With starter Willis McGahee being placed on the season-ending injured reserve Wednesday, Denver Broncos rookie running back Ronnie Hillman becomes one of the must-own players on the Week 12 waiver wire.
Hillman's value, barring injury, should remain relatively high for the rest of the 2012 season, too.
While McGahee was given an initial timeline of four to six weeks, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that the Broncos decided to put the 31-year-old on injured reserve after he tore his MCL and broke his leg during Denver's win over the San Diego Chargers in Week 11.
(UPDATE, 11/21 1:30 ET: The Broncos announced that McGahee was played on injured reserve with designation to return, meaning he will miss the rest of the regular season but could return for the postseason.)
The Denver Post reported Monday that Hillman, a third-round pick out of San Diego State in 2012, would get the first crack at touches against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday. Lance Ball will also get a chance, although Hillman is the one running back you want to own out of the two.
In eight games this season, Hillman has 188 yards rushing and 62 receiving. He rushed 12 times for 43 yards and caught two passes for 16 yards after McGahee went out Sunday.
The smallish Hillman (5'9", 200 lbs.) may not be the workhorse that McGahee was while healthy (nearly 193 touches, 100 total yards/game in 2012), but there's a lot to like about his fantasy prospects down the stretch.
Hillman should get somewhere in the range of 14-18 touches over the final six games, which is more than enough for him to be fantasy relevant. Given how good the Broncos' offense has been with Peyton Manning at the helm, Hillman should get a number of scoring chances included in those touches.
The matchups are tasty over the last six games, too.
The Chiefs, Denver's Week 12 opponent, allowed 176 yards and a score to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. They currently rank as the No. 27 fantasy defense against running backs in 2012.
It gets better. Only twice has Kansas City held an opposing backfield to less than 80 total rushing yards, and running backs have 457 total receiving yards and two scores against the Chiefs this season.
Hillman, even if splitting touches with Ball, could have starting-caliber fantasy production Sunday.
The best part? Hillman is available in almost every league, regardless of format or site used.
At ESPN, Hillman is available in 99.1 percent of leagues. At NFL.com, he's available in 98.7. He'll be a hot name in most of those leagues this week, but at least there's an opportunity to get him.
Don't hesitate if you need a running back or just lost McGahee's production for the rest of the season.
Thanks to an increase in touches, a high-scoring offense and a perfect final stretch of games, Hillman has real fantasy value for both Week 12 and the rest of the 2012 season.
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