Depending on your league format, bench spots, and IR eligibility, drafting a backup running back could prove itself helpful for your season-long success.
These backups, known as handcuffs, can earn valuable playing time in the event of an injury, poor production from the starter, or possible suspension.
While drafting the backup to one of the starting running backs on your roster can be a nice safety net, it can also cut into some of the upside by having multiple players from the same team.
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Best Running Back Handcuffs (2023 Fantasy Football)
Below, we’ll detail (in no particular order) five of the best handcuff running backs to roster in 2023.
Zach Charbonnet (RB – SEA)
Drafted in the second round and No. 52 overall by the Seattle Seahawks, Charbonnet initially caused many dynasty players with Kenneth Walker III on their roster to roll their eyes.
However, Pete Carroll will want to run the ball a lot with Geno Smith under center and an improved offensive line after the draft.
Walker is talented, going for over 1,100 yards and ten touchdowns last season. But he’s had some injury concerns, including a hernia surgery in August 2022 and an ankle sprain/pull in Week 13 of last season.
Charbonnet is a six-foot, 214-pound back that was uber-productive at UCLA, so he will have standalone value as is. If Walker were to miss time, Charbonnet should see an opportunity to become a potential league winner.
Jaylen Warren (RB – PIT)
In 2022, we saw Steelers’ starting running back Najee Harris facing some production problems, rushing for 3.8 yards per carry on 272 attempts, with 1,038 yards and seven touchdowns overall.
This allowed undrafted rookie Jaylen Warren to come in and get some work.
On 77 carries, Warren averaged 4.9 yards per carry with one rushing touchdown. He also racked up 28 receptions in the passing game.
This offseason, the Steelers knew they had to shore up the offensive line. They’ve done some work, including drafting Georgia offensive tackle Broderick Jones and signing offensive guard Isaac Seumalo from the cross-state Philadelphia Eagles.
These offensive line improvements could help Harris get back on track. But as we’ve seen over the years, should anything happen to a Pittsburgh Steelers running back, head coach Mike Tomlin will let the next man up take over. In this case, that means Warren.
If Warren gets any extended action, with this new offensive line and a roster of skill position players to take some of the burden off him, he’ll be productive.
Alexander Mattison (RB – MIN)
Throughout this offseason, there have been rumblings about the Minnesota Vikings potentially cutting ties with long-time starting running back and star Dalvin Cook.
The Vikings drafted DeWayne McBride out of UAB in the seventh round, who’s is also a bruiser type of back.
While a seventh-round draftee doesn’t necessarily signal an impending move around Cook, it’s certainly something to be aware of.
Mattison has always been one of the most reliable handcuff running backs in fantasy football and that will continue to be the case if Cook remains on the roster.
If Cook is cut before the season, you can plug McBride in here instead as both McBride and Mattison will be productive.
Chase Brown (RB – CIN)
Like Cook, there are some rumors swirling about Joe Mixon‘s future in Cincinnati due to off-the-field issues.
Brown, the five-foot-nine-and-a-half, 209-pound bruising back, had plenty of success in with Illinois in college. He also posted a 4.43 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
If Mixon gets suspended, misses games due to health, or is cut, Brown is the type of experienced back that can step in and immediately be a starter.
Mixon also struggled a bit in 2022 as compared to a stellar season in 2021 where he racked up 14 touchdowns. This past season, however, he only got 3.9 yards per carry on 249 carries, under 1,000 rushing yards, and eight rushing touchdowns.
Samaje Perine is no longer on the roster so after Mixon, Brown will get the chance. And in this Bengals offense, there’s no way Brown isn’t productive in a starting role.
Jerome Ford (RB – CLE)
This one might be a bit unexpected, but Ford, a former Alabama Crimson Tide turned Cincinnati Bearcat, is the next man up behind the incredible Nick Chubb.
Kareem Hunt is no longer on the team and while the Browns have a roster of other backs, including Demetric Felton, John Kelly, and more, none of the others profile to be the starter in the event of a Chubb injury.
The Browns drafted Ford in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He tested in the 82nd percentile in the 40-yard dash, 65th in the 10-yard split, and 46th in the broad jump.
He’s not an incredible athlete by any means, but he has the Alabama pedigree and speed to be a productive back. In college, he had just over 300 carries, so he’s fresh and ready to go as well.
The Browns have a solid offensive line and should be better after a full offseason with quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Should Chubb go down, someone needs to make up for his 302 carries, 1,525 rushing yards, and 12 scores, and Ford would be the guy to do it.
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