Originally posted: October 10, 2017
We changed the name of this article (formerly our Handcuff Report) because the reality is that “handcuffing” your stud RBs is less important than ever, since the pecking order and the roles in most backfields are murkier than ever. These days, it’s rare to find one single player who’s behind a starter and would be poised to handle a large workload should that starter go down. And that article forced us to make designations that frankly were unlikely to be true.
In some cases, we can absolutely name a single handcuff option for a particular backfield, and we certainly will when we can. But at this point, the goal of this article is to simply put into perspective what we think would happen if the top guy in a backfield – if there is one – should miss time.
In other cases, we have no other choice but to assume it’ll be a major RBBC if a lead back is out of the mix, but our goal with this article is to isolate the players to watch in a given backfield if the starter missed time.
What a nightmare. We still don’t know how long David Johnson will be out with a dislocated wrist, but he had surgery that will keep him out at least a couple months, and potentially the whole season. The result is an ugly RBBC. Kerwynn Williams was the first guy up, but Andre Ellington can play on passing downs, and coach Bruce Arians and company also brought back Chris Johnson, who ended up leading the team in rushing in Week 2 but has been terribly ineffective since. That led to the trade for veteran Adrian Peterson, who has looked washed the last two years but may find new life in Arizona, though the offensive line stinks. The Cardinals drafted TJ Logan to potentially take over Ellington’s scatback role, but the rookie broke his wrist in his preseason debut and could potentially miss the entire season. Not surprisingly, this backfield took a major fantasy knock without DJ, but Ellington’s work in the passing game could mean he’s the best option moving forward. He was a fantasy asset in Week 5 despite negative rushing yards, so we don’t think the Peterson add hurts him all that much.
Though the backfield may not be as efficient in 2017 with former play caller Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco, it’s still a pretty easy one to project in terms of role. With both their usage of and now financial commitment to him, the Falcons showed they view Devonta Freeman as an elite RB – his five-year extension with $22 million guaranteed made him the highest-paid RB in football. We expect Freeman will continue to play more than half the Falcons’ offensive snaps, with explosive rotational back Tevin Coleman cleaning up with 35-40% of snaps or so (they each had 14 opportunities in Week 1, and then each scored in Week 2). Our preference here remains for Freeman, who should be able to make up with volume what the Falcons lose in efficiency under new OC Steve Sarkisian. However, Atlanta has some injuries in the receiving corps, and Coleman is excellent split wide of the formation, so both backs are startable, as they were a season ago. Behind the two studs, the Falcons have holdover Terron Ward competing with fifth-round rookie bruiser Brian Hill, with Ward looking like the clear favorite for #3 duties. Neither projects to have much fantasy value unless both Freeman and Coleman go down, however.
Second-year RB Kenneth Dixon (knee) won’t play this season, which brought some clarity to what could’ve been a complicated fantasy backfield. Dixon’s injury left Terrance West and Danny Woodhead to split up the duties, with West handling the early-down snaps and Woodhead playing on third down and in passing situations. However, Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1, which landed him the IR list through at least their Week 10 bye. After spending most of the second half of last season as a healthy scratch, Buck Allenis now their top option. Allen has been most effective as a receiver during his first two seasons, but his overall game looks much improved. The Ravens also signed Alex Collins from their practice squad, and he’s run strong to become the top early-down option over West. Collins continues to struggle with ball-security issues, but he’s going to get early-down work with West expected to miss a chunk of time with a calf injury. Allen is going to liberally mix in with early-down back Collins until Woodhead gets back, and Buck is the top fantasy option.
After the Bills traded away WR Sammy Watkins, they plan on running the ever-loving hell out of the football this season, which is great news for LeSean McCoy owners. It looked like Jonathan Williams was the clear top backup to McCoy with Mike Gillislee bolting to New England, but they pulled a stunner by cutting him before the season. That leaves 32-year-old Mike Tolbert as the #2 option behind Shady. HC Sean McDermott indicated that the team would use a RBBC behind McCoy, with Joe Banyard and Taiwan Jones mixing in with Tolbert. There’s no need to handcuff Shady with any of these options behind him. It looks like Tolbert could be a pest down by the goal line, stealing some goal-line opportunities.
It’s not hard to see what the Panthers’ plan in the backfield is. Spending a top-10 pick on Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey means the Panthers want to completely rebuild the way they work offensively, and we’ll see if QB Cam Newton can take advantage of the short passing game in ways he has yet to exploit in his NFL career thus far. McCaffrey is our bet to lead this backfield in snaps and fantasy points, at least in PPR, though it’s worth noting that the club extended veteran Jonathan Stewart prior to this season, so Stewart has played an early-down/short-yardage role when healthy (which, obviously, has been a problem, as he’s missed 26 games over the last five years). The Panthers still have Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne here, in the even McCaffrey or Stewart gets injured. Whittaker is more the McCaffrey type (and has been used in conjunction with him, as seen in his Week 4 TD), while CAP is a lower-case bruiser.
The Bears’ lead back is 2016 rookie star Jordan Howard, who finished second in the league in rushing behind fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott. Howard was an excellent early-down grinder with explosive traits, but needs to improve his receiving if he wants to be a true three-down star. If Howard can’t improve as a receiver, however, they will have options in the backfield, as was evident in Week 1. The Bears signed veteran Benny Cunningham this off-season, and he’s noted for his receiving and blocking, which has been on display. The most talented back behind Howard is explosive fourth-round rookie Tarik Cohen, who was an early-week star, though Cohen’s 178-pound frame is a concern for his chances to be a true three-down back. Behind those two, Jeremy Langford got cut and Ka’Deem Carey landed on IR. The Bears did pick up rookie UDFA Taquan Mizzell from Virginia off waivers, however. For now, we have to anticipate Howard rotating with Cohen, who has been an absolute revelation, and gives them an explosive element they lack with all the injuries they’ve had at the WR position. With Howard dealing with a shoulder injury, there now appears to be a significant chance Cohen leads this team in PPR production, though the switch to QB Mitchell Trubisky will help both players, given Trubisky’s mobility. Cohen’s production has taken a huge hit in recent weeks, while Cunningham has played more. The Cunningham wrench was unexpected after Cohen’s explosion in the first few weeks, and it has hurt the fantasy value of everyone here.
Rookie Joe Mixon is the best all-around back in town, exceling as both a runner and as a receiver. The finally made him the lead back in Week 3, and he’s looked like the real deal at times, but he’s also struggled at times. Jeremy Hill should see his early-down role start to dwindle with Mixon taking over. Giovani Bernard is capable of filling in as an every-down back in a pinch, but he’ll be primarily used as a passing back this season. Mixon should continue to lead the backfield going forward, but Gio will be active in passing situations and Hill could vulture some goal-line and short-yardage touches, which is obviously a bit worrisome for Mixon’s fantasy potential. Mixon’s talent has already won out in Cincinnati, and now he just needs to take advantage of his playing time behind this shaky Bengals O-line.
HC Hue Jackson didn’t do a good job of using Duke Johnson creatively as a receiver last season, but that’s not the case in 2017. He’s played some out of the slot this season, and both Isaiah Crowell and Duke have been on the field together. Rookie QB Deshone Kizer was named the starter, which put a slight damper on Duke since he’s not prone to check it down much. However, they lost top WR Corey Coleman, and Kizer has leaned on Duke more, and he’d stay involved if they switch Kevin Hogan at QB. There’s a legitimate chance Duke and Crow are a duo that doesn’t necessarily eat into each other’s production too much because Crow isn’t doing much anyway. The Browns don’t have a great option behind their top two backs, with rookie Matt Dayes serving as the #3 RB, so Crow or Duke would see the majority of playing time if the other missed time during the season.
When available, Ezekiel Elliott is a lock for 75%-plus of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps and backfield opportunities, and though he is suspended for six games, the court process is going to be tedious, and there’s now a good chance he doesn’t serve his suspension at allthis year. Behind him, we assumed Darren McFadden was the #2, but McFadden was inactive in Weeks 1-5, surprisingly cast aside in favor of Alfred Morris and Rod Smith. Talking about the inactive decision after the Cowboys’ first game, owner Jerry Jones basically danced around and said it’s not something that’s a permanent decision, but it basically showcases here that the guy everyone assumed was the handcuff — including us — was not the slam dunk at all. Morris was ineffective in Week 1, so something might change going forward, but this legal process regarding Elliott’s domestic violence suspension could be protracted enough to last into next season. There appears to be no must-have handcuff here, though the Elliott situation still must be watched.
The Broncos’ running back situation remains one to monitor. C.J. Anderson entered the season as the team’s top back, but the Broncos brought in Jamaal Charles to be a change-of-pace option behind him. Second-year RB Devontae Booker had a disappointing end to his rookie season, and he missed all of the preseason after needing surgery to correct his fractured wrist. Sixth-round RB D’Angelo Henderson garnered some hype with his performance in training camp/preseason because of his burst and suddenness. Anderson is the best all-around back they have at this point, but new OC Mike McCoy could liberally sprinkle in the other backs if CJA doesn’t grab the reins of this backfield. However, CJA has looked great to start the year and is the clear top back for the foreseeable future. Booker is likely be the best handcuff to CJA, with Charles sticking as the change-of-pace back.
The Lions had one of the worst run games in the entire NFL last year, finishing 30th with 1310 yards rushing and 27th at just 3.7 YPC. They’re hoping that third-year back Ameer Abdullah can stay healthy enough to be their true lead guy, and the coaching staff had talked him up all off-season. Abdullah’s talent level is exceptional, but injuries and ball security have been a problem for him thus far in his NFL career. The big concern for fantasy is that Theo Riddick is a massive hindrance to Abdullah reaching his true upside. Riddick, though barely functional as a true interior runner, may be the best receiver at his position in the NFL, and should hold down at least low-end PPR value even if Abdullah blows up this year. If Riddick were to go down, Abdullah could have monster upside given he’s a strong receiver as well. The Lions also have Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington competing for early-down work. Washington made the roster ahead of Matt Asiata, and was actually active ahead of Zenner in Week 1. After some early struggles, Abdullah has looked really good in the last couple weeks, and Riddick has actually been a fantasy disappointment.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers had a revelation last year, when their awful run game was surprisingly saved by Ty Montgomery, a converted WR who switched positions midseason. But the Packers were clearly not sold on Montgomery, at least this off-season, which was wise. They spent three draft picks on the RB position, bringing in BYU’s Jamaal Williams, UTEP’s Aaron Jones, and Utah State’s Devante Mays. Williams was the #2 throughout camp and was the first back to enter when Montgomery left with a rib injury in Week 4, but Williams also got hurt in that game, and it opened the door for Jones. With Montgomery inactive in Week 5, Jones was dominant against Dallas, and likely has earned at least a timeshare when Montgomery returns. Williams, for now, seems like the odd man out.
Lamar Miller is still the top back here, but his limitations were fairly evident in his first season with the Texans in 2016. He’s not particularly elusive laterally, his home run speed was rarely seen, and he wore down with a larger workload than his previous seasons in Miami. On the other hand, his team’s passing offense was a mess, and their O-line was below average. At least the Texans QB has improved, but the jury is still out on the O-line. The Texans drafted D’Onta Foreman in the third round, and he’s already starting to carve out a secondary role to Miller. Mr. Boring Alfred Blueis still hanging around too. Foreman is going to get 8-10 carries per game behind Miller as a way to help preserve Miller for the entire season. The Texans kept 5 RBs on their roster to start the year, with Tyler Ervin and Jordan Todman in the mix as well, but Ervin tore his patellar tendon in Week 4 and is done for the season.
The ageless wonder, Frank Gore, just continues to chug along at age 34, which is ancient in RB years. He’s now posted 250+ carries and 16 games in six straight seasons, which is downright ridiculous. Robert Turbin could continue to vulture him at the goal line and a bit in the passing game, and rookie Marlon Mack is an explosive complement. But when the mud hits the fan, Indy still leans on the reliable and savvy Gore. The Colts re-signed Turbin on a two-year deal this off-season, which means they are pretty happy with his play as the top backup. The Colts drafted Mack in the fourth round, and he’s certainly the most dynamic athlete in their backfield. Turbin excels in pass protection, an area in which Gore has slipped, and in short-yardage situations. If Gore were to get hurt, Mack would likely lead this backfield with Turbin mixing in heavily. The Colts are going nowhere fast without Andrew Luck (shoulder), so Mack’s workload could keep increasing.
Rookie Leonard Fournette missed most of camp with a foot injury, but he’s been just fine once the bullets started to fly. The Jags took it slow with Fournette to get him ready for Week 1, but it’s notable because Fournette’s junior season was marred by ankle and foot issues. Chris Ivory is the fill-in on early downs if Fournette were to miss time, with T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant working in some passing situations. Grant snuck onto our radar late last season when he caught the eye of our film guy Greg Cosell. Grant has explosive speed, and it would be good if he could take some snaps away from the unimpressive Yeldon. This is Fournette’s backfield.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Kareem Hunt looked great during the preseason, which was enough to get us excited considering he was one of our favorite backs pre-draft anyway. But after Spencer Ware suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third preseason game, Hunt was propelled into a massive role. Hunt has certainly delivered early in the season as a three-down player. Charcandrick West is a distant second option, with Akeem Hunt now on the roster as the #3 RB. Given how successful Andy Reid has been in getting high-end fantasy seasons out of his RBs in the past, we’re incredibly excited for Hunt. Hunt is an elite RB1, with West the top option/handcuff behind him.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Chargers surprisingly didn’t add a running back during the 2017 NFL Draft, and their “major” free agent acquisition at the position was Kenjon Barner, who they cut before the season. The Chargers also let Danny Woodhead walk in free agency, so they are going all-in with Melvin Gordon as the do-it-all back. Branden Oliver is clearly the top handcuff for Gordon. Oliver looked good in training camp coming off his torn Achilles, which forced him to miss the entire 2016 season. Oliver is unlikely to have standalone fantasy value like Woodhead once had in this spot, with Chargers leaning heavily on Gordon heavily. Oliver would be the top back if Gordon misses time, with UDFA Austin Ekeler mixing in behind him. Gordon is a bit banged up with a bruised knee right now, but he got going in Week 5.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Behind starter Todd Gurley, the Rams currently have one of the thinnest group of backs in the NFL. Fortunately, Gurley has taken a step back toward high-end production to carry this run game. With passing-down back Lance Dunbar on the PUP list with no return in sight just yet, the Rams have third-year back Malcolm Brown and rookie UDFA Justin Davis competing for snaps. Davis, especially, looked explosive in the Rams’ preseason opener, but he also fumbled twice. The Rams are one of the teams that could look outside the organization to build up their depth if Gurley were to get hurt. For what it’s worth, the Rams rested Gurley in the third preseason game, and Brown got the start, so he seems to be the top backup for now. Brown and Davis were the only two backs to make the roster behind Gurley, with Dunbar still on PUP. As expected, Gurley has absolutely dominated touches so far this season.
Jay Ajayi is the clear workhorse back for the Dolphins since taking control of this backfield back in Week 5 of 2016. Ajayi missed two weeks of training camp with a concussion, and it’s a concern for a guy who has had multiple injury problems throughout his career, and is a physical runner to boot. Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams are both better receivers than runners, and they both could chip into Ajayi’s third-down snaps if Ajayi doesn’t show improvement as a receiver. Drake is top option behind Ajayi to start the season, and the Dolphins coaching staff has talked up their belief that Drake can be an every-down back. Drake and Williams would likely split up opportunities if Ajayi has more health issues, and he’s playing through a knee issue right now. Senorise Perry also made this roster as the #4 RB.
The Vikings had the NFL’s worst run game in 2016, ranking last with both 1205 total rush yards, and 3.2 yards per carry. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the club essentially rebuilt the entire operation in the off-season (including trying to make improvements along the offensive line). The run game had a ton of success through four weeks with rookie second-round pick Dalvin Cook, but Cook tore his ACL in that game against the Lions, making this backfield look arguably no better than it did a season ago. Latavius Murray is here, and is probably the “top bet” to lead this backfield in snaps, but he had off-season ankle surgery and has admitted he still isn’t 100%. Jerick McKinnon is explosive but fragile, and CJ Ham is a fullback. McKinnon was excellent in Week 5, way better than Murray, but he also took a ton of unnecessary hits that don’t make us feel any better about his fragility.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The Patriots re-tooled their running back depth chart to bring more versatility to their backfield. The Patriots added Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead this off-season and let LeGarrette Blount walk. Gillislee is the closest RB to Blount, as he’ll likely play mostly on early downs and in short-yardage-situations. Burkhead can play on a four downs (special teams included). Dion Lewis is a three-down player, while James White is the closest one a to a specialty back because of his receiving ability. Lewis is likely the low man on the RB totem pole at this point behind White, Burkhead, and Gillislee. The added versatility that Gillislee and Burkhead bring to the backfield might be good for the Patriots, but it’s been a bit of a headache for us trying to predict what could become an unpredictable backfield. Gillislee is the closest facsimile to Blount’s old role, White will continue to work in passing/hurry-up situations, and Burkhead and Lewis will work in all situations. Burkhead is dealing with a rib injury, forcing him to miss Weeks 3-5. New England’s backfield is more diverse than ever before, and Bill Belichick will use his personnel based on matchups every single week.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Following the Trade of Adrian Peterson, the Saints’ most balanced back, Mark Ingram, is in theory the best bet to be the “starter” here, but coach Sean Payton’s usage of and commitment to Ingram has sent mixed signals to us, at best. The Peterson trade at least clears some of those mixed signals up. But the most intriguing guy here remains rookie Alvin Kamara. Remember, the Saints traded a 2018 second-round pick to move up for Kamara, so they clearly view him highly, and Kamara has been excellent thus far. In addition to Ingram and Kamara, the Saints kept athletic freak Daniel Lasco and UDFA FB Trey Edmunds, and they also brought back John Kuhn. At the least, the team cutting Travaris Cadet suggests they have plenty of faith in the rookie Kamara, and it has played out that way. Prior to the trade, Peterson was the clear #3 in snaps, while Kamara has been their top fantasy producer. Kamara is the most appealing guy here.
NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants were one of the worst teams on the ground all of last year – only three teams (all NFC teams) ran for fewer than New York’s 1412 yards. And only two teams had less than the Giants’ 3.5 YPC. The problem is we aren’t sure that things will get a whole lot better. The Giants’ offensive line is likely to still be an issue, and they didn’t spend significant resources upgrading the backfield, either. By default, the “starting” job is expected to go to second-year man Paul Perkins, but Perkins wasn’t particularly impressive as a rookie, nor in the early weeks of 2017. So it’s possible there’s yet again an active rotation – no Giant RB played more snaps than Rashad Jennings’ modest 51.6% share last year. Shane Vereen is an excellent receiver when healthy, which seems to always be an issue. Rookie fourth-round pick Wayne Gallman is a competitive, try-hard back who can contribute on third downs as a blocker and grinder, and looked good in his first shot at action in Week 4. The man everyone is forgetting about is Orleans Darkwa, reportedly a favorite of coach Ben McAdoo. In other words, we could have multiple different backs in use in any particular game here, unless someone truly emerges. Based on last year and Weeks 1-3, in which the run game was nonexistent, we wouldn’t hold our breath. Our favorite back here right now is Gallman, who actually goes forward, something Perkins has had serious problems with early in the season. Gallman showed well in Week 5 in a timeshare with Darkwa, and Darkwa also got hurt in that game.
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets still have Matt Forte on the roster, and he’s seemingly near the end of the line, but they are still committed to using him as the lead back ahead of Bilal Powell, who is the better back at this point. Both Powell and Forte are good receivers, and they’ll need to be because the Jets figure to be throwing a lot in the second half going forward. These RBs are in better shape as long as Josh McCown starts at QB, but things could get hairy if they switch to Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg, which will happen. Forte is the top back for now, but he’s dealing with a turf toe injury, which kept him out in Week 4. Powell is also dealing with a calf injury coming out of Week 5. The Jets could go into evaluation mode at some point, and sixth-round pick Elijah McGuire is the next RB up with their top RBs. McGuire has shown some good speed and a burst in his limited action, and he could be a factor going forward.
Marshawn Lynch wasn’t an easy call this year given his age (31) and time off, but he’s in a good situation to succeed. He’s running behind a good O-lines, and he’s in a potentially great offense with QB Derek Carr progressively getting better. We see him playing a very similar role to what Latavius Murray played last year for the Raiders. Murray played 52% of the snaps and received only 13.9 carries per game, and he was TD dependent (12 TDs). We know the Raiders really want more explosiveness from their backfield, so Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington will split the other 40-50% of their RB snaps. Washington looks like the better complement to Lynch’s bruising style, but we’d expect Washington and Richard to split up the work pretty evenly if Lynch goes down at any point this season. The Raiders want to limit Lynch to around 200 carries this season, but their two gifted second-year backs are likely to siphon touches and production from each other, limiting their fantasy potential.
The Eagles would ideally like to run the ball more effectively than they did last year, and they’re betting that LeGarrette Blount can be the consistent early-down runner they didn’t have a season ago. That said, it’s on just a one-year deal, so it’s not necessarily a big bet. But after a bizarre Week 2 in which he didn’t get a carry, Blount has been excellent, and figures to be Philly’s primary early-down back for the immediate future. The big blow here is the loss of Darren Sproles, who tore his ACL and broke his wrist on the same play in Week 3 and will miss the season. That will open up more work for second-year man Wendell Smallwood, who has had an up-and-down career so far but impressed in Weeks 3 and 4. Rookie UDFA Corey Clement has also flashed here, with a TD in Week 3, and Eagle coach Doug Pederson insinuated the Eagles will be looking to make a move to “replace” Sproles, which turned out to be Kenjon Barner. This backfield isn’t settled at all, but the Eagle run game showed some promise in Weeks 3-5, even with Barner filling in for an injured Smallwood in Week 5.
Owning the Le’Veon Bell handcuff has been important the last two seasons with a formidable every-down backup behind him in DeAngelo Williams, but the need to handcuff isn’t nearly as strong in 2017. The Steelers drafted James Conner in the third round to be their top backup, but he isn’t nearly as dynamic as Williams in the passing game. Bell typically plays upwards of 90% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps, rendering his backup pretty much useless, but he also gets hurt a bunch, and is a suspension risk. That makes hometown boy Conner an intriguing handcuff. We would like to see Conner catch the ball better, and we doubt he’ll be a slam-dunk RB1 like DeAngelo has been these last few years if Bell is ever out, but he’d at least be a RB2 as a fill-in starter. Terrell Watson would likely mix in as well if Bell was out of the lineup.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The 49ers had one of the most headache-inducing backfields in the NFL during the preseason, but we were offered some clarity following final cuts. Off-season comments towards incumbent starter Carlos Hyde, and Hyde’s lack of reliability and availability, made it seem like the new regime under GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan was ready to move on. The 49ers also did a lot of work bringing in competition for Hyde. They spent big money on FB/H-back Kyle Juszczyk, signed reliable vet Tim Hightower, traded for former Bronco Kapri Bibbs, and spent a fourth-round draft pick on athletic monster Joe Williams from Utah. But as we sit here in early September, Hightower and Bibbs were cut, while Williams landed on IR with an ankle injury. The most interesting guy behind Hyde is an athletic freak, UDFA Matt Breida, who actually entered all of the 49ers’ preseason games ahead of Williams. The strongest bet we’re willing to make here is that we’re pretty convinced Juszczyk will have a big role as a receiver here, and Hyde opened the year as the no-doubt starting RB after his impressive preseason. In addition to Breida, the 49ers kept youngster Raheem Mostert behind Hyde.
The Seahawks operate a meritocracy in their backfield. That led to the emergence of rookie bulldozer Chris Carson from Oklahoma State, a big guy who has been very impressive this summer, earning some first-team snaps in camp and leading the team in rushing through two weeks. Carson easily made the roster ahead of Alex Collins and Mike Davis, and seems to have consistently impressed coaches (our guy Adam Caplan was very impressed at Seahawk camp too). Unfortunately, Carson went down with a serious ankle/leg injury in Week 4, and will miss most if not all of the rest of the season. Meanwhile, CJ Prosise is once again banged up. So the Seahawks are starting from scratch again. They’ll let Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls battle it out to replace Carson, though they’re not sold on either guy; each has been a healthy scratch at some point already this year. And behind Prosise, JD McKissic impressed with 2 TDs in Week 4 but didn’t handle a big role. This backfield is unsettled, and you can make an easy justification for picking up or fading anyone here.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
It’s unfortunate that Doug Martin was suspended for the first three games of the 2017 season, because Martin reportedly worked himself into amazing shape this off-season, and it showed in the Bucs’ preseason opener, as he looked quicker than we remember him being last year. Martin is back after missing Weeks 1 through 3, impressed in Week 4, and should be the Bucs’ lead back going forward. Veteran Jacquizz Rodgers handled the majority of the Bucs’ work with Martin down, as he was easily their most effective back last season, and in general he played pretty well, so he’s the “handcuff” here. But Charles Sims is still here, as is second-year back Peyton Barber. We were at one point excited about fifth-round rookie Jeremy McNichols, but he’s got off to a painfully slow start this summer and actually was the fifth RB used in the Bucs’ preseason games. He was released, and landed on the 49ers’ practice squad.
The big question in Nashville entering 2017 was just how long could DeMarco Murray hold off second-year RB Derrick Henry. Would DeMarco keep the lead role for another season, or would Henry prove to be the better back at some point in 2017? Henry became more of a factor late in 2016, especially near the goal line, with Murray slowing down with a sore toe/foot. It made sense for the Titans to pull back from Murray and get the rookie some more reps with their season all but over. Henry has been a bigger factor in his second season, but the only scenario in which Murray doesn’t get 15-20 touches per game is if he starts to show his age (29). Murray is looking a little old to start 2017, looking sluggish at times because of a hamstring injury. It looked like the Titans were heading to a full-blown timeshare between these two RBs, but Murray has taken back the majority of the work in recent weeks.
Washington’s backfield is a prime example to why you need to pay attention to everyone who is getting camp buzz at the RB position. That’s because Rob Kelley, a subpar measured athlete who was not productive at all in college at Tulane, emerged as Washington’s top RB last year. And Kelley’s reliability, especially in regards to pass protection and ball security, looks like it is keeping him in the starting lineup for now, when healthy. He’s currently holding off rookie Samaje Perine, a much more gifted runner who nonetheless has struggled as both a blocker and a fumbler this summer. The funny part, of course, is that neither guy may actually lead this backfield in snaps. That should be Chris Thompson, the passing-down scatback who saw the most snaps last season for this club, and recently signed an extension. Matt Jones was cut, though the Redskins also kept Mack Brown around, and he is interesting. Thompson has the most secure role, and though he has 4 TDs so far this year, it wasn’t a particularly good role for fantasy a season ago. Perine didn’t play an offensive snap in Week 1, so he has a looooong way to go, but was thrust into action in Week 2 when Kelley suffered a rib injury. Thompson has been a revelation thus far, but for how long will it last?
Source: Fantasy Guru
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