2019 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

2019 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs


Running backs are a volatile beast. But don’t worry, the 2019 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs has all the answers you need.

There are only so many viable running backs available and if one gets hurt the options to replace him are thin. That’s where handcuffs come in.

If used correctly, handcuffing is an excellent strategy. The best handcuffs are players that can step into the role and immediately see an increase in volume and production.

The most successful example from last season was owning T.J. Yeldon as a Leonard Fournette owner. Yeldon was able to immediately step into heavy volume and perform as an admirable RB2 while Fournette was out.

The running backs listed below are the absolute best handcuffs to draft and hold for a situation in which the starter in front of them misses time.

2019 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs

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Carlos Hyde – Kansas City Chiefs

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Damien Williams had an excellent finish to 2018. In the final four games of the regular season, Williams rushed 42 times for 217 yards (5.17 YPC) and two touchdowns. The former Dolphin also caught 18 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

Williams only looked better in the playoffs, gaining 250 total yards and scoring four touchdowns in two games.

Despite the excellent finish, the Chiefs’ starter is one of the riskiest early-round running backs available. Williams has never carried the ball more than 13 times in a game during his five-year career. It’s still unclear if the first-year starter can handle a full workload.

Sports Injury Predictor has him at a 40% chance of being injured in 2019 and things have gotten off to an inauspicious start in camp.

Hyde isn’t the flashiest option, as seen by his forgettable stints in Cleveland and Jacksonville. However, the options behind Hyde are thin and if Williams were to go down with injury or ineffectiveness, Hyde would become an immediate RB2 with massive touchdown upside.

It’s a no-brainer for Williams owners to grab Hyde as an insurance policy at pick 114.

Rashaad Penny – Seattle Seahawks

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When he’s on the field, Chris Carson has done everything he can to run away with the starting job. The team will be more run-heavy than ever and Carson, who averaged 22.5 carries over the final four games of 2018, will start the season as the starter.

There are plenty of carries to go around in the revamped Seattle offense and Pete Carroll has emphasized that it doesn’t matter who’s one or who’s two on the depth chart.

The concern with Carson is the “minor” cleanup scope he had on his knee in the offseason, which followed knee and hip issues last season, which caused him to miss two games.

Carson’s bruising running style and massive projected volume make him a serious injury risk. If he were to miss time, last year’s 27th overall pick would become the unquestioned starter.

The Seattle offense will run enough to support both backs. As a result, Penny is being drafted in the sixth round. Owners who waited on Carson as a value RB1 should be looking at Penny as a luxury handcuff and stand-alone FLEX option.

Ito Smith – Atlanta Falcons

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Smith impressed with his limited workload last season, totaling 467 yards on 117 touches. There’s almost no chance that Smith takes over the starting job from a healthy Devonta Freeman. Keyword: Healthy.

Freeman has suffered a laundry list of injuries over the last few seasons. The list includes pulled hamstring, a hip strain, three concussions, an MCL sprain, a PCL sprain, knee and foot bruises, and a sports hernia surgery that nearly took away his entire 2018 season.

The undersized Smith played mostly in passing situations last year, accounting for 173 of his 311 snaps. When he did play, he may have been the Falcon’s best option at running back. While the now-departed Tevin Coleman was the starter, Pro Football Focus graded Smith as a better pass catcher and runner compared to Coleman.

If (when?) Freeman misses time, Smith will step in as the number one back and be a low-end RB2/ FLEX option. His ceiling may be higher now thanks to the upgrades that Atlanta has made to their offensive line. If first-round picks Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary get acclimated quickly, the Falcons o-line could see massive improvements.

Darrell Henderson – Los Angeles Rams

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I don’t want to fuel the fire for one of the biggest hype-trains in Fantasy, but I will. Todd Gurley‘s health is one of the, if the biggest question marks of the offseason. If healthy, Gurley would be the unquestioned No.1 overall pick. However, his workload is in serious doubt thanks to a mysterious knee injury.

Gurley began practicing on Saturday but will have his workload “carefully managed” for the foreseeable future. With so much uncertainty coming off of the Superbowl run where he conceded touches to C.J. Anderson, owners are paying an arm and a leg to acquire Henderson.

A third-round pick out of Memphis was one of the top running backs in his junior year, finishing with 1,909 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on 214 carries. His speed, agility, and overall home run ability give him mouth-watering potential in Sean McVay’s offense.

Henderson is being drafted around other RBs like Penny and Miles Sanders but his upside is much higher than those two if Gurley was to miss any time.

Alfred Blue, Thomas Rawls, Ryquell Armstead – Jacksonville Jaguars

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All three of Leonard Fournette’s backups are listed because any of the three could take the majority of touches if Fournette was to get hurt. Blue had his chances to start in Houston but clearly is not suited to being a starter.

Rawls had an incredible year in Seattle but fell off the map following a slew of ankle and foot injuries.

Armstead is the wildcard of the bunch. The rookie out of Temple is a big, powerful RB who can churn out yards after contact. He will start camp on the PUP list thanks to a hamstring injury but could quickly push himself ahead of the two veterans if healthy.

Fournette owners need to keep an eye on this situation leading up to the draft. As soon as someone seizes the job, they need to be added as an insurance policy.

Bonus Round:

Kareem Hunt – Cleveland Browns

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Personal problems aside, Hunt is one of the riskiest handcuffs to own but he undoubtedly has the highest upside of anyone on this list. Hunt was a superstar in the 11 games he played last season, rushing for 824 yards and catching 26 passes for 378 yards and 14 total touchdowns.

Looking for a second chance in Cleveland, Hunt will now sit and wait behind Nick Chubb. The second-year running back was a revelation for the Browns after taking the starting job. In 10 games after Hyde was traded away, Chubb averaged nearly 18 carries per game and nearly reached 1,000 yards rushing despite carrying the ball 16 times in the first six games.

An eight-game suspension and Week 9 bye means Hunt won’t see the field until Week 10. So why is he such an important handcuff? If Chubb were to miss any time late in the season, owners would have a surefire RB1 who can step in and replicate the production.

Drafting a late-season asset in the top 100 is a very risky strategy. Hunt is almost a “do not draft” unless you’re a Chubb owner with a very good idea of value players you can get in the later rounds.

If you’re a gambler, Hunt is one of the best high-risk, high reward players in Fantasy.

Dion Lewis – Tennessee Titans

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We’ve all heard this story before. This is the year Henry is an RB1! This is the year he’ll have a full season! But will he? Camp only started a couple of days ago and Henry is already in a walking boot. The Titans have given no timetable for his return, but don’t seem concerned about him missing time.

Last season, Henry didn’t gain more than 58 rushing yards before his 238-yard performance in Week 14. He gained 55% of his total yards in the final four weeks of the season. Prior to his outburst, he was averaging just 3.7 YPC but boosted it to 4.9 by the end of the season. Where have we heard that one before?

Going into the fourth year of his career, we still don’t know which Henry will show up on a week-to-week basis. Lewis presents a far less talented, but more consistent option that will still be used in passing situations.

If Henry isn’t ready for the start of the season or if the Titans can’t stay ahead on the scoreboard, Lewis will be a nice value for Henry owners who choose to handcuff him at pick 130.

For Further Reading

I discussed the Dolphins and Chargers situations in the RB Committees article.

Kalen Ballage has taken first-team reps with the offense on multiple days in camp. Both he and Kenyan Drake risky options without the other.

Melvin Gordon and the Chargers are reportedly $2-3 million apart in negotiations but the team is adamant they can bring him back in time for the regular season. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson are the main backs here, who would likely form a committee if Gordon doesn’t play.

Get prepared for the 2019 Fantasy Football season by checking out the rest of our Fantasy Football content.

About Jonathan Chan

Winning fantasy leagues since 2004. Losing them for much longer. Follow Jonathan on twitter @jchan_811 and he'll be ready for all your questions!

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  1. Pingback: 2019 Running Back Handcuff Strategy: The Value in RB Platoons - Fantasy Six Pack

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