Willis McGahee is expected to miss at least six weeks due to a knee injury. It's a major blow for the Denver Broncos and fantasy football owners, both of which will have to try to a earn playoff spot without the reliable veteran running back.
Fantasy owners do have some options ahead of Week 12. There are a handful of backs available in a majority of leagues that should be able to fill the void without suffering a major drop off. Let's take a look at the best ones to target on the waiver wire.
1. Beanie Wells
Wells hasn't been on the field since suffering a toe injury in Week 3, but is slated to return to the Arizona Cardinals' lineup on Sunday. It's a golden opportunity to take advantage of owners who got frustrated and dropped him during his extended absence.
Even though LaRod Stephens-Howling is coming off a 127-yard performance, the diminutive back isn't built to serve as a full-time starter of a weekly basis. Wells should return to his spot atop the Cardinals' running back depth chart almost immediately.
He comes back to face a St. Louis Rams defense that has allowed more than 100 yards rushing in three straight games and ranks 29th in rushing TDs allowed with 14. He should quickly reestablish himself as a solid No. 2 RB or flex player.
2. Ronnie Hillman
The Broncos used a committee approach after McGahee went down, and that's likely to continue moving forward. Hillman will split time with Lance Ball, but should be the more useful fantasy option since he's the better rusher of the two.
While Denver's offense under Peyton Manning is going to remain a pass-heavy attack, there are still opportunities for the RBs to rack up points, especially in the red zone. Hillman should get a couple cracks along the goal line each week.
Another positive is Hillman's easy matchup in Week 12. The Broncos face the Kansas City Chiefs, who are giving up nearly 130 yards per game on the ground. The rookie should be able to crack double-digit fantasy points for the first time in his career on Sunday.
3. Jalen Parmele
Parmele assumed lead back duties for the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. He rushed for 80 yards on 24 carries and also caught three passes. Rashad Jennings received just three touches. So Parmele is the back to roll with until Maurice Jones-Drew returns.
It's a sudden rise to fantasy prominence for the 2008 sixth-round pick. He had just seven career carries entering the season. But he handled himself well in his first chance to carry the offensive load, earning another look in Week 12.
Although the Jaguars' offense looked far more potent with Chad Henne under center last week, they aren't suddenly going to shift to an all-out passing approach. Parmele should see at least 20 more carries, putting him in line to help fill a McGahee void for owners.