Even at this late stage of the NFL season the fantasy football running back position is still evolving to the point where there are actually a few running backs who could potentially record their highest offensive snaps played percentages of the season in Week 11. Baltimore Ravens running back Keaton Mitchell was rostered in less than 50% of Yahoo! fantasy football leagues prior to Week 11’s waiver wire run and based on his head coach’s comments he's likely to see an uptick in his playing time against the Bengals. This might also be the week that fantasy football managers can add the running back with the highest PPR fantasy points per game average back into their starting lineups. We’ll cover all of that and more in this week’s Running Back Handcuff Report.

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

Minnesota Vikings

With Alexander Mattison in the NFL’s concussion protocol as this article is being written, the Vikings may be forced to use Ty Chandler as their lead back in Week 11. With Mattison sidelined for the latter part of the Vikings’ matchup against the Saints, Chandler ended up playing a season high 44% of the team’s offensive snaps. He carried the ball 15 times for 45 yards (3.0 YPC) and scored a touchdown. With Kene Nwangwu, who has been used sparingly as a kicker returner this season, backing up Chandler late in their Week 10 contest, the Vikings re-signed Myles Gaskin to their practice squad. If Mattison is inactive in Week 11 Gaskin will likely be activated and will function as Chandler’s handcuff against the Broncos, who have given up the highest PPR fantasy points per game average to running backs this season.

Miami Dolphins

Start practicing how to pronounce De’Von Achane’s last name because he might be back in action in Week 11. Achane has the highest PPR fantasy points per game average among running backs this season and has been designated to return from IR. He also participated in the Dolphins’ team practice early this week. He missed the last four games due to a knee sprain so watch his progress as kickoff approaches before inserting him back into your fantasy lineup. Raheem Mostert did not practice on Monday (the Dolphins didn’t offer a reason why) but both backs were able to provide fantasy managers with adequate fantasy production when both were simultaneously active. In the last three games he played before being placed on IR Achane had a per game 49.6 offensive snaps played percentage and he rushed for five TDs. He also added another two receiving TDs. Mostert had a 50% offensive snaps played per game rate during the same time frame. He rushed for four TDs and added another receiving TD in those three games.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Jaylen Warren is officially the Steelers’ starting running back. Head coach Mike Tomlin informed Warren that he was going to be announced as the team’s starter prior to Sunday’s game against the Packers and that Warren had earned the distinction. If you roster Najee Harris don’t worry, you can continue to start him. In Week 11, Warren’s first as the team’s starting running back, he and Harris both played 33 snaps each. They basically split the early down workload and Harris had 16 carries compared to 15 for Warren. Each also scored a rushing TD. Their fantasy production over the past three weeks has been virtually identical with Harris averaging 14.9 PPR fantasy points per game and Warren averaging 13.7. The Steelers will likely continue to rely on both backs in their run heavy offense. Warren being called the Steelers’ starting running back will make him and his mother proud, but Harris will still continue to have a significant role in the Steelers’ offense.

Baltimore Ravens

Based on Keaton Mitchell’s Yahoo! rostership rate prior to his Week 10 matchup some fantasy football managers understandably were reluctant to add him to their rosters because of the Baltimore Ravens’ crowded backfield. However, based on his recent performances Mitchell is starting to separate himself from the pack. Head coach John Harbaugh, who sounded as if he would be using a committee approach to managing his backfield prior to last week’s matchup against the Browns, changed his tune after Mitchell’s explosiveness was on full display in Week 10. Mitchell scored a TD in his second consecutive game this past Sunday and he’s averaging a whopping 14.33 yards per carry on the season. His offensive snaps played percentage ticked up to 24% in Week 10 up from 18% in Week 9. Mitchell had a 39-yard TD run and a 32 yard reception against a Browns defense that’s been very tough on fantasy football running backs this season. Harbaugh suggested that Mitchell would have a larger role in Week 11 against the Bengals, but we’ll have to wait and see what that means for fellow running backs Gus Edwards and Justice Hill. Edwards scored his eighth rushing TD of the season and played 52% of the teams’ offensive snaps in Week 10. He will likely still maintain his role as the Ravens’ goal line back and it may be Hill who finds himself as the odd man out in the team’s backfield. Hill, who led all Ravens running backs with 48 snaps played in Week 9, played just 26% of the Ravens’ offensive snaps in Week 10. It was his lowest percentage since Week 4. 

Houston Texans

A couple of weeks ago we talked about how Devin Singletary was cutting into Dameon Pierce’s playing time, and we also mentioned that neither back had been providing fantasy managers with much in the way of fantasy production up to that time. Since that column appeared Pierce has missed the past two games due to an ankle injury and Singletary enjoyed his breakout game of the season in Week 10. He’s still only averaging 6.4 PPR fantasy points per game on the season but against the Bengals on Sunday Singletary rushed the ball 30 times for 150 yards (5 yards per carry) and he also scored a rushing TD. After that performance it’s hard to imagine that Singletary, whose usage rate had already been on the upswing, would be asked to take a back seat to Pierce even if he is active in Week 11. Singletary will be facing a porous Cardinals run defense that has given up the third highest PPR fantasy points per game average to running backs this season on Sunday.