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Ranking the Running Back Handcuffs (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Jul 29, 2020

Tony Pollard is one of the best running back handcuffs to own

One of the most popular debates among fantasy footballers every year includes the question, “Should I draft my running back’s handcuff?” That’s a difficult question to answer, as there are many variables that come into play, but that’s the reason for this article today.

This chart we’ll see today will have no bearing on which running backs you have as your starters. Why? Well, you shouldn’t be handcuffing a running back on a bottom-10 scoring offense. Even those who are against handcuffing their starters will draft running backs in the later rounds, but they don’t make it a direct point to snag ones that are tied to their starters.

In the end, it all depends on what you’re looking for on your bench. You may want a running back who’ll have a role even without an injury in front of him, or you could just be aiming for a running back who has RB1 upside should he get the opportunity to start. When you leave this article, you’ll know which one best suits you.

Check out our 2020 Fantasy Football Running Back Handcuff Report >>

Below, you’ll see all 32 handcuff running backs with a chart that has values on a scale from 1-5. The higher the number, the better for them. Green indicates a great score/opportunity, while red indicates a low score/opportunity. After the chart, we’ll separate the running back tiers for your drafting needs.

Editor’s Note: Damien Williams opted out of the NFL season after this article was published.

Handcuff Team Chance to Take Starting Job Production Without Injury RB1 Potential If Starting Team Scoring Score
Damien Williams KC 3 3 5 5 16
JK Dobbins BAL 3 3 4 5 15
Kareem Hunt CLE 2 5 5 3 15
Latavius Murray NO 1 4 5 5 15
Tony Pollard DAL 1 2 5 5 13
Marlon Mack IND 2 3 4 4 13
Darrell Henderson LAR 3 3 4 3 13
Carlos Hyde/Rashaad Penny SEA 2 2 4 5 13
Tevin Coleman SF 3 3 4 3 13
Keshawn Vaughn TB 3 2 4 4 13
Zack Moss BUF 2 4 4 2 12
Boston Scott PHI 1 3 4 4 12
Chase Edmonds ARI 1 2 4 4 11
Kerryon Johnson DET 3 3 3 2 11
Duke Johnson HOU 3 3 3 2 11
Phillip Lindsay DEN 2 3 3 2 10
Matt Breida MIA 3 4 2 1 10
Alexander Mattison MIN 1 2 4 3 10
Damien Harris NE 3 2 3 2 10
A.J. Dillon GB 1 2 2 4 9
Ito Smith ATL 1 2 2 3 8
Giovani Bernard CIN 1 2 3 2 8
Justin Jackson/Joshua Kelley LAC 2 3 2 1 8
Lynn Bowden LV 1 3 2 2 8
Benny Snell PIT 1 1 3 3 8
Darrynton Evans TEN 1 2 2 3 8
Adrian Peterson WAS 3 2 2 1 8
Ryan Nall CHI 1 1 2 2 6
Wayne Gallman NYG 1 1 2 2 6
Reggie Bonnafon CAR 1 1 1 2 5
Ryquell Armstead JAX 1 1 2 1 5
Frank Gore NYJ 1 2 1 1 5

 

TIERS

The “I want someone who’ll contribute now” Tier

Kareem Hunt
Matt Breida
Zack Moss
Latavius Murray

These are running backs who can be played as flex options most weeks and don’t require an injury to the starter to hold value. Hunt was the No. 26 running back from the time he joined the Browns anemic offense last year, and though it’s a new coaching staff, the offense should present more scoring opportunities. Don’t forget that both Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram were RB1s in the Saints offense, something Murray is capable of. Moss will be taking over the Frank Gore role that came with plenty of opportunity in 2019, even with Devin Singletary on the field. And Breida will be the primary passing-down back on the Dolphins, which carries value if they continue to be behind in games.

The “Spot Starter if Needed” Tier

Damien Williams
JK Dobbins
Marlon Mack
Darrell Henderson
Tevin Coleman
Boston Scott
Kerryon Johnson
Phillip Lindsay
Duke Johnson
Lynn Bowden

These players should be able to offer RB3 value during some weeks without an injury to the starter, though they’re not someone you should rely on every week. Dobbins could eventually overtake Mark Ingram, but he’ll have a role even with Ingram on the field. Mack is rumored to have a role and may fit in the “I want someone who’ll contribute now” tier, though I’m a bit skeptical after the Colts spent a high second-round pick on Jonathan Taylor.

People forget the Rams traded up into the third round to take Henderson last year, and Sean McVay has said it’ll be more of a timeshare in 2020. Coleman is best suited for a timeshare running back, which is precisely what Kyle Shanahan wants to do. We haven’t seen Doug Pederson use a workhorse back during his coaching career, so it’s possible Scott sneaks into the weekly flex conversation.

The Lions used a second-round pick on D’Andre Swift after Johnson wasn’t able to stay healthy, but he’s going to get some touches in this backfield. Lindsay is extremely talented but has certainly fallen behind Melvin Gordon on the pecking order. He’ll need positive gamescript to produce. Duke Johnson has always been efficient but now has David Johnson in front of him, limiting his touches. Bowden’s role is a bit unclear, but you don’t spend a second-round pick on a player like him without a plan in place.

The “I’m Drafting for Pure Upside” Tier

Kareem Hunt
Latavius Murray
Tony Pollard
JK Dobbins

All of these players are in high-scoring offenses that present tons of fantasy opportunity. If something were to happen to the starter, they have a great shot at consistent RB1-type production. If Nick Chubb missed time, Hunt is a league-winner. The same can be said for Murray, who was the RB1 in the two weeks Alvin Kamara missed last year. Pollard would walk into a workhorse role behind the best offensive line in the league should something happen to Ezekiel Elliott. Some believe Dobbins can overtake Mark Ingram without injury, which just adds to his appeal. The Ravens apparently had a first-round grade on him.

The “This Guy Could Steal the Job” Tier

JK Dobbins
Darrell Henderson
Keshawn Vaughn
Duke Johnson
Damien Harris

If you are feeling lucky with predictions, these are the guys who I believe have the best chance to steal the starting job. Dobbins has already been mentioned a few times, making him one of the best bench stashes out there. It’s going to be a straight-up competition with Henderson and Cam Akers, and though Akers will have the leg up, it’s possible Henderson earns the bigger role. Vaughn can take the job from Ronald Jones, as we saw carries taken from him by Peyton Barber last year, but will Bruce Arians trust the inexperienced rookie? The Patriots have stubbornly stood by Sony Michel but it’s only a matter of time before they see what Harris can offer in that role. It also helps his case that Michel had another offseason surgery (foot).


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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