2021 Fantasy RB Handcuffs Chart: Find sleepers, backups for your top running backs

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.

2021 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
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 offer 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.

2021 PPR FANTASY RANKINGS:
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.

2021 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Each team

2021 Fantasy RB Handcuffs

TeamStarterHandcuffTwo-Deep
Arizona CardinalsChase EdmondsJames ConnerCommittee
Atlanta FalconsMike DavisCordarrelle PattersonCommittee
Baltimore RavensJK DobbinsGus EdwardsJustice Hill
Buffalo BillsD. Singletary/Z. MossMatt BreidaCommittee
Carolina PanthersChristian McCaffreyChuba HubbardTrenton Cannon
Chicago BearsDavid MontgomeryTarik CohenDamien Williams
Cincinnati BengalsJoe MixonSamaje PerineTrayveon Williams
Cleveland BrownsNick ChubbKareem HuntD’Ernest Johnson
Dallas CowboysEzekiel ElliottTony PollardRico Dowdle
Denver BroncosMelvin GordonJavonte WilliamsRoyce Freeman
Detroit LionsD’Andre SwiftJamaal WilliamsCommittee
Green Bay PackersAaron JonesAJ DillonKylin Hill
Houston TexansDavid JohnsonPhillip LindsayMark Ingram
Indianapolis ColtsJonathan TaylorMarlon MackNyheim Hines
Jacksonville JaguarsJ. Robinson/T. EtienneCarlos HydeDare Ogunbowale
Kansas City ChiefsClyde Edwards-HelaireDarrel WilliamsJerick McKinnon
Las Vegas RaidersJosh JacobsKenyan DrakeJalen Richard
Los Angeles ChargersAustin EkelerJustin JacksonJoshua Kelley
Los Angeles RamsDarrell HendersonXavier Woods/Jake FunkCommittee
Miami DolphinsMyles GaskinMalcolm BrownSalvon Ahmed
Minnesota VikingsDalvin CookAlexander MattisonAmeer Abdullah
New England PatriotsDamien HarrisJames WhiteS. Michel/R. Stevenson
New Orleans SaintsAlvin KamaraLatavius MurrayDwayne Washington
New York GiantsSaquon BarkleyDevontae BookerCommittee
New York JetsMichael CarterL. Perine/T. ColemanCommittee
Philadelphia EaglesMiles SandersK. Gainwell/B. ScottK. Johnson/J. Howard
Pittsburgh SteelersNajee HarrisBenny Snell Jr.Anthony McFarland Jr.
San Francisco 49ersRaheem MostertTrey SermonWayne Gallman Jr.
Seattle SeahawksChris CarsonRashaad PennyD. Dallas/T. Homer
Tampa Bay BuccaneersL. Fournette/R. JonesGiovani BernardKe’Shawn Vaughn
Tennessee TitansDerrick HenryDarrynton EvansJeremy McNichols
Washington Football TeamAntonio GibsonJD McKissicPeyton Barber

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