2022 Fantasy Football Must-Have RB Handcuffs

by Mike Bonni
2022 Fantasy Football Must Own RB Handcuffs

Welcome everyone to the 2022 Fantasy Football Must-Have RB Handcuffs article. In this article, I will be going over the running back handcuffs you must draft in 2022.

Before I get into the meat of this article, let's talk about what a handcuff is. A handcuff is essentially the "backup" that has a chance of getting thrust into a much larger role.

Whether it be an injury to the starter (most common) or having a substantial role in the offense already (Kareem Hunt), this will deem you an RB handcuff.

Now let's jump into the 2022 Fantasy Football Must-Have RB Handcuffs article.

2022 Fantasy Football Must-Have RB Handcuffs

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As you will see below, I've split the RBs into groups.

  • The "Studs" - These players have a solid role in the offense and should have flex appeal.
  • "Next Man Up" - This group will need an injury for them to have fantasy value, but they could be league-winners.
  • The last group is aptly named "The Others" - These players could have fantasy value and will come very cheap.

The "Studs"

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As you can see above, these RBs have a role in their offense and will have flex appeal. You won't be able to get these players late in drafts.

Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns (ADP: 71; Round 5) RB28

Kareem Hunt finished as RB48 in 2021, while playing in only eight games. In those eight games, Hunt averaged 13.8 FPPG (RB21).

*Quick little stat here*
When playing 11+ games in a season, Kareem Hunt has never finished lower than RB11. This includes an RB10 finish in 2020 (Chubb only missed four games).

I'm going to start things off with this statement. Kareem Hunt doesn't need an injury to Chubb to be relevant, in fact, Hunt performs better with Chubb healthy.

In 2021, Hunt and Chubb played together in five games. In those five games, Hunt outscored Nick Chubb three times. He was RB6 (18.7 FPPG) and Nick Chubb was RB12 (16.6).

In 2020, Nick Chubb missed Weeks 5 to 8. During that time, Kareem Hunt was RB11 (13.6).

As you can tell, Kareem Hunt has fantasy value in any situation. With Nick Chubb healthy, Kareem Hunt is a great flex option. And with Nick Chubb out, Kareem Hunt vaults into the high-end RB2 territory (maybe even low-end RB1). Round 5 may seem a little pricey, but Kareem Hunt is one of the most proven RBs out there working with limited opportunities. Don't miss out on drafting him, especially over the likes of CEH, Miles Sanders, and Mike Thomas.

Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos (ADP: 88; Round 7) RB33

In 2021, Melvin Gordon finished as RB21 (12.2 FPPG). He had 1,132 total yards with 10 total touchdowns while being in a true 50/50 committee. In 2022, he will lose touches/snaps to Javonte Williams and it all started to show after their bye week in 2021 (Week 11).

  • Before Bye-Week (Weeks 1-10)= RB15 (12.7 FPPG) with a 53.6% snap share.
  • After Bye-Week (Weeks 12-18)= RB27 (11.3 FPPG) with a 47% snap share. (Javonte was RB8)

*This doesn't look good, but Gordon still held fantasy value while losing out on the majority of the snaps/touches.*

Now let's talk about why Melvin Gordon is a "stud" handcuff, even with Javonte Williams getting a larger workload (presumably).

He has been insanely consistent in his career (six straight seasons with 8+ total touchdowns), never finishing lower than an RB2 for six straight seasons. This includes full workloads (RB7 and RB5), the "main guy" in a committee (RB8, RB14), and a true 50/50 backfield (RB23 and RB22).

As you can see here, Melvin Gordon can succeed in any backfield situation. Drafting him in round 8 sounds sketchy until you see who is going around him. These players include Tyler Lockett (new QB), Devin Singletary (James Cook can hurt him in PPR), and Ken Walker (Rookie and not the starter). He has flex appeal, maybe not as much as Kareem Hunt but he is still a solid option. If anything, Melvin Gordon can be a terrific depth piece.

AJ Dillon, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 58; Round 4) RB25

In 2021, AJ Dillon finished as RB23. He ran for 803 yards with five touchdowns, while also adding 34 catches for 313 yards. Dillon wasn't involved early in the season (RB42; 3 10+ fantasy point games), never seeing more than 40% of the snaps. But when he did get involved, boy did he take off.

From weeks 10 to 18, AJ Dillon hit the 50%+ or more snap count in five of those final eight games. In those five games, AJ Dillon had three RB1 finishes (RB3, RB9, and RB7), and one RB2 finish (RB13).

During this time, he was RB12 and he averaged more fantasy points than Aaron Jones (14.8 to 13.5)

AJ Dillon is going a couple of spots behind Amari Cooper (Who is the QB?) and Elijah Mitchell (risky) which I find baffling. With all the changes going down in Green Bay for 2022 (run-heavy?), AJ Dillon could be in for a significant workload.

If 2022 is anything like the end of 2021 for AJ Dillon, you will want him on your fantasy teams. Yes! Round 4 (late) is a little spicy, but he could be a true league-winner this year. Just imagine if, god forbid, something happens to Aaron Jones? Dillon instantly becomes an RB1. Even with Aaron Jones in the lineup, Dillon is still a solid flex option.

"Honorable Mention"

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 77; Round 6) RB31

*I'm just going to get this out of the way now, this is all speculative based on reports out of camp.*

The reports out of camp are saying that Tony Pollard is getting more slot work and could see an increase in usage. If this is the case, Tony Pollard becomes a "stud" RB handcuff. I will tell you why below.

If this news turns out to be false, Tony Pollard is just a good depth piece that can give you some solid weeks.

In 2021, Tony Pollard finished as RB28 even though he never saw more than 42% of snaps or got more than 17 touches. There were six games where he had 10+ fantasy points, which includes an impressive RB5 finish in week two. Pollard also added four RB2 (top-24) finishes, and six RB3 or better finishes.

His best stretch of games was from weeks 8 to 13. During that time, Tony Pollard was the RB21.

Hopefully, the reports are true because you could have a steal on your hands at RB31.

That should do it for the "studs" portion of the article. Let's continue with the "Next Man Up" portion as we continue the 2022 Fantasy Football Must-Have RB Handcuffs article.

Next Man Up

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This group includes players that need to have an injury (or suspension) happen to the starter for them to be fantasy relevant. If an injury does occur to any of these guys' starters, then you will want them on your team.

Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 109; Round 9) RB40

This man was made for this article right here. Alexander Mattison is the definition of a must-have handcuff and I'm going to tell you why.

First off, Mattison needs an injury to Dalvin Cook for him to be fantasy relevant. The good news for him is that Dalvin Cook gets injured often. He has yet to play a full season (14 games is his most) and has missed an average of 2.7 games a season (dating back to 2019). It gets worse if you go to his rookie season (3.5 games missed).

In 2020 (2) and 2021 (4), Cook missed six games. During these six games, Alexander Mattison played/started in five of them (injured for one game). In those games, Mattison averaged 21 carries for 90.2 yards. He also averaged 4.4 catches with 42 yards in the passing game scoring a total of 1.2 total touchdowns.

In fantasy terms, Mattison averaged 23.26 FPPG during those games (Top-3 average). This includes four RB1 (top 12) finishes and never finishing lower than RB13 when starting.

Currently going in round 9, Mattison won't cost you too much. He is going around Nyheim Hines, Jared Cook, and Michael Carter. I would much rather take a shot on Alexander Mattison over those guys.

D'Onta Foreman, Carolina Panthers (ADP: 172; Round 14) RB58

D'Onta Foreman is the presumed backup to C-Mac (has missed 70% of games since 2020) in 2022. Last year it belonged to Chubba Hubbard and he was only able to muster up an RB35 finish. The Panthers probably went out and got Forman because of Hubbard's struggles (3.56 YPC), which was a smart idea by them.

In 2021, Foreman only played nine games ( Weeks 9 to 18). In those nine games, he finished with four 10+ fantasy point games backing up Derrick Henry.

From Weeks 14 to 18, D'Onta Foreman was the RB11. This includes three RB2 (top 24) and one RB1 finish.

Since he is going so late in drafts, it literally won't cost you a thing to get him. Do it at the tail end of your draft and hope for the best outcome.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 182; Round 15) RB60

*This only counts if Alvin Kamara ends up facing suspension*

If A.K. does miss some games, you will want to be drafting Mark Ingram. He is practically worth nothing, so you can draft him at the end of your drafts (For now at least). There are some downsides to drafting Mark Ingram though. He is now 32 years old and hasn't handled a full workload in a little bit now.

In 2021, Mark Ingram finished as RB50 (in limited work). He finished with 554 rushing yards (3.46 YPC) and two touchdowns. Ingram also added 27 catches for 162 yards.

Kamara missed four games in 2021 (Weeks 10-13), during that time Mark Ingram was RB25 (played only two games). In the two games Ingram played, he put up a 20-point performance (RB8) and a 15-pointer (RB15). In that mini-stretch, Mark Ingram was the RB8 (two games).

As of right now, Mark Ingram literally will cost you nothing. Don't let the age scare you, if A.K. misses time, Ingram will be a solid option. He has his faults (low YPC), but he can still perform.

*Mark Ingram still finished as an RB3 or better in five games, including three finishes as an RB2.*

That should do it for the "Next Man Up" portion. Let's continue with the group called "The Others".

The "Others"

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These players aren't a necessity to draft, but they could end up having significant fantasy value if everything goes their way.

Khalil Herbert, Chicago Bears (ADP: 156; Round 13) RB54

In 2021 (RB62), Herbert ran for 433 yards (4.2 YPC) and added two touchdowns as well. As for the passing game, Khalil Herbert was mildly involved. He caught 14 balls for 96 yards.

Yeah, I know! That's not great, but he saw limited work. If David Montgomery were to miss time, as he did in 2021, Khalil Herbert can be a solid late-round draft pick. Montgomery missed four games, during this time Khalil Herbert was RB18. This includes an RB11 and RB6 performance.

Obviously, Herbert can handle a full workload and it isn't blasphemous to say that he may be better than David Montgomery. Don't be afraid to take a shot on the young back, even if he plays for the hapless Bears.

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 153; Round 12) RB52

What a situation this will be in Baltimore. Most of the RBs are coming off an ACL injury, this includes Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins (presumed starter). There is good news and bad news for the backfield of the Ravens.

The bad news is that J.K. Dobbins isn't rehabbing as well as everyone thought he would, he will miss preseason games and could miss a few regular-season games.

This brings me to the good news, Gus Edwards is said to be ready to go by Week 1. If that's the case, you can get a starting running back on a run-first offense in the 12th round. Please draft Gus Edwards as much as you can in your drafts, you never know what can happen.

*Up until his injury in 2021, Gus Edwards had three straight 700+ rushing yard seasons*

Final Verdict

As you can see from above, we've got a gaggle of "backups" that can provide great flex options (Hunt, Dillon, and Goron). We also have possible fantasy stars if an injury occurs (Mattison). Be wary on draft day, don't let all of these players slip through your fingers.

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