It’s safe to say we’ve never seen a running back landscape like this before.
Between hold outs, injuries and concerns about the catering market for the position, it seems like there isn’t a day that goes by without some kind of news that changes the fantasy stock of one (or multiple) running backs. This year, due to that volatility, handcuffing is more important than ever. A quick primer for the unfamiliar: handcuffing is when you select the backup RB to your stud RB1 so that if an injury or anything else prevents them from playing, you still have that team’s starting RB.
August 14: Ezekiel Elliott is signing with the New England Patriots, per Ian Rapoport. He will join Rhamondre Stevenson in the backfield, which likely drops Pierre Strong and Kevin Harris down the depth chart. This is not ideal for Stevenson’s fantasy stock as Zeke could take away some valuable carries. Elliott is worth grabbing if you have Stevenson.
August 14: Dalvin Cook is signing with the New York Jets, per Adam Schefter. He could earn up to $8.6 million, and while that seems like starter money, it’s entirely possible it’s a sizable amount of incentives and Breece Hall could still remain the starter. If you land Hall, it’s a good idea to try and secure the services of Cook as well.
The injury conversation starts with Colts bellcow running back Jonathan Taylor, who requested a trade and is holding in, but is also reportedly dealing with back and ankle injuries.
Other notable training camp injuries to starting running backs include Baltimore’s J.K. Dobbins (knee injury), Denver’s Javonte Williams (knee), Isiah Pacheco (hand/shoulder) and the Jets’ Breece Hall (knee).
Jonathan Taylor trade demand
As mentioned above, Taylor’s situation is the story of training camp. On July 29, Taylor officially requested a trade. He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract and can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. He is owed $5.1 million for the 2023 NFL season and would then be eligible for the franchise tag. When healthy, Taylor is a fringe top-5 RB and very easily a top-10 back in PPR formats, but now with his status uncertain, he’s nowhere near a lock.
With Taylor out, backup Zack Moss looked to be in line to be the Week One starter, but he broke his hand on Aug. 1 and now will likely be out until October. With Moss out, third-year running back Deon Jackson is line to be the team’s starting running back after tallying 236 yards last season. That said, the Colts signed Kenyan Drake the day that Moss broke his hand, and the longtime Cardinal could be in line for a heavy workload as well. He had 482 yards rushing last season with the Ravens.
Best handcuffs for 2023
Jamaal Williams, Saints
While the Saints signed Kareem Hunt on Aug. 8, that signing seemed to be more in response to backup Eno Benjamin’s season-ending injury, not to take Williams’ spot. With starting running Alvin Kamara suspended for the first three games of the season, Williams will get a chance to be a bonafide RB1 at the start of the season, and could still work his way into the rotation once Kamara comes back. While he won’t replicate his 2022 production (1,066 yards, 17 touchdowns), he’s still the best handcuff option around.
Tyler Allgeier, Falcons
Last season, Allgeier tallied 1,000 yards in the Falcons offense, but now will likely take a backseat to stud rookie Bijan Robinson. That said, Arthur Smith has spent all of training camp talking about how he wants his team to play “positionless football”, which could lead to Allgeier having a big role. Robinson has spent time at training camp in the slot and out wide, while Allgeier is more of a traditional running back.
Jahymr Gibbs, Lions
While the Georgia Tech product will likely open the season as the backup to David Montgomery, it won’t be long until Dan Campbell and co. release the exciting rookie. A playmaker in space, Gibbs will be a PPR animal, and will likely look even more exciting next to the lumbering Montgomery. His versatility makes him a must-roster.
Fantasy football 2023: Running back handcuffs
2023 running back handcuffs for fantasy football
|Team||Starter||Backup #1||Backup #2|
|Team||Starter||Backup #1||Backup #2|
|Arizona Cardinals||James Conner||Keontay Ingram||Corey Clement|
|Atlanta Falcons||Bijan Robinson||Tyson Allgeier||Cordarrelle Patterson|
|Baltimore Ravens||JK Dobbins||Gus Edwards||Melvin Gordon III|
|Buffalo Bills||James Cook||Damien Harris|
|Carolina Panthers||Miles Sanders||Chuba Hubbard|
|Chicago Bears||Khalil Herbert||D'Onta Foreman||Roschon Johnson|
|Cincinnati Bengals||Joe Mixon||Trayveon Williams||Chase Brown|
|Cleveland Browns||Nick Chubb||Jerome Ford|
|Dallas Cowboys||Tony Pollard||Ronald Jones||Malik Davis|
|Denver Broncos||Javonte Williams||Samaje Perine|
|Detroit Lions||Jahmyr Gibbs||David Montgomery|
|Green Bay Packers||Aaron Jones||AJ Dillon|
|Houston Texans||Dameon Pierce||Devin Singletary|
|Indianapolis Colts||Jonathan Taylor||Deon Jackson||Evan Hull|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Travis Etienne||Tank Bigsby|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Isiah Pacheco||Jerick McKinnon||Clyde Edwards-Helaire|
|Los Angeles Chargers||Austin Ekeler||Joshua Kelley|
|Los Angeles Rams||Cam Akers||Kyren Williams||Zach Evans|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Josh Jacobs||Zamir White||Ameer Abdullah|
|Miami Dolphins||Raheem Mostert||Jeff Wilson||Devon Achane|
|Minnesota Vikings||Alexander Mattison||Ty Chandler||DeWayne McBride|
|New England Patriots||Rhamondre Stevenson||Ezekiel Elliott||Pierre Strong|
|New Orleans Saints||Alvin Kamara||Jamaal Williams||Kendre Miller|
|New York Giants||Saquon Barkley||Matt Breida|
|New York Jets||Breece Hall||Michael Carter|
|Philadelphia Eagles||D'Andre Swift||Rashaad Penny||Kenneth Gainwell|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Najee Harris||Jaylen Warren|
|Seattle Seahawks||Kenneth Walker||Zach Charbonnet||DeeJay Dallas|
|San Francisco 49ers||Christian McCaffrey||Elijah Mitchell|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Rachaad White||Chase Edmonds||Ke'Shawn Vaughn|
|Tennessee Titans||Derrick Henry||Tyjae Spears|
|Washington Commanders||Brian Robinson||Antonio Gibson|