Running Back Handcuff Report: Week 4 (2022 Fantasy Football)
After two relatively injury-free weeks, we saw three starting running backs go down in Week 3. While it looks like all three avoided season-ending injuries, it does look like there will be opportunities for a few handcuffs to get their time to shine. I will discuss them in order of priority for me this week:
Khalil Herbert looked terrific filling in for David Montgomery. He rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns, and he finds himself in an offensive environment that is run-first, to say the least. Even before the injury, Herbert was getting carries and performing well. He also filled in capably last year, so we have some data points to tell us this isn’t a fluke. He gets the Giants in Week 4 and they just got gashed by Dallas. Herbert is for real and so is his potential as an RB1.
Jamaal Williams has had plenty of flex appeal even with D’Andre Swift active. Now we find ourselves in a spot where Swift’s ankle could force him to miss Week 4, which would mean a significant increase in touches for Williams. Monitor practice reports this week, but Williams should be added across all formats and I could make a case for prioritizing him over Herbert. Williams’ role in this offense is independent of an injury to Swift, and he will continue to score touchdowns when the Lions are near the goal line.
Alexander Mattison played 100% of the snaps after Dalvin Cook injured his shoulder. If Cook misses Week 4 (as of now, it looks like he should play, but it’s early), Mattison is a near-lock for 20+ touches. The Vikings have saddled him up every time he has been in this same situation the last two seasons. Mattison is a starter who is stuck behind a top-five running back. He should be 100% rostered.
James Conner played 60% of the snaps, which is slightly less than expected. Coming off his ankle injury, this wasn’t a surprise, and he wasn’t at all effective. I worry that this injury will linger, so I wouldn’t drop Darrel Williams or Eno Benjamin unless you can get one of the guys mentioned at the top of the article.
C-Patt had a big day in a supposedly tough matchup, going over 100 yards and scoring a touchdown. He played 59% of the snaps, which is encouraging. I don’t see anything from Tyler Allgeier that would suggest to me he is capable of overtaking Patterson at the moment. You could certainly stash him (he got 40% of the snaps — a significant number), because if Patterson goes down, he could have legitimate 15-20 touch upside.
The Ravens eased J.K. Dobbins back into action, giving him just 44% of the snaps, but it was good to see him out there. Kenyan Drake was a healthy scratch, so take that for what it’s worth in regards to the handcuff situation. Justice Hill led the backfield with a 47% snap share and 60 yards rushing. Dobbins should take things over in short order and be good for a weekly 12-15 touch floor. If you’ve held on this long, congratulations.
I am holding James Cook if I’ve got him. He only saw 11% of the snaps, but he had five touches, so he is involved when he’s in the game. Zack Moss actually led the backfield in rushing, but it was Singletary who found the end zone and led Buffalo with nine receptions. He is now second on the team behind Stefon Diggs in that regard. His receiving work saved him yesterday, but he is only averaging 3.5 YPC. Buffalo needs a better ground game to take some pressure off of Josh Allen, hence the reason for holding onto Cook.
CMC was once again a workhorse, playing 80% of the snaps and soaking up most of the third-down (12/14 snaps) work. He ground out 100 rushing yards on 25 carries, which is a silver lining because his passing-game usage is virtually nonexistent. This offense is horrific, and despite having arguably the best running back in fantasy, Matt Rhule looks like he has no intentions of utilizing him that way. Chuba Hubbard received three carries behind CMC, but I’m not sure I’d want any part of this backfield in the event of an injury.
David Montgomery‘s injury is looking like it is going to keep him out for at least a couple of weeks, so I am moving Herbert to starter territory. He was the overall RB1 on the week and should be added everywhere. Now we shift our focus to Trestan Ebner, who was twice named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. Ebner is built in the role of a third-down back who can be involved in the passing game. He should complement Herbert’s interior running skills well but can be left off of most rosters for now.
It was Samaje Perine, not Joe Mixon, who salted things away for the Bengals in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Mixon (84% of the snaps through three quarters) is nursing a sore ankle that might be a little worse than what Cincinnati is letting on. They have a short week, so while Mixon will be out there Thursday night, he won’t be 100%. Perine looked good in the fourth quarter, but don’t be fooled: Mixon’s bellcow status isn’t in jeopardy and by Week 5 he will be fine.
I wrote about the mismatch between the Browns’ OL and the Steelers’ DL in my weekly matchup column and it fleshed itself out. The Browns beat Pittsburgh into submission with a steady diet of Nick Chubb, who went over 100 yards and scored a touchdown. He continues to look like one of the best values in fantasy. It was a bit frustrating to see Kareem Hunt get stuffed inside the 5 on consecutive carries, but I think it speaks to the confidence Cleveland has in both backs. This will continue to be a 60/40 split moving forward with Hunt being the primary third-down back.
Zeke Elliott didn’t look as dusty, but the difference between him and Tony Pollard is almost laughable at this point. If Elliott weren’t being paid like a starting quarterback, Pollard would almost certainly be the feature back. As it is, they will continue to split touches with Elliott needing a touchdown to be useful. The good news is the Dallas offense should provide ample opportunity for those, so all is not lost if you have him. Still, I would much prefer Pollard, who can turn any play into a 40-yard gain.
Nathaniel Hackett has no clue what he is doing with this offense. Javonte Williams only getting 44% of the snaps and splitting touches at a 50/50 clip with Melvin Gordon is bad. Sprinkling Mike Boone on top of that is a fireable offense. This offense is stuck in neutral and is part of the reason Denver should be 0-3 instead of 2-1. The bigger reason is that the head coach believes bringing in a retired special teams coach to tell him whether or not to punt is going to fix it.
I’m glad I added Williams to the handcuff list last week. Swift was hobbled once again on Sunday and Williams responded with 22 touches for 107 total yards. He also reprised his red-zone role, scoring two short touchdowns as well. Williams has plenty of flex appeal because of that role, but if Swift were to miss time, Williams would be a high-end RB2. Monitor Swift’s health, but Williams should be owned in all formats regardless.
It was a tough matchup for Green Bay Sunday, and the game turned into a defensive slugfest. The good news is that the Packers gave these two a combined 29 touches, so they continue to feed them the ball. Jones played 63% of the snaps and was the primary third-down back. He also got 3/5 snaps inside the 10, which is probably a function of his big game in Week 2. I am still in on Dillon as the top handcuff because he is a top-eight running back if he gets things all to himself.
Pierce got 61% of the snaps on his way to going over 100 total yards on 22 touches. He also caught two passes and scored his first career touchdown, finishing as an RB1 for Week 3. Pierce played on 7/8 snaps inside the 10, something we want to see from backs without a three-down role. Burkhead continues to be the passing-down back, playing on 10/12 third downs and catching four passes. If you’re tight on roster spots, Burkhead can be cut this week, as he doesn’t see enough volume to warrant flex consideration.
I said last week try to trade for Jonathan Taylor, and I am going to beat that drum again. The snap share (77%), touches (24), and third-down usage (13/18) are all healthy. The raw production hasn’t been there, but Taylor is too good to hold down and at some point, Frank Reich is going to realize the offense should flow through him. It was interesting to see the Colts use Taylor and Hines in more packages this week, seeing 15 snaps together. It tells me Reich is at least trying to get his best players involved in creative ways.
James Robinson is one of the best early-season stories in the NFL. Coming off of an Achilles injury, it looked like he might start the season on IR. Now he’s averaging 4.5 YPC and has racked up 230 yards in his first three games. He has a locked-in early-down role for Jacksonville, and he’s made Travis Etienne the forgotten man. This is precisely why now is the time to kick the tires and see if you can get Etienne for next to nothing. He is averaging 10+ touches per week, and as this Jacksonville offense continues to evolve, that number stands to rise. See if you can get him on the cheap this week.
It was an ugly day for the Chiefs, who only mustered 58 yards rushing as a team. McKinnon led in snaps (50%) but only had 20 yards rushing and did nothing in the passing game. CEH pulled off the rare feat of having more rushing touchdowns than rushing yards. I would be trying to offload CEH with everything I’ve got this week.
I don’t think anyone saw an 0-3 start coming, but this team lacks an identity offensively. Josh Jacobs is more or less an early-down grinder who doesn’t have a red-zone role. Brandon Bolden is playing 30-40% of the snaps and getting all of the third-down work. He’s also active in the red zone, but the Raiders are more likely to target Davante Adams and Darren Waller inside the 20. The Raiders are a pit of misery right now, and I am glad I have zero shares of Jacobs.
Los Angeles Chargers – Starter: Austin Ekeler, Handcuff: Committee
Austin Ekeler’s work in the passing game is keeping him afloat, but things look bad for the Chargers right now. They just lost Rashawn Slater for the season, and Keenan Allen has missed the last two games. Justin Herbert is also banged up, and while the division doesn’t look as daunting as it did three weeks ago, they need guys to get healthy. They do have some get-right spots in the coming weeks starting with Houston this Sunday. Hopefully, they lean on Ekeler and get him going.
This was a 50/50 split, so we are in a full-blown committee with the caveat that Akers is trending up. He had 12 carries to Henderson’s four, and he is slowly starting to look like the running back he can be. This might be a slow burn to get him there, but Akers is a buy for me right now. I wouldn’t go crazy on an offer, but getting him now means you’re ahead of the field. When he eventually pops in the second half of the season, you will have yourself a fine RB2 with upside.
Mostert once again out-snapped Chase Edmonds (59% to 41%), but it was Edmonds who scored twice. He also handled 4/5 snaps inside the 10, which is an odd turn of events. Mostert had been handling those situations, but Edmonds jitterbugged his way into the end zone from short distances. The Dolphins rank 31st in the league in rushing, making this a tough situation. You can’t drop either of these two, but they aren’t startable either.
Dalvin Cook’s shoulder popped out of place, but it sounds like it is something that happens and he’s been dealing with it. The Vikings travel to London this week, so I’m not sure if that will have any bearing on Cook’s status for Week 4. Obviously, Mattison should be added everywhere he is available. He played 100% of the fourth-quarter snaps and his touchdown run was a prime example of how good this guy can be. If Cook misses, Mattison is an RB1.
Looking at the split here, Stevenson may be taking control of things in New England. He played 62% of the snaps — same as Week 2 — but the difference is that he had 5/8 snaps inside the 10. I am not ready to say this is his backfield, but he is so superior to Harris, I don’t see how Bill Belichick can ignore it. This is the Patriots, however, so Harris may have more touches next week in Green Bay. This is especially true because it looks like Mac Jones will miss this week with a high ankle sprain.
Kamara got back on the field after missing Week 2, but I am officially worried here. The workload here isn’t a cause of concern. He played 70% of the snaps and turned in 73 mostly useless yards on 17 touches. The lack of usage in the passing game is another story. Kamara is no better than the third option on most plays, and with Jameis Winston‘s propensity to go down the field, he isn’t going to soak up targets underneath. You’ve got to hold if you have him, but you don’t feel good about it.
Saquon did Saquon things last night. He dominated touches and finished with 126 total yards and a tremendous 36-yard touchdown. This wasn’t an easy matchup, and he will continue to be a top-five option at running back. I think the ceiling is even higher than previously thought because the Giants are so thin at receiver. If Barkley starts getting 5-7 targets, he will be approaching CMC status where his floor is better than the ceiling of most running backs.
Breece Hall out-snapped Michael Carter for the first time all season in Week 3. While it was modest (51% to 49%), Hall had six receptions and led the team in total touches with 14 for 94 yards. I am leaving this as a committee for one more week, but I cannot stress this enough: Try to trade for Breece Hall as soon as you can get offers out.
Philadelphia eviscerated Washington through the air on Sunday, meaning there wasn’t much meat left on the bone for the running backs. We continue to see Miles Sanders lead the way in touches (16) and snaps (57%), so he is the best bet. Jalen Hurts puts a dent in the ceiling of all of the backs on the roster, however, as he leads the team in rushing touchdowns.
I will reiterate what I said last week: You are rolling with Najee Harris if you have him, but this is going to be tough to watch. Harris was back up to his usual snap share (82%) and he found paint, but his 18 touches only produced 59 yards. This offense is one of the worst in the NFL, and until Matt Canada is jettisoned, it won’t improve. For his part, Jaylen Warren looked explosive on his four carries, and my confidence in him is growing.
Rashaad Penny probably deserves better than what Seattle is on offense. He will have a couple of games this year when he pops and reminds us why he was once a highly-touted prospect. For now, we will have to settle on 50-70 yards and hope he falls into the end zone. DeeJay Dallas played over Kenneth Walker this week, so good luck figuring that out. I do think if (when?) Penny gets injured, Walker would get the bulk of the work, but betting on this offense isn’t going to win you a fantasy championship.
Wilson is the alpha here, and he put up over 100 total yards in Week 3. His late-game fumble is a black mark on an otherwise solid game for him. Kyle Shanahan tends to ride with one running back, so it appears Wilson is the guy right now. Jordan Mason would make for a speculative add if you have the roster space, however. He would have a true 15-20 touch role if Wilson gets hurt because outside Kyle Juszczyk, there is no one left to challenge him.
Lenny played 92% of the snaps out of necessity Sunday but only managed 70 yards. He did catch five passes, which netted you a nice PPR day, but overall, he disappointed relative to expectations. The Bucs should start to get right this week with Mike Evans coming back. Fournette should be ok and be locked and loaded as the feature back.
Mike Vrabel decided he’d seen enough and saddled up Tractorcito. Henry finally got involved in the passing game, hauling in five passes for 58 yards. He tacked on 85 yards rushing and a touchdown to register his best fantasy day of the season. I like what Dontrell Hilliard is bringing to the table here, and he is worth a speculative add if you want to handcuff Henry. As we’ve seen, it is better to be a week early as opposed to a week late.
Antonio Gibson scored a garbage-time touchdown, giving at least one Commander a semblance of relevance on a day where they punted more than they crossed midfield. This franchise is a dumpster fire, and with Carson Wentz regressing every week, things won’t get better offensively.
- A.J. Dillon (GB)
- Alexander Mattison (MIN) – Could start Week 4. History of bellcow usage in that role.
- Tony Pollard (DAL) – Exploded last night. Should be the starter.
- Kareem Hunt (CLE) – Getting stuffed three times at the goal line isn’t what we want to see.
- Melvin Gordon (DEN)
- Rachaad White (TB) – Only other TB running back getting snaps.
- Jaylen Warren (PIT) – Good burst on limited touches.
- Samaje Perine (CIN) – Biggest riser of the week.
- Jordan Mason (SF)
- Raheem Moster (MIA) – More of a timeshare situation.
- James Cook (BUF)
- Matt Breida (NYG)
I’m leaving Khalil Herbert and Jamaal Williams off this week. They should both be in starter territory and were mentioned at the top.
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