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Best Running Back Handcuffs (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Joshua Lefkowitz | @JLefkoNFL | Featured Writer
May 15, 2020

Kareem Hunt is perhaps the most treasured RB handcuff entering the 2020 season.

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A critical dimension to any successful football team is the depth of the bench and backups behind the stars. In case of an unforeseen injury, a backup has to be ready to step into the feature role and produce at a high-level. Backups hold even more value in fantasy football for running backs as handcuffs to the stud RBs they serve behind. If a star RB with an elite offensive line goes down, their handcuff is propelled into fantasy relevance with a tremendous opportunity to produce positive fantasy numbers.

Handcuffing a starter and his backup can be league-winning moves. Understanding the importance of a reliable backup for real-life NFL franchises and fantasy football will help make your fantasy team stronger and deeper, poised to withstand the treacherous NFL season and contend for a title late in the season.

Several teams roster multiple RBs that are capable of a sizeable workload. However, many RBs handle 3-down responsibilities or the majority of the snaps, which makes their backups valuable if something were to happen to the RB1. Below are the 4 best handcuffs that would be potential RB1s if the star RB in front of them went down with an unpredicted injury.

ADPs from 5/12/20 using FantasyPros consensus ADP.

Find the projected starting running back and handcuff for each NFL team >>

Best Running Back Handcuffs

Kareem Hunt (RB – CLE): ADP: 71.8, RB26
Kareem Hunt is perhaps the most treasured RB handcuff entering the 2020 season. Nick Chubb finished 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards and ended 2019 as the RB8 in PPR. Perhaps Chubb was on pace for a top-5 fantasy finish, but when Hunt returned from suspension after 8 games (Week 10), Chubb’s numbers took a dip. Chubb was RB6 from Week 1-9 without Hunt, but with Hunt, Chubb dropped to RB14, with his passing numbers seeing the most drastic decrease.

Despite limited rushing attempts, Hunt was an effective pass-catcher, bringing in 37 receptions from 44 targets. When given rushing opportunities, Hunt averaged a solid 4.2 YPC, and his 7.0% Breakaway Run Rate ranked 4th among RBs. Hunt’s former RB1 abilities from his Kansas City days are just waiting to be unleashed. Hunt will get more touches and opportunities in a full 16-game season, especially in a Kevin Stefanski coached offense.

In Stefanski’s offense, Hunt should also see the field more and his role should see a substantial increase. Hunt could be the first handcuff RB drafted, but in most cases, he will drop and be a mid-to-late-round sleeper. Handcuffing Hunt is extremely valuable for any Chubb owner fortunate enough to obtain him. Hunt is also a solid asset to any fantasy owner looking for a reliable RB3/Flex option each week.

Alexander Mattison (RB – MIN): ADP 152.2, RB49
Alexander Mattison offered glimpses of his capabilities as an impactful NFL RB with the low-volume touches that came his way as a backup to Dalvin Cook. Although Mattison was not fantasy-relevant last season, there were flashes of what he can do between the tackles, indicated by his 4.6 yards/attempt and his high catch percentage (10 of 12 targets). The second-year ball-carrier is what coaches should look for out of their backups. Mattison was able to provide relief for Cook by coming into the game and making the most of his touches. Cook has yet to play a full season in the NFL, so owning Mattison is a priority, especially for Cook owners.

Tony Pollard (RB – DAL): ADP 147.0, RB47
Tony Pollard showcased his agile, tough-running prowess in the limited opportunities he had as a rookie in 2019. He averaged an impressive 5.3 yards/attempt and caught 15 of 20 targets. Pollard illustrated his potential as a starting RB when filling in for Ezekiel Elliott during garbage time, especially against the Dolphins and Rams. In those two games, Pollard combined for 25 attempts, 234 rushing yards, and 2 TDs, with a staggering 9.4 yards/attempt. Pollard is an electric, impactful RB that would put up monstrous fantasy numbers if thrust into the RB1 role for the Cowboys. If you are an Elliott owner, owning the second-year RB Tony Pollard is a must.

Latavius Murray (RB – NO): ADP 123.9, RB44
Latavius Murray has been one of the best RB handcuffs for some time now. As Murray took over the Mark Ingram role in New Orleans, Murray’s output was positive. Murray rushed 146 times for 637 yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging a solid 4.4 yards/attempt. He is also an effective pass-catcher, hauling in 34 of 43 targets for 235 yards and a touchdown. Murray performed exceptionally well when Alvin Kamara missed time due to an injury. In the two games without Kamara, with Murray as the featured RB1, he rushed 48 times for 221 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes for 86 yards and a score over Kamara’s two-game absences. If Kamara were to get banged up again and miss an extended period this season, expect Murray to excel in the RB1 role, and as long as Kamara is sidelined, start Murray without any doubts.

It is critical to draft your star RB’s handcuff as an insurance policy. Usually, the handcuff comes as a late-round pick. Failing to do so could result in another owner picking up the backup and holding leverage over you if something unforeseen were to happen to your RB1 and his backup was inserted into the starting lineup. Monitor these players in your drafts, and if you feel the time is right to draft your RB1’s insurance policy, do so confidently.

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Joshua Lefkowitz is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Joshua, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @JLefkoNFL.

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