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Running Back Handcuff Report: Week 9 (2021 Fantasy Football)

by Jason Kamlowsky | Featured Writer
Nov 3, 2021
RB Handcuff Jeremy McNichols

Jeremy McNichols could help fill the huge void Derrick Henry left behind in Tennessee.

Let’s all take a moment and reflect on the sudden loss of King Henry from the fantasy landscape.

What Derrick Henry has done this year flies in the face of conventional thinking. Through eight games, he amassed a mind-boggling 219 carries and 18 receptions for 237 total touches.

To put this in perspective, Joe Mixon currently ranks second with 137 carries. In 2020, Henry’s 219 carries would have ranked eighth for the entire seasonLet that sink in for a minute. This man was on pace for over 500 touches across the 17-game season, making him a throwback to the days of LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamal Lewis, and Eric Dickerson.

It’s uncertain where the Titans go from, Jeremy McNichols is my priority add, and I expect him to garner most of the short-term work. They signed Adrian Peterson, but I have a hard time seeing a 36-year-old handling more than 15 carries per game. Tennessee could also choose to put the ball in the hands of Ryan Tannehill and try to win with A.J. Brown and Julio Jones in the passing game.

Week 8 also saw Kenny Gainwell fall flat, with Boston Scott getting the first seven carries of the game and finding the end zone. In honor of Halloween, the Eagles also raised Jordan Howard from the dead, as he chipped in with 12 carries. With Philadelphia blowing out the Lions, it’s hard to determine what Nick Sirianni plans to do moving forward. I’d bet on Scott being a staple of the ground game with Gainwell slowly gaining traction in the second half.

As for this week’s report, I’ve moved Zack Moss into starter territory, and we have a Carlos Hyde sighting in Jacksonville.

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Arizona – Starter: Chase Edmonds, Handcuff: James Conner
Conner is on pace for 700 yards and 16 touchdowns this year despite averaging 3.8 YPC. He’s playing less than 40% of the snaps but is eating into Edmonds’s value because of his red-zone role. For his part, Edmonds is getting plenty of snaps, but he’s a tough sell right now outside of PPR leagues.

Atlanta – RBBC: Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson
Calvin Ridley is stepping away from football. (Sidebar: Good for him. Mental health is everything, and it takes courage to do what he is doing.) While that should benefit Patterson’s fantasy value, Davis got 14 touches Sunday and played on 64% of the snaps. Atlanta may try to get both backs on the field together more often, which would make Davis relevant again. The Falcons have used Patterson creatively so far, so hopefully they stay committed to that.

Baltimore – RBBC: Ty’Son Williams, Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, Le’Veon Bell
Baltimore was on a bye week, so it will be interesting to see what happens here. Let’s hope we get some clarity on this situation in Week 9.

Buffalo – Starter: Zack Moss, Handcuff: Devin Singletary
Moss played on 64% of the snaps coming out of the bye and out-touched Singletary 14-8. We saw this coming, so it wasn’t a surprise. I’ve moved Moss to the starter and Singletary into handcuff territory, which may make him more valuable.

Carolina – Starter: Christian McCaffrey, Handcuff: Chuba Hubbard
Hubbard only played 55% of the snaps but got 25 touches. He’s getting by mostly on volume now because Carolina’s offense is going in the wrong direction. It might all be irrelevant with McCaffrey aiming to return this week. Hubbard has certainly earned touches even when CMC is healthy, but the Panthers haven’t used any backs alongside their star in years past.

Chicago – Starter: David Montgomery (On IR), Handcuff: Khalil Herbert
Damien Williams injured his knee, so Herbert is now the lone handcuff to Montgomery. He’s been a good one, racking up 87 touches in four games for a team that doesn’t trust Justin Fields to put the ball in the air. Keep rolling Herbert out for as long as Montgomery is injured.

Cincinnati – Starter: Joe Mixon, Handcuff: Samaje Perine
Perine had started to carve out a role in the passing game, but Mixon played 75% of the snaps in Sunday’s close loss to the Jets. He’s a bell-cow back. However, Perine would be a top fill-in if Mixon goes down based on his usage over his past two games.

Cleveland – Starter: Nick Chubb, Handcuff: Kareem Hunt (On IR), D’Ernest Johnson
Johnson joins the handcuff list with Hunt on the IR. Though he scored a touchdown, he was used sparingly Sunday. If rostering Chubb, you were already frustrated enough without the Johnson TD. The beat goes on for a Cleveland team going off the rails.

Dallas – Starter: Ezekiel Elliott, Handcuff: Tony Pollard
Elliott popped a season-high 75% snap share Sunday night. He wasn’t especially productive, but he got 20 touches (four receptions) to Pollard’s eight. The Cowboys may be narrowing their touch distribution in the backfield.

Denver – RBBC: Melvin Gordon III, Javonte Williams
Well, at least Denver is consistent. A week after Gordon had a 58% snap share to Williams’ 42%, Sunday’s distribution was 57% to 43% in favor of Gordon. He also found the end zone twice, which gave him 20.2 PPR points.

Detroit – Starter: D’Andre Swift, Handcuff: Jamaal Williams
Swift had the backfield to himself Sunday, which meant he went off. Right? Maybe not. Swift recorded 17 touches but only 51 scoreless yards. The Lions follow Week 8’s blowout loss by facing a tough Steelers defense after their bye week. I’m still in on Swift. I just acquired him in a keeper league — I paired him with Michael Carter in the deal – I had to give up Dalvin Cook, but the trade makes sense from a roster construction standpoint — as I think he will continue to be the main back in Detroit.

Green Bay – Starter: Aaron Jones, Handcuff: A.J. Dillon
Dillon was more involved Thursday, as the Packers held the ball for over 37 minutes. Jones still totaled 110 yards and a touchdown, but I am intrigued by Dillon’s potential if he were a feature back. He’s got great size (6’0, 247 pounds) and runs hard downhill. If the Packers give him some work in the passing game, he could be a stud.

Houston – RBBC: Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Rex Burkhead
Mark Ingram got traded, seemingly setting up Johnson to get more usage and Lindsay to receive more early-down work. Then Burkhead swooped in for a 43% snap share and a touchdown in Houston’s blowout loss. Maybe Johnson will be relevant if the Texans keep it close. I picked him up in a few deeper leagues last weekend, but he is getting dropped pronto.

Indianapolis – Starter: Jonathan Taylor, Handcuffs: Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack
Taylor may end up winning the rushing title in light of Henry’s injury. He got 71% of the snaps Sunday and is a shoo-in RB1 for the rest of the season.

Jacksonville – Starter: James Robinson, Handcuff: Carlos Hyde
Robinson escaped serious injury on Sunday, but should he miss time, Hyde is an underrated add. He got 66% of the snaps and 15 touches (nine rushes, six receptions) Sunday. Hyde would need to fall into the end zone to be a game-changer, but volume is king.

Kansas City – Starter: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (On IR), Handcuff: Darrel Williams, Jerick McKinnon
Who is Derrick Gore? He’s not related to Frank, but he came out of nowhere to score a touchdown Monday night. This will cause people to overlook the fact Williams played 64% of the snaps and registered 110 total yards on 19 touches. See if you can trade for Williams today.

Las Vegas Raiders – Starter: Josh Jacobs, Handcuffs: Kenyan Drake, Peyton Barber
Las Vegas had a much-needed bye to hopefully get Jacobs healthy. 

Los Angeles Chargers – Starter: Austin Ekeler, Handcuff: Who really knows?
Despite the Chargers looking like a ship without a rudder on Sunday, Ekeler got 124 total yards and a touchdown. He played on 75% of the snaps, too. Justin Jackson ripped off a 75-yard run, but he and Larry Rountree each played 12% of the snaps. It’s anyone’s guess as to who the handcuff actually is here.

Los Angeles Rams – Starter: Darrell Henderson Jr., Handcuff: Sony Michel
Henderson had a big bounce-back week with two touchdowns and 93 yards. The best thing is that the Rams put him on ice after getting up big, which should say all you need to know about his status. Michel is a low-ceiling handcuff with a guaranteed workload in the event of a Henderson injury.

Miami – Starter: Myles Gaskin, Handcuff: Salvon Ahmed, Patrick Laird
Malcolm Brown went on the IR, which should free up Gaskin to get most of the work. There will be some ceiling games, and Gaskin has a nose for the end zone. He’s a volume-driven RB2. Ahmed is now the priority handcuff, with Laird a dart throw in deep leagues.

Minnesota – Starter: Dalvin Cook, Handcuff: Alexander Mattison
Cook’s lack of presence in the passing game is concerning, especially with Kirk Cousins turning into Captain Checkdown on Sunday night. The Vikings haven’t quite unleashed Cook yet, suggesting he may still be bothered by his ankle injury.

New England – Starter: Damien Harris, Handcuff: Brandon Bolden?
New England is up to its old tricks: Use a hammer running back (Harris) to control the clock, sprinkle in a receiving back (Bolden), and throw to no-name receivers to win. Harris, who had 23 carries and scored a touchdown in Week 8’s victory over the Chargers, is a borderline RB1 in non-PPR leagues. Despite an underwhelming box score, Bolden recorded a 32% snap share. Ho-hum in Foxboro.

New Orleans – Starter: Alvin Kamara, Handcuff: Mark Ingram
To keep Kamara from having a Henry-esque workload, the Saints traded for an old friend in Ingram. He immediately turned eight touches into 52 yards, so Ingram can be a useful complementary piece. The bigger news here is Jameis Winston’s season-ending ACL tear, as that may push Taysom Hill into the starting lineup when he clears the league’s concussion protocol. If that happens, the touch distribution inside the red zone — specifically the 10-yard line — could get wonky. Hill is more of a runner than Winston, and Sean Payton won’t be afraid to use him as a short-yardage back. That could ding Kamara’s ceiling.

New York Giants – Starter: Saquon Barkley, Handcuffs: Devontae Booker
I said last week that you’ll be satisfied if Booker scores a touchdown. If he doesn’t, you’ll be disappointed. Then he ripped off a 41-yard reception Monday night en route to an 18-point PPR performance without hitting pay dirt. He also played a whopping 93% of the snaps. He’s come through in a big way for those who managed to snag him.

New York Jets – Starter: Michael Carter, Handcuffs: Ty Johnson, Tevin Coleman
Carter compiled 24 touches for 172 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s upset win. He’s locked in like I thought he would be coming off the bye, and he will keep racking up catches as a check-down and underneath safety valve.  

Philadelphia – Starter: Miles Sanders, Handcuff: Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott
I said the masses would flock to Gainwell (they did) but that a 50/50 split was coming (it did, sort of). I didn’t account for Howard getting 12 carries and two scores, but Gainwell was a bust, and Scott was the main guy in their first game without Sanders. This is a tough game to judge because of the 44-6 final score, but Scott is here to stay more than the others. 

Pittsburgh – Starter: Najee Harris, Handcuffs: Benny Snell, Jr., Kalen Ballage
Another week, another 29 touches for Harris. The Steelers are getting back to their roots in hammering teams with their ground game. He may end up getting more touches than any other back in football this year. 

Seattle – Starter: Chris Carson, Handcuff: Alex Collins, Rashaad Penny
The Seahawks head into the bye week, and it sounds like Carson is close to returning. It’s even better that Russell Wilson is taking steps toward coming back. Carson could have a big second half as the Seahawks fight for a playoff spot. 

San Francisco – Starter: Elijah Mitchell Handcuff: JaMycal Hasty, Jeffrey Wilson?
Elijah Mitchell might end up as the bargain of the fantasy season. Last Sunday’s 137 yards and touchdown made whatever FAAB you spent in September look like a pittance.

Tampa Bay – Starter: Leonard Fournette, Handcuff: Ronald Jones, Giovani Bernard
Fournette caught the business end of a bad game script. Bernard playing more snaps than Jones speaks volumes about where Jones stands in Tampa Bay. However, Fournette should find himself in more favorable positions moving forward.

Tennessee – Starter: Derrick Henry, Handcuff: Jeremy McNichols
Welp. Henry suffered a potentially season-ending foot injury on Sunday. McNichols is a capable pass-catcher who should carve out a role in Tennessee. The Titans signed Peterson on Monday as well. If you like 15 carries for 44 yards, he’s your guy. 

Washington – Starter: Antonio Gibson, Handcuff: J.D. McKissic
Jaret Patterson had as many touches (11) as Gibson. The wheels are completely off in Washington.

Handcuff Rankings

Priority adds for this week:

  1. Boston Scott
  2. Carlos Hyde
  3. Adrian Peterson
  4. Jeremy McNichols
  5. Samaje Perine/Salvon Ahmed (#16/#17 Below)

1. Khalil Herbert (CHI) – Herbert continues to dominate touches and played 84% of the snaps. He will be relevant even when Montgomery returns.

2. Devontae Booker (NYG) – An absurd 93% snap share Monday night to go with 125 yards. Boo-yah.

3. Darrel Williams (KC) – Moving him up so you don’t forget he went for 110 yards Monday. Ignore the Gore hype.

4. Alexander Mattison (MIN) – Still an RB1 in waiting if Cook misses any more time.

5. Chuba Hubbard (CAR) – We’ll have to see what happens if McCaffrey returns this week. 

6. A.J. Dillon (GB) – Dillon got an extended workload last week and would be a rock-solid option if Jones goes down.

7. Philly Backs – I’d rank them higher if I trusted Sirianni more. If he uses Scott like he did last week, he will be top-five.

8. Carlos Hyde (JAC) – Someone has to get touches if Robinson sits a game or two.

9. James Conner (ARI) – Conner has standalone value, particularly in non-PPR leagues. Though he’s touchdown-dependent, he’s scoring them in bunches.

10. Tony Pollard (DAL) – A dwindling snap share makes me wonder if Dallas will ride Elliott down the stretch.

11. Jeremy McNichols (TEN) – A short-term solution for this week could get 15+ touches if the Titans don’t have anyone else. AP looms large.

12. Sony Michel (LAR) – I want a piece of this offense, so I’d stash Michel in case.

13. Devin Singletary (BUF) – Singletary has ceded enough work to Moss to land on this list. I’m not sure how to rank him because of his workload.

14. D’Ernest Johnson (CLE) – Johnson moves down because he won’t get the touches Hunt got when healthy.

15. Jamaal Williams (DET) – Last week showed why a healthy Williams is better for Detroit’s offense.

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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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