At running back more than any other position in Fantasy Football, opportunity ios the first thing we're looking for. Obviously, you have to be on the field to even have a chance to score Fantasy points, and at running back, just standing behind or next to the quarterback means you're going to get handed the ball a decent amount.
When we're looking for running backs on the waiver wire, it's usually because an injury has suddenly created an opportunity for a backup to stand next to the quarterback and get handed the ball. But that's not the only time a player pops up as a potentially exciting Fantasy option on the wire.
Sometimes, a player just gets an opportunity to show what they can do and just plays so well that they force their way onto the field even without an injury. And these might be the most exciting opportunities for Fantasy, because that's where you can really find upside. Think De'Von Achane's pre-injury breakout for the Dolphins, where he was just so dynamic and explosive that Miami had no choice but to put him on the field. Obviously, Achane's injury changed his trajectory a bit, but he still has a chance to be a legitimate difference maker for Fantasy when he gets back, and if anything happens to Raheem Mostert, he might end up a league-winner down the stretch.
I'm not saying Ravens rookie running back Keaton Mitchell has that kind of potential. Achane was a third-round pick while Mitchell was an undrafted free agent before signing with the Ravens, so that alone makes it less likely Mitchell will work out. But, if you're looking for a waiver-wire add ahead of Week 10, Mitchell might just be the highest-upside target for a lot of the same reasons Achane ended up being such a valuable waiver-wire add.
Mitchell isn't quite the athlete Achane is, but he's no slouch – he ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the combine and has the speed and acceleration to turn what might be 15-yard gains for some backs into 40-plus gains. And we saw that in his first extended run in Week 9, as he turned nine carries into 138 yards, including a touchdown run of 40 yards and another 60-yarder where he didn't score. And, while the game did end up as a blowout, Mitchell was getting involved early on, with four carries in the second half – all of which went for at least 8 yards.
Mitchell was ripping off big chunks of yards throughout the game, and this feels like one of those situations where you probably can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. That doesn't mean the Ravens are just going to bench Gus Edwards or Justice Hill, but I'd be surprised if we get to next week and Mitchell goes back to getting zero carries. He looked too good in an offense that hasn't really been getting big plays from its running backs regularly, and while that hasn't held the offense back, clearly, Mitchell might just bring an element that makes them even harder to slow down.
Mitchell will likely be tough to trust for Fantasy even if he does have a role moving forward, because it could end up being a three-way split in this backfield. But he might also be the kind of player you can start any week in a pinch because he has that home-run hitting speed that could get him into the end zone any time.
But the real upside comes from the potential of one of those backs ahead of Mitchell getting hurt and opening a path to 15-plus touches every week. With the kind of big-play potential Mitchell showed Sunday, in an offense like Baltimore's that is going to create a ton of scoring opportunities, I wouldn't be surprised at all if there were a stretch coming up where Mitchell was viewed as a potential No. 1 Fantasy RB.
That's what we're chasing, and it doesn't come across the wire very often, especially not in the form of a player rostered in just 7% of leagues. I'd rather use a roster spot on him than some low-upside guys like Miles Sanders, AJ Dillon, or Jamaal Williams who are a lot more widely rostered than Mitchell is.
Here's who else we'll be looking to add ahead of Week 9:
Joshua Dobbs QB
MIN Minnesota • #15
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
The degree of difficulty of what Dobbs did Sunday absolutely cannot be overstated. The Vikings traded for him Tuesday, with the hope that maybe he could be up to speed in time for Week 10's game against the Saints. Instead, with starter Jaren Hall going out with a concussion early Sunday against the Falcons, Dobbs was forced into action with teammates whose names he admittedly didn't know. And he looked pretty terrific, leading the Vikings to an unlikely victory while passing for two touchdowns and rushing for another. Dobbs wasn't a particularly useful Fantasy option with the Cardinals, and he probably won't be a must-start guy in Minnesota. However, he has much better weapons with the Vikings, and could get Justin Jefferson back in the next few weeks (he's eligible to come off IR in Week 10, though it doesn't necessarily seem likely). Dobbs' scrambling ability obviously plays up in Fantasy, and if he can just keep the offense on track, that might be enough to make him worth using against the right matchups, especially in 2QB leagues.
SEA Seattle • #11
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
We haven't seen the true breakout showing yet, but I think Smith-Njigba continues to point in the right direction. He caught six of seven targets for 63 yards Sunday against the Ravens, and while that certainly wasn't a big game by any means, it looks a lot better when you compare it to what the rest of the team did: DK Metcalf had just one catch for 50 yards, while Tyler Lockett turned his team-high eight targets into three catches for 32 yards. Lockett just hasn't quite looked like himself this season, while Metcalf has been even more hit-or-miss than ever, and may not be 100% due to a couple of nagging injuries. The Seahawks need Geno Smith to start playing better to have any chance of living up to expectations, but if he does, Smith-Njigba seems well positioned to take off in the second half of the season. I still want him on my roster.
NE New England • #81
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
With DeVante Parker (concussion) and Kendrick Bourne (knee) out of the picture, we were hoping Douglas would step into a larger role for the Patriots Sunday, and that's exactly what happened. The rookie led all wide receivers in snaps and ran a route on 38 of 46 pass plays, which also led the team. His production was modest, but you have to like the role with a young, ascending player. I'm not sure how much upside Douglas (or, frankly, anyone) has in this offense, but if anyone can tap into some, it's probably the rookie.
Jonnu Smith TE
ATL Atlanta • #81
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
With Drake London out, it was Smith, not Kyle Pitts, who stepped up for the Falcons. Smith didn't exactly get force fed targets, but you have to like what he showed Sunday, turning a screen into a 60-yard touchdown, the kind of play we've seen from him in the past. The Falcons also made a point of trying to take advantage of Smith's skills with the ball in his hands, scheming up a couple of touches on consecutive plays near the goal line. Absent the long catch-and-run, it wouldn't have been a great game for Smith, but he's capable of making plays like that, and he now has double-digit PPR points in six of nine games this season. The TE position seems stronger than it's been in a while right now, and Smith is part of that as a low-end TE1.
Cade Otton TE
TB Tampa Bay • #88
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
The Texans did a decent job taking away the Buccaneers primary outside receivers Sunday, but they didn't let that shut down the offense. Otton stepped up to lead the team in catches and targets, while scoring both touchdowns through the passing game from Baker Mayfield. Otton has been getting more involved in the offense of late, with at least six targets in three straight games. Sunday's was his first big game, so I'm not saying he's someone I'm ready to trust, necessarily. But with Travis Kelce and Dallas Goedert on bye next week, you might find yourself in need of some help on the wire, and Otton can provide some.
Noah Brown WR
HOU Houston • #85
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Brown entered the season as the fourth-most interesting wide receiver on the Texans roster, but he showed there might be some upside here playing with one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. Brown earned a season-high six targets Sunday, catching all of them for 153 yards and a touchdown, leading the team in yards in a game where two other players had 100-plus. Brown still has a lot of competition for targets, but the Texans have found success with a pass-heavy approach so far this season, and I have to think they'll stick with it, which could make Brown a viable flex option even while Nico Collins, Tank Dell, and Dalton Schultz put up numbers. The key will be whether Robert Woods' foot injury keeps him out moving forward.