Ooooo, the handcuff. The “I KnEW ThIS GUy wAs GoNnA BrEAk OuT” running backs we all want to draft but traditionally don’t want to waste the roster space. In basic terms, handcuffs are running backs that you would try to pair with a top tier guy, most likely in an offense that produces RB 1 numbers.
To find the right handcuff, I personally like to look for a few things. The first major key to a solid handcuff is the offensive line. A great running back will be a great running back, but a handcuff can absolutely explode if the o-line is one of the leagues best. Personally, I always think about who the Steelers back up will be. The Steelers are a wonderful example of a handcuff team due to their inability to use multiple running backs.
Here’s my list of watch outs for handcuffs.
- O Line
- Work horse RB1
- Injury prone RB1
- Reason to believe in the backup.
Obviously there are other variables that go into it, but instead of continuing to tell you how to find a handcuff, let’s just take a look at some of my favorites this upcoming season!
Ito Smith – Atlanta Falcons
I love this kid. If there’s any sign to point to the fact that the Falcons also love this kid, it’s that they didn’t seem to mind Tevin Coleman leaving this offseason. Devonta Freeman is the guy in Atlanta and has been consistent as long as he can remain healthy. The Falcons have a high powered offense, so having a potential starting running back in the 12th round behind an RB with injury concerns is one of the safest plays in fantasy.
Latavius Murray – New Orleans Saints
This one might not EXACTLY qualify as a handcuff due to the fact that the Saints will look to use Murray the way they used Mark Ingram in the past, but is Kamara goes down, Murray is a top five play. The Saints are a powerful offense, so snagging any part of this offense is a smart play. Murray is a solid running back with decent hands who’s pissed off….an amazing combination. 8th round ADP for a potential season winning guy? Sign me up.
Austin Ekeler – Los Angeles Chargers
This pick was a little tougher for me considering the breakout of potential RB2 Justin Jackson last season, but I still believe that Ekeler is the play here. Melvin Gordon is one of my favorite fantasy players and I target him every year, meaning that I always try to get his backup. Ekeler is a great backup in this league with his mix of amazing hands and quick running ability. Right now it’s Ekeler, but keep your eyes on the Chargers preseason to see if they make the move to Jackson.
Jaylen Samuels – Pittsburgh Steelers
LET THE RECORD SHOW – James Conner is an easy RB1 who is the Steelers best running back by far. I’ve had this conversation with people who believe otherwise, but on a personal level I watched that man run train on the league last season and the Steelers have never given me reason to believe they won’t stick with one back this season. That being said, Jaylen Samuels is a real problem for the league. This HB / TE conversion player balled against the Patriots last season and was a stud when Conner went down. I know the Steelers drafted Benny Snell Jr. this year, but with Snell’s 700+ carries in college, I would be surprised is he was used heavily, especially with Samuels success.
Ryquell Armstead – Jacksonville Jaguars
I’m not in love with picking up rookie Rb’s as the handcuff just because of the transition period, but when an injury prone running back gets a new quarterback and has no other true backups, I think I can get a passion Ryquell Armstead. The Temple back doesn’t exactly have break away speed or tremendous hands, but when you look at potential opportunity, he’s extremely intriguing. I don’t recommend drafting Armstead due to the team adding veteran Alfred Blue and Thomas Rawls, but this is one guy you just have to keep your eye on, especially with Fournette’s inability to stay healthy and stay out of trouble.
Tony Pollard – Dallas Cowboys
Again, I don’t believe Pollard is draft able in redraft leagues, but when you think about the Dallas Cowboys, you think of one thing….Zeke. I don’t know if Pollard would get the entire workload if Zeke goes down, but I can promise you that Pollard is the back that fits that system best if Zeke were to go down. Not draft able, but keep an eye on the Memphis rookie.
Darrell Henderson – LA Rams
Admit it, you went through this whole article screaming “WHERE IS HENDERSON!?” until right now, didn’t you. Todd Gurley is the best running back in football, except for the massively scary knee injury rumors we continue to hear. If he were to go down, let’s just say there’s a reason the Rams aggressively targeted Henderson in this draft. Henderson is draftable in my eyes, and has potential here if the Rams decide to go easy on Gurley this season. Originally, I wanted Henderson in a situation where he could instantly compete to start. At first I didn’t believe it, but I might have gotten my wish.