Running Back Handcuff Rankings: Week 12 (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 their Yahoo ownership. These rankings are based on the league-winning upside that each of these players possesses should the starter ahead of them miss time, including the potential workload they could carry.
Some disclaimers about these rankings: 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. Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber are locked into a timeshare, so neither of those players will be mentioned, either. Guys like James White, who occupy the receiving-back role, will not be included, as they carry value independent of the starter.
This week’s batch of handcuffs doesn’t feature much movement. Kareem Hunt remains the leader here after his second productive outing, and the top five haven’t changed. Gus Edwards is the biggest riser this week after his big Week 11 performance, and Brian Hill’s flop has sent him to the bottom of the pack. Darrell Henderson failed to record a touch, earning Malcolm Brown a spot in the top 15. It’s been another exciting week of football, so let’s get to it!
1. Kareem Hunt (CLE): 77% owned
Hunt had a second straight solid performance on TNF, as he grabbed at least six receptions for the second straight week. He’s now averaged 11.5 touches and 67.0 yards through two games this season as Nick Chubb’s backup. Hunt’s talent is well-documented, as he won the rushing crown as a rookie in 2017 and tore through the league with some impressive play as a runner and a receiver in Andy Reid’s system. In 27 career games, Hunt has averaged 110.6 yards per contest and totaled 25 touchdowns. He’s a sure-fire league-winner if Nick Chubb goes down, and it looks like he’ll have some immediate flex value in PPR leagues even with Chubb on the field.
2. Latavius Murray (NO): 73% owned
Murray mustered just 10 touches in Week 11, but finished with a solid overall stat line in his limited work. He has enormous upside if Alvin Kamara goes down. Without Kamara (knee/ankle) in the lineup for Weeks 7 and 8, he compiled a ridiculous 307 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns while operating as a three-down back, showcasing his ability to handle a substantial workload and achieve weekly RB1 status. If he became the lead back, Murray could reasonably see 25-30 touches per game.
3. Jamaal Williams (GB): 72% owned
Williams earns his fifth consecutive top-five selection in the handcuff rankings thanks to his massive potential should Aaron Jones miss any time. His involvement in a potent Packers offense means a huge opportunity would be available if Aaron Jones didn’t play. Green Bay didn’t play in Week 12, so there’s not much to add this week.
4. Kenyan Drake (ARI): 83% owned
Drake handled all of Arizona’s running back touches in Week 11 since David Johnson was active and saw no touches. Drake secured six receptions for the second straight week and has totaled 16 receptions in three weeks with the Cardinals. DJ continues to deal with injuries and it appears Drake is primed for a huge role if Johnson is officially ruled inactive at any point for the remainder of the season.
5. Jaylen Samuels (PIT): 65% owned
Samuels produced again in Week 11 with a 45-yard performance that featured five receptions and a touchdown. If James Conner continues to miss time, Samuels is a solid play given the clear lead role he’s occupied thus far. He stays in the top five this week.
6. Alexander Mattison (MIN): 29% owned
Mattison falls just outside of the top five here, but he continues to play efficiently with his small workload in relief of Dalvin Cook. Without Cook, Mattison would theoretically operate as a bell-cow for a high-scoring Minnesota offense. He’s one of the best handcuffs available and his ownership is steadily creeping up.
7. Gus Edwards (BAL): 7% owned
Edwards racked up a monstrous 112 yards on just eight carries in Sunday’s blowout win. He provided flex value as Baltimore’s starter last season thanks to his bruising rushing style and heavy volume, but it’s clear this is a new Baltimore team. If made the starter, his value would be huge. Baltimore’s run-first offense certainly benefits Edwards’ outlook as a handcuff option.
8. Tony Pollard (DAL): 12% owned
Pollard scored a receiving touchdown in Week 11 to go along with four receptions and 56 scrimmage yards. He would be a weekly starter if Ezekiel Elliott missed time. Pollard has the advantage of playing behind a fantastic offensive line on a team that loves to run the ball. He’s busted off some highlight runs in the little action he’s seen and he should be treated as a ready-to-go RB2 if given a starter’s workload.
9. Raheem Mostert (SF): 15% owned
Mostert enjoyed early-season success with some brief run in the starting lineup, though he’s been largely out of the picture as of late. With Tevin Coleman back in action, Mostert faded, though he returned in Week 11 with Matt Breida out of action. He had a small stat line, but his upside is undeniable. Mostert would be an every-week play if there were injuries on the depth chart ahead of him.
10. Wayne Gallman (NYG): 5% owned
Gallman is a highly-useful handcuff who could have some huge games if given a starting nod in the Giants’ offense. He had a nice run in the starting lineup for just one game, but he could replicate that performance with some extra touches out of the backfield.
11. Rashaad Penny (SEA): 20% owned
Penny offers a good level of upside as a starter should Chris Carson miss any time in the future. The first-round pick is a great handcuff to own, but he’s far from elite at this point. Penny has fallen to a very low-usage role in Seattle’s offense, but he’s looked good in spots.
11. Ryquell Armstead (JAC): 2% owned
Armstead saw just three touches in Week 11 and accounted for 19 yards on two receptions and a carry. Leonard Fournette has been incredible this season and he’s been given an enormous amount of touches in Jacksonville’s offense. If he were forced out of action for any reason, Armstead would enjoy a massive bump in touches and return weekly flex value.
13. Darrel Williams (KC): 5% owned
Williams has barely seen the field as of late with Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy healthy and handling all of the Chiefs’ backfield duties, but he’s had some quality games this season. He went for 165 yards and two touchdowns from Weeks 3 and 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 Williams will see an increased role once again.
14. Malcolm Brown (LAR): 6% owned
Now fully healthy after dealing with an ankle issue, Brown stepped up in Week 11 with a 5/15/1 rushing line as the Rams beat the Bears. Meanwhile, Darrell Henderson didn’t see a single touch. It looks like Brown is the preferred backup to Todd Gurley. He earns a spot over the rookie here.
15. Brian Hill (ATL): 76% owned
Hill falls to 15th after he flopped in a Week 11 start. Ito Smith was placed on IR and Devonta Freeman remains out with a foot injury. Hill could be a solid value moving forward with very little competition for touches out of the backfield, though his upside is evidently limited.