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Running Back Handcuff Rankings: Week 15 (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Dec 9, 2019

Raheem Mostert was dominant again, hanging two touchdowns on New Orleans in Sunday’s shootout.

Every week, I’ll be reviewing the league’s top-15 running back handcuffs and providing a ranking, an explanation for that ranking, and the player’s Yahoo ownership. These rankings are based on the league-winning upside each player 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 been heavily involved and highly productive even with Melvin Gordon back in action, so he won’t be included here. Kareem Hunt has been removed from these rankings for that same reason. Hunt has unsurprisingly played well in four games as a Brown this season, and the former rushing champ should be treated as an every-week flex moving forward. 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.

Nyheim Hines is replaced by Jonathan Williams this week, as Marlon Mack returned to action. Darrel Williams hit the IR, opening the door for Darwin Thompson to make his first appearance in the top-15, Alexander Mattison makes an upward move thanks to some quality play in Week 14, and a new No. 1 emerges atop the rankings. Rashaad Penny left Sunday’s game early due to a knee injury, and he tumbles to No. 15 because it’s unknown how that injury will affect his playing time moving forward.

We’re another week older and hopefully another week wiser. Let’s jump into our handcuff rankings ahead of Week 15!

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1. Raheem Mostert (SF): 51% owned
Mostert was dominant again, hanging two touchdowns on New Orleans in Sunday’s shootout. The monster performance comes a week after Mostert exploded for 154 scrimmage yards on 21 total touches in Week 13, gashing a sound Baltimore defense repeatedly throughout the afternoon. It’s clear he’s a fantasy phenom this season, and he’s playing for arguably the league’s best team. He deservedly vaults to No. 1 this week.

2. Latavius Murray (NO): 64% owned
Murray has crept up on Alvin Kamara as of late, earning more of an even timeshare in terms of carries out of the backfield. Kamara is the preferred receiving back, limiting Murray’s overall upside, but Murray out-gained him significantly in Week 14. Kamara hasn’t scored in eight straight games, while his YPC average continues to dwindle. Murray has shown his enormous upside in a handful of games this year, and he drops in the rankings only because of Mostert’s dominance.

3. Alexander Mattison (MIN): 54% owned
Mattison continues to play efficiently with his small workload in relief of Dalvin Cook, though he did split carries with Cook in Week 14 thanks to the latter’s shoulder concerns. 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 hangs around in the top three this week.

4. Tony Pollard (DAL): 13% owned
Pollard would be a weekly starter if Ezekiel Elliott missed time, and he’s been staying involved with the offense in the passing game as of late. 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 limited action he’s seen, and he should be treated as a ready-to-go RB1/2 if given a starter’s workload. He remains a top-five option despite the ankle injury that kept him out of Week 14’s loss to Chicago on TNF.

5. Jamaal Williams (GB): 72% owned
Williams stays put in the top-five this week thanks to his huge upside should Aaron Jones miss any time. His involvement in a potent Packers’ offense makes him a league-winner if given a sizable workload, and he remains an elite handcuff despite a poor Week 14 showing.

6. David Johnson (ARI): 85% owned
It’s difficult to imagine the former No. 1 fantasy pick as fantasy’s sixth-best handcuff, but that’s the state of affairs in the NFL right now. Johnson has been out-touched by Kenyan Drake for three straight games, and it’s clear Drake is the starting running back in this offense. Johnson doesn’t make the top-five handcuffs, as his nagging injuries have left his performances unpredictable from week-to-week.

7. Gus Edwards (BAL): 12% owned
Edwards provided flex value as Baltimore’s starter last season, thanks to his bruising rushing style and heavy volume. He is ahead of Justice Hill on the depth chart, and he would likely be the top back if Mark Ingram had to miss time. Baltimore’s run-first offense certainly benefits Edwards’ outlook as a handcuff option. Baltimore won another important game in Week 14, defeating Buffalo to keep rolling.

8. Benny Snell (PIT): 56% owned
Snell flopped in Week 14, accounting for a meager 41 yards and losing a fumble. Still, he operated as the clear lead back once again, and James Conner doesn’t have a timetable to return. A quality matchup awaits in Week 15 against Buffalo, and Snell would be a solid play if Conner continues to sit.

9. Jonathan Williams (IND): 37% owned
Marlon Mack made his return this week, sending Williams back to the bench. He didn’t see a single touch in Week 14, but he displayed his upside as a fantasy stud in Weeks 11-12, totaling 268 yards and a touchdown in that span. If Mack were forced out of action again, Williams could immediately be plugged back into fantasy lineups as an RB2.

10. Darwin Thompson (KC): 19% owned 
Darrel Williams hit the IR earlier in the week, and Damien Williams continues to miss time with a ribs injury. The talented rookie is set up for a quality role alongside LeSean McCoy and would likely be gifted a huge allotment of touches should McCoy go down. Spencer Ware’s playing time is concerning, but Thompson is the preferred handcuff.

11. Malcolm Brown (LAR): 5% owned
Now fully healthy after dealing with an ankle issue, Brown has operated as the change-of-pace to Todd Gurley since his return in Week 11. Meanwhile, rookie Darrell Henderson has fallen off the fantasy map. It looks like Brown is the preferred backup to Todd Gurley, and the former even punched in a rushing touchdown in Week 14.

12. Giovani Bernard (CIN): 3% owned
Bernard jumps back into the top-15 after a long absence, as Cincinnati has finally started to click on offense. Bernard is a talented pass-catching back who turned six total touches into 46 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Browns, showcasing his upside. If Joe Mixon had to sit out for any reason, Gio could be utilized as a PPR flex right away.

13. Ryquell Armstead (JAX): 1% owned
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 flex value.

14. Dion Lewis (TEN): 4% owned
Lewis’ workload has been reduced tremendously this season, as Derrick Henry continues to run roughshod over the league. If Henry were to miss time for any reason, however, Lewis would be in line for a productive starting gig on a Tennessee offense that’s been rolling as of late.

15. Rashaad Penny (SEA): 67% owned
Penny drops to the bottom of the list this week after he left SNF with a knee injury and didn’t return. He’s a remarkably-valuable handcuff when healthy, but the severity of this injury isn’t known right now, and Penny could be forced to miss some time moving forward.

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Zachary Hanshew is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Zachary, check out his archive and follow him @zakthemonster.

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