These are the handcuffs you should be picking up in order to protect your stud Running Backs. Or if one of these guys gets the nod through injury he could win you your league.
Dalvin Cook has been a monster for the Vikings this year and it would be hard not to take the Florida State man in top 2 should owners draft today. Proving that his injury riddled sophomore campaign was simply a result of his rookie ACL tear. Cook put Minnesota on his back when Quarterback Kirk Cousins struggled to begin the season. Though Cook has been consistently balling out, exciting rookie Alexander Mattison has proved he is no slouch.
Posting a respectable 11 points against Oakland in week 3. Mattison sits in a similar position to the Cowboys rookie Pollard. Providing security and flashes that reassure Viking fans that the ground game will be in safe hands should Cook suffer any injury reoccurrences. Minnesota have the 5th best offensive line in the league. The talented Mattison could run rampant should he become the starting rusher.
Jerry Jones was the calmest man in Dallas when Ezekiel Elliot held out in the off season. The famous “Zeke who?” comment may have been taken as an insult by the Elliot camp. Though not insulting enough to turn down a 6 year $90 million contract. Many put the comments down to posturing from the Cowboys owner. It seems he was correctly confident in the talents of the 4th round rookie.
No one would have been happier than Jones after Pollard’s superb 20 points against Miami in week 3. He reassured Cowboys fans that the run game is in safe hands should Zeke go down. Now relegated to flashes of brilliance while Zeke is rested between long drives, Pollard is seemingly biding his time before an Elliot injury necessitates a breakout. Elliot and Quarterback Dak Prescott have revitalised the Dallas franchise. But should Zeke go down, its a safe bet that Pollard would run wild behind the 3rd best offensive line in the league.
Though seasoned fantasy heads will remember the infamous Aaron Jones vs Jamaal Williams battle to lead the run game under ex-head coach Mike McCarthy. Jones has become the near-bell cow under Matt LaFleur´s new regime. Jones has been leading the team in touches and will generally be seen as the featured back. However, Williams has been creeping back into the picture.
Going off for 21 points in week 6 against Detroit. 17 points at Kansas City and a respectable 13 points at the Chargers. Matt LaFleur seems to be favouring a Saints-esque 1-2 punch at the position and utilising Williams’ pass catching skills. Should Jones go down, Green bay have the 8th best offensive line in the league and Williams has a great chance to become a top 10 back.
Many thought Pete Carroll had finally found his feature back when the Seahwaks took Penny as their first pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Penny shot up dynasty drafts (mirroring fellow first round bust Ronald Jones down in Tampa), as every analyst with a blue tick validated Penny as a sure fire bell cow.
Sadly Penny has yet to climb above Chris Carson on the Seattle depth chart and has only flashed his immense potential so far. Hampered by fumbling issues and long runs being chalked off for team penalties. Penny can regularly be seen warming the bench as Carson and Quarterback Russell Wilson lead the Seattle run game. While Carson has done wonders behind an average offensive line, should the Oklahoma State man miss any time it may finally be Penny Season.
Conner has proved many wrong (including yours truly). He has shown his elite talent replacing the much loved Lev’eon Bell on the Steelers roster. Sadly Conner has been hampered by injuries in his first season as the starter proper. While this has been bad news for Conner owners it has given Samuels the chance to state his claim as a valuable backup for the Steelers.
19 points against the Bengals in week 4. 12 points week 9 against Indianapolis in the absence of an injured Conner demonstrated that Samuels has the chops to be an able replacement for the University of Pittsburgh product. Injuries have also hit the NC State man. So in the rare occurrence that both Conner and Samuels go down rookie Benny Snell is a solid third option. Owners should remember that Pittsburgh have the 4th worst offensive line in the league, are missing Big Ben and have the uncertain Ruldolph under centre.
As we turn to San Francisco for our next pick we need to take a moment to pour one out for the super unlucky Jerick McKinnon. Kyle Shanahan paid the ex-Viking bell cow money as his marquee 2018 free agent signing. To only see the Georgia Southern man go down in the off season. McKinnkon never saw the field in a 49ers jersey. As one of many owners who took McKinnon as the 3rd pick in a 2018 start-up, its difficult not to wonder what might have been.
Anyway, back to the task at hand. In his absence Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman have formed a mini New Orleans 1-2 punch at the position. Savvy owners, however, need to make some space on their stash bench. Despite having Wolverine levels of recovery Breida seems to pick up a knock almost every game. Coleman has a well documented injury history tied to his sickle cell issues.
San Francisco have the 9th best offensive line in the league. Shanahan is truly working wonders and with an elite defence leaving the offense in great positions, Mostert is a must add. His week 2, 22 points at Cincinnati in the absence of the top 2 rushers highlight his potential for the red and gold.
Okay hands up, I was a huge Todd Gurley fan when he leaped over defenders in the brilliant second half of his rookie campaign. Check the stats- Gurley failed to hit double digits only twice after the week 6 bye. The following season the truthers languished painfully as Gurley dropped to the 2nd round in drafts during the awful Jeff Fisher era. Talent always rises to the top. We finally witnessed Gurley get his due under Sean McVay and lead the Rams to a record breaking run to the Superbowl.
It broke my heart this off season when Gurley was diagnosed with arthritis in his knee. Resulting in game management and limited usage for the former 1st round pick (and rightly so). As sad as this reads for Gurley owners it became a major boost to backup Darrell Henderson. Another talented rookie rusher flashing brilliance while Gurley rests between plays. The Rams have the 10th best offensive line in the league. Quarterback Jarred Goff is struggling and no one is going to forget the boost Mcvay gave to the Rams run game. Gurley has yet to go down proper and hopefully won’t. Yet should the Georgia man miss any time Henderson could run riot.
Hang on. The 22nd best offensive line boasts one of the best handcuffs in the National Football League? Before you dismiss this pick remember how Kenyan Drake embarrassed San Francisco for 26 points on Thursday Night Football? Just 3 days after his trade from the tanking Miami Dolphins? Drake has always had the talent. Now freed from the awful situation in Miami he can finally show the league just how good he really is.
With a young, innovative coach in Kliff Kingsbury at the helm all signs point to Drake becoming a real force for the Cardinals. No one really knows what the hell is going on with Running Back 1 David Johnson. Or with sophomore backup rusher Chase Edmonds being derailed by injuries. Drake could rise atop the depth chart in no time. A positive situation with a coaches who want him there and orchestrating plays with impressive rookie Quarterback Kyler Murray- Drake needs to be owned.
Rounding out our list is another handcuff who some wouldn’t consider to be a conventional backup – Latavius Murray. Semantics aside Murray’s place should be no surprise to any fantasy owner worth their salt. Having already gone off for 29 points against an impressive Bears defence. 32 points against Arizona in Alvin Kamara´s absence, Murray has been the handcuff to target this season.
With uber-talented Kamara finally showing the signs of wear and tear many predicted with his slight frame after becoming a starter in New Orleans, Murray has had the chance to shine. And my hasn’t he ran with it (literally). Many will argue Murray isn’t actually a backup as he fills the Ingram role in the dual-running attack the Saints employ. But the fact of the matter is Murray boasts the best offensive line in the league. He is guaranteed playing time regardless if Kamara is on the field.
Grab those Handcuffs and go win your leagues.
Until next week, keep Rushing