If you’re in first place or close to the top of your fantasy football league’s standings, it’s probably not because of the fantasy production that you’ve been getting from your starting running backs. In PPR scoring formats there are 11 fantasy football running backs who’ve averaged more than 15 fantasy points per game this season, but seven of those 11 running backs have played six or fewer games. With injuries too often ravaging the running back position it's no wonder that we fantasy football managers often spend tons of FAAB on a young back like Baltimore Ravens rookie Keaton Mitchell who is coming off a long-awaited breakout game in Week 9. With the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Los Angeles Rams all on a bye in Week 10 fantasy football managers are going to have to find replacements for backs like Raheem Mostert, D’Andre Swift and Isiah Pacheco.
On the other hand, fantasy football managers should be thankful that they won’t have to decide which Rams running back to start in Week 10. Both Darrell Henderson and Royce Freeman struggled in Week 9 and the Rams are expecting Kyren Williams to be back from IR for Week 12. However before then, Zach Evans could see an uptick in his snap count in Week 11. Recent comments made by head coach Sean McVay on his Coach McVay Show suggest that Evans has looked “better and “better” in practice and may see more action in the second half of the season.
McVay is well known for frequently changing his strategy when it comes to managing his team’s backfield. Just ask Minnesota Vikings running back and former Ram Cam Akers, who unfortunately suffered a season ending Achilles tear in Week 9. Akers’ injury paves the way for Ty Chandler to have a direct path to lead back status should Alexander Mattison be unavailable.
The news isn’t all bad when it comes to running backs in Week 10. Chicago Bears running back Khalil Herbert has already been designated to return from IR and Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner is also eligible to be activated from IR for Week 10.
In this week’s running back handcuff report we’ll take a closer look at the Ravens’ suddenly crowded backfield and try to figure out how Mitchell might be used in the coming weeks and focus on some other running back utilization changes that you should be aware of as we head deeper into the fantasy football season.
Handcuffing Your Running Backs
When you handcuff your RBs in many instances you’re:
- Protecting your early round investment
- Buying into and trusting that your RB’s team will continue to make running the football a priority
- Figuratively taking out insurance against an injury prone RB or one who has a good chance of losing his job if he doesn’t perform well
Based on Ravens head coach John Harbaugh’s recent comments Keaton Mitchell’s breakout Week 9 performance is going to complicate things for fantasy football managers moving forward. Gus Edwards, who was dealing with a toe injury earlier last week, scored two touchdowns in Week 9. He’s scored five in his last two games, but Edwards didn’t touch the ball in the fourth quarter. Justice Hill led all Ravens running backs with 48 snaps played but his 13 carries for 40 yards (3.1 yards per carry) was pedestrian at best. Mitchell used his speed and ability to break tackles and turned in a nine carry for 138 rushing yard performance in Week 9. One of his runs went for 60 yards and he also scored a 40-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, it sounds as if the Ravens’ backfield will operate as a three-headed monster moving forward. Harbaugh suggested that all three backs “are going to be playing a lot” and their usage will be decided by in-game schemes, who’s hot, and who needs an in-game break. Based on his skillset Mitchell’s has plenty of upside and who knows, maybe his on the field performance will eventually force the Ravens into unleashing him as their lead back. Week 10 could potentially be a rough one for any Ravens running back since they’re facing the Browns who give up the fourth fewest average PPR fantasy points per game to running backs this season.
Fantasy football managers couldn’t wait to roster Bijan Robinson this preseason, making the Falcons’ rookie a perpetual first round pick in drafts this summer. Robinson has had a good rookie season. He has 517 rushing yards and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Robinson also has 28 receptions and three total touchdowns, one on the ground and two through the air. Unfortunately, Robinson isn’t providing fantasy managers with the type of production that’s expected from a first-round pick. Based on per game PPR fantasy points scoring he’s averaging 13 fantasy points per game making him RB22 on the season. Second year Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier is clearly the team’s preferred red zone running back. From inside the 20-yard line Allgeier has 25 carries compared to Robinson’s nine. From inside the 10 Allgeier has out carried Robinson by a 10 to two margin, and from inside the five Allgeier has four carries compared to just one for Robinson. Allgeier also leads Robinson in one very important category. He hasn’t fumbled the ball once in his 25 game NFL career. Robinson has fumbled the ball twice so far this season. Allgeier is averaging 8.2 PPR fantasy points per game and already has as many rushing TDs (3) as he had all last season. Robinson is definitely the Falcons running back to start every week, but Allgeier is one of the most important handcuffs in fantasy football this season. Allgeier’s usage is the reason why Robinson is having a good, but not great, rookie season.
Rookie running back Zach Charbonnet has been cutting into Kenneth Walker’s playing time lately and while it hasn’t yet translated into fantasy production, there may come a week when it might. Charbonnet averaged 28.2% offensive snaps played in his first five games and also averaged 4.6 carries per game during that time frame. In his last two games Charbonnet is averaging 57% offensive snaps played but his carries per game average slightly decreased to 4.5 per game. Walker averaged 67% average offensive snaps played and 18.16 carries per game in his first 6 games but in his last two games he’s averaging just 45% offensive snaps played and 8.5 carries per game.
In just a little over a month Kareem Hunt has gone from watching Browns games on TV to being their top fantasy running back and a trusted goal line weapon. Hunt has five TDs on the season and at least one in his last four consecutive games. In the Browns’ last four games Hunt is averaging 13.7 PPR fantasy points per game and Jerome Ford is averaging 11.5 PPR fantasy points per game.