Patrick Daugherty: The topic of conversation — as it is seemingly every season — is the number of injuries this year. As usual, no position has been hit harder than running back. Which handcuff/reserve who’s come into value through the first three weeks do you think has the best shot at sustaining it going forward? Knile Davis? Alfred Blue? Terrance West? Lorenzo Taliaferro? Someone else?

I want to say Davis because I think he’s the best player in that group, but you just can’t count on Jamaal Charles missing that much time going forward. Blue also makes a lot of sense because of Arian Foster‘s fragility, but I think the Texans would verge toward a full-blown committee were Foster to go down for more than one week. I like West’s game, but also see committees in his future. That leaves me with Taliaferro. Yes, he’s going to be a part of a committee, too, but Justin Forsett is a strict change-of-pace back, and Bernard Pierce is shaping up as a sub-replacement level talent. He’s also currently hurt. Of all the players Taliaferro is mentioned in the same breath with, I think he has the best shot at being the last man standing come December, committee and Pierce and all.

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Mike Clay: I agree with Pat’s assessment. Blue and Davis need help in order to see the field. Taliaferro can emerge into a feature back just by playing well.

I think Isaiah Crowell is going to be a monster down the stretch. Ben Tate may come back and kill his touches in the short-term, but Crowell is already showing his big-time upside. I have to imagine he’s a 15-plus touch guy down over the final month of the season.

Ka’Deem Carey remains an undervalued stash. Marc Trestman loves featuring his “starters”, and Carey has little competition for an every-down role in the event of an injury to 28-year-old Matt Forte.

Adam Levitan: In deeper formats, I’ll stash just about any running back that’s one injury away from a feature back role. We’re seeing that pay off big so far as owners that oddly “don’t believe” in handcuffing are crying a river. So yes, all the guys mentioned by Pat and Mike are going to have value at certain times going forward. I especially like the Crowell call — is it safe to say that if the former SEC Freshman of the Year didn’t have off-field issues he would have gone higher in the draft than third-rounder Terrance West?

Another somewhat related question: What in the world are the Vikings doing with Jerick McKinnon? I get that he’s struggled a bit in pass pro and is raw, but they have to realize that Matt Asiata is going to put them in a ton of 2nd-and-9 and 3rd-and-7. Why not just hand the ball to McKinnon and let him run?

Daugherty: Couldn’t agree more on McKinnon. Vikes said they wanted to get him more work in Week 3, then he got out-touched 15-4 by Asiata. It can be easy to over-simplify things in the fantasy realm — maybe McKinnon simply isn’t ready — but on what planet can the Vikings not afford to make McKinnon a bigger part of the offense? Without Adrian Peterson, the Vikings have one player who can make plays: Cordarrelle Patterson. Why not groom McKinnon, who is by every measure a freakish athlete, to be a bigger part of the offense? Sure, he might be raw, but how is a young player supposed to get better if he doesn’t play? By watching Matt Asiata average 2.2 yards per carry? The Vikings aren’t going to the playoffs this season. They are a heartbeat away from Christian Ponder at quarterback. What better time to find out if their third-round SPARQ superstar can play a little NFL football?  

Evan Silva: McKinnon played 33 percent of the Vikings’ snaps in Week 2. He blew a blitz pickup, getting Matt Cassel sacked. McKinnon played 30 percent of the Vikings’ snaps in Week 3. He allowed a hurry in pass protection, dropped two of his five targets, and now has seven yards on five carries this season. McKinnon is in a position where he is competing for snaps. He has to show the Vikings that he deserves more snaps. So far, he has been nothing short of terrible in every facet of the game.

Theoretically, McKinnon has the talent to bust a 60-yard run this week, and doing something like that might earn him more playing time. Perhaps he will. Or perhaps he will continue to suck it up. Whatever the case, if he continues to play the way that he has been playing, I’d argue that the playing time the Vikings are giving him is too much, and they should sign Dion Lewis, who they worked out this past week.

Matt Asiata definitely isn’t the answer. There is zero reason to believe — yet — that McKinnon is the answer, either.

Nick Mensio: I’ll go with Isaiah Crowell. A former five-star Georgia recruit, Crowell stands 5’11/224, runs a 4.57 forty, and posted a 38-inch vertical. This guy is making things happen after the Browns kept him under wraps for much of the summer. While Terrance West has been fine during Ben Tate‘s absence, Crowell’s sheer talent is starting to rise to the top. Crowell can punish defenders, while West is more the finesse get-what’s-blocked type. Considering Tate’s injury history, there’s a good chance he gets hurt again this season. And Crowell is the guy I’d want to own in the event that does happen. Coaches are continuing to talk him up and giving him more reps with the starters. And Crowell is already having beat writers clamoring for more “feeding of the Crow.”

Jeff Ratcliffe: I like Evan’s take here. Athleticism doesn’t always translate to good play on the field. In McKinnon’s case, the game just seems to big for him right now.

I’m really wondering if we’re going to see any of Joe Banyard. He looked good in the Vikings final dress rehearsal. Granted, it was against a lot of guys who were trying to earn a roster spot, but he put up 111 yards on 18 carries. He also had a 56-yard run in Week 2 of the preseason where he showed nice burst taking a delayed handoff between the tackles. It wouldn’t shock me at all if we see Banyard in the mix this weekend.

Adam Levitan: Right, I think the McKinnon stuff is a good example of what we’re seeing a lot of this year. Just because Draft Twitter, Fantasy Twitter and fans love a guy, it doesn’t mean coaches do. McKinnon, Ladarius Green, Latavius Murray and (initially) Travis Kelce all come to mind. A lot of coaches value reliability and mistake-free football way more than athletic upside.


The point is that I’m not going to bang my head against a brick wall with McKinnon. I’d love to see the Vikings ditch his pass-game responsibilities and simply hand him the football. I think drawing conclusions after five carries is downright silly. But the coaches clearly aren’t going down that path, so he’s just a deeper-league stash. Complaining about how teams use a player isn’t going to net us fantasy points.

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