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Fantasy Football: Ranking the Running Back Handcuffs

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 25, 2017

Tevin Coleman is a popular choice as the top handcuff in fantasy football, but should he be?

The age of old question of “should you draft a running backs handcuff?” is one that will never die. While some will say that it’s a necessity with someone like Le’Veon Bell, others will say that you’re wasting a bench slot on someone who has no value without injury. We’re not here to debate which side you should take today, but rather talk about who has the most value, should you decide to draft backup running backs.

With that being said, I’ve created a chart that should help you decide which route you want to go. If you want a running back who will have a role without injury or if you’re just aiming to get a running back who has RB1 upside should he get the opportunity to start. Whatever the case, I’ve got you covered.

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Below you’ll see all 32 handcuff running backs, though some of them aren’t even being drafted. On the chart, you’ll see a scale from 1-5. The higher number, the better, except for the “Talent in front of him” chart, because if that number is a four or five, it’s highly unlikely they’ll supplant the starting running back without injury. After the chart, I’ll separate the running backs into tiers for your drafting desires.

Handcuff Team Value without Injury Talent in front of him RB1 Potential if starting Team Scoring
Adrian Peterson Saints 4 4 5 5
Tevin Coleman Falcons 3 5 5 4
Derrick Henry Titans 3 5 5 4
Eddie Lacy/T. Rawls Seahawks 2 3 3 4
Kareem Hunt Chiefs 2 4 5 4
Jonathan Stewart Panthers 3 4 2 3
Darren McFadden Cowboys 4 5 5 4
Theo Riddick Lions 3 4 3 3
Samaje Perine Redskins 2 2 4 4
Jacquizz Rodgers Buccaneers 2 4 4 3
Matt Forte Jets 3 3 2 1
Duke Johnson Browns 3 3 3 2
Latavius Murray Vikings 1 4 3 2
Jamaal Williams Packers 2 3 5 5
Jamaal Charles Broncos 1 4 3 2
Jeremy Hill Bengals 2 5 2 3
Darren Sproles Eagles 3 3 2 3
Jonathan Williams Bills 2 5 4 3
Rex Burkhead Patriots 2 4 4 5
Joe Williams 49ers 1 4 2 1
D’Onta Foreman Texans 2 4 4 2
Marlon Mack Colts 1 3 4 5
DeAndre Washington Raiders 2 4 4 4
James Conner Steelers 1 5 5 5
Tarik Cohen Bears 2 4 3 1
T.J. Yeldon Jaguars 2 5 2 2
Shane Vereen Giants 2 3 1 4
Kenyan Drake Dolphins 1 4 2 2
Branden Oliver Chargers 2 3 2 3
Javorius Allen Ravens 2 3 2 2
Chris Johnson Cardinals 1 5 3 3
Malcolm Brown Rams 1 4 1 1



The “I want someone who’ll contribute now” Tier

Adrian Peterson
Darren McFadden
Derrick Henry
Tevin Coleman
Jonathan Stewart
Theo Riddick
Matt Forte
Duke Johnson
Darren Sproles
Jacquizz Rodgers

Some of these running backs will have massive upside if the starter were to go down, but they’ll all have a role right out of the gate. I’ve arranged them in the order I’d draft them if you’re in this category. But keep in mind that if you’re drafting for potential upside as well, take a look at their column on RB1 Potential. For instance, Jonathan Stewart will not be an RB1 almost regardless of what happens, whereas Duke Johnson might.

The “I’m drafting for pure upside” Tier

Derrick Henry
Adrian Peterson
Tevin Coleman
Kareem Hunt
Jamaal Williams
James Conner
Darren McFadden

These are the running backs who I consider to be virtual locks for RB1 production, should the starter go down with an injury. They all play on what should be top-12 scoring offenses, and in most cases, behind very solid offensive lines. There are guys who just missed this tier, but should also be considered: Samaje Perine, Jonathan Williams, Jacquizz Rodgers, D’Onta Foreman, DeAndre Washington, and Marlon Mack.

The “This guy could steal the job” Tier

Samaje Perine
Jamaal Williams
Marlon Mack
Duke Johnson
Eddie Lacy/Thomas Rawls
Javorius Allen

These are all guys who have less than solid competition in front of them on the depth chart. Some may disagree with Williams because of Ty Montgomery, but it’s possible that Williams better suits what the Packers need him to do. Mack has to pass Frank Gore and Robert Turbin, but the Colts offense really needs someone like him. As much as Isaiah Crowell is touted as a strong RB2 (I think he is for certain reasons), but he’s not exactly game-changing talent. Lacy and Rawls are on here together because we don’t know which is the starter, so either of them can steal the job from the other. I also bet this is probably the first time you saw Allen’s name on a list this offseason (ok, maybe not), but reports are that he looks fantastic in camp and we all know the mediocre talent Terrance West is.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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