Running Back Handcuff Report: Week 3 (2022 Fantasy Football)
The NFL is awesome. There were three games this weekend where teams were down by at least two scores in the fourth quarter and came back to win.
We only had one potential running back injury this week (James Conner), but we have a shakeup in the handcuff rankings:
- I took Darrell Henderson off the list. The Rams are in committee mode right now, and I think Sean McVay is still trying to figure out what to do with Cam Akers. If he plays this the way he traditionally has, one of these two will emerge as the lead back.
- Rachaad White moves way up as he is the only running back not named Leonard Fournette that Tampa is giving snaps. He’s a twisted ankle away from having one of the best scenarios in fantasy.
- Ditto Tony Pollard, who looked electric on Sunday. Dallas needs to get him the ball at least 10-12 times a game.
- Jamaal Williams enters the top 10. He should have been there before now, but I wasn’t sure how they would handle things if D’Andre Swift went down. We got a little glimpse into that scenario Sunday when Swift was on a pitch count. Williams would get 15+ touches.
- Zamir White and Tyler Allgeier are on the cusp. Allgeier’s window isn’t as wide as White’s because he will need to flash while Damien Williams is on IR. He has four weeks to pop.
- If Brian Robinson is available in your league, grab him even if you don’t have IR spots. Antonio Gibson isn’t going to fend Robinson off once he recovers.
James Conner injured his ankle, and given the history there; I have some concerns. This either lingers, and he hobbles around ineffectively, or he misses time. If the latter occurs, Darrel Williams becomes viable. He played 56% of the snaps after Conner left the game and handled all 10 snaps inside the 10. He looked good enough to be in the RB2 conversation. Eno Benjamin is also viable, although I would prefer him more in PPR leagues, where he becomes a viable flex play.
Atlanta – Starter: Cordarrelle Patterson, Handcuff: Tyler Allgeier
Damien Williams went on IR, so Tyler Allgeier is now the primary backup in Atlanta. He and Patterson both had 10 carries, but neither did much with them. Patterson had the snap share advantage (59% to 32% for Allgeier), but the most significant positive for him was that he got all four snaps inside the 10-yard line. I said to try and flip CPatt after Week 1 because his value might not be higher. I’d continue to shop him this week.
After getting 59% of the snaps in Week 1, Drake played just 26% in Week 2. This was probably due to the Ravens sprinting out to a big lead and using Mike Davis more. However, the overall production here was putrid, as Justice Hill led the Ravens’ running backs in rushing with 16 yards. J.K. Dobbins can’t get back soon enough.
If James Cook was dropped after Week 1, you know what to do. Despite most of his work coming after the game was decided, he looked good. If he can turn that production into meaningful reps when the game is in question, he could end up as the lead back. Neither Singletary nor Moss has done much to take control of things either, so the door could be open soon.
CMC played a whopping 93% of the snaps and went over 100 yards rushing. He also led Carolina with four receptions, so he is moderately involved there. All that said, I am on the fence about how to approach him in redraft leagues. Baker Mayfield looks awful, and Matt Rhule is a dead man walking, so the Panthers are drawing dead here. The problem is the draft capital invested here makes it difficult to get adequate value back in a potential trade. I’d probably hold for now because McCaffery’s floor is still better than 80% of the league’s ceiling.
The Bears averaged 6.7 YPC against the Packers and rose the hot hand of David Montgomery, who racked up 122 rushing yards a week after I said to trade him. His output Sunday night is deceiving, however, as he gained 49 yards on the opening drive and another 61 yards during a 4th quarter drive when the game was out of hand. His second-half production was more a function of the Packers getting up big and the Bears still trying to run the football in what should have been an obvious pass-heavy night. Montgomery does get Houston in Week 3, and they can be gashed. I am still in on Herbert despite him playing only 20% of the snaps, but this offense looked comically bad against Green Bay.
A week after handling 35 touches, there was no easing up on Joe Mixon. He was heavily involved once again, playing 76% of the snaps, and he exits Week 2 leading the NFL in carries. Despite a paltry 3.0 YPC, he’s getting plenty of volume, so I’d consider him a bounce-back candidate as he’s due to hit the paint. Samaje Perine continues to operate as the RB2, and he played on 50% of third downs. The main issue here is an offensive line that has yet to gel despite numerous off-season additions.
On paper, this game was set up well for Chubb to smash, and he didn’t disappoint with three touchdowns and 113 total yards. Chubb also added three receptions to his total, which was nice to see. Kareem Hunt saw 15 total touches and had over 70 yards himself as the snap share was close to 50/50 despite another game flow that favored Chubb seeing more work. This makes both backs useful, although it does cut into their respective ceilings most weeks.
Dallas – Starter: Ezekiel Elliott, Handcuff: Tony Pollard
Unsurprisingly, Dallas leaned on the ground game more heavily in Week 2. Ezekiel Elliott got 15 carries but looks as dusty as ever. He would need to fall into the end zone to be useful, and the only reason I am remotely interested in his 66% snap share. Tony Pollard got going, tallying 98 total yards on 13 touches. This is a good week to kick the tires here, as fantasy managers who are only into checking box scores will miss the fact Pollard missed a touchdown by a few inches.
Javonte Williams got 65% of the snap share and out-touched Melvin Gordon 17-11 on his way to 85 total yards. There is juice left in the proverbial orange here (that is true of Denver’s offense on the whole) as he was six/six on snaps inside the 10. I hope they are smart enough to give Williams the workload he deserves because if he starts finding paint, look out. He makes for a strong buy-low this week if you can get him. Gordon is still an excellent handcuff with plenty of value himself. I am betting on Denver figuring it out sooner than later.
Detroit – Starter: D’Andre Swift, Handcuff: Jamaal Williams
I’ll lead with this for the second week in a row: D’Andre Swift is so good at football. It was pretty obvious the Lions weren’t going to give him his normal allotment of touches, but it didn’t matter. Despite being limited by a nagging ankle injury, he had 87 total yards, and his touchdown reception was ridiculous. Swift actually went to the ground but wasn’t touched and weaved his way through the defense to score from 22 yards out. Jamaal Williams was the primary ball carrier and managed 53 yards on the ground on 12 carries despite playing just 34% of the snaps. The key here is that he took three snaps inside the 10, so his flex-value is alive and well, especially if he scores.
We’ve seen Aaron Jones blowup games before, so Sunday night wasn’t much of a shock from a raw production standpoint. It is shocking that he and Dillon had a near identical snap share (59% – they played 11 snaps together), and Jones still went off. I think the Packers are wise to get both involved here, and I am still on Dillon as the top handcuff with legitimate top-10 RB potential. The thing is, Jones is as good as any back in the NFL when he gets going like he did last night. Look for both backs to continue getting plenty of opportunities.
A week after he played 80% of the snaps, Rex Burkhead didn’t get a single carry. I am not going to panic drop Burkhead the same way I didn’t drop Pierce because I think Houston is still working this out. It was good to see him get his snap share up (63%), and he was in when Houston got inside the red zone. For his part, Burkhead was the passing down back, so if we see a similar division of labor next week, we can safely assume our priors confirmed here.
Despite the lack of volume, Jonathan Taylor will be just fine. His snap share was healthy (76%), he averaged 6.0 YPC and he was in the game on five/five snaps inside the 10. This was just a bad week where the Colts fell behind early and never got going. It wouldn’t hurt to send out an offer this week if you think the Taylor owner is panicking. If they are 0-2 and thinking the Colts might be washed, try and pry him away.
The Jags dominated Indianapolis Sunday, jumping out to an early lead and never giving it up. This led to James Robinson getting a whopping 23 carries (he finished with 64 yards and a touchdown) in a game that wasn’t as close as the score appeared. Travis Etienne still got 12 touches for 53 yards, so he is a hold right now. Still, this is looking like a straight-up committee that will take Robinson getting banged up for Etienne to be unleashed. I like him as an extreme buy-low.
Things are still a bit murky for the Chiefs’ backfield. I wonder if they won’t start featuring Clyde Edwards-Helaire more after he totaled 118 yards on just 12 touches Thursday. He was slightly out-snapped (48%/43%) by McKinnon, however, and McKinnon got all four snaps inside the 10. Still, I’d be rolling with CEH every week at this point because this offense is going to make him viable.
Las Vegas Raiders – Starter: Josh Jacobs, Handcuff: Zamir White
Josh Jacobs totaled 81 yards on a 75% snap share, which makes sense, given how the game played out for Las Vegas. He handled almost all of the red zone work, so I would think he is due to have a game where he punches a couple in. Ameer Abdullah looks like the third-down back, playing on nine of 11 snaps in those situations. There are a lot of ancillary weapons in the passing game, so Abdullah is off the radar right now.
Los Angeles Chargers – Starter: Austin Ekeler, Handcuff: Committee
I still don’t have much concern about Austin Ekeler here. He played 64% of the snaps Thursday, and while the raw rushing output wasn’t anything special, he had a 9/55 receiving line. He is due for some positive touchdown regression. Joshua Kelley and Sony Michel both got five touches in a reserve role. Michel is dust, but this would be an annoying committee if Ekeler were to get hurt.
Los Angeles Rams – Committee: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson, Jr.
The Week 1 Darrell Henderson victory lappers were noticeably absent from Twitter on Sunday. Cam Akers out-touched Henderson 17-10 despite Henderson being in for 56% of the snaps and almost all of the third-down work. This is a murky situation I am avoiding unless I’ve got no other choice, which, to be fair, is probably the case for a lot of you. The overreaction here will be to say Akers will continue to ascend. I’m not so sure, and that is coming from someone who has a fair number of shares across my leagues. This one is still working itself out.
Raheem Mostert started and out-snapped Chase Edmonds (57% to 49%). He finished with 11 carries for 51 yards, and most of his work came in the first half. This is still a small sample, and the Ravens are stout in the middle, so this might have been a situation where Mike McDaniel wanted to establish the run more than Miami did in Week 1. Edmonds should have better days ahead, and this offense is turning into a pass funnel situation.
Monday night was an outlier game for Dalvin Cook, so I’m not too worried here. The Vikings went pass-heavy despite only being down 17, which is the main reason for the dent in Cook’s carries. The Vikings have some juicy matchups coming up and Week 3 looks like a definite get-right spot against the Lions. Alexander Mattison remains one of the top handcuffs in football as no one on the roster is challenging his status.
Make it make sense, New England! Rhamondre Stevenson dominated snaps playing on 62% of the plays. He was on the field for most of the third-down work as well. That didn’t translate in the box score, however, as Damien Harris out-touched him 17 to 10 and ended up with two receptions. I am still on the Stevenson train, and I think he will eventually be the main ball carrier here. Yet, Harris’s role as the goaline back isn’t being taken away.
Alvin Kamara was a surprise inactive Sunday, leaving Mark Ingram as the lead back. He had 10 carries for 60 yards, which is about what we would expect here, especially in a tough matchup. Tony Jones ended up with the highest snap share at 50%, but he was mostly used in the passing game. The hierarchy here is established, although this backfield is officially on alert for me after back-to-back disappointments to start the year.
Saquon Barkley’s day will be considered a letdown in such a smash spot, but he played 86% of snaps and got 24 touches. Volume wasn’t an issue yesterday, although this game was a good reminder of how bad the Giants are. It just so happens that the Panthers are worse. Still, I’m not worried about Barkley and think he will have plenty of chances to post big weeks. The other silver lining here: We know Matt Breida is the handcuff, and he would be in line for 15+ touches if Barkley misses time.
This is the last week to try and trade for Breece Hall while his price tag is undervalued. He outgained Carter on fewer carries and significantly fewer snaps (Hall only played 26% of the snaps). He averaged almost 7.5 yards per touch and scored a touchdown on a first-half swing pass inside the red zone. For his part, Carter got 12 total touches for 50 yards on 61% of the snaps, so he was plenty involved. I think the pendulum swings to Hall at some point here and probably soon.
Miles Sanders is officially a thing. After two weeks, he ranks 10th in the league in carries and seventh in yards. The Eagles are running the ball as efficiently as any team in the NFL right now, and it looks like Sanders is going to get the lion’s share of the work. Jalen Hurts is the primary ball carrier inside the 10, so that caps his ceiling. Still, 35 touches in two weeks is an excellent return on the Sanders investment. Behind Sanders, I still like Gainwell, but I am adding Boston Scott as he has mixed in the first two weeks. Scott has been a capable fantasy fill-in before, so he would be a speculative add if Sanders goes down.
Maybe Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t the issue for Pittsburgh’s offense. Imagine that. Najee Harris “only” played 71% of the snaps (a low number for him) but got 20 total touches and, to our relief, was involved in the passing game this week. Harris will probably disappoint relative to ADP because the offensive line is dust, Matt Canada is trash and their quarterback situation is a black hole until Kenny Pickett gets the nod. If you have Harris, you’re rolling with him, but this will be painful to watch.
This offense is bad, and while the arrow is pointing up on Kenneth Walker, I am glad I don’t have much invested here. Seattle will play from behind a lot this year so maybe Travis Homer (78% snap share Sunday) is a deep league flier. But do you really want a Seahawks’ running back? They rank dead last in the NFL in rushing, and I don’t see that getting significantly better. You will get one or two useful games sprinkled in but good luck playing that roulette wheel.
Tough day for San Francisco to lose Trey Lance, forcing Kyle Shanahan to adjust on offense. However, it might make things more predictable every week, as the 49ers will likely go back to being ground-oriented. Jeffrey Wilson had 103 total yards on 20 touches despite just a 50% snap share. He was the primary running back on third down and inside the 10-yard line (6/10 snaps), so you’ve got to feel good with that. Tyrion Davis-Price handled 14 carries of his own but suffered a high ankle sprain and expects to miss time, likely placing Jordan Mason as the 49ers’ RB2.
Tampa Bay – Starter: Leonard Fournette, Handcuff: Raachad White
Tough matchup for Lenny, but an 86% snap share and 26 touches tell us all we need to know. The other thing we need to understand here is that Rachaad White is clearly No. 2. He is the only other back on the roster getting any kind of run. He needs to be rostered everywhere.
Ugly night for Tennessee all the way around, although Derrick Henry did find the endzone, which kept him from completely tanking your lineup. Until Ryan Tannehill and these receivers figure some things out, they will need to lean on Henry, which should mean plenty of volume. Dontrell Hilliard missed the game with a hamstring injury, so Hassan Haskins got some extended run in the second half. He looked OK, but the game was well out of reach, so it’s hard to glean much from it.
We are beginning to see some clarity here as the snap share is nearly a 50/50 split. Antonio Gibson has a couple of things going for him right now, most notably that he got all five snaps inside the 10-yard line and scored a touchdown, salvaging his day. He also handed 16 total touches, which makes his yardage total easier to swallow. McKissic is once again emerging as a PPR-flex play with his seven catches and clear-cut third-down presence. His role is much safer than Gibson’s once Brian Robinson is back.
- A.J. Dillon (GB)
- Kareem Hunt (CLE): Short week but gets Pittsburgh, who have been thumped on the ground so far.
- Melvin Gordon (DEN)
- Alexander Mattison (MIN)
- Rachaad White (TB): Biggest riser of the week.
- Tony Pollard (DAL): We have life for the best running back on the Dallas roster.
- Khalil Herbert (CHI)
- Jamaal Williams (DET): Should have had him here sooner.
- Darrel Williams (ARI): Monitor Conner’s injury, but he is the priority add this week.
- Raheem Mostert (MIA)
- Jaylen Warren (PIT): Snap share tells me he would get all the run if Najee goes down.
- James Cook (BUF)
- Rex Burkhead (HOU): Full workload Week 1. Nada for Week 2. True usage is somewhere in between.
- Jordan Mason (SF)
- Samaje Perine (CIN)
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