Five Running Backs to Stash for Your Playoff Run

With Bye Weeks wrapping up, it's time to reassess your bench and make sure you're providing yourself the best chances to succeed.

If you draft anything like me, when you drafted a few months ago you loaded your bench with upside players, hoping some would stick. Inevitably most didn't, and you moved on.

Within the first few weeks you made some move,s dropping the duds and loading up on a couple of backups around the league. When the bye weeks really kicked off in Week 5, you leaned on those backups, as your starters received their well earned week off.

Throughout the “bye week blues” stretch of the season, there's a fine line we walk between using those valuable bench spots for upside players, and those boring-but-consistent players we'll use to plug holes in our rosters. As bye weeks end, there reaches a point in the season where your bench needs to be rid of those boring players - à la Brian Hartline and BenJarvus Green-Ellis - for players who can be a difference maker for you down the stretch.

We've seen a few players who went from zeroes to heroes during the final month of the fantasy season over the last few season. Some of these players, like Jordy Nelson and Arian Foster, went on to be tremendous assets to fantasy teams.

Understanding where talent lies can define the rest of your season and lead you to a potential championship. If there are any players you absolutely love but seem buried in some impossibly deep hole, now is the time to stash them on your bench. After all, anything can - and will - happen in the NFL.

Here are some of my favorite running back stashes this year for your playoff run. Most of these guys have little to no value now, but if the cards fall just right they can escort you to the promised land. Since running backs are the most prone to injury of the offensive positions, my benches in many leagues consist of six upside running backs, and one additional defense who has upcoming cake matchups.

Dennis Johnson, RB, Houston Texans

Johnson has been a fan favorite in deep and dynasty leagues since the offseason. Any nimble back is going to have his supporters, but especially one for the Texans, considering they've had one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL over the past couple of seasons.

Johnson was sitting at third on the depth chart prior to the Arian Foster injury, but is now only behind the oft-injured Ben Tate, who is currently sitting on four broken ribs.

So far this year, Johnson sports a not-so-noteworthy Rushing Net Expected Points per Play of -0.19, but I expect that would climb if he's given a chance to really get involved in a game; he's done that on just 12 touches. If Case Keenum continues to play well, there will be holes for a Houston back to exploit, and there's a good chance that back could be Johnson. He's available in 80% of Yahoo! leagues.

Marcel Reece, RB, Oakland Raiders

Reece is a favorite stash of mine, largely due to how he stepped up when given the chance last year. In 2012, Reece had a Rushing NEP/P of 0.01, which is in line with what Eddie Lacy and Pierre Thomas are doing this year. In 2013, Reece has actually been performing better (though with significantly fewer touches), to the tune of a 0.14 Rushing NEP per Play. Of the backs with 10 or more carries, he ranks fourth.

I was surprised Rashad Jennings got the nod over Reece with McFadden out, especially when you consider his bottom-10 efficiency last season. However, that should bring upside for a guy like Reece - someone who's proven to be productive. He's currently available in 97% of Yahoo! leagues, so take this chance to stash him if you have the space on your bench.

Bryce Brown, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Brown seemed like a franchise saver last year when LeSean McCoy went down, as he exploded in Weeks 12 and 13 of 2012 to the tune of 347 yards and four touchdowns. But he then suddenly crashed back down to Earth, putting up a 12-carry, six-yard line in Week 14, and a 16-carry, 34-yard one in Week 15.

Given his epic rise and fall, I can understand some owners avoiding him, but the talent is certainly there for him to succeed. Coming into this season, many expected Brown to get a solid number of touches in Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense, but that hasn't been the case. As a result, many owners dropped him in frustration. He's somehow available in 84% of Yahoo! leagues, a number which certainly needs to rise. He'll present RB1 upside if *gasp* McCoy were to go down, so do yourself a favor and take a chance on Brown.

Christine Michael, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Michael really hasn't done much this year outside of a few beautiful runs last week against the Falcons. He displayed all the abilities which had dynasty leaguers and draftniks so excited pre-draft, making fluid cuts and gaining yards which didn't appear to be there. Lynch has been as reliable as running backs come for the past few years, but there's always a chance that Beast Mode could miss some time. If he were to go down, Michael would be a must add in all formats. Take a shot on Michael, and know that if Lynch were to go down, you'd have a mid-level RB2 for the playoffs.

Bernard Pierce, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Pierce looked great last year - he hit holes, bowled over defenders and broke tackles like a boss, and there was much optimism around his future as the replacement to Ray Rice. In 2012, Pierce had a Rushing NEP per Play of -.07 (the same as Chris Johnson and LeSean McCoy), and a Reception NEP per Target of .28 (right between Ray Rice and Demarco Murray).

Unfortunately, he's suffered behind the Ravens awful offensive line this year, causing noticeable drops in his efficiency metrics. With Ray Rice continuing to play banged up, there's a chance Ozzie Newsome and company decide to rest Rice later in the season to see how Pierce handle's a full load. I'm hoping to see him phased in more and more as the season progresses, and suspect that if Rice is still less than 100% with the Ravens out of the playoffs Pierce will be handed the reigns.

Although he and Rice are both bottom in the league in rushing efficiency, Pierce is a cheap lottery ticket that could pay huge dividends given his starter's lack of production this season. He's owned in only 28% of Yahoo! leagues, so there's a good chance you can pick him up this weekend.