Running Back Handcuff Report: Week 6 (2021 Fantasy Football)
The running back position in the NFL is rugged.
Heading into Week 6, we see handcuffs become starters in Kansas City (Darrel Williams) and New York (Devontae Booker), and Alex Collins making a Thursday night cameo in Seattle. They join Chuba Hubbard, Damien Williams, Trey Sermon, Alexander Mattison, and Peyton Barber as players who have already stepped into a starter’s role at some point in the early portion of the season.
Williams will be an RB2 for as long as he is the starter, but Jerick McKinnon could also be worth a deep league flyer. Andy Reid running backs almost always produce for fantasy purposes, no matter who is getting the touches. In New York, Booker becomes more of a volume-dependent option, although he did get into the end zone twice last Sunday.
The approach I would take is to acquire some of these backs before they are desperately needed. AJ Dillon, Tony Pollard, Kenneth Gainwell, and even Carlos Hyde should not be on your waiver wire. If they are, grab them right now and avoid shelling out the big-time FAAB bids on them. With that, let’s dive in.
A largely ineffective day for the Arizona offense on the whole. Edmonds and Conner barely combined for 70 yards, although the latter of the two found paydirt. Edmonds is still safely in the circle of trust with a 61% snap share, but Conner is a factor in the Red Zone, limiting his ceiling.
I’ve moved the Falcons into committee territory, with Patterson getting a whopping 21 touches and nudging up to close to a 60% snap share. He is PPR gold right now and in leagues where he has WR-eligibility, a potential league-winner. Davis salvaged his 61-yard day with a touchdown, but he’s too inefficient to hold Patterson off.
Mea culpa for leaving Baltimore off the list the last two weeks, but this backfield is a bit of a mess. Williams was active after being a healthy scratch last week. Murray led the way with eight touches for 30 meaningless yards against the Colts, but the Ravens got down big and had to throw. I prefer Murray here by a fair margin.
Moss out-touched Singletary 14-7 and played on 74% of the snaps. It was a positive game script, so it made sense for him to have a massive snap share. Moss is a trade target right now as his price hasn’t skyrocketed yet, but that window is closing quickly.
Carolina – Starter: Christian McCaffery, Handcuff: Chuba Hubbard
Hubbard had a nice day with 134 total yards and five receptions (he also had 24 carries), which we expected. He is a surefire starter until McCaffery is back, but it’s a safe bet CMC will get back to his bell-cow status when that does happen.
On Sunday, the Bears made it a point to run the ball on almost 64% of their offensive snaps. Damien Williams had 84 total yards a touch down which made for a solid PPR day, but the real story is Khalil Herbert getting 18 carries. I’m not sure that is sustainable if the Bears get into a negative game script (they have Green Bay this week), but he’s worth a flier, and I have FAAB bids on him.
Perine had a nice week getting 15 touches (four receptions) for 83 yards and a touchdown. It was pretty obvious Mixon should have been held out, and it remains to be seen if he will be ready to go this weekend. I said it last week, and I’ll repeat it: Snag Perine if he’s available.
It was a big bounce-back game for the Browns after the sputtered in Minnesota. Chubb had 170 total yards and a touchdown while playing on 56% of the snaps. Hunt was plenty involved with 89 total yards on 17 touches (five receptions) and two rushing touchdowns. Both backs are standalone plays right now.
Dallas – Starter: Ezekiel Elliott, Handcuff: Tony Pollard
Another week, another 20+ touches for Elliott, who totaled 112 yards and had two touchdowns. His resurgence has rewarded anyone who took the chance on him in the 2nd Round this summer. Pollard was once again very involved with 103 yards total yards on 18 touches (four receptions). He’s a matchup-dependent flex play.
Gordon played on 60% of the snaps and averaged 3.8 YPC, while Williams only played 42% of snaps but averaged 7.6 YPC. Perhaps that’s why the Broncos have dropped two straight and can’t get untracked offensively. Vic Fangio should do better.
Swift played 74% of the snaps and had 17 touches (six receptions) for 104 yards and a touchdown, but I’m still left wondering how much meat he’s leaving on the bone each week. In a better offense, he’s a top-3 running back. Jamaal Williams was solid, if unspectacular, and continues to get 12-15 touches per week. He’s flex-worthy.
Green Bay – Starter: Aaron Jones, Handcuff: A.J. Dillon
Jones had a decent day with 109 total yards and added four receptions to salvage his PPR performance. He played on 70% of the snaps, and I’m betting on a blowup week soon. Dillon turned four receptions into 49 yards which was good to see for his handcuff value. I think he’d be rock solid as the starter.
Johnson again led the Texans in snap share (53%) and had five receptions for 46 yards. He didn’t do much running the ball, but he should be on your radar in PPR leagues. Mark Ingram had 16 carries for 41 yards for a comical 2.6 YPC. Give those touches to DJ, and we might be in business.
You down with Big JT? Yeah, you know me! Taylor had a huge 76-yard touchdown catch and run to start the game. He finished his night with 169 (excellent) yards and two touchdowns despite playing just 52% of the snaps. It was a weird game script where the Colts jumped out in front but never felt in control. I’ve added Mack to the handcuffs here as he got five carries for 47 yards. Hines played on 36% of the snaps but only received four carries. As I said, it was an odd game for Indianapolis.
I said last week Robinson would need a positive game script to post a monster score. He then went out and rushed for 149 yards, and a touchdown in a game got smashed, so I know nothing. Robinson played on 72% of the snaps and is the lone bright spot here.
Kansas City – Starter: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (On IR), Handcuff: Darrel Williams
I don’t victory lap injuries, so CEH going down sucks. Williams is probably available on your waiver wire, and he would be my #1 add this week due to the offensive environment and potential workload. He’s a safe bet as an RB2.
The biggest story here is John Gruden, which overshadows the fact that Las Vegas has dropped two straight and looks terrible. They head to Denver for a matchup between two teams heading in the wrong direction. Josh Jacobs played almost 70% of the snaps and is the only usable piece in this backfield at the moment.
Los Angeles Chargers – Starter: Austin Ekeler, Handcuff: Who knows?
Things that make me happy: Seeing Ekeler get 71% of the snaps and scoring three touchdowns. Things that make me go hmm: Joshua Kelley seeing 35% of the snaps and giving me fits to determine the handcuff. No matter. Ekeler is a top-5 running back in fantasy, and I’m here for it.
Ignore any narratives about Michel eating into Henderson’s workload. That only happened when Henderson got banged up and missed a drive, and Michel received nine carries. This is Henderson’s backfield.
Miami – Starter: Miles Gaskin, Handcuff: Malcolm Brown
A week after Brown led the team in snaps, Gaskin goes off with ten catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns. I’m curious how much of this was the game script for the distribution of touches. I would sell Gaskin as soon as I got a reasonable offer.
Minnesota – Starter: Dalvin Cook, Handcuff: Alexander Mattison
Alexander Mattison: RB1. With Cook out, Mattison once again exploded with 153 total yards and a touchdown. He will be the #2 handcuff behind Kareem Hunt this week.
Harris went down with a rib injury which opened the door for Stevenson to get 34% of the snaps and Brandon Bolden to get 38%. If Harris misses this week – he didn’t practice Wednesday – I’d bet on Stevenson to get most of the early-down work. I see Bolden getting sprinkled in with all the passing-down responsibilities. Bolden is probably available, so he could be a speculative add if you need RB help.
Kamara had a big game with 122 yards and two touchdowns. He played on 88% of the snaps and is getting as much work as he can handle. If he goes down, the Saints may bring in a running back.
New York Giants – Starter: Saquon Barkley, Handcuffs: Devontae Booker
Barkley got hurt on a freak play where he stepped awkwardly on a Cowboys’ defender. He’s out for at least a couple of weeks, so Booker is the starter and should get 80% or more of the snaps. He scored two touchdowns Sunday, but I wouldn’t bank on that type of box score. He will be solid, but he won’t score 20+ points often.
Carter is pretty clearly the guy, so I’ve moved him into starter territory. The problem here is the Jets are putrid offensively so that organically caps his ceiling. I’d hold him if I had him, but Johnson and Coleman can be cut.
Philadelphia – Starter: Miles Sanders, Handcuff: Kenneth Gainwell
On Sunday, Sanders got 75% of the snaps and 16 touches (five receptions) but only finished with 51 yards. Maybe at some point, he will get going, and the workload is certainly encouraging, but I am not real bullish on him. Gainwell was a non-factor, which is disappointing given his recent performances.
Finally, a 100-yard day for Harris in a tough matchup. The Steelers did well staying ahead of the sticks as Harris gained 42 yards on 14 first-down carries, which contributed to his big day. With JuJu Smith-Schuster now out for the season, it’s conceivable that Harris might get even more work in the passing game. So sit back and enjoy the production.
Carson was an inactive Thursday, but Collins had a disappointing game with just a total of 71 yards. The Seahawks have a tough matchup in Pittsburgh this week, and without Russel Wilson, the offense might struggle. This will be a tricky situation to gauge in the short term.
Welcome back, Elijah Mitchell. He stepped into a 68% snap share and was the only 49ers running back to handle more than three touches. A back to remember here is Jeff Wilson, who should be coming off IR in a few weeks.
Lenny handled 62% of the snaps and went over 100 total yards and a touchdown. He’s made Jones irrelevant.
Henry had a light day with just 29 carries. He didn’t record a target or a catch for the first time this season, but the Titans got out to a big lead, and Tennessee didn’t need him in the passing game. He’s the RB1 right now.
Good news: Gibson got 22 touches and scored two touchdowns. Bad news: He only amassed 72 yards and played 57% of the snaps. McKissic played 41% of the snaps but only got three touches. Good luck figuring this one out.
*I’m removing CPatt this week – He’s in a committee and is 90% owned.
1. Kareem Hunt (KC) – Continued to be uber-productive with two touchdowns and 89 yards. I’d want him over quite a few backs who don’t share touches.
2. Alexander Mattison (MIN) – For the second time this year, he filled in and had a big day. He should be 100% rostered.
3. Chubba Hubbard (CAR) – Getting bell-cow usage in CMC’s absence. Finally, he had the production to match the workload.
4. Darrel Williams (KC) – Was getting high leverage touches, and now the backfield is his to lead. Jerrick McKinnon is a deep league flyer.
5. Devontae Booker (NYG) – Opportunity is everything. He will get 15+ touches and should be at least a Flex-play.
6. Damien Williams (CHI) – Williams was good on Sunday, but he’s banged up. Khalil Herbert is the sneaky pickup right now.
7. Jamaal Williams (DET) – Moves down the list but through no fault of his own. If Swift misses time, Williams will be a stud.
8. A.J. Dillon (GB) – 79 total yards and a touchdown are great, but the four receptions are what gets me excited.
9. Tony Pollard (DAL) – Like Williams, he gets downgraded, but that more a product of running backs in a position to get more playing time.
10. Alex Collins (SEA) – Disappointed a bit last Thursday, but the usage was there.
11. Kenneth Gainwell (PHI) – I’m still bullish on Gainwell for this season. If he gets the chance to start, I’d be all in.
12. Sony Michel (LAR) – Deceptive box score makes it appear he is nipping at Henderson’s heels. That isn’t the case.
13. Devin Singletary (BUF) – A new face here, and he’s started in the past. He’s a hold for me.
14. David Johnson (HOU) – Is he too low here? Maybe. And I think scooping him this week might be the move before he is a starter.
15. Trey Sermon (SF) – I still have the 49ers listed as a committee, but if Elijah Mitchell has another week where he gets 12 touches, and Sermon only gets one, that will change.
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