RB handcuffs are a necessary evil in fantasy football. Running backs get hurt (or wind up on the COVID list) far too often to not have an insurance policy, especially if they were one of your early-round picks. Knowing a team’s depth chart and having a player’s backup ready to insert into your lineup is a great way to keep your team on track. It’s not a bad idea to acquire one or two handcuffs of backs who aren’t even on your team. You never know when a sleeper will emerge and vastly outproduce his 2021 preseason ranking thanks to increased playing time.

To illustrate how important handcuffs can be, take a look at Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis in 2020. McCaffrey suffered several injuries throughout the season and played just three games, opening the door for Davis to take over. In Weeks 3-16, Davis was the No. 6 overall running back in PPR formats. McCaffrey owners who didn’t have Davis were kicking themselves, as they lost the assumed No. 1 overall pick for most of the year and had to try to piece together a replacement from other teams. People who picked up Davis got a bargain-bin RB1. It might have been bad luck to lose McCaffrey for most of the season, but covering yourself from an injury standpoint is just smart practice.

As mentioned above, you don’t¬†have to have a team’s starting running back to see value in their handcuff. In a league where you draft Ezekiel Elliott and JK Dobbins, Tony Pollard and Gus Edwards are definitely going to be more attractive to you, but you should consider them even if you don’t have Elliott and Dobbins. Even without injuries to the starters, Edwards and Pollard could have flex values.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Top 200

Some handcuffs present more value than others, so take that into consideration in your draft. Pollard and Edwards considerably more upside than guys like Samaje Perine, Justin Jackson, or the combination of Xavier Woods and Jake Funk. Just as with starting running backs, the quality of the No. 2 RB matters, too, as well as other factors, such as receiving skillset and red-zone acumen. You don’t need to reach for the low-end handcuffs. They’ll be available in the last few rounds.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Top 200

We’ve already seen the likes of Edwards, Pollard, Alexander Mattison, Latavius Murray, Marlon Mack, and Jamaal Williams flash when given a more significant roles in an offense, so they’re among the more attractive handcuffs. Unknowns, such as Chuba Hubbard, Kenneth Gainwell, and Darrynton Evans ,are often sitting on the waiver wire unless it’s a deep league. As always, monitor injury situations and snap counts weekly, and be ready to strike things are trending in the wrong direction.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Each team

2021 Fantasy RB Handcuffs

Team Starter Handcuff Two-Deep
Arizona Cardinals Chase Edmonds James Conner Committee
Atlanta Falcons Mike Davis Cordarrelle Patterson Committee
Baltimore Ravens JK Dobbins Gus Edwards Justice Hill
Buffalo Bills D. Singletary/Z. Moss Matt Breida Committee
Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey Chuba Hubbard Trenton Cannon
Chicago Bears David Montgomery Tarik Cohen Damien Williams
Cincinnati Bengals Joe Mixon Samaje Perine Trayveon Williams
Cleveland Browns Nick Chubb Kareem Hunt D’Ernest Johnson
Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Tony Pollard Rico Dowdle
Denver Broncos Melvin Gordon Javonte Williams Royce Freeman
Detroit Lions D’Andre Swift Jamaal Williams Committee
Green Bay Packers Aaron Jones AJ Dillon Kylin Hill
Houston Texans David Johnson Phillip Lindsay Mark Ingram
Indianapolis Colts Jonathan Taylor Marlon Mack Nyheim Hines
Jacksonville Jaguars J. Robinson/T. Etienne Carlos Hyde Dare Ogunbowale
Kansas City Chiefs Clyde Edwards-Helaire Darrel Williams Jerick McKinnon
Las Vegas Raiders Josh Jacobs Kenyan Drake Jalen Richard
Los Angeles Chargers Austin Ekeler Justin Jackson Joshua Kelley
Los Angeles Rams Darrell Henderson Xavier Woods/Jake Funk Committee
Miami Dolphins Myles Gaskin Malcolm Brown Salvon Ahmed
Minnesota Vikings Dalvin Cook Alexander Mattison Ameer Abdullah
New England Patriots Damien Harris James White S. Michel/R. Stevenson
New Orleans Saints Alvin Kamara Latavius Murray Dwayne Washington
New York Giants Saquon Barkley Devontae Booker Committee
New York Jets Michael Carter L. Perine/T. Coleman Committee
Philadelphia Eagles Miles Sanders K. Gainwell/B. Scott K. Johnson/J. Howard
Pittsburgh Steelers Najee Harris Benny Snell Jr. Anthony McFarland Jr.
San Francisco 49ers Raheem Mostert Trey Sermon Wayne Gallman Jr.
Seattle Seahawks Chris Carson Rashaad Penny D. Dallas/T. Homer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers L. Fournette/R. Jones Giovani Bernard Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Tennessee Titans Derrick Henry Darrynton Evans Jeremy McNichols
Washington Football Team Antonio Gibson JD McKissic Peyton Barber

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