The term “handcuffing” in Fantasy Football means that you draft the backup to a specific person you have on your team. In most situations, the only players on your team that you will handcuff are YOUR running backs.
In the NFL, most teams have a running back committee in their backfield. The days of one running back getting 20 or more carries a week is becoming extinct. There are still a few teams that have a workhorse running back, and most of those teams have a good backup running back that you should also draft.
Let’s take a look at the teams where if you draft their starting running back you NEED to take the backup:
Pittsburgh Steelers: Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams
Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the NFL. He is one of the most effective runners in the league and can also catch the ball well. The issue with Bell is that he has had two significant knee injuries, and is possibly going to be suspended for a second time for drug related issues.
DeAngelo Williams showed during Le’Veon Bell’s absence from a knee injury that he can be very effective for the Steelers. He had over 1,200 total yards and 11 touchdowns in 12 games as the starter. Williams has no value if Bell is playing, but all Bell owners need him as the insurance policy.
Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon
I’m done saying that Adrian Peterson’s time as an elite running back is over. If you take out the year he was suspended, he has had double digit touchdowns in every season he’s played, and was 30 yards away from having 1,000 rushing yards every season (he missed four games with an ACL injury in 2011). Peterson may be the exception to every rule about a running back hitting a wall because of age or usage.
I don’t have any problem drafting Adrian Peterson if he’s the best option at the time, but I am going to ensure that I get Jerick McKinnon. In two seasons he has averaged 500 total yards and a touchdown. Last season the Vikings put their trust in McKinnon over the other backups on the team, and it looks like that trust will continue if Peterson takes a step back in production.
Miami Dolphins: Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi
Lamar Miller’s signing in Houston left the door open for Jay Ajayi to become the starter for the Dolphins. Ajayi projected to be a second or third round pick in the 2015 draft, but a knee injury allowed him to slide to the fifth round. Ajayi only played in nine games last year and managed about 300 total yards and a touchdown. In OTA’s he has looked healthy and ready to take on the role of starter.
Then the Dolphins decided to sign Arian Foster. Foster has been a stud in Fantasy Football anytime he has been on the field. In the pre-season, he looks like he is healed from the Achilles injury that limited him to four games last season. I don’t think it will be long before Foster takes over as the starting running back as he is the superior player. Having Foster if you draft Jay Ajayi is going to be very important for your team this season.
Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris
The Cowboys selected Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. There is ZERO chance that Elliott won’t get over 300 carries this season. If he stays healthy for all 16 games, he could very easily be the number one running back in Fantasy Football this season.
But what if the next Emmitt Smith gets hurt? Alfred Morris will be there to carry the load. Morris has never been on a team as good as the Cowboys, and the offensive line made Joseph Randle fantasy relevant last year. If you take Ezekiel Elliott early, make sure you reach a little to ensure Morris is also on your team.
Atlanta Falcons: Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman
Devonta Freeman was drafted in the ninth round last season, two rounds after Tevin Coleman was being drafted. When Coleman went down in week two, Freeman took the reins and never looked back. Freeman ended up as the number one running back in Fantasy Football. He finished with over 1,600 total yards and 14 total touchdowns.
Tevin Coleman is a running back that was drafted by the current regime in Atlanta, which means that they do like him. If Devonta Freeman doesn’t produce as well as he did last year, or gets injured, we could see a role reversal similar to what we saw in Atlanta last season and Coleman takes over.