The fact that a few starting NFL running backs suffered injuries in Week 11 should remind us of the importance of handcuffing our own starting fantasy running backs at this late stage of the fantasy football season. There are no byes in Week 12 and just two more bye weeks on the NFL schedule. With only eight teams left with a bye we can concentrate on adding depth to our fantasy football rosters and there’s no better place to start than at the running back position. Last week at this time we were looking forward to putting Miami Dolphins running back De’Von Achane back in our fantasy lineups but unfortunately, he played just three snaps before succumbing to injury. This week, workhorse Los Angeles Rams running back Kyren Williams will be back in starting fantasy lineups but there will be plenty of other fantasy lineups that’ll be missing their usual starting running backs and forced to lean on their handcuffs or other back up options. We’ll take a closer look at some of the better alternative running back options for Week 12 and point out some potential changes in running back usage that you should be aware of 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

Miami Dolphins

As we mentioned earlier De’Von Achane’s Week 11 comeback didn’t last long. In his first game back from IR he re-injured the same knee that put him there in the first place. Achane was quickly removed from Sunday’s game and in what can be perceived as a good sign, he pushed the Dolphins to let him return to action. They didn’t give him his wish and as this article is being written his status for Friday’s game against the Jets isn’t yet known. Head coach Mike McDaniel confirmed that no surgery is needed on Achane’s knee and called him “day to day” and said “there’s a chance he will or won’t” play. The Dolphins backfield suffered another blow when Salvon Ahmed, who was Raheem Mostert’s back up on Sunday with Achane out of the game, was placed on IR due to a foot injury. With Mostert dealing with his own nagging ankle and knee injuries the Dolphins were forced to sign Darrynton Evans on Tuesday. Evans was previously on the Dolphins roster and knows their offense but with all of the uncertainty surrounding the team’s backfield Jeff Wilson Jr. is an important handcuff heading into Week 12.

Pittsburgh Steelers

In last week’s column we focused on the fact that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin officially named Jaylen Warren as the team’s starting running back. Warren became the first NFL running back to rush for at least 100 yards against the Browns this season and he was more effective than Najee Harris in Week 11. Warren had 9 carries for 129 yards and averaged 14.33 YPC and Harris had 12 carries for 35 yards, and averaged 2.92 YPC but as usual, Harris played a higher percentage of offensive snaps (57%) than Warren (45%). There are changes coming to the Steelers offense. Tomlin fired Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada Tuesday and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan (expected to take over most of the play calling responsibilities) and running backs coach Eddie Faulkner are both expected to absorb offensive coordinator duties. Tomlin likes his teams to run the ball and it will be interesting to note if either Warren’s or Harris’ snaps played percentage significantly changes moving forward. 

Green Bay Packers

It’s been a frustrating season for Aaron Jones and fantasy managers who roster him and it doesn’t look like things are going to get much better any time soon. He suffered an MCL strain in Week 11 and is considered week to week. In the three previous games that Jones missed this season A.J. Dillon has rushed for 164 yards on 46 carries for a disappointing 3.56 YPC average. Under normal circumstances Emanuel Wilson would be Dillon’s backup in Week 12 but he suffered a shoulder injury mid-game in Week 11, and he could be inactive for Thursday’s matchup against the Lions. That would force the Packers to elevate undrafted rookie free agent Ellis Merriweather from the practice squad.

Seattle Seahawks

In a past column, we pointed out that Zach Charbonnet’s average offensive snaps played percentage was steadily increasing as the season wore on. His offensive snaps played percentage will probably hit a season high in week 12 with Kenneth Walker suffering an oblique injury that will likely keep him out of Thursday’s matchup against the 49ers. DeeJay Dallas will likely be Charbonnet’s backup but according to head coach Pete Carroll rookie seventh round pick Kenny McIntosh could play some significant snaps this week as well. Carroll described McIntosh as a scat back who could be used in a change of pace role as well as in passing downs.