Chuba Hubbard, Top Fantasy Waiver-Wire RBs After Christian McCaffrey's Injury

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IISeptember 24, 2021

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 23: Chuba Hubbard #30 of the Carolina Panthers tries to hold off the tackle of Zach Cunningham #41 of the Houston Texans during a first half run at NRG Stadium on September 23, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey left his team's game against the Houston Texans on Thursday with a hamstring injury suffered on a two-yard run in the second quarter.

Television cameras showed McCaffrey being taken to the team's blue medical tent for examination before he limped off the field and into the locker room.

McCaffrey is one of the game's most electric and dynamic offensive playmakers when healthy, and he notably led the NFL in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns in 2019. He missed 13 games due to injury in 2020.

Hopefully, he returns healthy as soon as possible. If not, Carolina will turn to a backfield featuring Chuba Hubbard and Royce Freeman.

From a fantasy perspective, here's a look at some of the top waiver-wire running backs.


Carolina Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard (Available in 79 percent of Yahoo Leagues)

Hubbard was the No. 1 back after McCaffrey went down, with Freeman working as the backup.

The rookie out of Oklahoma State is largely unproven and unknown just three weeks into his NFL career. He had one catch for two yards in Week 1 before adding eight carries for 10 yards in Week 2.

In college, Hubbard shined, notably gaining 2,292 scrimmage yards and 21 touchdowns in 2019. His 2020 campaign was not as successful, but he still had 677 scrimmage yards and six scores in seven games.

Hubbard isn't the pass-catcher that McCaffrey is (then again, few running backs in the league have grabbed 100 or more receptions in a single season). However, he's clearly the go-to back and should be getting double-digit touches for as long as McCaffrey's out.

The extent of the Panthers star's injury is unknown at this time, but if he misses at least one game, then Hubbard's worth a flyer for Week 4 at least.


Washington Football Team RB J.D. McKissic (Available in 61 Percent of Yahoo Leagues)

The Washington Football Team has shown a propensity to aggressively utilize backup running back J.D. McKissic in a pass-catching role.

For example, McKissic caught five passes for 83 yards on six targets in a 30-29 win over the New York Giants in Week 2. That included a 56-yard reception on a wheel route to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown.

McKissic had 80 catches for 589 yards and two scores on 110 targets last season. He notably had 10 or more targets (including a high of 15) in five games, four of which were losses.

Washington could very well look to McKissic if it's losing and/or forced to pass more when it takes on the favored Buffalo Bills, who DraftKings Sportsbook lists as a home 7.5-point favorite.

That could open the door for McKissic to see a bunch of targets, which is great for fantasy teams who have rostered him in point-per-reception leagues.

But he's worth a pickup even after Week 3. Simply put, Washington trusts him more than regular starter Antonio Gibson in passing-down situations, and that could lead to steady production on a weekly basis. If he's available, consider adding him as a backup running back.


To-Be-Determined Running Back, San Francisco 49ers

Someone will carry the load for the 49ers at running back when San Francisco plays the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football.

Perhaps that running back ends up leading the team in carries this year given that the 49ers have been forced to play roulette at the position due to their injury situation.

It's anyone's guess as to whom the team's No. 1 back may be. ESPN's Nick Wagoner broke down the injury situation for now.

Original starting running back Raheem Mostert is out for the season with chipped cartilage in his left knee.

Elijah Mitchell, who took over for Mostert, hasn't practiced all week due to a right shoulder injury.

JaMycal Hasty, who worked as the No. 2 running back behind Mitchell in last Sunday's 17-11 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles, is out for a few weeks with a high-ankle sprain.

Rookie Trey Sermon, who was inactive for Week 1 and had just one carry for eight yards in Week 2, is in the concussion protocol.

As far as what the backfield may look like Sunday, David Lombardi of The Athletic provided this guess:

David Lombardi @LombardiHimself

If matters continue trending in the current direction, I believe the 49ers will roll out a Trey Sermon-Kerryon Johnson-Trenton Cannon-Jacques Patrick backfield against Green Bay

Sermon is the only one of that aforementioned four-player group to be active for a game day this year for the 49ers. If he clears concussion protocol, he could certainly lead the 49ers in carries against the Packers.

However, the fact that Sermon was clearly the fourth running back in the pecking order when everyone was healthy is concerning enough to believe that the 49ers could (a) go to a committee route, (b) ride a hot hand or (c) keep him on the bench.

That keeps Kerryon Johnson, Trenton Cannon and Jacques Patrick all in play this week and even in the future. Ultimately, this is a situation to monitor over the next few days and weeks.

If there's any clarity from 49ers beat writers regarding the running back situation (e.g. Lombardi, Wagoner, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area and more), pounce on the opportunity and take the back who's receiving good press.

For example, this report from Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee suggests Johnson could be active.

Chris Biderman @ChrisBiderman

Guessing that Kerryon Johnson gets the call from the practice squad this week if Mitchell can’t play. Not a good sign that Mitchell missed today’s practice. Friday’s are generally a low-impact walk through session.

In sum, keep an eye out for the beat reports to see who could be leading the charge and pounce at the opportunity when ready. The 49ers' running back situation appears to be very fluid, so this could be a situation to monitor as the season goes on.