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Running Back Handcuff Rankings: Week 16 (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Zachary Hanshew | @ZaktheMonster | Featured Writer
Dec 16, 2019

Latavius Murray is still a very useful handcuff to hold in leagues that end in Week 17

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.

Here are 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 and Raheem Mostert have been removed from these rankings for that same reason. Hunt has unsurprisingly played well in five games as a Brown this season and the former rushing champ should be treated as an every-week flex moving forward. Mostert is a high-end RB2. 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.

Another running back makes his exit from the rankings, as Mostert has entrenched himself as the full-time starter in San Francisco. He’s replaced by Matt Breida, who lands near the top of the list of handcuffs heading into Week 16. Alexander Mattison’s knee injury causes him to exit the rankings and C.J. Prosise makes his debut with Rashaad Penny (ACL) on IR.

We’re another week older and hopefully another week wiser. Let’s jump into our handcuff rankings ahead of Week 16!

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1. Matt Breida (SF): 62% owned
Breida has been one of the most efficient backs in the league over the last two seasons, sporting a 5.3 YPC average since the start of 2018. He’s fallen behind Raheem Mostert, but looks to be ahead of Tevin Coleman in the backfield, making him the No. 1 handcuff to own in fantasy football. The 49ers are arguably the best team in the NFC, and they’re able to pound the ball at will. If Mostert were forced out of action for any reason over the next two weeks, Breida would find himself as an RB1 for the remainder of the fantasy playoffs.

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 outgained him significantly in Week 14. Kamara hasn’t scored in eight straight games and 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. The Saints play on MNF in Week 15, so there aren’t any new developments for Murray in this week’s rankings.

3. Tony Pollard (DAL): 11% owned
Pollard would be an instant fantasy starter if Ezekiel Elliott missed time and 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 after exploding for 12/131/1 in Week 15 garbage time.

4. Mike Boone (MIN): 2% owned
Alexander Mattison loses his spot among these rankings after Boone balled out in Week 15. The latter crushed LAC with 56 yards and two scores as Dalvin Cook (shoulder) left the game prematurely. For now, Cook is still considered the starter, though Boone should be thought of as the No. 2, with Mattison’s return questionable for Week 16 due to a knee injury. He’d be a strong play if given a starter’s workload for an entire contest.

5. Jamaal Williams (GB): 67% 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 underwhelming performances in Weeks 14 and 15.

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 consistently since Drake arrived and it’s clear the latter is the starting running back in this offense.

7. Gus Edwards (BAL): 11% 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 again in Week 15, crushing the Jets on TNF.

8. Benny Snell (PIT): 34% owned
Snell racked up over 18 touches per game from Weeks 12-14 as Pittsburgh’s lead back, though he was nearly invisible in Sunday’s matchup with Buffalo, touching the ball just twice. James Conner is back, but it’s clear that Snell is the No. 1 backup in the offense and the guy to own should Conner miss any more time in the remaining two games this season.

9. Jonathan Williams (IND): 26% owned
Marlon Mack made his return in Week 14, 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. Indy takes the field on Monday night in Week 15.

10. Malcolm Brown (LAR): 5% owned
Now fully healthy after dealing with an ankle issue, Brown has operated as the change-of-pace for 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.

11. C.J. Prosise (SEA): 1% owned
Prosise takes over as the No. 2 in Seattle’s backfield with Rashaad Penny (ACL) on IR. The former makes a solid handcuff option on a high-powered, run-first offense and he’s proven to be a capable pass-catcher out of the backfield.

12. Giovani Bernard (CIN): 3% owned
Bernard remains in 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 13 touches into 73 total yards over the last two weeks. If Joe Mixon had to sit out for any reason, Bernard could be utilized as a PPR flex right away.

13. Ryquell Armstead (JAC): 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. Darwin Thompson (KC): 13% owned | Spencer Ware (KC): 0% owned  
Both backs saw nine touches in Week 15 and they would likely form some sort of committee should LeSean McCoy go down and Damien Williams (ribs) continue to miss time. Both backs are worth rostering, though they fall to the bottom of the list here because of an uncertain workload.

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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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