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Week 11 doesn’t seem very special, but there is some significance this season. This week is the final week of bye weeks with the Giants, Saints, Steelers, and Browns all taking the week to rest up for the season’s stretch run. It also marks the beginning of the homestretch for most regular season’s in fantasy in which playoff spots will be decided over the next three weeks. Up until this point in the season, this article has really had a long-range view in mind, that being to find a player that could really affect the outcome of your team this season. At this point though, I think that mentality starts to shift a bit. Team’s have shown their hand for the most part as far as which players they are going to give a chance to break out. At this point in the season fantasy is all about roster management and making sure that you are optimizing your weekly lineup. Gone are the days of taking fliers on a player and hoping they work out a couple weeks down the road. It’s time to win now and prepare for the playoffs and your waiver wire strategy needs to reflect that change in mentality.

Each week, Jake’s article will aim to highlight running backs that you should consider targeting on your league’s waiver wire. I’ve split these players up into three tiers from most desirable to most desperate. Additionally, I’ve included players at the bottom of this list that I would be comfortable cutting as I don’t see them contributing in a major way this season.

Cream of the Crop Running Backs for Week 11 Waiver Wire

These are running backs that I would add no matter what if they are available on your waiver wire. These players have a chance to be starters and weekly contributors to their NFL teams:

Shaun Draughn (RB, SF) - 7% owned on Fleaflicker

I mentioned Draughn last week as he entered his week 10 bye coming off a 20 touch, 96 yard performance in his first appearance as a San Francisco 49er. Draughn had a stranglehold on the running back job headed into the bye and there are no indications that his status has changed during the week off. The only true threat to Draughn is the pending health of Carlos Hyde, San Fran’s normal starting running back. With the Niners season essentially over, I can see a situation where Hyde is held out for the remainder of the year. San Francisco has a tough schedule against the run for the next few weeks, so you may not see immediate return out of Draughn, but they face two of the worst run defenses in week’s 14 and 16 (Cleveland and Detroit respectively) so he may be a valuable asset come fantasy playoff time.

Antonio Andrews (RB, TEN) - 49% owned on Fleaflicker

I thumped my chest last week and continued to pump the tires of Antonio Andrews headed into week 10’s matchup against the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Andrews disappointed with only 8 yards on 11 carries, but I’m not going to back down from my position. In the next three weeks, Tennessee faces Jacksonville twice with Oakland sandwiched in between on the schedule. That’s 3 below average run defenses in the 3 weeks headed into fantasy playoffs. I like Andrews chances to remain the back getting the most touches on this team, including the goal line work. His ownership number went up by about 10% last week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it dipped back down this week. If he’s not already available in your league, keep an eye open in case he gets dropped and snatch him up while you have the chance.

Honorable Mentions: Denard Robinson (RB, JAC) - 26% owned

Wait and See Running Backs for Week 11 Waiver Wire

These are running backs highly available on the waiver wire who you should consider stashing if you have room:

Joique Bell (RB, DET) - 50% owned on Fleaflicker

It was certainly not a pretty week for Bell, who totaled only 35 yards on the day, but it is the 16 total touches that has me intrigued. Granted, the Lions were up, surprisingly, for a majority of this game and Bell was being used to milk the clock, a situation that probably won’t happen much for the Lions this season, but it proves that they trust him. This is a situation to monitor as the Lions have matchups against lowly run defenses in New Orleans and San Francisco during weeks 15 and 16 at the heart of fantasy playoff time.

Honorable Mentions: Ahmad Bradshaw (RB, IND) - 13% owned

Hail Mary Running Backs for Week 11 Waiver Wire

These are desperation plays who shouldn’t be starting for you. The injury bug, bye week troubles, or something else needs to be affecting your team to add these players:

Dexter McCluster (RB, TEN) - 16% owned on Fleaflicker

While I continue to suggest picking up Tennessee’s starting running back, Antonio Andrews, I do believe that Dexter McCluster can be used in a pinch, especially during the last week of byes. Again, Tennessee has Jacksonville (twice) and Oakland over the next three weeks. Use McCluster at your own risk, but he is certainly capable of delivering 8-10 points and is especially interesting in PPR leagues, where he has 25 receptions in 9 games played this season.

Jamize Olawale (RB, NYG) - 0% owned on Fleaflicker

You can’t use him this week because he is on bye, but he has clearly replaced Andre Williams in the Giants running back rotation. As a Giants fan I have no clue why the team isn’t leaning on Rashad Jennings on the ground. Some say they are saving him for the stretch run, others would site ineffectiveness, but the fact is Jennings is going to split time with Olawale and that at least makes him work a desperation play if needed down the stretch.

Honorable Mentions: Brandon Bolden (RB, NE) - 32% owned, James White (RB, NE) - 39% owned, Jay Ajayi (RB, MIA) - 29% owned