One of the biggest truths in fantasy football is that players get
injured. Wide receivers pull hamstrings, quarterbacks hurt shoulders
and ankles when giant guys fall on them and running backs, who are
targeted for a hit on almost every play, probably take the most
punishment of any skill position.
It therefore behooves fantasy owners to have backups, particularly,
at running back. But a backup who can’t produce is useless.
A backup who ends up sharing the starter’s roll in an RBBC
with the third-string running back on the depth chart is also
useless. Only the ones who can fill in for the starter and produce
enough so that the injury doesn’t cause the team’s
downfall have value.
Which ones are these? Let’s take a look at the NFC this
week and the AFC next week.
Dallas -Tony Pollard is Ezekiel Elliott’s
backup and a popular fantasy choice, but he’s got a few
factors working against him. First, Zeke doesn’t miss games
because of injury, only suspension (63 of 65 the past four seasons).
Additionally, Pollard as a starter replacement or backup has never
rushed more than 14 times in any game in his pro career. Could
he carry it 20-25 times and be successful? Still, he’s a
decent bye-week fill-in and averaged 10.4 FPts/G last season as
a full-time backup.
Philadelphia – There has been a lot of good
coming out of Eagles camp in the first week concerning Miles
Sanders, but the future may be with Kenneth
Gainwell heading into 2023 as Sanders will be looking for
a big contract after this season. Should an injury catch up to
Sanders, the workload would likely be split between Gainwell and
Scott actually saw the ball at the goal line more often than any
RB on the Eagles and rewarded the team with seven rushing touchdowns
from inside the 4-yard line. Although Gainwell is getting some
interest in the 14th round (ADP 137.7), it’s probably better to
New York Giants –Matt
Breida as a starter has averaged a very good 82 ypg (19 games),
but a majority of those were behind the San Francisco 49ers in
2018-19. This Giants offensive line isn’t nearly as good as the
Niners, nor Brian Daboll’s running game as sophisticated as Kyle
Shanahan, therefore I doubt Breida could produce at this level
in Saquon Barkley's
Gibson finished eighth in total fantasy points at his position
(235.1 fantasy points), but 17th in FPts/G (14.7) due to the elite
catching ability of J.D.
McKissic. But should Gibson be sidelined for any length of
time, I believe McKissic would remain in his pass-catching role
and rookie Brian
Robinson Jr. (Alabama) would work the early downs, negating
either as a good handcuff.
Green Bay –AJ
Dillon ranked 37th in PPR fantasy (11.0 FPts/G) despite starting
just two games for Aaron
Jones. In truth, he averaged barely more in his two games
as a starter than in his regular role (11.7 vs. 11.0). He was
already a viable bye-week and flex option last season and this
season there is a chance he gets more rushing attempts if the
Packers elect to use Jones more as a receiver to help compensate
for the loss of “All-World” Davante
Adams. As a sixth-round pick (ADP 56.7) you have to draft
him as your every week second starter and if something happens
to Jones it’s a bonus.
Williams is on the second year of a two-year deal to be the
backup to D’Andre
Swift. But he actually rushed the ball two more times than
Swift (each played 13 games). Should Swift go down (he’s played
26-of-33 games in his career), Williams would become start-worthy
with only former Chargers’ backup Justin
Jackson as the third-stringer, but you can’t use him if he’s
Minnesota – There’s a reason Alexander
Mattison is one of the first handcuffs off the board on draft
day. In his last five starts for an injured Dalvin
Cook, Mattison has averaged 23.7 fantasy points. He’s not
a standalone guy, he can’t start with Cook active, but he’s a
“must-have” if you rostered Cook.
Chicago – Like Mattison, Khalil
Herbert excelled in games he played for injured David
Montgomery posting 344 rushing yards in four games (13.5 FPts/G).
But that was 79.4% of his season total, proving he’s not anything
but a handcuff for Montgomery.
Carolina – The backup to Christian
McCaffrey has been a busy guy the past two season (he’s missed
23-of-33 games), so it’s an important handcuff for whoever drafts
CMC in the first round. D’Onta
Foreman was signed in the off-season after Chuba
Hubbard manned the role in 2021. Hubbard is still on the roster
so it’s probable that this would be a shared position if CMC is
again sidelined with Foreman for the early downs and Hubbard as
the receiving back.
New Orleans – Mark
Ingram returned to the Saints at mid-season last year and
comes back to New Orleans in an important role with a possible
suspension hanging over starter Alvin
Kamara. He proven to be a low end RB1 when Kamara missed time
in 2021, averaging 16.5 FPts/G, in three starts. He’s only useable
in a starting role, so only as a handcuff.
Atlanta – The Falcons were so disappointed with
last season they converted Cordarrelle
Patterson into a hybrid RB/WR. Patterson was great for fantasy
owners … until the playoffs when he disappeared. He averaged 18.1
FPts/G over the first 13 weeks, but just 7.2 from Weeks 14-18.
Allgeier (BYU) should eventually beat out journeyman Damien
Williams for the backup role and could see even more usage
if Atlanta chooses to have Patterson help the questionable depth
in the wide receiver room (rookie Drake
Edwards and Olamide
Zaccheaus). This will require watching preseason to see who
wins the backup job and how the receiving corps performs.
Tampa Bay – The Twitter universe and fantasy
owners reacted quickly when starter Leonard
Fournette came into camp weighing 260 pounds, but a week later
he’s already down to 247 and things have returned to normal. Rachaad
White, a rookie out of Arizona State (1,000 yards rushing,
43 receptions for 456 yards, 16 TDs) is expected to beat out Ke’Shawn
Vaughn for the backup early down role and in college showed to
be a three-down back which could put pass-receiving specialist
out of business too. Given that Fournette has averaged 12.6 games
a season, White is a necessary handcuff for anyone with Fournette
on their roster.
Los Angeles Rams – Everyone is excited to see
Cam Akers back
for a full season after missing almost the entire 2021 season,
but it would be a mistake to forget Darrell
Henderson, who averaged 13.6 FPts/G. Unfortunately, Henderson
also dealt with injuries last season which forced the Rams to
bring Sony Michel
in from the Patriots. Michel is now in Miami and Henderson will
again be Akers backup, but not worthy of standalone status.
Seattle – Will the real Rashaad
Penny please stand up? Is he the guy who was pretty much a
flop for three and a half seasons (32 games averaging 5.1 FPts/G)
or the guy who dominated in four of the final five games of his
fourth season (22 FPts/G)? That answer will determine how long
Walker plays backup to Penny and his one-year deal. If you
look deeper into those four big games they were against mediocre
run defenses (Houston ranked 31st in yards allowed, Chicago 24th,
Detroit 28th and Arizona 20th). If Walker is anything like what
he produced at Michigan State he should certainly be worth his
ninth-round ADP as he likely transforms from handcuff backup to
San Francisco – A healthy Elijah
Mitchell is the starter, but anyone who says they know the
depth chart for the 49ers backfield should probably play the Mega
Millions lottery not fantasy football. San Francisco spent a third-round
pick on rookie Tyrion
Davis-Price so he should be in the mix, but they also used
a third-round pick on Trey
Sermon last year and still have Jeff
Wilson and JaMycal
Hasty in camp. I can’t recommend any of the backups at this
Arizona – Since James
Conner has never played 16 games in a season, his backup could
end up being important. Darrel
Williams is a fifth-year journeyman, but did manage nine double-digit
games and averaged 11.5 points for the high-powered Chiefs offense.
The two have similar running styles so it’s unlikely Williams
has value unless/until Conner goes down.