Running Back Handcuff Rankings: Week 8 (2019 Fantasy Football)
Every week, I’ll be reviewing the league’s top 15 running back handcuffs and providing a ranking, an explanation for that ranking, and Yahoo ownership. These rankings are based on the league-winning upside that each of these guys possesses should the starter ahead of them miss time.
With Melvin Gordon back in the fold, Austin Ekeler is technically a handcuff, though he’s likely to remain involved enough to provide starter-caliber value some weeks, so he won’t be included here. The same goes for Ito Smith, who has played in a fairly-even timeshare with Devonta Freeman. Ditto Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber. Latavius Murray (who has been out-touched 119-41 by Alvin Kamara) qualifies as a handcuff and makes the list near the top. Guys like Chris Thompson and James White, who occupy the receiving-back role, will also not be included, as they carry value independent of the starter. Because these are weekly rankings, Kareem Hunt doesn’t make the list yet, as he’s not active. Let’s kick off the first edition of the article with 15 guys who could win you your league if given the right opportunity.
1. Chase Edmonds (ARI): 48% owned
As a David Johnson owner in a friends-and-family league, I also own Edmonds. When news came out that DJ would be good to go this week, I happily played him. Halloween came early for me, as I watched Edmonds pop off for three tuddies and over 100 yards from scrimmage on my bench while Johnson scored 0.2 points in my starting lineup — a real-life horror story. The dominant Week 7 performance vaults Edmonds to the No. 1 spot in this week’s rankings.
2. Latavius Murray (NO): 75% owned
Murray remains the No. 2 option here, falling just behind Chase Edmonds. Murray got the start for New Orleans this week with Alvin Kamara (knee) sidelined, and he proceeded to ball out to the tune of 150 total yards and two touchdowns. He’s been an elite option at times in his career, and he offers plenty of upside playing in an up-tempo Saints offense. His 32 touches in Week 7 are encouraging for his outlook
3. Alexander Mattison (MIN): 25% owned
Mattison drops only because of Edmonds’ ascension. He would be an instant RB1/2 if Dalvin Cook was forced to miss time for any reason, and despite his paltry 18-yard total in Week 7, he should be considered a top-three handcuff selection.
4. Tony Pollard (DAL): 16% owned
Pollard would be a weekly starter if Ezekiel Elliott missed time. He has the advantage of playing behind a fantastic offensive line on a team that loves to run the ball. Pollard has busted off some highlight runs in the little action he’s gotten, and he should be treated as a ready-to-go RB1/2 if given a starter’s workload.
5. Jamaal Williams (GB): 60% owned
Williams scored again for the Packers, receiving a scaled-back role compared to last week’s monster workload. Williams has stayed involved in the passing game even with Aaron Jones balling out, and if Week 6 is any indication of what he can do with a starting gig, he’d be a huge value if Jones had to miss playing time. Williams is an excellent handcuff option who rises through the rankings this week.
6. Darrell Henderson (LAR): 31% owned
Henderson played a bigger role in Week 7 with Todd Gurley ailing and Malcolm Brown (ankle) still banged up. It seems only a matter of time before Gurley misses another game, and Henderson will likely be waiting in the wings as the top backup, making him an elite handcuff and a riser in this week’s rankings. He could be ready to live up to the hype that was heaped upon him in the preseason.
7. Wayne Gallman (NYG): 18% owned
Saquon Barkley came back surprisingly early from his high ankle sprain sustained in Week 4, and he limped off the field at one point in the Week 7 loss. Gallman would be in line for a big workload if Barkley misses more time, which seems like an even bigger possibility after Sunday’s game.
8. Jaylen Samuels/Benny Snell (PIT): 15% owned/5% owned
The Steelers were on a bye this week, so there’s nothing new to report out of the Pittsburgh backfield. Both of these backs need to be owned, as James Conner has dealt with a series of injuries this season. Samuels and Snell have displayed superb potential when given a healthy dose of snaps.
9. Rashaad Penny (SEA): 37% owned
Penny didn’t record a single touch in Week 7, and it’s becoming clear the coaching staff has lost faith in him, even as a complementary back. Still, he offers a good level of upside as a starter should Chris Carson miss any time in the future. The first-round pick is still a great handcuff to own, though he falls in the Week 8 rankings.
10. Raheem Mostert (SF): 9% owned
Mostert didn’t touch the ball in Week 7, but we’ve already seen his abilities this year in the absence of Tevin Coleman. In Weeks 2-3, Mostert totaled 230 total yards and touchdown on 28 touches while splitting time with Matt Breida. Having missed time due to injury already, Coleman isn’t a lock to be healthy for the rest of the season. Mostert has definite appeal as a high-end handcuff.
11. Darrel Williams (KC): 11% owned
Kansas City may have to lean on the run more heavily with Matt Moore rather than Patrick Mahomes at the helm. Darrel Williams went for 165 yards and two touchdowns from Weeks 3-4 with Damien Williams out due to a knee injury, showing his ability to catch out of the backfield and run the ball between the tackles. If Damien Williams or LeSean McCoy are forced to miss any time, Darrel will see an increased role once again.
12. Reggie Bonnafon (CAR): 5% owned
Not much to add this week, as the Panthers were on a bye for Week 7. Carolina relies on its ground game, and Bonnafon could offer some quality value if Christian McCaffrey weren’t on the field. The athletic and explosive Bonnafon deservedly falls into the list of top handcuffs this week.
13. Justice Hill/Gus Edwards (BAL): 6% owned/5% owned
The Ravens love to run the ball, so the top back in this offense should see a ton of work. Edwards provided flex value as Baltimore’s starter last season, but he’s a one-dimensional guy, operating as a bruiser with limited involvement as a receiver. Hill is the more complete back with a higher ceiling, though both players need to be owned as handcuffs to Mark Ingram. Edwards is ahead of Hill on the depth chart for the moment, but that could certainly change. There’s plenty of work to go around in this backfield.
14. Ryquell Armstead (JAX): 1% owned
Armstead has virtually no value right now, as Leonard Fournette as been a true bellcow this season. If Fournette missed time, the talented rookie out of Temple would be in line for a massive workload as Jacksonville’s starter, making him one of the top-15 handcuffs to own.
15. Giovani Bernard (CIN): 7% owned
Bernard would be higher on this list if not for the sputtering Bengals offense and patchwork offensive line. Bernard has been one of the most consistently great backups in the league since he was drafted by the Bengals in 2013. From 2013-2017, he averaged 992 yards from scrimmage. He’s been a flex play as a backup and delivered some excellent performances when given a starter’s workload over the years.