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Running Back Handcuff Report: Week 4 (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Jason Kamlowsky | Featured Writer
Sep 29, 2021
Tony Pollard

Week 3 in the NFL was a tough one to figure out. You’ve got James Conner scoring two touchdowns, Nyheim Hines out-snapping Jonathan Taylor, and Peyton Barber racking up 26 touches.

The bankable production at the running back position got a little more difficult with Christian McCaffery joining Dalvin Cook on the injury report. For now, it looks like Chuba Hubbard will be the guy in Carolina which means he will get plenty of volume so we should be able to lean on him. Alexander Mattison filled in nicely for Cook on Sunday and posted a monster game which, considering he was up and down as a starter last year, was a positive sign.

Another development we need to keep an eye on is what’s happening in Buffalo. Zack Moss had another terrific game so, despite being inactive Week 1, he’s been very good the last two games. He’s probably 80% rostered but if he is available in your league, you need to pick him up now.

This week I’m bumping up Hubbard, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Peyton Barber in the handcuff rankings. I also added Malcolm Brown because I think it’s becoming apparent that he would become the feature back in Miami if Myles Gaskin goes down.

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Arizona – Starter: Chase Edmonds, Handcuff: James Conner
A week after I recommend Conner as a drop he scores two touchdowns. Welp. I still like Edmonds here (more so in a PPR format) as he got 18 touches with seven receptions. With 48 touches through three games, he meets the threshold we want in a starter.

Atlanta – Starter: Mike Davis, Handcuffs: Cordarrelle Patterson
This is probably more of a committee at this point but Davis still received 16 touches (four receptions) so he is PPR-viable as an RB2. Patterson is gaining steam as a value in leagues where he has WR eligibility. I’d scoop him if you can.

Buffalo – RBBC: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss
I’ve moved Buffalo into committee territory but maybe I was wrong about Zack Moss. He scored another touchdown this week on a nifty catch run. and totaled 91 yards. He out-touched Devin Singletary 16-12 and if this continues, he will be a rock-solid RB2 with RB1 upside in this offense.

Carolina – Starter: Christian McCaffery, Handcuff: Chuba Hubbard (Starter this week)
CMC’s hamstring injury opens the door for Chuba Hubbard to get massive volume as a handcuff. Royce Freeman lurks and might be worth a speculative add but Hubbard had 14 touches for 79 yards. He may not get more than a week or two as a starter but you know what do to if you’re needy at running back.

Chicago – Starter: David Montgomery, Handcuff: Damien Williams
Throw this entire game out the window for the Bears. With only 47 yards of total offense, there isn’t much to say here. Montgomery was the only Bears’ running back to record a touch so at least we know where we stand in the pecking order.

Cincinnati – Starter: Joe Mixon, Handcuff: Samaje Perine
Mixon posted a disappointing box score with just 94 total yards and was held without a touchdown. He did record 19 touches so the bell cow usage continues. I’m not sure there are more than five running backs I’d want over him for 2021.

Cleveland – Starter: Nick Chubb, Handcuff: Kareem Hunt
Hunt had the bigger game this week with 155 total yards and a touchdown, marking two weeks in a row where he was effective. Chubb still got 22 carries so I’m not panicking here. As the weather turns, Cleveland will continue to pile up carries for him.

Dallas – Starter: Ezekiel Elliott, Handcuff: Tony Pollard
Zeke got heavy usage with 20 touches (three receptions) and scored two touchdowns as the Cowboys made it a point to get him involved early. Pollard still had a role with 12 touches and it looks like he will be a weekly part of the game plan for right now.

Denver – RBBC: Melvin Gordon III, Javonte Williams
Gordon out-touched Williams 19-15 but both backs found the end zone and Williams was called on early in the game. I still think he is the back to roster here but Gordon continues to find ways to be relevant.

Detroit – Starter: D’Andre Swift, Handcuff: Jamaal Williams
Williams is turning into one of the best values among running backs this season but Swift is the bigger story here. Written off by many because the Lions’ were projected to be terrible, he’s the RB3 on the season in PPR leagues. If you have either of these two rostered, you’re reaping the benefits. If one goes down with an injury, you’ll get huge production.

Green Bay – Starter: Aaron Jones, Handcuff: A.J. Dillon
Once again we saw Jones get 20+ touches and he scored his fifth touchdown in two weeks. Still, Dillon remains one of the steadiest handcuff options in fantasy.

Houston – Starter: Mark Ingram II, Handcuffs: Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson
Lindsay lead the team in carries with seven and produced a whopping five yards. I can’t imagine a scenario where I would start anyone from this backfield.

Indianapolis – Starter: Jonathan Taylor, Handcuff: Nyheim Hines
Hines out-snapped and out-produced Taylor. He also found the end zone which gave him a nice PPR day. Marlon Mack is reportedly on the trading block so Hines will be involved moving forward. If you have Taylor, you have to hang onto him at this point and hope he gets more work.

Jacksonville – Starter: James Robinson, Handcuff: Carlos Hyde
Robinson finally popped off for 134 yards and a touchdown on 22 touches (6 receptions!). Hyde still finished with eight carries which is odd considering Robinson’s production so he’s going to be a fly in the ointment.

Kansas City – Starter: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Handcuff: Darrel Williams
Edwards-Helaire got going Sunday for 100 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown. The positive sign is he continued to get work after a crucial fumble in the first half so his role is more secure than we thought. Williams is still a stash and would vault into RB2 territory in the event of an injury.

Las Vegas Raiders – Starter: Josh Jacobs, Handcuffs: Kenyan Drake, Peyton Barber
Barber looked tremendous in turning 26 touches into 142 yards and a touchdown. Incredible stat line? Yes. Would I trust him? No. Kenyan Drake was somewhat usable with 57 total yards and three receptions but I wish his potential and production were more closely aligned.

Los Angeles Chargers – Starter: Austin Ekeler, Handcuff: Justin Jackson
Another good day for Ekeler with 17 touches (six receptions) for 107 yards and a touchdown. With a 66% snap share, he’s a surefire RB1 in PPR so we can all rejoice. I’m still stashing Justin Jackson over Larry Rountree.

Los Angeles Rams – Starter: Darrell Henderson, Jr., Handcuff: Sony Michel
Michel got the start Sunday with Henderson missing the game and received 23 touches. He turned that into 79 yards but the Rams scored all four touchdowns through the air so his final box score was a bit empty. Still, it was encouraging to see the usage and we will have to see if this is a committee once Henderson is back.

Miami – Starter: Myles Gaskin, Handcuff: Malcolm Brown
Gaskin continued to lead the team in carries but Brown was the one who found the end zone Sunday. Gaskin’s production has been disappointing but he’s averaging 13 touches per game so you can’t give up on him. Brown will make an appearance in the handcuff rankings this week.

Minnesota – Starter: Dalvin Cook, Handcuff: Alexander Mattison
Adding Mattison paid off in spades if you scooped him early in the week. He finished with 32 touches (six receptions) for 171 yards. While he didn’t score, he still finished with a monster day. If Cook remains out this week, fire him up again.

New England – Starter: Damien Harris, Handcuffs: Rhamondre Stevenson
White will be out with a hip subluxation so it’s hard to say what will happen here. Harris isn’t a threat in the passing game and this offense looked out of sync Sunday. Maybe JJ Taylor gets additional work. I would like to see what Rhamondre Stevenson can do but it is a speculative pick-up at best.

New Orleans – Starter: Alvin Kamara, Handcuff: Tony Jones, Jr.
Nice bounce back for Kamara with 118 yards on 27 touches and a touchdown this week. Kamara is second in the NFL with an 80% snap share and the Saints would be wise to get him the ball.

New York Giants – Starter: Saquon Barkley, Handcuffs: Devontae Booker
Barkley had a useful day with 94 total yards on 21 touches (six receptions) and a touchdown. He’s still getting back into form and the Giants have a putrid offense but Barkley is one of the most talented backs in football. Booker moves down the ranks a bit this week.

New York Jets – RBBC: Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Tevin Coleman
Carter was the only Jets running back to get double-digit touches on Sunday. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much with them but the touch share is encouraging. If the Jets can get something going, Carter could be useful down the line.

Philadelphia – Starter: Miles Sanders, Handcuff: Kenneth Gainwell
The Eagles threw the ball on 91% of their plays Monday night. I’m not sure what Nick Sirianni was thinking but he may want to flush that gameplan.

Pittsburgh – Starter: Najee Harris, Handcuffs: Benny Snell, Jr., Kalen Ballage
Harris has a 96% snap share through three weeks. He also had a comical 19 targets on Sunday and finished with 14 receptions. Volume is king and he’s surviving on double-digit touches each week. The Steelers’ offense is terrible but Harris should get his.

Seattle – Starter: Chris Carson, Handcuff: Alex Collins, Travis Homer, Rashaad Penny
Carson had a good day despite the Seahawks losing by double-digits so we can safely say he’s in the circle of trust. I’m banking mostly on Travis Homer and Alex Collins in the event of an injury but it would likely be a committee.

San Francisco – RBBC: Elijah Mitchell, Kyle Juszczyk, Trey Sermon
Sermon received 12 touches Sunday night and even found paydirt so we are making some strides. Juszczyk was much more involved which makes sense because Kyle Shanahan trusts him and he’s a very good pass catcher. This one will take some time to sort out but I am hanging onto Sermon and waiting to see.

Tampa Bay – Starter: Leonard Fournette, Handcuff: Ronald Jones
Tom Brady threw 55 passes on Sunday and was somehow the Bucs leading rusher. That tells you all you need to know about this backfield at the moment. Fournette is still a hold for me but I’d be fine dropping Jones in most leagues.

Tennessee – Starter: Derrick Henry, Handcuff: Jeremy McNichols
Henry had another 30-plus touches on Sunday putting him on pace for over 500 touches this season. Can he sustain that? Probably not, but I won’t bet against the current RB1.

Washington – Starter: Antonio Gibson, Handcuff: J.D. McKissic
If you’re just looking at stats, Gibson’s day looks good: 104 yards and a touchdown. Problem is, 73 of those yards came on a touchdown catch and run in the 1st Quarter. Washington has the Saints, Broncos, and Bucs coming up over the next six games so Gibson won’t have an easy go of it.

Handcuff Rankings
*If Zack Moss is available, I’d target him right behind Chuba Hubbard.

1. Chuba Hubbard (CAR) – Opportunity is everything and he will be the starter this week and possibly more. If history tells us anything, it’s that Hubbard can expect 15-20 touches and he could pop.
2. Jamaal Williams (DET) – Rearranging deck chairs moving Williams up a spot but he’s been too good. Would be a stud if Swift goes down.
3. Alexander Mattison (MIN) – Monster usage Sunday and he responded with a big game. He’s popped before but the key will be if he can do it again if Cook remains out. Hopefully, you scooped him before Sunday.
4. Tony Pollard (DAL) – Keeping Pollard in the top-5 as he still got 10 carries Monday night. He’s an excellent fit for the Dallas offense.
5. Kareem Hunt (KC) – Had a big game Sunday with 155 yards. Could be higher but the floor is low.
6. Cordarrelle Patterson (ATL) – I’ve gone from intrigued to actually bought-in on CPatt. The PPR appeal is legit and in leagues where he is WR-eligible, he could be a potential league winner.
7. Peyton Barber (LV) – I’m not even sure if he’s a traditional handcuff but you can’t ignore 26 touches.
8. Sony Michel (LAR) – Volume? Check. Passing game involvement? Check. Not a bad day for Michel on Sunday. If he scores, he goes from a quietly solid performance to popping off the page.
9. Nyheim Hines (IND) – Out-snapped Jonathan Taylor on Sunday. If Marlon Mack is dealt, it would boost his appeal.
10. A.J. Dillon (GB) – Still like Dillon as a handcuff but Aaron Jones is getting all the Red Zone work and bell cow usage. Keep him stashed.
11. Kenneth Gainwell (PHI) – If the Eagles are going to throw on 90% of their plays, it’s hard to project much for Gainwell. Methinks that will change this week.
12. Tony Jones, Jr. (NO) – Kamara is soaking up most of the touches but that should be a positive thing for Jones as a handcuff.
13. Malcolm Brown (MIA) – Brown makes his first appearance of the year. I think he’d inherit Gaskin’s role if he got the chance.
14. Darrel Williams (KC) – Keeping him in the top-15 because we’d want a piece of the Kansas City offense.
15. Alex Collins/Travis Homer (SEA) – Call it a hunch, but in standard leagues, I would put Collins on my radar. Apply that principle to Homer in PPR leagues.

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Jason Kamlowsky is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jason, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @JasonKamlowsky.

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