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Fantasy Football: Running back handcuff index, matchup notes and Week 10 rankings

Glendale, Arizona, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) runs with the ball in the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

  • Saquon Barkley is the NFL’s only running back to register a top-24 PPR finish in every single one of his games this season (minimum seven games).
  • Ignore Monday night’s dud and fire up Alvin Kamara as a top-five option at the position more than capable of eruption against a Steelers defense that has already allowed some fairly big-time performances.
  • Consider Jamaal Williams a top-15 option at the position; he carries weekly multi-touchdown upside as the clear goal-line back of the league’s 12th-ranked scoring offense.
Estimated reading time: 30 minutes
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Week 10 is here! It’s truly a great day to be great.

What follows is a fantasy football-themed breakdown of each and every backfield. The following five categories will be analyzed for all 28 teams playing in Week 10:

  • Week 10 Fantasy Rankings: Where the running back falls in my fantasy ranks. Updated ranks can be found throughout the week on PFF.com as well as the new PFF app.
  • Week 9 Usage: Every team’s top-three running backs in snap rate, carries and targets from the previous week.
  • Week 10 Matchup: Opponent’s rank in PPR points allowed to opposing running backs as well as yards before carry allowed per rush. Higher numbers are better for running backs; “32” illustrates the worst defense in a given category, and “1” is the best.
  • Handcuff Index: Consists of four tiers:
      1. Tier 1: Workhorse handcuff who would immediately be in the RB1 conversation if the starter goes down
      2. Tier 2: Plenty solid handcuff who would get a nice usage bump and be a staple in the RB2 conversation if the starter goes down
      3. Tier 3: Usage bump won’t prevent the team from continuing to use a committee of sorts; not a guarantee these handcuffs will crack the position’s top-24 should the starter go down
      4. Tier 4: Muddled mess that would likely devolve into an annoying committee without a clear fantasy-friendly back to prioritize should the starter go down
  • Key question: One key question for every team that is on my mind.

JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NO | NYG | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH


ARIZONA CARDINALS

  • Week 10 Fantasy Rankings: James Conner (RB14), Eno Benjamin (RB41)
  •  Week 9 Usage: James Conner (72% snaps, 7 carries, 5 targets), Eno Benjamin (26%, 4, 1), Keaontay Ingram (2%, 1, 0)
  • Week 10 Matchup: LAR: 7 in PPR per game to RB, 20 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: Benjamin remains locked in as a three-down back with *both* Williams and Conner sidelined, but even then it's more of a 60-70% snap rate. The presence of either devolve this into a bit more of a committee.

Key question: How was James Conner’s workload in his first game back from injury?

Pretty, pretty, pretty good. Conner’s usage has been fairly consistent in his four games not directly impacted by injury this season:

  • Week 1: 10-26-1 rushing, 5-29-0 receiving, 72% snaps
  • Week 3: 13-39-0 rushing, 3-18-0 receiving, 60% snaps
  • Week 4: 15-55-0 rushing, 3-22-0 receiving, 66% snaps 
  • Week 9: 7-45-0 rushing, 5-19-0 receiving, 72% snaps

The bigger problem for Conner has been a lack of goal-line carries. Last year’s 11th-ranked scoring offense has dropped to 16th through nine weeks, and Conner accordingly has just three rush attempts inside the 5-yard line after trailing only Jonathan Taylor in the metric last season.

Bad news for Conner: Those fantasy-friendly scoring opportunities aren’t exactly guaranteed to arrive this week against Aaron Donald and company. Be optimistic that Conner will have bigger days to come down the road; just realize he’s more of a usage-based RB2 as opposed to someone who needs to be in fantasy lineups of all shapes and sizes ahead of this tough spot.


ATLANTA FALCONS

  • Week 10 Fantasy Rankings: Cordarrelle Patterson (RB16), Tyler Allgeier (RB34), Caleb Huntley (RB58)
  • Week 9 Usage: Cordarrelle Patterson (38% snaps, 13 carries, 1 target), Tyler Allgeier (38%, 10, 1), Caleb Huntley (22%, 7, 0)
  • Week 10 Matchup: CAR: 30 in PPR per game to RB, 16 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: Allgeier is the lead back when C-Patt is sidelined, but not in a workhorse manner. Three backs will seemingly stay involved no matter what.

Key question: How were the early returns of Cordarrelle Patterson’s first game since Week 4?

Rather awesome. C-Patt found the end zone on two separate occasions and even had an additional 38-yard score nullified by a penalty. His snap usage was predictably down after pregame reports indicated that he’d be eased back into action; it was still good to see the Falcons give him a team-high 13 carries.

Overall, Patterson has posted PPR RB5, RB52, RB6, RB32 and RB7 finishes in his only five games this season. Even the RB32 “dud” is a bit fluky considering that was C-Patt’s last game before heading to the injured reserve. He’s on a short list of running backs with at least three top-eight finishes despite his limited playing time:

Of course, it’s not a given that Allgeier and Huntley will completely exit the picture; it’d make sense if Patterson’s weekly touch totals veer closer to 15 than 20. Still, C-Patt is once again the undisputed early-down back inside of the most run-heavy offense since Rex Ryan’s 2009 Jets; that’s good enough to earn him weekly RB2 treatment at worst, especially ahead of a Thursday night smash spot against a Panthers defense that was just railroaded by Joe Mixon.


BUFFALO BILLS

  • Week 10 Fantasy Rankings: Devin Singletary (RB23), Nyheim Hines (RB42), James Cook (RB44)
  • Week 9 Usage: Devin Singletary (74% snaps, 8 carries, 5 targets), James Cook (23%, 4, 4), Nyheim Hines (7%, 0, 1)
  • Week 10 Matchup: MIN: 5 in PPR per game to RB, 8 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: An injury to Devin Singletary would likely lead to a fairly evenly split committee between James Cook and Nyheim Hines; there hasn't been a large enough sample size with Hines on the team to feel good about who might lead the way.

Key question: Should we expect anybody to emerge from this backfield as a consistently viable fantasy option?

Probably not. Obviously, the Josh Allen is a massive positive for just about everything regarding real life and fantasy football, except for his running backs. Devin Singletary has had some solid stretches over the years when fully entrusted with the backfield, but the potential for both James Cook and Nyheim Hines to also factor in moving forward makes it tough to assume anybody involved will get the lion’s share of an already not-so-fantasy-friendly workload:

  • 2018: 25th in running back targets, 29th in running back carries inside the 5-yard line
  • 2019: 29th, 22nd 
  • 2020: 28th, 15th
  • 2021: 25th, 26th
  • 2022: 14th, 32nd

Nobody involved will be recommended starts if Josh Allen (elbow) winds up missing time. Otherwise, fire up Singletary as a borderline RB2 albeit with a lot of unknowns surrounding how this rotation will work moving forward with Hines also involved.


CAROLINA PANTHERS

  • Week 10 Fantasy Rankings: D'Onta Foreman (RB29), Chuba Hubbard (RB30)
  • Week 9 Usage: D'Onta Foreman (42% snaps, 7 carries, 3 targets), Raheem Blackshear (35%, 5, 4), Spencer Brown (27%, 3, 3)
  • Week 10 Matchup: ATL: 22 in PPR per game to RB, 23 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: Either Forman or Hubbard can be expected to see something close to a three-down role in the absence of the other. Together, it's much more of an evenly split backfield.

Key question: Should either Panthers back be overly trusted if both are active?

Not really. From last week:

“Credit to Foreman for being the best example of a running back recovering from an Achilles injury in a meaningful way; just realize last week’s 34-point explosion marked the first time all year that this offense eclipsed even 24 points in a game. A more negative game script certainly seems to be on the way given the Panthers’ status as 7.5-point underdogs to the Bengals. “

Chuba Hubbard (ankle) actually out-snapped D’Onta Foreman 22 to 14 during the first 45 minutes of action of Week 7 before being sidelined. It’d make sense if Foreman’s solid performance has earned him more overall work; just realize neither party figures to take complete control of the situation, and it’s plenty possible that either Raheem Blackshear and/or Spencer Brown also stay annoyingly involved.

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