2021 Fantasy RB Handcuffs Chart: Find sleepers, key backups for your top running backs

Written By Jackson Sparks
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(SN/Getty)

RB handcuffs are a necessary evil in fantasy football. Running backs get hurt (or wind up on the COVID list) far too often to not have an insurance policy, especially if they were one of your early-round picks. Knowing a team's depth chart and having a player's backup ready to insert into your lineup is a great way to keep your team on track. It's not a bad idea to acquire one or two handcuffs of backs who aren't even on your team. You never know when a sleeper will emerge and vastly outproduce his 2021 preseason ranking thanks to increased playing time.

To illustrate how important handcuffs can be, take a look at Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis in 2020. McCaffrey suffered several injuries throughout the season and played just three games, opening the door for Davis to take over. In Weeks 3-16, Davis was the No. 6 overall running back in PPR formats. McCaffrey owners who didn't have Davis were kicking themselves, as they lost the assumed No. 1 overall pick for most of the year and had to try to piece together a replacement from other teams. People who picked up Davis got a bargain-bin RB1. It might have been bad luck to lose McCaffrey for most of the season, but covering yourself from an injury standpoint is just smart practice.

As mentioned above, you don't have to have a team's starting running back to see value in their handcuff. In a league where you draft Ezekiel Elliott and Miles Sanders, Tony Pollard and Kenneth Gainwell are definitely going to be more attractive to you, but you should consider them even if you don't have Elliott and Sanders. Even without injuries to the starters, Pollard and Gainwell could have flex values.

Some handcuffs present more value than others, so take that into consideration in your draft. Pollard and Gainwell offer considerably more upside than guys like Samaje Perine and Salvon Ahmed. Just as with starting running backs, the quality of the No. 2 RB matters, too, as well as other factors, such as receiving skillset and red-zone acumen. You don't need to reach for the low-end handcuffs. They'll be available in the last few rounds.

We've already seen the likes of Pollard, Alexander Mattison, and Jamaal Williams flash when given a more significant role in an offense, so they're among the more attractive handcuffs. Unknowns, such as Chuba Hubbard and Jeremy McNichols, are often sitting on the waiver wire unless it's a deep league. As always, monitor injury situations and snap counts weekly, and be ready to strike things are trending in the wrong direction.

2021 Fantasy RB Handcuffs

Team Starter Handcuff Two-Deep
Arizona Cardinals C. Edmonds/J. Conner Jonathan Ward Eno Benjamin
Atlanta Falcons Mike Davis Cordarrelle Patterson Wayne Gallman
Baltimore Ravens Ty'Son Williams Latavius Murray Devonta Freeman
Buffalo Bills Devin Singletary Zack Moss Matt Breida
Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey Chuba Hubbard Royce Freeman
Chicago Bears1 David Montgomery Damien Williams Khalil Herbert
Cincinnati Bengals Joe Mixon Samaje Perine Chris Evans
Cleveland Browns Nick Chubb Kareem Hunt D'Ernest Johnson
Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott Tony Pollard Corey Clement
Denver Broncos M. Gordon/J. Williams Damarea Crockett Committee
Detroit Lions D'Andre Swift Jamaal Williams Jermar Jefferson
Green Bay Packers Aaron Jones AJ Dillon Kylin Hill
Houston Texans Mark Ingram Phillip Lindsay David Johnson
Indianapolis Colts Jonathan Taylor Nyheim Hines Marlon Mack
Jacksonville Jaguars James Robinson Carlos Hyde Dare Ogunbowale
Kansas City Chiefs Clyde Edwards-Helaire Darrel Williams Jerick McKinnon
Las Vegas Raiders2 K. Drake/P. Barber Trey Ragas Committee
Los Angeles Chargers Austin Ekeler L. Rountree III/J. Jackson Joshua Kelley
Los Angeles Rams Darrell Henderson Sony Michel Jake Funk
Miami Dolphins Myles Gaskin Salvon Ahmed Malcolm Brown
Minnesota Vikings Dalvin Cook Alexander Mattison Ameer Abdullah
New England Patriots Damien Harris James White J.J. Taylor
New Orleans Saints Alvin Kamara Tony Jones Jr. Dwayne Washington
New York Giants Saquon Barkley Devontae Booker Gary Brightwell
New York Jets M. Carter/T. Johnson Tevin Coleman La'Mical Perine
Philadelphia Eagles Miles Sanders Kenneth Gainwell Boston Scott
Pittsburgh Steelers Najee Harris Benny Snell Jr. Kalen Ballage
San Francisco 49ers3 Elijah Mitchell Trey Sermon Committee
Seattle Seahawks4 Chris Carson Alex Collins D. Dallas/T. Homer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Leonard Fournette Ronald Jones Giovani Bernard
Tennessee Titans5 Derrick Henry Jeremy McNichols Khari Blasingame
Washington Football Team Antonio Gibson JD McKissic Jaret Patterson

1 = Bears backup Tarik Cohen (knee) is out for at least the first six weeks of the season. He will be the primary receiving back when he returns.

2 = Raiders starter Josh Jacobs (toe/ankle) is out until at least Week 3. He will be the starter when he returns.

3 = 49ers backup JaMycal Hasty (ankle) is out until at least Week 5. Backup Jeff Wilson Jr. (knee) will be out until Week 7. They will likely be in a backup roles when they return.

4 = Seahawks backup Rashaad Penny (calf) is expected to be out until at least Week 4. He will likely return to the primary handcuff role when he comes back.

5 = Titans backup Darrynton Evans (knee) is out until at least Week 4. It's unclear if he will be the primary backup or third-stringer when he returns. 

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