkowski out for at least 4 weeks, someone else in New England is going to have to step up. Aaron Hernandez is supposed to return to action this week, but I think Edelman will see plenty of targets. Brandon Lloyd hasn’t lived up to many people’s expectations, and Edelman fits New England’s offense better than Lloyd. Edelman performed well very early in the season (basically taking Welker’s targets during that whole mess), but hasn’t been on the radar since then. He had a solid game with Gronkowski in the lineup, but I would have considered this a fluke had Gronkowski not been injured. Look for Edelman to get a healthy dose of targets in the coming weeks, making him worthy of flex consideration.
Bilal Powell (New York Jets)
We never know how the Jets will look each week, but Bilal Powell may be worth picking up in deeper leagues. He scored 2 touchdowns against the Rams, and both were from inside the 20-yard line. Shonne Greene had 18 carries and Powell had 11, but Powell’s value may ultimately depend on how many red zone opportunities he gets. I don’t think we’ll see insane numbers at any point from Powell, and this past week will probably not be repeated. However, if you’re in a desperate situation and you need a running back to maybe get you 10 points, I’d consider Powell when facing favorable matchups (he’s got Jacksonville and Buffalo coming up).
Bryce Brown (Philadelphia Ealges)
McCoy owners are in a tough spot if he’s out for any extended period of time. Before the season began, I wrote about Dion Lewis as the best handcuff option for McCoy, but owners clearly want to pick up Bryce Brown at this point. I wouldn’t expect much from Brown until Mike Vick is back, but it seems like he’ll receive most of the backfield work until McCoy is back. Even if McCoy comes back really soon, Brown may be worth a roster spot in case something else happens to McCoy.
Justin Blackmon/Marcedes Lewis/Cecil Shorts (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Jacksonville’s offense just got a whole lot more interesting with Chad Henne getting the start next week. Gabbert is absolutely horrendous, and the coaching staff may finally be admitting that a change needs to be made. Henne has never been a terrible quarterback, and I think he’ll boost the value of every fantasy player on Jacksonville’s offense. I don’t think we’ll see 4 touchdowns, but a stat line of 250-300 yards and a couple of touchdowns is entirely likely.
The big question is who will end up as Henne’s favorite target. Blackmon is back on the fantasy radar with a ridiculous performance against the Texans, but Shorts and Lewis also put up strong numbers. I think Shorts remains as the best option in Jacksonville, with Blackmon having the biggest potential. Lewis is only addable in the deepest leagues at the moment (14-team or bigger leagues), but he may save some teams in the fantasy playoffs if he ends up as a reliable red zone target for Henne.