Injuries have been arguably the defining storyline of the 2023 Fantasy Football season, and they were definitely the defining storyline of Week 13. We , but when we're looking at the impact on the Week 14 waiver wire, we're looking at the running back injuries, specifically.
Derek Carr's injury could push Jameis Winston into action, and he'd have some appeal as a No. 2 QB, but nobody's going to be blowing their FAB budget on Mitchell Trubisky or any of the available Texans wide receivers in the wake of Tank Dell's injury. However, running back replacements are always a big deal on the wire.
We'll go back to Thursday, when Zach Charbonnet left the Seahawks' game with a knee injury and rank the top four waiver wire targets at the RB position thanks to injuries, starting with one guy who might be a legitimate must-start option next week:
Tyjae Spears, RB, Titans
Spears has been one of the most valuable handcuffs in Fantasy all season because he's had a standalone role all season (50 carries, 40 targets entering Sunday) and had an obvious path to must-start status if anything happened to Derrick Henry. And he could be a must-start RB next week after Henry suffered a concussion Sunday. That's not a guarantee that Henry won't play in Week 14, but most players these days tend to miss at least one game when they are in the concussion protocol, so unless we get promising reports by Tuesday night, Spears is going to be a big priority for anyone who needs a running back for Week 14. Spears played every snap after Henry left the game in the fourth quarter, rushing 16 times for 75 yards while adding four catches for 13 yards on six targets. 20 touches might be a pretty reasonable expectation for Week 14 if Henry is out, and he might be a top-15 RB based on volume alone – though, it's also worth noting that Spears has looked pretty electric in a change-of-pace role, validating everyone who said he would have gone higher than 81st overall if not for injury concerns.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Patriots
Rhamondre Stevenson's ankle injury looked more serious than Henry's, though we don't know the extent as of Sunday evening. Either way, it would be a surprise if Stevenson didn't miss at least some time, which should put Elliott in line for a significant role down the stretch. The only problem is, well, it's Ezekiel Elliott, and more importantly, it's the Patriots offense. They were 5.5-point underdogs against the Chargers in Week 13 and failed to cover in a game where the Chargers made two field goals, which … yeah, that's another way of saying they just got shut out by the Chargers. This offense is one of the league's worst, so touchdown opportunities are going to be few and far between. Elliott should get whatever short yardage work there is here, along with probably 12-15 carries and a decent amount of targets every week, too. It's a volume-based RB2 profile.
DeeJay Dallas, RB, Seahawks
There's a clear dropoff in how excited you should be about adding these next two guys because their utility for Week 14 is much cloudier. Zach Charbonnet's knee injury isn't considered serious, per Pete Carroll, and even if Charbonnet does have to miss Week 14, Kenneth Walker (oblique) might be able to return in time for Sunday's game against the 49ers. So, there's no guarantee Dallas even gets a chance to be the lead back this week, and even if he does, it's a pretty tough matchup against a defense allowing the sixth-fewest Fantasy points to running backs. Dallas has double-digit carries just twice in his career, with 21.1 PPR points in one and 3.7 in the other. That is to say, there are no guarantees here, and that goes for his role, too – rookie Kenny McIntosh has been back from IR for a few weeks and could have a role alongside Dallas. But, if both Walker and Charbonnet are out of the picture, Dallas could be a useful Fantasy option, though likely more in the RB3 range of the rankings.
Antonio Gibson, RB, Commanders
Gibson's the more exciting player than Dallas, for sure, but the problem here is the schedule: Brian Robinson left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, but he'll have an extra week to recover with the Commanders on bye in Week 14. The injury may linger long enough to put Gibson in line to start for the Commanders when they get back from the bye in Week 15, but that won't help you if you need an RB next week. If you have the luxury, you can add Gibson, because he could be a starter in Week 15, but it's hard to have him as a high priority heading into the bye.
Here's who we'll be looking to add ahead of Week 14:
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NO New Orleans • #2
Age: 30 • Experience: 9 yrs.
There have been a few times this season where we thought Derek Carr suffered a serious enough injury to force Winston into a start, and he hasn't missed a game yet. However, he took a huge hit Sunday that forced him into the concussion protocol, along with a back and a shoulder injury, and it just might be hard for him to play through this one. It's the second time Carr has been in the protocol and the third time leaving a game with a shoulder injury, in a season Carr has admitted has seen him deal with more injuries than ever before. Since getting to the Saints, Winston has a 6.1% touchdown rate and 7.1 Y/A, both of which are solid marks, albeit with a 3.3% interception rate with five fumbles, because that's life with Winston. He has his drawbacks, but he also has plenty of upside and could be chasing points against a vulnerable Lions defense in Week 14, which should put him in the mid-to-high-end QB2 range of the rankings.
CAR Carolina • #15
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
I've been pretty skeptical about Mingo since the Panthers took him in the second round – how many successful wide receivers never led their college team in receiving (especially when they mostly didn't play with other NFL-caliber players)? – but it's hard to ignore his usage in the first game after Frank Reich's firing. The Panthers made a point of getting Mingo involved early and often Sunday against the Buccaneers, and it resulted in him putting together the best game of his young career. The Panthers seem to de-emphasizing Adam Thielen, and with little to play for beyond the development of their young players, hopefully, they'll continue to prioritize Mingo, who has some upside down the stretch.
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #82
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Given how poorly they throw the ball generally and how often they focus on Garrett Wilson, it might not be wise to chase any Jets pass-catchers. But they clearly like Gipson, and he's starting to make some plays on offense, with his best game coming Sunday against the Falcons. He caught five of six passes thrown his way for a team-high 77 yards Sunday, and could be the secondary playmaker this passing game has been looking for. Whether that's enough to make him a viable Fantasy option remains to be seen, but he's worth a look in deeper leagues.
Alec Pierce WR
IND Indianapolis • #14
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Pierce gave the Colts something they've been missing this season in Week 13 against the Titans: A deep threat. Pierce hit on a couple of long shots Sunday, including right from the jump with a 36-yard score on the team's first drive of the game. He added another 55-yarder later during a six-target game. Pierce hasn't taken the step forward we were hoping for in his second season, but maybe this can be the start.
HOU Houston • #9
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
The Texans suddenly seem to have some needs in the passing game. Tank Dell's season is likely over after a fractured fibula suffered Sunday, and they were already playing without Dalton Schultz (hamstring) in Week 13. Schultz's status moving forward is definitely up in the air, but if the injury lingers, Jordan could continue to be a big part of the game plan after he was second on the team in catches, yards, and targets Sunday. If you need a tight end for Week 14, Jordan could be the one.
WAS Washington • #4
Age: 27 • Experience: 7 yrs.
The Commanders offense has struggled of late, scoring just 25 points over the past two weeks – and they only had 19 against the Giants three weeks ago – but Samuel has been a bit of a bright spot lately, and that continued Sunday. With Terry McLaurin held without a catch, Samuel led the team in receiving for the second straight game. Samuel's role has fluctuated throughout the season, and that's natural in an offense that spreads the ball as much as this one, but he's long been a talented playmaker, and he isn't buried in the hierarchy for the Commanders. The Week 14 bye hurts Samuel's appeal as a waiver-wire target, but if you have a spot for him, he looks useful these days.