2019 Running Back Fantasy Handcuffs: Backups You Need to Keep an Eye On

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Running back usage has become much more complicated when it comes to fantasy football. Often we see committees, and depth charts do not tell the whole story as who would fill in due to injury. For example, a power back could go down, creating a need for a similar player. A team might skip their receiving down back and plug in a heavier workload for the next back in line. The chart showcases the top three running backs on the depth chart, alongside some key drafting info. With offseason reports of injuries, we tend to look at backs to draft who have a higher shot for a heavy workload. It is important to at least be aware of the potential workload changes due to injuries and play calling. A team like New England carries 4-5 running backs that all see work, but game flow can often dictate what is going to happen.

RB Handcuffs Cheat Sheet

TeamRB1ADPAuction Value ($200)RB2ADPAuction Value ($200)RB3ADPAuction Value ($200)
Arizona CardinalsDavid Johnson1.07$41Chase EdmondsUndrafted$2T.J. LoganUndrafted$0
Atlanta FalconsDevonta Freeman3.04$20Ito Smith9.11$16Qadree OllisonUndrafted$0
Baltimore RavensMark Ingram4.08$16Gus Edwards15.33$6Kenneth DixonUndrafted$2
Buffalo BillsLeSean McCoy8.10$22Frank GoreUndrafted$1T.J. Yeldon15.90$4
Carolina PanthersChristian McCaffrey1.04$55Cameron Artis-PayneUndrafted$1Jordan ScarlettUndrafted$1
Chicago BearsDavid Montrgomery4.04$28Tarik Cohen5.10$24Mike Davis14.04$4
Cincinnati BengalsJoe Mixon1.11$40Giovani Bernard13.46$6Trayveon WilliamsUndrafted$0
Cleveland BrownsNick Chubb2.09$38Kareem Hunt15.02$12Duke Johnson Jr.Undrafted$3
Dallas CowboysEzekiel Elliot1.03$55Tony Pollard15.09$2Mike WeberUndrafted$0
Denver BroncosPhillip Lindsay4.07$22Royce Freeman8.08$10Devontae Booker15.88$4
Detroit LionsKerryon Johnson3.11$26C.J. AndersonUndrafted$6Theo Riddick14.90$4
Green Bay PackersAaron Jones3.08$29Jamaal Williams14.08$16Dexter WilliamsUndrafted$0
Houston TexansLamar Miller7.01$13D’Onta Foreman15.03$2Karan HigdonUndrafted$0
Indianapolis ColtsMarlon Mack3.05$26Nyheim Hines12.02$20Jordan WilkinsUndrafted$0
Jacksonville JaguarsLeonard Fournette3.01$32Alfred BlueUndrafted$0Ryquell Armstead14.06$4
Kansas City ChiefsDamien Williams2.07$35Carlos Hyde10.04$6Darwin Thompson13.03$4
Los Angeles ChargersMelvin Gordon1.07$37Austin Ekeler9.06$16Justin JacksonUndrafted$4
Los Angeles RamsTodd Gurley2.06$39Darrell Henderson12.4$8Malcolm Brown13.12$2
Miami DolphinsKenyan Drake4.11$12Kalen Ballage14.02$10Mark WaltonUndrafted$0
Minnesota VikingsDalvin Cook2.05$43Alexander Mattison11.07$8Mike BooneUndrafted$0
New England PatriotsSony Michel5.01$36James White5.08$14Damien Harris11.12$8
New Orleans SaintsAlvin Kamara1.03$49Latavius Murray7.07$8Javorius AllenUndrafted$0
New York GiantsSaquon Barkley1.01$65Wayne GallmanUndrafted$8Rod SmithUndrafted$0
New York JetsLe’Veon Bell1.10$40Ty MontgomeryUndrafted$0Elijah McGuireUndrafted$12
Oakland RaidersJosh Jacobs3.09$34Jalen Richard14.05$10Doug MartinUndrafted$2
Philadelphia EaglesJordan Howard8.05$12Miles Sanders7.11$28Corey ClementUndrafted$1
Pittsburgh SteelersJames Conner2.02$34Jaylen Samuels9.09$4Benny Snell Jr.Undrafted$1
San Francisco 49ersTevin Coleman6.08$10Jerick McKinnon13.4$7Matt Breida13.12$4
Seattle SeahawksChris Carson5.05$14Rashaad Penny7.03$14J.D. McKissicUndrafted$1
Tampa Bay BuccaneersRonald Jones8.03$6Peyton Barber11.10$14Andre EllingtonUndrafted$0
Tennessee TitansDerrick Henry4.01$24Dion Lewis12.09$4David FluellenUndrafted$0
Washington RedskinsDerrius Guice6.01$26Adrian Peterson10.12$4Chris Thompson14.05$2

Top Handcuff Backs Worth Drafting

Darrell Henderson – LAR
Latavius Murray – NO
Ito Smith – ATL
Nyheim Hines – IND
Rashaad Penny – SEA
Austin Ekeler – LAC
D’Onta Foreman – HOU
Royce Freeman – DEN
Carlos Hyde – KC

Todd Gurley & Darrell Henderson

The ADP of Todd Gurley has been fluctuating quite a bit, and that has a lot to do with that arthritic knee of his. It has pushed Darrell Henderson to one of the most popular RB handcuff draft picks for the upcoming season. There is risk/reward for taking Gurley depending on where his ADP falls in your league. Henderson is a safe bench grab with big potential to fill in if Gurley is limited or even out for games. The wide range of fantasy outcomes is an easier risk to take on Henderson’s ADP compared to Gurley’s. Henderson produced well in his college days at Memphis, and Los Angeles liked what they saw trading up for Henderson. Regardless of the reports of Gurley throughout the offseason, Henderson belongs on a bench in your leagues.

New Orleans Saints

New Orleans moved on from Mark Ingram, and his duo with Alvin Kamara was one of the best in the business. The Saints nabbed Latavius Murray in free agency, who is going to be in a similar role. We have seen Murray have RB2 type success when filling in before, as he did when Dalvin Cook went down in Minnesota. Kamara isn’t a 250+ rushing attempt back, and we should expect Murray to be in the 120-130 carry range regardless of Kamara’s health throughout the season. Murray and Kamara are both touchdown machines. If Kamara goes down, Murray jumps to a major role and RB1 in his absence. We often think of the Saints as a big passing offense, but they ran the ball the 5th most times per game last season.

Injury Prone Running Backs

While we can’t truly predict injuries, we can often find reports heading into the season to give us a cause for concern. We can also take players prior seasons and the frequency they do miss games. After a relatively healthy first few seasons, Devonta Freeman played just two games last season. He has also had a few seasons where he was hindered by a hamstring injury. With no more Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith now has the full-time backup role. Smith is a viable handcuff if Freeman misses time.

There is something about these University of Georgia backs, as Sony Michel has had some knee troubles as well. There is a definite reason for why New England drafted Damien Harris. The Patriots will continue to play it safe and roll out a hefty committee. If Michel’s knee gives him trouble, Harris and White will pick up a majority of the slack.

Dalvin Cook has struggled to stay healthy, which is unfortunate because when he is, Cook is electric. There is no more Latavius Murray as a backup, as he is now in New Orleans. Cook played just four games in his rookie season, and then 11 games in 2018. I have plenty of interest in Alexander Mattison, who will backup Cook this year. Mattison was taken in the third round, and while he isn’t overly athletic for a back, his size and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is enough for most to overlook it.

Non-Starting PPR Options

If you are playing in PPR leagues, which in 2019 should be most of you, you will need to take a deeper dive into some options that are not first on the depth chart. Getting past the obvious named starters who also work in the passing game, we get into names like James White and Tarik Cohen These are more well known names. Marlon Mack is the main guy in Indy, but Nyheim Hines caught 63 passes last season for 425 yards and two scores. He also had 300+ yards on the ground. Hines is a deeper PPR back. Oakland had a massive overhaul on the offensive side, and while Josh Jacobs is a solid all-around back, should still get 50+ catches. The Raiders defense should keep their offense pushing at all times. Richard had over 600 receiving yards last season and 68 receptions.

Chris Thompson are is a deeper PPR back to consider. Thompson battled injuries last season, but when healthy has been an effective back. While Adrian Peterson and Darrius Guice are operating as the big backs, Thompson still has a receiving role mixed in. Peterson is one I expect to be somewhat of an odd man out. Miles Sanders isn’t a sleeper by any means, but is going to be a nice compliment to Jordan Howard. He projects to catch around 35-40 balls in addition to 125+ carries.

Teams Using The Committee Approach

San Francisco is going to use a committee, and unfortunately it may be with three guys. Tevin Coleman projects as the better fantasy option, but his upside is going to be capped with Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida. Kyle Shanahan could still make at least two of these guys fantasy viable, but the upside isn’t a fun thing to chase in this group.

The Kansas City backfield is interesting this year because Damien Williams is somewhat of an unknown. The Kareem Hunt suspension and release from Kansas City put Williams in play over the lat few games and into the postseason. He looked great in a small sample size, and over a large sample size we know Andy Reid running backs can be fantasy goldmines. Weirdly, Williams is 27 years old, so it isn’t like he is a fresh back out of college with all the upside in the world. The problem is Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson are still in the mix to get touches as well.

Kenyan Drake put together a strong season with nine total touchdowns, and over 1,000 all-purpose yards. The touchdowns will be tough to duplicate, but Drake has potential to hit the 1,000 yard mark again. However, half of that production will likely come on the ground. Drake isn’t a workhorse, and even with Frank Gore’s departure, Drake won’t eat 170+ carries. It would be generous to project him even at 150. Kalen Ballage is going to get some work as an RB2, and counters Drake athleticism a bit given he is a bigger bag too.

Notable RB Injuries Last Three Years

Sony Michel – Offseason minor knee surgery (2019)
Todd Gurley – Offseason knee surgery (2019)
Phillip Lindsay – Offseason wrist surgery (2019)
Ito Smith – Meniscus tear (2018)
Kareem Hunt – Suspended first eight games of 2019 season
Dalvin Cook – Torn ACL (2017)
Matt Breida – Torn pectoral (2019)
Jerick McKinnon – Torn ACL (2018)
Chris Carson – Minor knee surgery (2019)
Derrius Guice – Torn ACL (2018)
David Johnson – Wrist surgery (2017)

Jason has been playing fantasy football for 20 years, starting back when Marshall Faulk was the top fantasy pick. He is well versed in various fantasy formats, from dynasty to super-flex. Jason not only enjoys playing, but helping others further their game.

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