When the Panthers signed Miles Sanders this offseason, they talked a lot about wanting to use him as an every-down back. He was going to be the rare three-down back, and a centerpiece of their offense as they tried to make life as easy as possible for rookie QB Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.
And they gave him that opportunity! But he might have fumbled it away Sunday against the Lions, quite literally in this instance. Sanders was operating as the lead back as usual through the first quarter, but that changed dramatically after he fumbled on the first snap of a drive in the second quarter. After playing 17 of 22 snaps in the first quarter, per TruMedia, Sanders played just 15 of the team's final 43 snaps.
That meant Chuba Hubbard served as the lead back for the rest of the game, with wide receiver Laviska Shenault occasionally lining up in the backfield to do some RB work. Hubbard ultimately ended up as the team's leading rusher with 35 yards on nine carries; Sanders had 32 for seven, while Shenault had 27 yards on his five carries.
The question moving forward, of course, is whether Sanders has done enough – or rather, too little – to remain the lead back moving forward. Sanders has now lost two fumbles through the first five games, but the bigger issue here might just be that he hasn't lived up to expectations as a runner – he is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry through his first five games with the Panthers, while catching only 15 of 24 passes thrown his way for 81 yards.
Sanders has never been much of a pass-catcher, but the Panthers at least gave him a real opportunity to do it. However, if he's not going to do much as a runner, there isn't much to be gained from focusing on him in the passing game, which is the concern here; if he's in a committee, Sanders is likely just be an early-down option, and in a bad offense, that leaves him as a boring, touchdown-or-bust option.
But would it make Hubbard worth adding for Fantasy? Hubbard is available in 58% of CBS Fantasy leagues, and while that probably should rise from here, he's not exactly the kind of player we need to break open the piggy bank to make sure you can add. This Panthers offense still has a lot to figure out, and they really haven't run the ball particularly well so far. Hubbard is, a "get what's blocked" kind of back, and while he's a competent pass-catcher, he isn't exactly a superstar out there.
Which is to say, even if Sanders did lose his chance at a three-down role Sunday, I'm not sure Hubbard is likely to benefit enough to be worth starting. This might just be a bad situation moving forward, and while I won't feel very good about starting Sanders next week, I won't be looking to start Hubbard, either; they'll both be in that RB3/4 range if this is a committee moving forward.
There probably aren't any other absolute must-add players coming out of Sunday's action either, though there are a few other names to be aware of at the RB position, depending on injuries. With the rest of our early look at the waiver wire, we'll start with a pair of running backs who could be thrust into significant roles moving forward:
Here's who else we're going to be looking at adding heading into Week 6 of the Fantasy Football season.
CHI Chicago • #21
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Foreman has been inactive since Week 1, but with Khalil Herbert suffering a high-ankle sprain Thursday, Foreman figures to see a role moving forward. How big a role will likely be dependent on Roschon Johnson's status, as the rookie suffered a concussion in Thursday's game himself. If that keeps him out despite the extra time to recover, Foreman could be a solid starting option for Week 6 against the Vikings; if Johnson is active, Foreman should still have a role, but it'll likely be as part of a timeshare, with Johnson handling whatever passing situations there are. That would make Foreman a touchdown-or-bust option, but he could still have some utility for Fantasy with Herbert likely facing a multi-week absence. He'll be worth adding anywhere you need RB help and might be worth starting over both the Panthers guys with the Bears offense starting to figure things out.
ARI Arizona • #31
Age: 25 • Experience: Rookie
Emari Demercado was the only running back besides James Conner to touch the ball for the Cardinals Sunday, which is relevant because Conner was forced out of the game with a knee injury after just six touches. Demercado, an undrafted rookie out of TCU, ascended the depth chart in recent weeks, helped along by a neck injury to Keaontay Ingram that kept him out of Sunday's game. Veteran Corey Clement is the only other RB on the roster, so don't be surprised if they sign someone this week. Demercado could be a useful Fantasy option for Week 6 against the Rams if both Conner and Ingram are out, though he'd probably rank in the RB3 range even if he's the guy.
Josh Downs WR
IND Indianapolis • #1
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Sunday was Downs' breakout game, but he had already established himself as the No. 2 option in the passing game for the Colts before that. He caught all six passes thrown his way Sunday, but he also had a game with 12 targets just two weeks ago. And what's exciting about that is that game came with Gardner Minshew starting for the Colts at QB. Anthony Richardson exited Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, so if he has to miss time, Minshew should lead a more pass-heavy version of this offense, and that could put Downs in line to be a useful Fantasy option for Week 6.
DET Detroit • #8
Age: 29 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Reynolds continues to make the most of his opportunities, putting up another big game in Week 5, this time with Amon-Ra St. Brown sidelined by an abdominal injury. He had just five targets (an 18% target share even in a low volume game), but turned them into four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, his third of the season. Reynolds has at least 12.9 PPR points in four of five games this season, though he also has just one game with more than six targets, so there's definitely still some boom-or-bust in his game. However, with how well he's playing, he'll be worth a look as a WR3 in Week 6 against the Buccaneers, especially if St. Brown is still sidelined.
HOU Houston • #86
Age: 27 • Experience: 6 yrs.
It took a month, but Dalton Schultz finally looked like the guy we expected when he signed with the Texans in Week 5. He led the team in targets, catches, and yards, while catching C.J. Stroud's only touchdown. Schultz has been marginalized by the swift emergence of Tank Dell and Nico Collins in the early going this season, so he probably benefited from Dell leaving Sunday's game with a concussion – WR Robert Woods also left the game for a stretch. This Texans passing offense is suddenly one you want some exposure to, and Schultz has now scored in consecutive games. He's in the streaming TE discussion for Week 6.
Jonnu Smith TE
ATL Atlanta • #81
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
It's hard to take the No. 2 TE on his own team seriously for Fantasy, but the Falcons aren't a normal NFL team right now. They've thrown a whopping 37.6% of their passes to tight ends, by far the highest mark in the NFL right now; only the Cardinals are above 30% otherwise, and even they are just barely north of that figure. In large part, that's a function of the fact that Kyle Pitts isn't really a tight end – he has lined up at tight end for just 50 of his 211 offensive plays this season. Pitts is more of a wide receiver, which makes Smith's role a little easier to make sense of, since he's just the No. 3 option as a more-or-less true TE. Now, he's the No. 3 (or No. 4) option in a low-volume passing game, so he might not be a must-start option. However, Smith has 27 targets over his past four games, with double-digit PPR points in each, so it's hard to argue too strenuously against him. He's near the top of the streaming TE tier right now.