It’s only the 5th week of the NFL Regular Season and to no surprise, injuries have caused a major impact on Fantasy Football. The biggest injury to this point has been Saquon Barkley’s high ankle sprain, which occurred against Tampa Bay in Week 3. The first overall pick in many leagues is now out from anywhere between 4-8 weeks. Luckily for the Giants, Barkley, and most importantly for our purposes, fantasy owners, the sophomore out of Penn State will not need surgery or have to be placed on IR.
While Saquon is thankfully avoiding surgery, his injury does highlight the importance of keeping track of handcuffs. Running-backs especially are decimated by injuries every year, so it’s good to keep tabs. After all, the way seasoned fantasy veterans win every year is not by drafting a stacked team, but by hawking over the waiver wire and staying ahead of the experts. Below is a list of running-backs you should consider handcuffing.
Alexander Mattison- Minnesota Vikings (Rostered in 16.3% of ESPN leagues)
Despite star running back Dalvin Cook being a top 3 back through five weeks, Mattison has still seen a healthy dose of usage. Cook of course missed a majority of his rookie season after tearing his ACL and 5 games last season with a hamstring strain. The rookie out of Bosie State has proven he is capable of filling in for Cook and with the amount of workload Cook has taken in the first 3 games, it’s only a matter of time till those injuries catch back up.
Mattison is built exactly like Cook, and given Cook’s injury history, Mattison is easily my #1 handcuff player you need to pick up.
Ito Smith- Atlanta Falcons (Rostered in 9% of ESPN leagues)
Smith got some opportunities last season when Devante Freeman was put on IR in Week 5 but still found himself in the shadow of Tevin Coleman. Now that Coleman is in San Francisco, Smith is the clear #2 for the Falcons. Freeman may have an even worse injury history than Cook and didn’t play a game in 2018.
Plus, Smith and Freeman are different backs. Freeman is more of a bruiser where as Smith can get out into the flat and catch passes. Smith is worth keeping an eye on for that alone.
Tony Pollard- Dallas Cowboys (Rostered in 23.9% of ESPN leagues)
You never know with Ezekiel Elliot. From pulling a chick’s shirt down and exposing her breast at a concert, getting in multiple car accidents and having several speeding tickets, visiting a recreational marijuana dispensary before a preseason game, as well as multiple assault charges…. you get the jist.
It’s a risk to have Zeke on your team despite him having a light injury history. Pollard none the less has gotten a workload in the first few games for Dallas. He has 27 points on the season (9 points per game) off of 149 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, and 4 catches for 28 yards. Not to mention the fact that we’ve seen running-backs such as late-stage Darren McFadden produce behind the Dallas o-line.
For upside alone, Pollard is worth rostering.
Malcolm Brown- Los Angeles Rams (Rostered in 33.6% of ESPN leagues)
Despite taking Darrell Henderson in the 3rd Round out of Memphis, Brown has emerged as the primary backup to Todd Gurley. The Rams have played it safe with Gurley to start the season after he was diagnosed with arthritis last January. Henderson was ranked as a possible top 100 fantasy prospect in mock drafts and I even drafted him in the 12th round in one league.
He has since spent little time on the field and is now behind Brown on the depth chart. Brown isn’t getting enough touches to be a possible play at the moment, but if Gurley is forced to sit out any games he could be a strong FLEX or RB2. While Brown hasn’t done much since a two touchdown Week 1 performance, Gurley’s injury history makes the Rams rusher a prime handcuff candidate.
Sean McVay has also shown that Gurley’s absence won’t affect his usage of the run game in the past, look no further than playoff C.J. Anderson for proof.
Latavius Murray – Saints, (Rostered in 55.4% Of ESPN Leagues
After losing Mark Ingram to the Ravens in free agency, the Saints signed Murray to be the ground and pound alternative to Alvin Kamara. The Saints are a team that likes to have depth at skill positions and try to spread around reps. Murray could get an opportunity if Kamara misses any action but he’s been relatively healthy in his first two seasons. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep Murray on your bench if you have Kamara but there are definitely better guys to handcuff, considering Murray hasn’t gotten a lot of usage thus far.
Ryquell Armstead- Jaguars, (Rostered in 2% of ESPN Leagues)
The Temple product only has a handful of carries on the season but still managed to convert one into a touchdown this week. Though he hasn’t seen much action, he is the backup to one of the most injury-prone running backs in football in Leonard Fournette. Fournette has missed multiple games in each of his first 3 seasons and it could easily happen again. If that’s the case they would have to turn to Armstead or possibly sign a veteran.
He’s low on the radar, but on it nonetheless.