In Week 2 in the NFL we witnessed two of fantasy football’s most highly rostered running backs succumb to injury, and we saw a lead back suddenly have the rug pulled out from under him and immediately put on the trade block. At this rate unemployed running backs like Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette might not be unemployed for much longer.

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

Cleveland Browns

With Nick Chubb suffering a catastrophic knee injury that ended his season, Jerome Ford is expected to take over as the Browns’ lead running back (RB), at least for the short-term. Ford is a bruising back who can break tackles and is quick on his feet. He can catch the ball and operate as a three down back. Pierre Strong Jr., who vultured a goal line TD from Ford on Monday night, will be his handcuff and the Browns’ change of pace back. With Browns coach Kevin Stefanski confirming that the team would be looking to add RB depth, reported that the team met with Kareem Hunt, who spent the previous four seasons as Chubb’s handcuff, on Tuesday and might also be in the market for Cam Akers services. As long as the Browns don’t start using a running back by committee, with their run heavy offense, you’ll want to remain invested in the Browns’ backfield.

Detroit Lions

Fantasy football managers who invested early round draft capital on Jahmyr Gibbs this preseason might finally get what they’ve been waiting for and then again, maybe they won’t. David Montgomery suffered a thigh injury that will have him sidelined for up to “a couple of weeks” and that might open up some additional playing time for Gibbs. Lions Coach Dan Campbell confirmed that Gibbs’ role would expand with Montgomery out, but also suggested that he might use a committee approach this week. Craig Reynolds is expected to see an uptick in his snaps played this week and the Lions also elevated former Jets RB Zonovan Knight adding additional depth to their backfield. Gibbs is the only RB worth starting in fantasy for Week 3.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints have just one more week until Alvin Kamara can return to action in Week 4, but it looks like it will be Tony Jones Jr and Kendre Miller who will be manning their backfield in Week 3. Jamaal Williams is dealing with a hamstring injury that will “take some time” for him to recover from, per Saints coach Dennis Allen.  Jones Jr. was elevated from the Saints’ practice squad prior to Week 2 and rushed for 34 yards and scored two TDs. Saints RBs have a good matchup against the Packers in Week 3 (sixth most fantasy points per game in PPR scoring). Neither Jones Jr. nor Miller would be a slam dunk start in fantasy this week but if you’re desperate Jones Jr., who took over as the Saints’ lead back after Williams suffered his injury on Monday night, would probably be the safer option.

Los Angeles Rams

Rams coach Sean McVay has cut ties with his embattled RB Cam Akers, yet again but this time it seems permanent. The Rams are seeking to trade their second-round pick of the 2020 NFL draft and so far teams including the Bucs, Ravens, Raiders, and the aforementioned Browns, have all expressed initial interest in exploring a trade for the fourth year back. Akers was a healthy scratch in Week 2 based on McVay’s “coach’s decision” that was supposedly made in the “best interest” of the team. In our first article in this season’s column, we mentioned that it made sense to roster Kyren Williams if you had already drafted Akers and he indeed will be the Rams’ lead back moving forward. He played 76 of the Rams’ 80 offensive snaps, a pace that will be tough to maintain, but he should have significant fantasy value for the rest of the season or until McVay decides it’s in the best of the team to limit his snap count. Ronnie Rivers, Royce Freeman, and Zach Evans provide additional depth in the Rams’ backfield, but which one of those backs will be active for a game may change on a week-to-week basis. Rivers seems to be the closest thing to Williams’ handcuff. 

New York Giants

Saquon Barkley (ankle) went from possibly missing multiple weeks (at least three per ESPN’s Adam Schefter) to possibly being able to suit up for Thursday’s matchup against the 49ers. Thankfully Barkley suffered a ho hum “ordinary” ankle sprain and avoided the dreaded high ankle sprain. Giants coach Brian Daboll, who called Barkley a “quick healer”, hinted that the Giants’ star RB hadn’t yet been ruled out for Thursday’s game. Daboll made it sound like Barkley’s Week 3 status would be a game time decision but in reality, he probably won’t play or at best he might be used sparingly. Daboll is probably using gameplay and just giving the 49ers something to think about as they prepare for Thursday’s game. Matt Breida will almost certainly be the Giants’ lead back in Week 3 with Gary Brightwell backing him up. Rookie Eric Gray might play a few snaps as well. Giants RBs will have their work cut out for them against the 49ers run defense that’s tied for allowing the fewest rushing yards (89) to RBs this season. The Niners are tied for having given up the second most receptions (16) to RBs this season but that’s probably not enough to make you want to start any Giants RB this week.  

Los Angeles Chargers

Chargers coach Brandon Staley said there was “no timeline” for stud RB Austin Ekeler to return from his ankle injury. Joshua Kelley, who played 54 of the Chargers’ 68 snaps in Week 2 will continue to fill in as the team’s lead back until Ekeler is able to return to action.