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Top running back handcuffs to target in fantasy football

/ by Mike DePrisco
Presented By TAP Sports Bar
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49ers running back Trey Sermon

We've all been there. You spend high draft picks on your top two running backs, only to see one of them get hurt mid-way through the season and torpedo your chances at a fantasy football championship. 

Knowing the best handcuffs can save your season, especially at a position where a player is guaranteed to get hit almost every time he touches the ball. 

Here are five running back handcuffs to keep an eye on this season. You may not need them in Week 1, but there's a decent chance you'll need one at some point and it's better to lock down the best ones early. 

Trey Sermon: San Francsisco 49ers

The 49ers used a third-round pick on Sermon in the 2021 draft and it won't be too long before he takes over the bulk of the carries in Kyle Shanahan's offense. He has a rare blend of size, burst and agility that should make him a dangerous weapon in a zone-read scheme next to Trey Lance. 

Raheem Mostert is the presumed starter in San Francisco but has never displayed an ability to stay healthy for a full 16 games. Sermon is worth taking in your drafts to ensure him a spot in your starting lineup once he takes over as the full-time running back for the 49ers. 

Tony Pollard: Dallas Cowboys

Pollard has been Ezekiel Elliott's handcuff the last two seasons and this might be the year he takes over for good. Elliott turned in an uninspiring 2020 campaign on a bad Cowboys offense without Dak Prescott, while Pollard consistently looked like the more explosive option in Dallas' backfield. 

 

Elliott has accumulated over 1,400 carries in his first five seasons in the league and those came after nearly 600 carries in three seasons at Ohio State. There are a lot of miles on Elliott's legs and Pollard would be a solid insurance policy for any fantasy owner. 

Alexander Mattison: Minnesota Vikings

After two injury-riddled seasons to begin his career, Dalvin Cook put together two consecutive healthy years with the Vikings and has quickly become one of the very best in the game at his position. 

Still, those injury concerns don't go away and if you're drafting Cook, you're probably using one of the first two picks in your draft to get him. Adding Mattison as a handcuff in a run-heavy offense like the Vikings would be a worthwhile investment. 

Kenyan Drake: Las Vegas Raiders

Speaking of run-heavy schemes, Jon Gruden and the Raiders love to run the ball. Josh Jacobs has been a high-usage back since entering the league two years ago and even if he stays healthy all year, Drake should be able to get a decent amount of work. 

Should Jacobs go down for whatever reason, Drake would probably move into RB2-RB3 territory. 

Chuba Hubbard: Carolina Panthers

In the same way Mike Davis turned into an incredibly valuable fantasy player last season, Hubbard provides similar value should McCaffrey get hurt again.

Hubbard is a productive runner, as he displayed in three years at Oklahoma State, and provides a little more juice as a pass-catcher than Davis would. Hubbard's value depends almost entirely on McCaffrey's health, but if he ever has to fill in as the starting running back he'd certainly be a popular waiver target.