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Embrace these fantasy football RB handcuff options

Different people have different likes and quirks and tendencies. You might understand why some people do things differently even if you don’t prefer to do it that way.

Take, for example, handcuffing fantasy running backs. Some team managers want to draft the real-world backups of their top RBs on their fantasy rosters. Others, like the Madman, don’t embrace the handcuff route except in very specific circumstances — when the backup is crystal clear and there is high confidence of high usage if forced into duty.

These situations were rare during draft season: Dalvin Cook-Alexander Mattison, Ezekiel Elliott-Tony Pollard, Aaron Jones-A.J. Dillon, Josh Jacobs-Kenyan Drake, Leonard Fournette-Ronald Jones. Other teams often didn’t have a clear starter, or maybe not even a clear backup, thus it was a guessing game whom to cuff and/or whom to cuff them to. Plus, you don’t want to use two roster spots for bad running games or muddy backfields (think: Dolphins, Texans, Ravens, etc.).

Now, situations are clearer. Some of the slam-dunk cuffs could have been dropped since the draft, others have emerged during the season but might be back on the waiver wire.

The benefit of a handcuff was on full display Sunday, when Dillon stepped in with two touchdowns after Jones went down for the Packers, and Patriots rookie Rhamondre Stevenson had a big game with starter Damien Harris out.

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Dillon is going to be a strong option for the next couple of weeks while Jones deals with an MCL sprain and could become a TD vulture even when Jones returns. Stevenson, who is more widely available, could have carved out a future role even when Harris is back — Stevenson looks like the superior back.

There are a number of reasons to prioritize grabbing such cuffs now: Pickings are slim on the waiver wire this time of year. Free-agent budgets might be running thin. Perhaps you’ve gotten past the most difficult bye weeks. Maybe your league doesn’t allow transaction during the playoffs.

Packers
A.J. Dillon had a breakout game for the Packers on Sunday.
AP

Chuba Hubbard and Khalil Herbert were recent popular waiver adds when starters Christian McCaffrey and David Montgomery went down. With both RBs back on the field, Hubbard and Herbert might have found their way back onto your waiver wire. If you have CMC, grab Hubbard, and likewise Montgomery managers with Herbert.

But there are a couple of other handcuff options we like and who are available in most leagues. Samaje Perine is the clear second option behind Joe Mixon in Cincinnati, and Perine is rostered in less than 10 percent of leagues.

Sony Michel is on more rosters yet still available in close to 70 percent of leagues. And if something were to happen to Darrell Henderson Jr., Michel would become the top back on one of the league’s top offenses.

If you have Devontae Booker or Mark Ingram, who are rostered in most leagues, you could try to trade them to whoever has Saquon Barkley or Alvin Kamara, respectively.

Now is the time to set aside fears of applying some handcuffs.

Look at this!

Cam Newton QB, Panthers

In deep or two-QB leagues, or if in need during a bye week, Newton will be an interesting option. Don’t expect big passing numbers, but he will be a threat for a rushing TD or two virtually every week.

Jakobi Meyers WR, Patriots

Finally scored his first NFL receiving touchdown Sunday. That gives him one in 50 touches — still well off the average pace for WRs. There is much progression toward the mean to come yet.

Panthers
Cam Newton
USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Johnson WR, Titans

Led the team in targets in Week 9. He should continue to get a nice chunk of volume while Julio Jones is out, which will be at least the next two weeks.

Pat Freiermuth TE, Steelers

Didn’t find the end zone Sunday, but continued to get a steady dose of targets even with Ben Roethlisberger out. Has only one difficult TE matchup remaining (Week 15 vs. Titans).

Look away!

Devonta Freeman RB, Ravens

This is a messy backfield all around, and Latavius Murray is expected back next week. Don’t buy into his domination of carries in Week 9.

Matt Breida RB, Bills

Scored twice in his season debut Sunday. Look deeper: He had just six touches. Breida will undermine Moss and Devin Singletary more than he does provide a legitimate fantasy option.

Robby Anderson WR, Panthers

Had his best fantasy game of the season Sunday, helped by a TD catch from Newton. But don’t expect a bump with his new QB. Anderson is most effective as a deep threat, and Newton can’t throw deep.

Ray-Ray McCloud WR, Steelers

Had more targets Sunday (nine) than he had all year prior (eight). But that was with Mason Rudolph at QB, in place of Big Ben, and no Chase Claypool. That spike in production won’t continue when one or both return.

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