Handcuffs with Potential Standalone Value
Handcuffing is when you draft a players backup in fantasy football. This is usually done by the owner that drafts the starting running back from a certain team. However, you can take a gamble in a few cases where you think it could pay off to own the RB2.
Every year there seem to be viable handcuffs you can take a shot on late in your fantasy drafts. This year is no different. There are some players that potentially have stand-alone value this season. Some running backs are projected to be part of a timeshare. Others will have immediate value if the RB1 for their team goes down with an injury.
For the sake of this article, we will look at four players that are listed as the RB2 on the depth chart. Let us get started.
Darrell Henderson – Los Angeles Rams
Darrell Henderson was drafted with the 70th overall pick by the Los Angeles Rams in the 2019 draft. Henderson left Memphis after his junior season in 2018 after rushing for nearly 2,000 yards. The dynamic back averaged 9.5 yards per touch on 233 touches last season and scored 25 total touchdowns. The Memphis grad also finished 10th in the Heisman vote. Henderson dominated the two backs that were drafted ahead of him in yards per game.
Todd Gurley has a balky knee and missed a lot of snaps down the stretch last season, including all of Week 15 and Week 16. The selection of Henderson in the third rounds speaks volumes to the level of commitment the Rams may have to monitor Gurley’s workload going forward. Gurley has averaged 307.5 touches per season in his four-year career, including over 300 the past three seasons.
If Todd Gurley has the following stat line in 2019, is there room for Darrell Henderson to produce? Let's call "produce" as finish as a top 40 RB.
Rushing: 230 – 1,124 – 12
Receiving: 58 – 416 – 0
— Michael Zingone (@FFzinger) May 15, 2019
This would put Gurley down about 20 touches from his career average. That is not too far of a stretch considering the Rams were the third team to draft a running back this past April. You could argue that the Rams may use Gurley even less than that to preserve him for the playoffs and extend his career some.
Henderson showed the ability to catch the ball in college as well, averaging 15.5 yards per reception on 19 catches. This would allow Sean McVay to run the same offense regardless of which back is on the field. This is also a huge plus if Todd Gurley were to miss any time in 2019.
Henderson is currently being drafted at the 2.05 spot in rookie drafts. In redraft leagues, he is going off the board at pick 88.4 and the RB38. There really is a lot of value to be had by grabbing Henderson at his current ADP. Even if Gurley stays healthy all year, the rookie could still see a healthy amount of touches in 2019, giving him standalone value in deeper leagues.
Jaylen Samuels – Pittsburgh Steelers
Jaylen Samuels may be more than just a handcuff in 2019. There is talk that the Pittsburgh Steelers will use a committee in 2019. Samuels made the most of his limited opportunities in 2018. Samuels only saw action in nine games. In six of those nine games, he managed double-digit points.
The NC State grad also finished at or just outside of RB2 territory in those six double digit weeks. The Pittsburgh Steelers recently brought in Samuels’ college coach to be the RB coach in the Steel City. You can see he thrived under Eddie Faulkner at NC State playing a hybrid RB/TE role for the Wolfpack.
In his Senior year under Faulkner, Samuels had 153 combined touches for 1,000 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns. In the NFL last year, the versatile back was stellar in the passing game, catching 26 of his 29 targets for an 89.7% catch rate. That was good for a 7.7 yard per catch average.
Samuels was no slouch on the ground either. The rookie averaged 4.6 yards per carrying on 56 carries. Look for an increased role and he is certainly worth drafting late if you are a James Conner owner. In redraft leagues, Samuels is being selected at pick 116.4 and the RB45.
You can see in the three games played without Conner, Samuels projects out to be the RB6 in PPR formats. In redraft leagues, Samuels is being selected at pick 116.4 and the RB45. This could be a lottery ticket that cashes in, especially if Conner misses time again in 2019. Find a way to get him on your roster in all formats.
Latavius Murray – New Orleans Saints
John Hesterman did a great piece on Latavius Murray and how he fits into the scheme for the New Orleans Saints. Many think that the departure of Mark Ingram to the Baltimore Ravens leaves Alvin Kamara as the lead back in the Big Easy. This may not necessarily be the case. No changes were made in the coaching staff so why would there be a scheme change?
You can see that when Murray was a lead back in 2015 and 2016 with the Oakland Raiders, he was right up there with Ingram. In 2017, there was room for both Kamara and Ingram to thrive, finishing as the RB3 and RB6 respectively. This is not to say that Murray will be the RB6 in New Orleans, but it does show that there is room for two running backs to produce in a Sean Payton led offense.
This chart shows that the RB2 in a Payton offense has been productive throughout his coaching career. Payton’s RB2 has finished as an RB2 for fantasy four different times in his 12 years as a head coach. 2019 will likely make five. Murray is currently getting drafted with the 81st pick (RB34) in redraft leagues. The veteran back is a sure bet to outperform his ADP this upcoming season. Do not let him slip through the cracks.
Alexander Mattison – Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings selected Alexander Mattison with the 102nd pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Mattison will likely replace the aforementioned Latavius Murray as the RB2 behind Dalvin Cook. Ameer Abdullah, Mike Boone, and Roc Thomas are also on the roster. If the Vikings felt any of them were capable backups to the oft-injured Cook, then they would not have spent a third-round pick on Mattison.
The Boise State grad was a touchdown machine in 2018 and owned the market share of that stat over the stud running backs that were drafted ahead of him.
Dalvin Cook has missed more than half of his games over his first two years in the NFL. If we look at the splits for how Latavius Murray performed in the 17 games Cook has missed, we see the upside Mattison can bring if the Florida State grad were to go down yet again.
Alexander Mattison went over 1,000 yards and scored double-digit touchdowns in both his sophomore and junior years at Boise State. For his career, he averaged 4.9 yards a carry. Mattison also showed decent receiving skills, catching 28 and 27 balls each of the past two seasons.
While the college numbers may not be as eye-popping as the previously discussed Darrell Henderson, Mattison is more than capable of putting up solid numbers. Mattison is currently going at the 3.05 and RB9 spot in rookie drafts so far. He is going even later in redrafts at pick 160.2 and RB61. There is a lot of value here for someone that could see starter snaps at some point in 2019 if Cook’s injuries start to rear their ugly head yet again. Do not be afraid to take a shot late.
There are obviously some other handcuff/upside players out there such as Rashaad Penny, T.J. Yeldon, and even Elijah McGuire now that the news that Le’Veon Bell could be traded has hit the wire. The four players covered could have value even as standalone assets to your fantasy team. There is no guarantee you can grab them off of waivers if the RB1 goes down in any of these scenarios. If you have the room on your bench, then they are worth drafting and hanging on to as deep into the season as possible.