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I hate the term, must own handcuff.

The reason? No such thing exists. I might be alone on an island with that viewpoint. But there is never a handcuff you “must own.” Suppose you are absolutely loaded at RB? If so, there is a good chance you need help at WR or QB. And therefore, there is no player that is a “must own handcuff.” And what if you have nothing at RB? You’re probably better off making some aggressive moves to get a starting RB than a must own handcuff.

Furthermore, there is never any player that is a “must own.” Price to acquire is always a consideration. And that extends to RB handcuffs.

Must own handcuff also implies that we know the RB1 is going to get injured or lose his starting job. Unless you are one of 32 NFL head coaches or work on the medical staff of those teams, you don’t know if or when that will happen.

That doesn’t mean we can’t look at all 32 options, however. Read to the end and you will find my “recommended handcuffs.” Before that though, I will run through the various types of handcuffs that others might consider Must own handcuff”s, but I do not.

Must Own Handcuff

Group 1: Hardly

Let’s start with those situations where if the RB1 goes down, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere for options. Of course these might be your only options. And that is unfortunate.

Here they are in ascending order of how valuable I think they will be this year. Of course that’s like ranking the best turd pies….

Indiannapolis: Jordan Todman/Robert Turbin

Don’t. Just don’t.

Houston: Alfred Blue/Jonathan Grimes

To paraphrase Robert DeNiro in Copland—“You had your chance and you blew it!”

New York Jets: Bilal Powell and whoever else backs up Matt Forte on the Jets

And if Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t sign, there are going to be a ton of eight and nine men in the box.

Buffalo Bills: Karlos Williams

Karlos Williams reported to camp overweight.

Jonathan Williams actually has more upside, but I don’t see either worth owning this year.

San Francisco: Shaun Draughn

I’m not sure Carlos Hyde is the answer. But if Draughn is, I’m kind of curious what the question is.

New England: LeGarrette Blount

New England has not had a RB you can depend on since Corey Dillon. I don’t see that changing this year either.

Miami Dolphins: Kenyan Drake

Drake has plenty of highlight reel, I get it.


But I’ve said this before—I believe in Jay Ajayi. I know not everyone does, but here’s a stat for you. Four RBs scored 70-plus Fantasy points over a three week stretch last year: Devonta Freeman, Todd Gurley, Lamar Miller….and Arian Foster. I still have this suspicion that Arian Foster is a Dolphin before Week 1. Wait, I’m not done. You know who had the fewest rushing attempts in the NFL last year? Yup, Miami. Don’t expect a dramatic change this year. Drake ain’t worth it.

[Editors Note: This piece was written right before Foster signed with Miami. It seems Mark’s intuition was spot-on! It also underscores his belief that Drake is not a very valuable handcuff]

Minnesota: Jerick McKinnon/Matt Asiata

Asiata is a goal line back if Adrian Peterson is out, nothing more. McKinnon might be the name on this list I most regret. But McKinnon resembles one of last year’s biggest “handcuff busts”—Knile Davis. Both had some success in a very limited sample size and there are other RBs on the roster who can do other things they don’t.

Arizona: Chris Johnson/Andre Ellington

Not worth the investment unless you have David Johnson and even then I would think twice.

Los Angles: Benny Cunningham/Tre Mason

See above, but substitute David Johnson with Todd Gurley.

Group 2: Timeshares

The biggest issue with this group is not whether or not you should own them, but more the term “handcuff.” This set is the major timeshare where the “RB2” is going to see nearly 50% of the carries, almost all the passing down plays, or possibly all the goal line carries. Or some combination of the above. And the key here is not so much owning the “cuff” or sometimes even “cuffs,” but being aware that there is a timeshare.

I’ll spare you the details. Here is how I rank the timeshares in ascending order of likely total backfield production:

Philadelphia: Darren Sproles/ Ryan Mathews

Jacksonville: Chris Ivory/ TJ Yeldon

Detroit: Ameer Abdullah/Theo Riddick (and maybe Zach Zenner?)

Cleveland: Duke Johnson/Isaiah Crowell

Denver: C.J. Anderson/ Ronnie Hillman/Devontae Booker

Cincinnati: Jeremy  Hill/Giovani Bernard


Group 3: Young Stud

The third set is those where the talent of the back-up RB, often a rookie or a second year player, likely exceeds the starter, but unless that back-up gets the carries, he will not have the chance to shine. If any of the below become the starter, they become “must own.” But then they’re not the handcuff anymore and are not a “must-own handcuff.” This group includes the following, listed in ascending order of how much I like the handcuff to contribute this year:

Washington: Keith Marshall

New York Giants: Paul Perkins

Tennessee: Derrick Henry

Oakland: DeAndre Washington

Baltimore: Kenneth Dixon

Tampa Bay: Charles Sims

Chicago: Jordan Howard


Group 4: (cough) “Worthy of owning” handcuffs

The second set is those where the stud RB is in a great situation (run-heavy game plan, great offensive line, good defense/protecting leads etc.) and the back-up should have similar success.

Seattle: C.J. Prosise/Christine Michael/Alex Collins

This set could probably be placed into any of the groupings in this article. But I am putting it here, partly because of the table we will get to momentarily. The amount of talent here cancels itself out and until you know one of these players is the lead dog, there’s too much risk. But if one of them steps forward, snatch immediately.

Carolina: Cameron Artis-Payne

The issue here is that Cam Newton is likely to contribute on the ground as much as Carolina’s RB. But that also helps keep a defense honest. Should Jonathan Stewart go down (he has not played 16 games any of the last five seasons), “CAP” has a chance to do some damage. Moreover, I present to you Exhibit A: 2015 Rushing attempts.

Rk Team G Pts/G TotPts Att Att/G Yds Avg Yds/G TD Lng 1st 1st% 20+ 40+ FUM
1 Carolina Panthers 16 31.2 500 526 32.9 2,282 4.3 142.6 19 47 136 25.9 11 3 8
2 Buffalo Bills 16 23.7 379 509 31.8 2,432 4.8 152.0 19 60T 122 24.0 19 4 9
3 Seattle Seahawks 16 26.4 423 500 31.2 2,268 4.5 141.8 10 69T 128 25.6 12 2 7
4 Minnesota Vikings 16 22.8 365 474 29.6 2,211 4.7 138.2 18 80T 113 23.8 14 6 9
5 Houston Texans 16 21.2 339 472 29.5 1,731 3.7 108.2 7 41 90 19.1 7 1 5


Don’t expect a huge change.

Kansas City: Spencer Ware/Charcandrick West

The chart above is sorted by ATT. If you sort by AVG, KC has the second highest YPC. Andy Reid finds a way to get his RBs involved in the passing game, making the KC backup an extremely valuable cuff in a PPR league.

San Diego: Melvin Gordon

Maybe Gordon should be considered part of a RBBC, but Danny Woodhead has been used as a primary runner, at the goaline, and on passing plays. But I think Gordon might still carve out a role for himself this year. But if Woodhead goes down, I predict Gordon will carve out a role for himself.

New Orleans: Tim Hightower

The Saints always manage to give a RB just enough opportunity to contribute and Hightower did just that. He stepped in last year during the key FFL weeks of 14 through 16 and gave you 450 combined yards and three TDs.

Green Bay: James Starks

If the 2015 version of Eddie Lacy reappears, Starks should be in for a number of high producing games … again. Starks finished the year as the 22nd best RB. ‘Nuff said.

Dallas: Darren McFadden

When healthy, he contributes. He did it last year (finished the season as the 13th best RB) and with that OL, he’s one of the most obvious cuffs you can take, especially given the starter is a rookie.

Atlanta: Tevin Coleman

Early reports were that Falcons want to give Coleman more action….

And more recent reports are the same theme….

And as I said back in January Devonta Freeman’s stock is on the decline, while Coleman’s should rise for a couple of reasons. In addition to the majority of Freeman’s output coming mostly during a four week stretch last year, Coleman passes the “eye test” better than Freeman and the numbers back it up. Coleman’s ProDay 40 was 4.39 compared to Freeman’s 4.58, or nearly .2 seconds faster.

Pittsburgh: DeAngelo Williams

The Pittsburgh offense has been a well oiled machine lately, LeVeon Bell has some injury issues and DWill has done it before, topping 30 points three times last year and finishing as the sixth most productive back. If there is anything even close to a “must own handcuff,” DWill is it.

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