2020 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs

by Nick Spencer
2020 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs

Handcuffing is a strategy that if used correctly can present league winning upside. Remember how Austin Ekeler was the RB2 last year through 5 weeks due to Melvin Gordon’s hold out?

Running backs are arguably the most important position in fantasy football. It is almost impossible to win a championship without at least one stud RB. Unfortunately, they are also the most injury-prone position and one of the most likely to hold out.

A lot of this risk can be mitigated by drafting the correct handcuffs, and 2020 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs has got you covered.

2020 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs

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Kareem Hunt, RB, Cleveland Browns - ADP 5th Round

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Kareem Hunt is a unique case as he is one of the best handcuffs in the league, but he also has standalone value, especially in PPR leagues. This added value explains his pricey 5th round ADP.

Nick Chubb is an extremely talented player in a good offense that supports his skillset. This allowed him to put up an impressive 18.9 points per game in PPR leagues from Weeks 1 to 9.

Yet once Hunt returned in Week 10, Chubb’s PPG fell to 13 while Hunt averaged 12.7. The fact that Hunt was able to steal such a sizable workload from a great player demonstrates how talented he is.

The Browns have brought in a new head coach in Kevin Stefanski, who did great things with the rushing game in Minnesota. A change in head coach means it is not a guarantee that Chubb and Hunt will be used in the same way as last year. However, the Browns tendered Hunt with a second-rounder indicating their desire to keep him involved.

In addition, there is speculation that Hunt could spend some time at the WR position this year. Hunt has been cross-training virtually with WRs during this offseason. If this comes to fruition during the season it would mean more touches for Hunt, and it would make him an absolute weapon in PPR leagues.

Hunt should be an RB2, but If anything were to happen to Chubb, Hunt would be locked in as high-end RB1. Our staff rankings currently have Hunt ranked as the RB29 for the upcoming season and I believe he is likely to finish even higher.

Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs - ADP 6th Round

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Damien Williams had a fantastic Superbowl performance totaling 133 yards and 2 TDs. Unfortunately for Williams, it was not enough to stop the Chiefs from using their first-round pick on LSU star running back Clyde-Edwards Helaire.

With CEH going as the RB15 off the board in fantasy drafts compared to Williams at RB32, it is quite clear who analysts expect to take over this backfield. In fact, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has already said that CEH looks better on film than former Pro-Bowler Brian Westbrook.

This doesn’t mean that Williams is worthless, simply that his role has changed. Williams had 18+ fantasy points four times last year, including a 31.4 point outburst in Week 17 (PPR). He can put up similar stats again should anything happen to CEH.

He will have blow-up weeks in the committee, but they will be hard to predict. His real value is as a handcuff, but if you are drafting him with hopes that he will out touch Clyde-Edwards Helaire, you will likely be disappointed.

Latavius Murray, RB, New Orleans Saints - ADP 9th Round

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Is there a more prototypical model of a handcuff in the league than Latavius Murray? If there is, you'd be hard-pressed to find it.

Murray finished as the RB28 in PPR last year, but this is misleading. While Kamara was healthy Murray scored a measly 6.3 points per game

However, Alvin Kamara missed two games in 2019, Weeks 7 and 8. In his absence, Murray put up two monstrous performances of 32 and 36.7 fantasy points. These two games accounted for 43.7% of his fantasy total on the year.

The point is we know exactly what Murray is and what he isn’t. He isn’t someone you are going to want to start on a weekly basis. But he is proven as the undisputed backup on one of most dynamic offenses in football. If Kamara gets injured, Murray is a league-winner.

Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings - ADP 9th Round

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The Vikings were fourth in rushing attempts and sixth in rushing yards during 2019. They are undeniably a run-first team, and this makes their starting running back extremely valuable.

Last year that running back was Dalvin Cook as he rumbled his way to an RB5 finish. However, Cook is now threatening to hold out unless he gets a contract extension. While I think it is unlikely, we have seen RBs hold out for entire seasons before ala Le’Veon Bell in 2018.

In addition to the holdout, Cook is also a health risk, as he has never played a full 16-game season in his three-year career.

Alexander Mattison performed admirably in his rookie year, averaging 4.6 yards per carry on the season. Unfortunately, we never got to see what he could do in the lead back role as he got injured just before Cook did, leaving undrafted third-stringer Mike Boone to take over for a few weeks.

Mattison looked eerily similar to Cook on the field at times, which is no easy feat. I have confidence that Mattison would be an elite fantasy option in Cook’s role. He is a must-draft if you are taking Cook while the hold-out threat looms, and even after remains a top-tier backup.

Our staff rankings currently have Mattison ranked as the RB49, but I would expect that to rise during training camp and as we approach the season opener if Cook is still without a deal.

Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys - ADP 11th Round

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In his rookie season, Tony Pollard averaged 5.3 yards per carry compared to Ezekiel Elliott’s 4.5 yards per carry, albeit on a much smaller sample size. In addition, Pollard had two 100-yard rushing games despite Elliott being healthy and active for all 16 games.

I am not trying to argue that Pollard is better than Elliott, far from it. My point is that Pollard is an extremely capable replacement in the event that Elliott gets injured. Elliott has been one of the most durable backs in the league since his rookie year in 2016, but he also has over 1200 carries in that time. That’s a lot of usage for the most injury-prone position in football.

If Elliott were to go down, Pollard would be the feature back on one of the best offensive teams in the league. Not to mention he'd be running behind PFF’s third-ranked offensive line for 2020. This would catapult him into RB1 territory, and at the cost of only an 11th rounder, he is worth storing at the end of your bench.

Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals - ADP 13th Round

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This Cardinals offense already looked like it was developing into something special under Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury last season. Now with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins, it could be downright lethal.

Upon escaping the nightmare of the Dolphins offense (leading rusher on the year was Ryan Fitzpatrick), Kenyan Drake was unleashed on the league to the tune of an RB4 overall finish during the final nine weeks of the season.

Similar to Pollard, Chase Edmonds is in an elite offense, has shown what he can do with the ball in his hands (5.1 YPC last year), and won’t cost you much in drafts. The big difference is that the running back he is stuck behind is less proven.

I believe Drake is a very talented player. That being said, he has also never had to handle the heavy load of a workhorse back. The most carries he’s ever had in a season was 170 last year, and that surpassed his previous high by 37 carries. We simply don’t know if he can handle the volume at this point.

Drake is a risky pick with lots of upside, but Edmonds can be used to mitigate most of this risk and is an absolute bargain bin steal at his current ADP.

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Further Reading

That concludes the 2020 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs. While I have highlighted some key backfields to take advantage of there are many more that will provide value. For a more general perspective, I recommend checking out my colleague Michael Tomlin's article on handcuff strategy.

Visit the F6P Fantasy Football page for more advice, including all 32 Fantasy Football Team Previews to get you prepared for the 2020 season

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1 comment

Fantasy Six Pack: 2020 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs - FFB HUB August 10, 2020 - 11:07 pm

[…] fantasysixpack.net takes a look at six back up running backs that deserve a spot on your roster this year. […]


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