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Fantasy Football: Handcuff running backs to target in drafts

Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) runs the ball in the first quarter against the Houston Texans at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

• Coaching staffs don't treat backup running backs equally, so we can’t assume every RB2 will have the same workload as their team’s RB1 if forced into action

• Eleven backup running backs appear poised for a workhorse role if turned to as the starter, including Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard and Chicago Bears RB Khalil Herbert

• Some pass-down backs like Philadelphia Eagles RB Kenneth Gainwell and Washington Commanders RB J.D. McKissic might not actually see their roles expand all that much in the event of their team’s starter missing time

Estimated reading time: 8 mins

Backup running backs aren't created equal, as only a few play-callers are even willing to hand their starter a true workhorse role these days. Therefore, expecting the backup to all of a sudden assume the exact same role can sometimes be wishful thinking.

However, there are a handful of teams that would be expected to hand their backup running back something pretty close to a fantasy-friendly three-down role should their team’s starter be forced out of action. These teams make up our top-tier of handcuff running backs.

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Tier 1

New York Jets

Michael Carter might actually be the Week 1 starter but regardless, he has a potential every-down role if Breece Hall ever misses time. He reached the 70% snap threshold on three different occasions as a rookie.

New England Patriots

James White retired, and Ty Montgomery‘s status (ankle) is uncertain. This suddenly leaves Rhamondre Stevenson as the weekly 1B option behind Damien Harris, and an injury to the latter back would seemingly leave the former all alone atop the depth chart.

Cleveland Browns

Head coach Kevin Stefanski was willing to keep Nick Chubb off the field on passing downs in favor of D’Ernest Johnson even without Kareem Hunt in the picture last season, so I have a hard time believing that Johnson would displace Hunt in his usual assignments should Chubb be forced out of action.

Indianapolis Colts

The decision to release Phillip Lindsay, combined with Nyheim Hines’ dominant first-team snap share in the preseason, makes the Colts’ pass-catching savant a sneaky-solid bet to leap into an Austin Ekeler-esque starting role should Jonathan Taylor be forced to miss any action.

Denver Broncos

Just as Javonte Williams would be expected to leap into every-week RB1 territory without Melvin Gordon, the opposite holds true as well.

Dallas Cowboys

Tony Pollard may never displace Ezekiel Elliott atop the depth chart when both are healthy, but you wouldn’t need more than one hand to rank the number of running backs ahead of Pollard should Zeke miss any time.

Green Bay Packers


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