RB handcuffs are a necessary evil in fantasy football. Running backs get hurt (or wind up on the COVID list) far too often to not have an insurance policy, especially if they were one of your early-round picks. Knowing a team’s depth chart and having a player’s backup ready to insert into your lineup is a great way to keep your team on track. It’s not a bad idea to acquire one or two handcuffs of backs who aren’t even on your team. You never know when a sleeper will emerge and vastly outproduce his 2021 preseason ranking thanks to increased playing time.
To illustrate how important handcuffs can be, take a look at Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis in 2020. McCaffrey suffered several injuries throughout the season and played just three games, opening the door for Davis to take over. In Weeks 3-16, Davis was the No. 6 overall running back in PPR formats. McCaffrey owners who didn’t have Davis were kicking themselves, as they lost the assumed No. 1 overall pick for most of the year and had to try to piece together a replacement from other teams. People who picked up Davis got a bargain-bin RB1. It might have been bad luck to lose McCaffrey for most of the season, but covering yourself from an injury standpoint is just smart practice.
As mentioned above, you don’t have to have a team’s starting running back to see value in their handcuff. In a league where you draft Ezekiel Elliott and Miles Sanders, Tony Pollard and Kenneth Gainwell are definitely going to be more attractive to you, but you should consider them even if you don’t have Elliott and Sanders. Even without injuries to the starters, Pollard and Gainwell could have flex values.
Some handcuffs present more value than others, so take that into consideration in your draft. Pollard and Gainwell offer considerably more upside than guys like Samaje Perine and Salvon Ahmed. Just as with starting running backs, the quality of the No. 2 RB matters, too, as well as other factors, such as receiving skillset and red-zone acumen. You don’t need to reach for the low-end handcuffs. They’ll be available in the last few rounds.
We’ve already seen the likes of Pollard, Alexander Mattison, and Jamaal Williams flash when given a more significant role in an offense, so they’re among the more attractive handcuffs. Unknowns, such as Chuba Hubbard and Jeremy McNichols, are often sitting on the waiver wire unless it’s a deep league. As always, monitor injury situations and snap counts weekly, and be ready to strike things are trending in the wrong direction.
2021 Fantasy RB Handcuffs
|Arizona Cardinals||C. Edmonds/J. Conner||Jonathan Ward||Eno Benjamin|
|Atlanta Falcons||Cordarrelle Patterson||Mike Davis||Wayne Gallman|
|Baltimore Ravens1||Devonta Freeman||Le’Veon Bell||Ty’Son Williams|
|Buffalo Bills||Z. Moss/D. Singletary||Matt Breida||Committee|
|Carolina Panthers2||Chuba Hubbard||Ameer Abdullah||Royce Freeman|
|Chicago Bears3||Khalil Herbert||Damien Williams||Ryan Nall|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Joe Mixon||Samaje Perine||Chris Evans|
|Cleveland Browns4||Nick Chubb||D’Ernest Johnson||Demetric Felton|
|Dallas Cowboys||Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Pollard||Corey Clement|
|Denver Broncos||M. Gordon/J. Williams||Mike Boone||Damarea Crockett|
|Detroit Lions||J. Williams/D. Swift||Jermar Jefferson||Committee|
|Green Bay Packers||Aaron Jones||AJ Dillon||Kylin Hill|
|Houston Texans||P. Lindsay/D. Johnson||Scottie Phillips||Rex Burkhead|
|Indianapolis Colts||Jonathan Taylor||Marlon Mack||Nyheim Hines|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||James Robinson||Carlos Hyde||Dare Ogunbowale|
|Kansas City Chiefs5||Darrel Williams||Jerick McKinnon||Committee|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Josh Jacobs||Kenyan Drake||Peyton Barber|
|Los Angeles Chargers||Austin Ekeler||Justin Jackson||L Rountree III/J. Kelley|
|Los Angeles Rams||Darrell Henderson||Sony Michel||Buddy Howell|
|Miami Dolphins||Myles Gaskin||Salvon Ahmed||Duke Johnson Jr.|
|Minnesota Vikings||Dalvin Cook||Alexander Mattison||Kene Nwangwu|
|New England Patriots||Damien Harris||Brandon Bolden||J. Taylor/R. Stevenson|
|New Orleans Saints||Alvin Kamara||Mark Ingram||Ty Montgomery|
|New York Giants6||Devontae Booker||Gary Brightwell||Eli Penny|
|New York Jets||Michael Carter||Ty Johnson||Tevin Coleman|
|Philadelphia Eagles7||B. Scott/J. Howard||Kenneth Gainwell||Committee|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Najee Harris||Kalen Ballage||Benny Snell Jr.|
|San Francisco 49ers||Elijah Mitchell||JaMycal Hasty||Trey Sermon|
|Seattle Seahawks8||Alex Collins||Rashaad Penny||D. Dallas/T. Homer|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Leonard Fournette||Ronald Jones||Giovani Bernard|
|Tennessee Titans9||Adrian Peterson||Jeremy McNichols||Khari Blasingame|
|Washington Football Team||Antonio Gibson||J.D. McKissic||Jaret Patterson|
1 = Ravens starter Latavius Murray (ankle) is out until at least Week 9. He will likely return the lead role in the committee when he’s healthy.
2 = Panthers starter Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) is out until at least Week 9. He will be the starter when he returns.
3 = Bears starter David Montgomery (knee) is out until at least Week 9. Backup Tarik Cohen (knee) is out until at least Week 9. Montgomery will start when healthy, and Cohen will be the primary receiving back when he returns.
4 = Browns backup Kareem Hunt (calf) is out until at least Week 11. Hunt will return to a high-usage “backup” role when he’s healthy.
5 = Chiefs starter Clyde Edwards-Helaire (knee) is out until at least Week 9. He should return to the starter’s role when healthy.
6 = Giants starter Saquon Barkley (ankle) is out until at least Week 8. He will be the starter when he returns.
7 = Eagles starter Miles Sanders (ankle) is out until at least Week 12. He will be the starter when he returns.
8 = Seahawks starter Chris Carson (neck) is out until at least Week 10. Carson will be the starter when he returns.
9 = Titans starter Derrick Henry (foot) is out until at least Week 15, likely longer. He will be the starter when he returns.