Raging sociopaths excluded, nobody likes to see a player get hurt. Unfortunately, due to the aggressive and physical nature of football, injuries are a common occurrence. Running back handcuffs refer to the players who replace the starter in the case of an injury; aka the backup or second string. There are fantasy football analysts who argue that you should not draft your own running back’s handcuff. They feel that this is a wasted pick because if your running back happens to stay healthy, then you will have no use for the handcuff all season. A wasted spot on the bench is a big no-no in Fantasy Land. Instead, said analysts suggest drafting the handcuff of an RB that is not on your roster. If another team’s star RB goes down, you now have their handcuff and still have your starting RB as well. This article aims to go deeper and provide you with four running backs, aside from the obvious (Alexander Mattison & Tony Pollard), that you’ll want to stash.
Must-Have Running Back Handcuffs
Chris Evans, Cincinnati Bengals
Last year, Joe Mixon suffered a low-grade ankle sprain during the Bengals’ win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. In Week 15, Mixon picked up an ankle injury against Denver. Fortunately for Mixon, that injury didn’t cause him to miss any games. While we’re on the topic of injuries, 2021 backup RB, Samaje Perine, missed all of OTAs with an undisclosed injury. No doubt this gave Chris Evans a leg up in the competition to be the second-string RB on the depth chart.
Evans’ appeal only gets greater when you realize that in addition to being a fantastic runner, he’s also a great pass catcher. There have been reports that he has been seeing third-down work in camp. The more Evans is on the field, the more trust he can earn from the coaching staff and his teammates. In the case of a Mixon injury, that trust will lead to the “next man up” mindset, giving Evans the reins to a high-powered offense.
— NFL (@NFL) October 17, 2021
Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots
It might be a stretch to feature Rhamondre on a running back handcuffs list, because Stevenson may already have standalone value. Early reports out of camp suggest that Stevenson might be in for some more third-down work. While Damien Harris is the clear starting running back, Rhamondre was extremely efficient with his touches last season. In his rookie season, Stevenson recorded 606 rushing yards on only 133 carries. Stevenson has shown that he is capable of performing when his team needs him most. Last season alone Damien Harris suffered five injuries. In Week 5 against the Texans it was a rib injury; in Week 9 it was a concussion, a neck injury in Week 12, and hamstring injuries in Week 13 and 17. The likelihood of another injury has to be very high, meaning Stevenson will once again get his time to shine. This stream of injuries was concerning enough for the Patriots to draft running backs Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris. It’s never a good sign when a possible replacement also shares your last name; it makes the transition too easy for the coaching staff.
Keoantay Ingram, Arizona Cardinals
This will be my second time mentioning Ingram, wink wink. You can’t always rely on the depth chart to show you who the next man up really is. According to the Jaguars’ depth chart, Devine Ozigbo was supposed to be the guy to replace the injured Etienne, not James Robinson. Trey Sermon was supposed to be the guy to replace Raheem Mostert, not Elijah Mitchell. The list goes on and on. So why Ingram and not Darrel Williams or Eno Benjamin?
For starters, Williams was signed to be the Chase Edmonds replacement. His skill set resembles Edmonds’, almost purely a third down specialist, Williams is not a threat to take away any early down work from starting RB, James Conner. Seeing as he’s only recorded 34 rushes in his two years as a pro, you could argue that Eno Benjamin isn’t a threat either. Standing at 6’0″, weighing in at 215 lbs., Ingram has the size and ability to carry the load that comes with being an early down back in the NFL. In his collegiate career, Ingram broke at least one tackle every five carries recording very impressive numbers in yards after contact. As a receiver, he was even more elusive, forcing 30 missed tackles on 90 career receptions. These are the qualities you look for in running back handcuffs.
Keaontay Ingram has been impressive tonight. Look at these moves. pic.twitter.com/uOX245jm3V
— Max Olson (@max_olson) September 22, 2019
D’Onta Foreman, Carolina Panthers
Even if you’ve been living under a rock, you probably heard that Christian McCaffrey got injured last season. Again. In the last two seasons, McCaffrey has appeared in only 10 of a possible 33 games. I don’t need to tell you to have a backup plan ready if you draft CMC. In fact, the perfect plan happens to be right under his nose. Well, not directly under. This is another case of why we should not blindly rely on the depth chart. Chubba Hubbard, who’s currently listed as the number two RB, is not the guy to absorb CMC’s early down work. A reminder that this is the same Chubba Hubbard who allowed Mike Davis to become fantasy relevant in CMC’s absence.
Foreman has already shown what he can do when given the keys. Last season, Titans’ star RB, Derrick Henry went down with a foot injury. It was Foreman who replaced him, running for 100+ yards in three games while scoring three touchdowns. He was one of the rare running back handcuffs to continue his work in the post-season (see clip below). Given Foreman’s punishing downhill running style, it makes a lot more sense that he would be the CMC replacement in the case of yet another injury.
D'Onta Foreman BEASTMODE. #NFLPlayoffs
— NFL (@NFL) January 22, 2022