While there are plenty of young starting running backs that have entered the NFL this season, it is still important to find certain handcuffs (second-string running backs) in case of injury or under-performance. In keeper leagues, that idea might make even more sense as position battles can occur every year.
Who are the best handcuffs to look for in your fantasy football draft(s)?
Jerick McKinnon – Minnesota Vikings
While rookie Dalvin Cook appears to be the No. 1 running back in Minnesota, fantasy owners need to be leery of relying solely on Cook in the Vikings’ backfield. Rookies are hard to judge, especially during the preseason, and McKinnon might get a bulk of the goal line carries early in the season.
In my keeper league, Cook was taken first overall, but McKinnon was not selected until the final round — by myself. In my opinion, this is a no-brainer on my part. But it also allows me to use McKinnon as trade bait if need be for the Cook owner.
Darren McFadden – Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliott is facing a six-game suspension, but has filed an appeal. If you look back at the NFL’s tendencies in regards to suspension appeals, Elliot will still serve around four games. This opens the door for McFadden to get on the field and take the bulk of the workload in Elliot’s absence, and McFadden has proven he can run behind the bulky Cowboys’ offensive line.
Even if your roster is loaded with running back talent, select McFadden before the Elliot owner does, as Elliot is still going in the first-round in most leagues. It is better to have him taking up a roster spot and not being used, than being used against you in a matchup.
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
Perhaps I should put Jonathan Stewart as the handcuff the way that McCaffrey is playing in the preseason. But, Stewart should still be viewed as the starter for now. However, if you take McCaffrey before Stewart, you need to also snag the latter for security purposes. In leagues that I’m a part of that have drafted, McCaffrey is being selected in the first three rounds of the draft, and Stewart is sitting in the 15th or later.
With the upside and offensive fit that McCaffrey offers, especially in PPR leagues, having both running backs will not hurt you.
Thomas Rawls – Seattle Seahawks
Eddie Lacy might hold the starting running back role for now, but he has been unimpressive this preseason. The only positive for Lacy thus far is that he has hit multiple weight bonuses that are built into his contract. Thomas Rawls is a pick up that has to happen, especially because of Lacy’s lack of production so far in his career.
While Lacy isn’t Trent Richardson, he has to be considered at least a fantasy football bust at this point. If Rawls is available and you have already drafted, go make a waiver claim before you finish this article.
Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers
Ty Montgomery is on the shelf with a lower leg injury, and Williams is gunning for his starting role in the Green Bay Packers‘ offense. Williams is being taken off the board around the ninth round in fantasy drafts on Yahoo, and is worthy of that position. He is likely to take snaps from Montgomery even when they are both healthy, and Williams holds an advantage over Montgomery because he is a running back by trade.
Selecting both Packers’ running backs is a must, and look for Williams to take the starting role quickly if he continues to progress like he has at this point.