One of the things that makes writing about Fantasy Football at this point in the season is everyone needs different kinds of advice. That's, obviously, true for the entire season, but it's especially true when there are just one or two weeks left in the regular season.
Some of you need immediate help in your must-win games because you can't worry about Week 15 and the playoffs unless you get there. But some of you are already locked into playoff spots and have the luxury to be a little more flexible about how you use your bench spots.
And you should have two priorities right now: DSTs with good playoff schedules and handcuff running backs. With regards to the former, here are a few to consider that are available in at least 40% of CBS Fantasy leagues as of Tuesday night:
- Rams (vs. WAS in Week 15, vs. NO in Week 16, @NYG in Week 17)
- Saints (vs. CAR in Week 14, vs. NYG in Week 15)
- Texans (@NYJ in Week 14, @TEN in Week 15, vs. CLE in Week 16, vs. TEN in Week 17)
- Colts (vs. PIT in Week 15, @ATL in Week 16, vs. LV in Week 17)
- Chargers (@LV in Week 15)
- Seahawks (@TEN in Week 16, vs. PIT in Week 17)
None of those are guaranteed to be great starts for the playoffs, but given the matchups, they all have a chance. I put a bigger priority on Week 15 matchups, because hey, it doesn't matter that the Seahawks have good matchups in Weeks 16 and 17 if you don't get there, but this is the one time of the year when I think it's perfectly reasonable to roster multiple DSTs.
As for the running back handcuffs, well, you've seen why they're so important in just the past few days, with injuries to the likes of Rhamondre Stevenson and D'Andre Swift sending countless Fantasy players to the waiver wire for their replacements. We can't predict which backs will get hurt between now and the end of the season, but we can be pretty confident that several backs are likely to get hurt. If you don't understand that by this point, you haven't been paying attention closely enough.
The key is to identify which backs are likely to be in line for a significant workload if the guy in front of them gets hurt. Obviously, we can't predict that perfectly, but it didn't take a crystal ball to see that when Kenneth Walker got hurt a few weeks ago, Zach Charbonnet would play a huge, three-down role for the Seahawks. That's the kind of handcuff we're looking for.
Let's break down 12 handcuffs to make sure aren't on your wire, just in case they get thrust into a starting role for the Fantasy playoffs.
My Week 14 Rankings:| | |
The top RB handcuffs to stash
In all likelihood, only one or two of these guys will end up mattering between now and Week 17. But you should look at it this way: If any of them do matter, they're likely going to matter in a way that could drastically shift championship odds in your leagues, and you'd rather be a week too early to add them than having to fight with the rest of your league mates over them by the time we know for sure which ones will matter.
There are no specific criteria here, but I tried to focus on players who are at least somewhat widely available and who should have a clear path to a lead RB role on their rosters if an injury does happen:
- Tyjae Spears, Titans – I considered whether Spears even counts here because he has his own role, out snaps Derrick Henry pretty regularly, and was a high-priority addition on waivers this week before we learned that Henry wasn't actually in the concussion protocol. But, of all the backup RBs out there, he seems best positioned to be an absolute league-winner if he gets the opportunity, thanks to a combination of a run-heavy offense, talent, and a legit three-down skill set. He might be a top-12 RB if Henry has to miss time.
- Elijah Mitchell, 49ers – I remain surprised at how little run Mitchell has gotten this season, with just three games with more than five carries, a mark he hit five times in six games even after they acquired Christian McCaffrey last season. He won't replicate McCaffrey's role in the passing game, but Mitchell averaged 100 yards from scrimmage and 15 PPR points per game as a rookie and could do it again if McCaffrey misses any time down the stretch.
- Rico Dowdle, Cowboys – Dowdle is already starting to carve out a role for himself in the Cowboys offense, and obviously, that's a great offense to be a part of. The running backs there are averaging 5.7 targets per game, run behind an excellent offensive line, and have had 32 touches inside the 10-yard line this season. The only reason Dowdle isn't one of the top two handcuffs here is that I'm just not sure the former undrafted RB is as talented as Spears or Mitchell. It may not matter in this offense if he gets the chance.
- Antonio Gibson, Commanders – Gibson gets a boost here just because the RB in front of him is already hurt, as Brian Robinson left last week's game with a hamstring injury. He's got the bye in Week 14 to recover, but if the injury lingers, Gibson could be in line for 10-plus carries and 4-6 targets; rookie Chris Rodriguez will also play a role, though likely only in the running game. Gibson could absolutely still be a top-24 RB if Robinson misses time.
- Tyler Allgeier, Falcons – I wasn't sure if Allgeier qualifies here, given his typical 8-12 carry role most weeks. But I've added him where he got dropped in a few leagues because that would probably be 15-18 touches if something happens to Bijan Robinson.
- Kendre Miller, Saints – Jamaal Williams is the direct backup to Alvin Kamara, but if Kamara went down, I think we'd see Miller fill more of the passing game role, and that's what's important in this offense. I don't think Miller would come close to being a 1:1 replacement for Kamara, but he probably has more upside than Williams – who should be rostered too, for what it's worth.
- D'Ernest Johnson/Tank Bigsby, Jaguars – I think Johnson has the edge here if Travis Etienne goes down based on recent usage, but I do think Bigsby might have more upside as a short-yardage option; Johnson has played 40% and 36% of the snaps the past two weeks and has 12 carries and two receptions, so they just haven't been making him a focal point.
- Jaleel McLaughlin, Broncos – Samaje Perine is the No. 2 back here, but I kind of think his role might be what it is; he's the third-down back and occasional change-of-pace option, but McLaughlin is more of a playmaker, and a more natural replacement for what Javonte Williams does. There's plenty of room for McLaughlin to matter if something happens to Williams, even with Perine's role.
- Chase Brown, Bengals – I've been wondering if we'd see the rookie at some point this season, and he provided a spark Monday against the Jaguars, rushing for 61 yards on nine carries. The Bengals obviously trust and value Mixon, despite his generally pretty mediocre production, so I don't think Brown is coming for his job. But if something happens to Mixon, Brown figures to be the next man up, and we've seen that be a pretty valuable spot to be in in the past.
- Royce Freeman, Rams – Freeman returned to the realm of the pure handcuffs in Week 13, but he's looked surprisingly solid this season when given the opportunity, averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 64 attempts. Kyren Williams is probably going to keep playing nearly every snap for as long as he can, but he's missed time in both NFL seasons with high-ankle sprains, so there's definitely some risk there.
- Leonard Fournette, Bills – This one feels like a total longshot, I'll be honest. Fournette hasn't been activated from the practice squad since signing back in late October, and Latavius Murray's presence suggests Fournette may not have a role. On the other hand, Fournette gives the Bills much more as a pass-catcher in the event something happens to James Cook, and that's why I would prioritize him over Murray.
- Joshua Kelley, Chargers – What makes Kelley so tough to get excited about is that we've already seen him as the lead back in this version of the Chargers offense, and he was a total flop, scoring 13.1 PPR points total in three starts despite playing at least 60% of the snaps in each game. It's that role we're chasing, but it doesn't look like a can't miss situation anymore; just ask anyone with Austin Ekeler in their lineup right now.