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Fantasy Football: Running back handcuff index, matchup notes and Week 11 rankings

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) runs with the ball during the second half against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

  • San Francisco 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey continues to warrant upside RB1 treatment despite Elijah Mitchell being annoyingly involved.
  • Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson continues to have one of the most fantasy-friendly workloads in the league.
  • Browns RB Kareem Hunt has been performing poorly as a rusher and hasn't had the receiving workload to make up for it.
Estimated reading time: 30 minutes

Week 11 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 11:

  • Week 11 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 10 Usage: Every team’s top-three running backs in snap rate, carries and targets from the previous week.
  • Week 11 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 | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH


ARIZONA CARDINALS

  • Week 11 Fantasy Rankings: James Conner (RB16), Darrel Williams (RB63)
  • Week 10 Usage: James Conner (95% snaps, 21 carries, 3 targets), Keaontay Ingram (8%, 1, 0), Eno Benjamin (2%, 0, 0)
  • Week 11 Matchup: SF: 1 in PPR per game to RB, 4 in YBC allowed per carry
  • Handcuff Index: 2: Keaontay Ingram now projects as the fairly clear lead back should James Conner get sidelined after the Cardinals chose to release Eno Benjamin. Darrel Williams (hip, IR) continues to be out of the picture.

Key question: Is this matchup too tough to trust James Conner as an RB1?

Yes, especially when combined with the prospect of Kyler Murray (hamstring) missing another game or being forced to play at less than 100%. The 49ers have certainly earned their top ranking in the fewest PPR points per game allowed to the position:

Don’t get it twisted: Conner’s near-every-down role should earn him a starting spot in fantasy lineups of most shapes and sizes; just realize he’s not expected to see many scoring opportunities inside of an offense implied to score just 17.75 points — the fourth-lowest mark in the league.


ATLANTA FALCONS

  • Week 11 Fantasy Rankings: Cordarrelle Patterson (RB22), Tyler Allgeier (RB37), Caleb Huntley (RB53)
  • Week 10 Usage: Tyler Allgeier (48% snaps, 8 carries, 3 targets), Cordarrelle Patterson (37%, 5, 1), Avery Williams (15%, 4, 0)
  • Week 11 Matchup: CHI: 28 in PPR per game to RB, 23 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: Can fantasy managers trust Cordarrelle Patterson after his brutal Week 10 usage?

Close start/sit decisions should go to the other guy for the time being, even ahead of this winnable #RevengeGame spot against the Bears. It made sense to limit Patterson in Week 9 during his first game back from the injured reserve list, but Thursday night’s driving-rain conditions made the lack of usage even more perplexing. C-Patt at least drew the start and should see a better touch count moving forward; just realize the floor is low for everybody involved in an offense that simply refuses to overly feature any one player.

Unfortunately, Patterson’s lack of a stranglehold on the rushing share doesn’t make someone else a fantasy-relevant option due to the reality that *four* running backs are maintaining usage on a weekly basis. Allgeier managed a whopping 3 total yards on 11 touches last week; he’s nothing more than a throw-up-in-your-mouth FLEX for bye-week-needy rosters.


BALTIMORE RAVENS

  • Week 11 Fantasy Rankings: Kenyan Drake (RB24), Justice Hill (RB52)
  • Week 9 Usage: Kenyan Drake (66% snaps, 24 carries, 2 targets), Justice Hill (26%, 4, 1), Gus Edwards (22%, 11, 0)
  • Week 11 Matchup: CAR: 27 in PPR per game to RB, 10 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: This backfield continues to keep three members involved even with Kenyan Drake emerging as the leader when both Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins are out. Veteran additions continue to be plenty possible

Key question: Who the hell is even healthy in this backfield at the moment?

Kenyan Drake and Justice Hill are fine for the moment, but two key injury situations linger:

  • Gus Edwards (hamstring): Head coach John Harbaugh said “the plan” is for Gus to return against the Panthers when speaking during the Ravens’ Week 10 bye. Earlier this week he said: “I think [he's doing] good. You talk to Mark Andrews, and he sounds very positive about it. Trainers as well. We'll see how it progresses throughout the week. It'll be the same answer for Gus Edwards and DeSean [Jackson]. … They all have a real good chance.”
  • J.K. Dobbins (knee, IR): Harbaugh said that Dobbins will return in a few weeks while speaking during the Ravens’ Week 10 bye. Dobbins noted last week, “I didn’t get reinjured. I didn’t hurt myself or anything. I just didn’t feel like myself.”

If active, Edwards will take over Drake’s spot as my PPR RB24, moving Drake down into low-end RB3 territory. If not, Drake is a reasonable borderline RB2 play against the league’s sixth-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position.


BUFFALO BILLS

  • Week 11 Fantasy Rankings: Devin Singletary (RB21), James Cook (RB42), Nyheim Hines (RB49)
  • Week 10 Usage: Devin Singletary (71% snaps, 13 carries, 2 targets), James Cook (18%, 5, 0), Duke Johnson Jr. (7%, 2, 0)
  • Week 11 Matchup: CLE: 30 in PPR per game to RB, 28 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. Hell, Duke Johnson could mix in on early downs. Fun fact: Duke is The U's all-time leading rusher.

Key question: Could snow in Buffalo lead to a run-focused game plan?

It sure would make sense. Multiple *feet* of snow are in the forecast this weekend, while game-day winds are also projected to push 20 miles per hour. This combination sure makes a pass-heavy game plan seem unlikely, especially when considering just how futile the Browns have been at defending the run this season:

  • EPA allowed per run play: +0.058 (No. 31)
  • Yards per carry allowed: 4.8 (No. 27)
  • Yards before contact allowed per carry: 1.7 (No. 28)
  • Explosive run-play rate allowed: 14.6% (No. 25)

Overall, only the Bears (17) have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Browns (15) through 10 weeks of action.

Snow-game legend LeSean McCoy is tentatively not expected to come out of retirement before Sunday, so fire up Devin Singletary as a volume-based RB2 who has seen at least 15 combined carries and targets five of his last seven games.

None of the other Bills running backs are viable fantasy options due to the likelihood that they continue to split reps as clear backups.


CAROLINA PANTHERS

  • Week 11 Fantasy Rankings: D'Onta Foreman (RB17), Chuba Hubbard (RB45), Raheem Blackshear (RB62)
  • Week 10 Usage: D'Onta Foreman (67% snaps, 31 carries, 1 target), Chuba Hubbard (19%, 5, 0), Raheem Blackshear (13%, 6, 0)
  • Week 11 Matchup: BAL: 13 in PPR per game to RB, 7 in YBC allowed per carry 
  • Handcuff Index: 3: Foreman is the pretty clear lead back at this point, but his absence might lead to a similarly robust role for Hubbard, who did seem to start the post-CMC experience as the lead back before getting injured himself.

Key question: Is D’Onta Foreman an every-week must-start option?

Not quite, although it’s hard to be anything but impressed with the 26-year-old’s 15-118-0, 26-118-3 and 31-130-1 performances on the ground this season. The problem is that the former and latter rushing lines came in double-digit wins, while the three-touchdown masterpiece came in a back-and-forth overtime loss to the Falcons. Foreman received just nine total touches while playing only 43% of the offense’s snaps in Week 9 when the Panthers were blown out against the Bengals.

Vegas certainly seems to think this week’s matchup against the Ravens could more closely resemble Week 9’s dud given the Panthers’ status as 12.5-point underdogs. The absence of P.J. Walker (ankle) means Baker Mayfield will be back under center; this offense has a scary-low floor that is reflected by their week-low 15.5-point implied team total.

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