Running backs you should handcuff in your 2019 fantasy football draft

USATSI/NBC Sports Bay Area

Running backs you should handcuff in your 2019 fantasy football draft


Everyone needs it, including fantasy football owners.

As you draft your teams over the next few weeks, you'll be looking for a safety net in one of your top picks gets hurt (or are holding out).

In this case, we're going to look at the backup running backs that need to be handcuffed to their team's starter because of injury or holdout.

Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, Chargers

Gordon is locked in a bitter contract dispute with the Chargers, and the fifth-year running back hasn't participated in training camp.

Now, Gordon could always sign and be ready for Week 1. But considering the sizeable gap with how much Gordon thinks he's worth and how much the Chargers want to pay him, you can expect this holdout to last a while.

That's where Ekeler comes in. While Gordon was the bellcow last season, Ekeler found a way to rack up 958 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns. If Gordon stuns everyone by sitting out the season, Ekeler is your guy. Even if Gordon signs a new deal, Ekeler still holds lots of value.

Sony Michel and James White, Patriots

Michel had a breakout rookie season in Bill Belichick's offense. But will he be able to repeat that success? If he can't, White will be there to pick up the crumbs.

While Michel outrushed White by more than 500 yards last season, the latter finished second on the Patriots with 751 receiving yards. Michel caught just seven passes for 50 yards.

If Michel struggles, White is a trusted veteran that can fill the stat sheet.

Zeke Elliott, Tony Pollard and Alfred Morris, Cowboys

Elliott is in the same boat as Gordon. He's holding out of training camp in the hopes of getting a massive new contract.

With Elliott out, 2019 fourth-round draft pick Pollard appears to be the running back that is getting the most action during the preseason. He even got a much-ridiculed vote of confidence from owner Jerry Jones, who said he believes Pollard can carry the "whole load." Sure, Jerry.

If Pollard can't carry the load, steady veteran Morris will be ready to step in. Morris spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons in Dallas, so he should know Jason Garrett's system well.

Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida, 49ers

If they're all healthy, the 49ers have a nice three-headed monster in the backfield. But McKinnon still isn't ready to play after tearing his ACL last year.

If McKinnon begins the season on injured reserve, Coleman and Breida will split carries. Both players ran for at least 800 yards last season. The 49ers haven't yet decided which one would be the primary ball carrier, but once they do, that player should be targeted by most fantasy owners.

Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, Vikings

When Cook is healthy, he's an explosive back. But he's played just 15 games in two seasons, so the jury is still out on whether he can stay healthy for a full season.

If Cook can't stay healthy, the Vikings will likely give 2019 third-round draft pick Mattison a bulk of the work.

Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders, Eagles

Howard carried the load for the Chicago Bears last season, but an offseason trade now makes him as the top back in the City of Brotherly Love.

The problem for Howard is that the Eagles used their second-round draft pick on Sanders, and most experts expect Sanders to slowly eat into Howard's carries.

Howard should begin the 2019 season as the starter, but Sanders will likely take over later in the season.

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49ers 'most likely' turn to Justin Skule again to replace Joe Staley


49ers 'most likely' turn to Justin Skule again to replace Joe Staley

SANTA CLARA – Rookie Justin Skule will “most likely” return to the 49ers starting lineup in place of veteran left tackle Joe Staley, coach Kyle Shanahan said.

Staley underwent surgery to repair a broken and dislocated finger, an injury that occurred Monday night in the 49ers’ 27-24 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Staley, a six-time Pro Bowl player, did not realize the extent of the injury until it swelled on him Tuesday morning.

“He will not play this week and probably be out a couple of weeks,” Shanahan said.

Skule started six games earlier this season when Staley was sidelined with a fractured left lower leg. When Staley returned to action on Monday, Skule was deactivated for the game. The 49ers went with Daniel Brunskill as the backup offensive tackle behind Staley and Mike McGlinchey.

[RELATED: 49ers clarify George Kittle not officially ruled out yet vs. Cardinals]

Shanahan expressed confidence that Skule will again step in and play well in place of Staley.

“I thought he did a very good job,” Shanahan said of Skule, a sixth-round draft pick from Vanderbilt. “He came in there and stepped it up right away. He did a good job his first game and I thought he got better each week. We were happy with how he played, and I’m glad we have a couple of good backups.”

49ers clarify George Kittle not officially ruled out yet vs. Cardinals


49ers clarify George Kittle not officially ruled out yet vs. Cardinals

Jimmy Garoppolo might once again be without his favorite target when the 49ers host the Cardinals on Sunday.

San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan announced Wednesday on a conference call with Cardinals reporters that tight end George Kittle will miss the game against Arizona, according to Cardinals reporter Darren Urban. 

However, NBC Sports Bay Area's 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco reported that Shanahan misspoke on the conference call. The 49ers coach doesn't expect Kittle to play Sunday, but he won't rule him out at this time.

Kittle also sat out the 49ers' Week 10 overtime loss to the Seahawks with knee and ankle injuries. He originally was injured on San Francisco's first offensive play in the Week 9 win in Arizona, but still managed to catch six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in that 28-25 victory. Kittle leads all 49ers' pass-catchers in receptions (46), receiving yards (541), yards after the catch (300) and first downs (28).

That's not the only bad news for Jimmy G, as he might be without his other top target as well. AZCardinals.com's Kyle Odegard reported Wednesday that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will be a game-time decision, according to Shanahan.

Sanders injured his ribs in the first half of the loss to Seattle. He led all 49ers' receivers with seven receptions for 112 yards and a score in the Week 9 win over the Cardinals, and has been a dependable safety valve ever since coming over from Denver at the trade deadline.

[RELATED: Sanders remains 'day to day' for 49ers with ribs still sore]

The 49ers are heavy favorites over the Cardinals, but no Kittle and potentially no Sanders would make Garoppolo's job much tougher on Sunday.