A very unique time of the year is here.
It's when everyone scrambles to add competent running backs to their fantasy roster, previously unknown, seemingly made-up ball-carriers who've moved into complementary roles and will ultimately be the point-getters to get owners to the playoffs.
You spent too much time scouring the running back category on your league's waiver wire on Monday, didn't you? I sure did.
Don't be ashamed. Be proud. You're a prudent fantasy owner. The running back spot has become so top-heavy, and the position itself is a battle of attrition every season. By November, NFL teams are essentially doing what you are -- looking, hoping, praying for anyone who can tote the rock reasonably and catch a pass or two out of the backfield in the second half of the regular season.
To honor "Scramble To Find A Running Back" Time or "STFARB," I've added a plethora of backs who began the season as, like, RB4s at best on their respective clubs and are now aligned to simultaneously help their clubs on the ground and your fantasy squadron squeak out a key victory as the fantasy postseason nears.
The PSPR Call-Up Tally (The CUT) is at 17 call-ups after eight weeks of regular-season action. We've eclipsed two per week on average. LET'S GO. But, you all know me by now, I never settle. We need more. Here's to a GINORMOUS Practice Squad Elevation Saturday. Remember don't be shy to hit me up on Twitter @ChrisTrapasso to alert me about any PSPR members getting the glorious call.
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The expanded, 16-man practice squads are about the only good thing to come out of the pandemic, and they're here to stay in the NFL. Because of this, I run the Practice Squad Power Rankings parallel to the league. I write about 16 individuals every Friday, 10 officially in the rankings and six honorable mentions.
But I'll always stay true to the origins of the PSPR, which were to highlight young players. That means I won't be featuring "veterans" this season. Selecting someone like Nickell Robey-Coleman -- currently on the Raiders practice squad -- would not embody the fundamental intention of the PSPR. So for the sake of the Practice Squad Power Rankings' dignity, I'll only be including practice-squaders who are rookies, second-year players, third-year players, or fourth-year pros. Players drafted from 2019 on. That's it.
Here's to the Practice Squad Power Rankings flourishing this season, emerging as a legitimate superstar, earning a massive payday and starting to cement its legacy in the hallowed halls of the internet's football-media industry.
10. Ronnie Rivers, RB, Rams
Rivers played so long at Fresno State, it felt like he was in the backfield with Derek Carr. He wasn't. But it felt like it. During his long career with the Bulldogs, Rivers ran the ball 680 times at a crisp 5.0 yards-per-carry clip. Nothing he does is sensational. But there's not a clear weakness to his game either, and he's a very methodical, vision-based runner, perfect for Sean McVay's zone-blocking scheme.
9. Brady Breeze, S, Lions
The Lions, man. They can't stop anybody, anywhere from doing anything. They're dead last in pass and run defense DVOA over at Football Outsiders and have two picks on the season, which is tied for the second-lowest figure in football. Breeze was a playmaker at Oregon, which led to him getting snagged in the sixth-round by the Titans. He's not slouch athletically, either. He ran 4.55 with a 38.5-inch vertical at his pro day in 2021. The Lions have entered "no idea is a bad idea" territory defensively.
8. Damarcus Fields, CB, Commanders
Fields played five seasons at Texas Tech and had a productive career in a program not exactly known for defensive prowess -- 41 pass breakups. And Washington's secondary, among other, quite seismic problems with the franchise, is swiss cheese. It's 28th in pass defense DVOA. Fields has 4.48 speed and a nose for the football. Get him on the field, Ron Rivera. Especially after the William Jackson trade.
7. Matt Hankins, CB, Falcons
Hankins didn't test through the roof at the Iowa Pro Day. Far from it. But this is your classic Hawkeye secondary member. Super instinctive, well-coached in college, and despite his lacking athleticism, always around the football. In his final three seasons at Iowa -- six interceptions and 21 pass breakups. The Falcons are reeling at cornerback right now. It's time to get Hankins an opportunity.
6. Jashaun Corbin, RB, Giants
I've loved witnessing the Saquon Barkley Comeback Tour. Just like you have. But the Giants are extraordinarily Barkley-reliant on the ground. Daniel Jones is second on the team in rushing with 363 yards. Matt Breida is third in rushing yards with 73 total yards. And I don't want to see Barkley wear down -- although his legs should be fresh -- as the season progresses. Corbin was a shifty, decently explosive rusher at Florida State. Let's get him into the Giants' backfield rotation.
5. Ar'Darius Washington, DB, Ravens
Washington can be the Ravens' multi-dimensional weapon in the secondary, and Baltimore's scheme asks a lot of its defensive backs. Cover the slot one play, range deep down the field the next. He can do it. Baltimore gave Washington his shot in Week 6, and he looked like he belonged, with an assisted tackle and no big plays allowed in coverage. Do it again, Ravens.
4. Thomas Graham Jr., CB, Browns
Late addition here with Graham. He's back on the Browns practice squad. Cleveland has to call up him. Immediately. The Browns are 16th in pass defense DVOA and have two interceptions through five contests. Graham is a former PSPR cover guy who had the best debut performance from a PSPR alum, when he defended three passes in late December against the Vikings.
3. Deven Thompkins, WR, Buccaneers
Thompkins had five catches for 53 yards -- including two contested-catch wins! -- during the 2022 preseason. He's also a Brady-type, too, in that he was a 0-star recruit when he joined the Utah State program in 2018. Brady loves an underdog's underdog, and that's precisely what Thompkins is. Lastly, Tampa Bay could use more juice at receiver, especially given how pedestrian the offense has been of late. He has 4.44 speed, had a 38.5-inch vertical and a 132-inch broad jump at his pro day.
2. D'Vonte Price, RB, Colts
The Colts traded explosive do-everything back Nyheim Hines to the Bills at the trade deadline's buzzer. They got Zack Moss in return. He's a boulder of a back who wins with low-center-of-gravity power and never quite met the hype after his illustrious college career. Even if he simply needed a change of scenery, Indianapolis is now missing an explosive weapon at running back after Jonathan Taylor. And that's where Price could come in! The 6-1, 210-pounder from Florida International -- shouts to T.Y. Hilton! -- ran 4.38 at the combine and averaged 6.0 yards per across 369 attempts in college.
1. Verone McKinley, S, Dolphins
The Dolphins have needed to rely on McKinley of late, but he still sits on the practice squad today. The acquisition of Bradley Chubb should have a ripple effect on the secondary, yet Miami's defensive backfield is still a major work in progress, currently at 29th in pass defense DVOA.
McKinley's film at Oregon wasn't quite as good as his tremendous production -- 11 interceptions and 10 pass breakups in his final three seasons for the Ducks -- yet clearly he has a knack to find the football down the field. He should be a mainstay on Miami's defense.
Nazeeh Johnson, DB, Chiefs
Johnson was a stat-sheet filler at Marshall with 302 tackles, seven picks and 19 pass breakups in five seasons. He can man the nickel corner spot. Free safety. Strong safety. He tackles well and plays with authority on every snap.
We have Mercer on the PSPR board! Poe, a Mercer alum, was a wrecking ball in college, and he tested like a high-caliber athlete at the Georgia Pro Day. Yeah, the Bulldogs gave him the opportunity to showcase his skills, and he thoroughly impressed. Poe feels like an athletic brawler of a guard Kyle Shanahan will eventually get the most out of in San Francisco.
Jaret Patterson, RB, Commanders
The Commanders are averaging 4.0 yards per carry through six contests. No idea is a bad idea when it comes to how to fix the run game. Now, of course, a running back himself cannot single-handedly fix an NFL team's rushing attack. But it won't hurt to incorporate the small, ultra-shifty Patterson into this offense, although the inspiring return of Brian Robinson Jr. to the lineup has certainly helped boost the run game.
Curtis Brooks, DT, Colts
Brooks was a late-bloomer at Cincinnati but may have boast the most dynamic purely pass-rushing three technique in the 2022 class. I mean that. On just 304 pass-rushing snaps, Brooks registered 43 pressures, thanks to an awesome blend of first-step quickness, leverage and power at the point of attack.
Easop Winston, WR, Seahawks
Winston was a stud in Seattle's neck of the woods at Washington State, where he caught 137 passes for 1,624 yards and 19 touchdowns in two seasons for the Cougars. His speciality is route suddenness on intricate, underneath routes. He'd be a fun addition to this fun offense in Seattle.
Brad Hawkins, S, Patriots
Hawkins steadily got better as his role increased at Michigan, and he finished with a 63-tackle, three tackle-for-loss, four pass-breakup, two forced-fumble stat-stuffing season in his final year in Ann Arbor. The Patriots are dealing with an injury to Kyle Dugger. The time to call up Hawkins is now.