No one really likes running back handcuffs, at least not in the fantasy football world. Many owners tell themselves RB handcuffs don’t matter on drafty day, but when your top pick gets hurt on the third play of the season, you’ll wish you had a different draft strategy. At that point, all those rankings and sleeper lists were a giant waste of time because your season just got infinitely more difficult without your starter’s primary backup. If only you had taken two more minutes to look at the Giants depth chart!

There’s no perfect way to handle backing up your starters, and finding the right handcuff(s) isn’t always easy. Some teams have multiple players in constant competition for the backup spot. Others will have a veteran there until they feel a rookie is ready to move up the depth chart. This means that everything in the chart below has some level of projection to it. Teams react differently to injuries, so it doesn’t always follow a straight line.

It’s also important to note that just because a running back gets the second-most snaps doesn’t mean he’s the only handcuff option. Third-down/receiving backs don’t necessarily transition to every-down backs if the starter gets hurt. Think Chris Thompson and Tarik Cohen, who may never be primary RBs despite their pass-catching proficiency. Understanding roles and how certain players fit them is key, both during the draft and once the season starts. 

We’ll be here all year helping you navigate any tricky RB situations. Check back all season long for updates!

2019 fantasy football running back handcuffs

Team Projected Starter Projected Handcuff
Arizona Cardinals Kenyan Drake D. Johnson/C. Edmonds
Atlanta Falcons Devonta Freeman Brian Hill
Baltimore Ravens Mark Ingram G. Edwards/J. Hill*
Buffalo Bills Devin Singletary* Frank Gore
Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey Reggie Bonnafon
Chicago Bears David Montgomery* T. Cohen/R. Nall*
Cincinnati Bengals Joe Mixon Giovani Bernard
Cleveland Browns Nick Chubb Kareem Hunt
Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Tony Pollard*
Denver Broncos Phillip Lindsay Royce Freeman
Detroit Lions Bo Scarbrough T. Johnson*/J. McKissic
Green Bay Packers Aaron Jones Jamaal Williams
Houston Texans Carlos Hyde Duke Johnson
Indianapolis Colts1 J. Williams/J. Wilkins Nyheim Hines
Jacksonville Jaguars Leonard Fournette Ryquell Armstead*
Kansas City Chiefs Damien Williams L. McCoy/D. Thompson*
Los Angeles Chargers Melvin Gordon Austin Ekeler
Los Angeles Rams Todd Gurley Malcolm Brown
Miami Dolphins Patrick Laird* Myles Gaskin*
Minnesota Vikings Dalvin Cook Alexander Mattison*
New England Patriots S. Michel/J. White Rex Burkhead
New Orleans Saints Alvin Kamara Latavius Murray
New York Giants Saquon Barkley Wayne Gallman
New York Jets Le’Veon Bell Bilal Powell
Oakland Raiders Josh Jacobs* D. Washington/J. Richard
Philadelphia Eagles2 Miles Sanders* Jay Ajayi
Pittsburgh Steelers3 Benny Snell Jr.* Jaylen Samuels
San Francisco 49ers4 R. Mostert/T. Campbell Jeff Wilson Jr.
Seattle Seahawks Chris Carson Rashaad Penny
Tampa Bay Bucs Ronald Jones II P. Barber/D. Ogunbowale*
Tennessee Titans Derrick Henry Dion Lewis
Washington Redskins A. Peterson/D. Guice Chris Thompson

*Rookie

1 Starter Marlon Mack (hand) will be out until at least Week 14
2 Starter Jordan Howard (shoulder) will be out until at least Week 14
3 Starter James Conner (shoulder) will be out until at least Week 14
4 Co-starter Matt Breida (ankle) will be out until at least Week 14

 

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