We head into Week 4 of the NFL season and there have already been plenty of injuries at the running back position in just three weeks. Fantasy football managers really need to be in tune with who will step in and take over larger roles when these injuries occur, showing just how important it is to know handcuffs at the position. De’Von Achane had a monster game this week behind Raheem Mostert and his value has skyrocketed. These are the type of players you want to roster BEFORE having to fight for them on the fantasy football waiver wire. As we head into Week 4 there are a few fantasy football backfields that are in flux that you should be monitoring. 

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

Baltimore Ravens 

The Ravens may be without Gus Edwards (concussion) in Week 4. Justice Hill was inactive due to a foot injury in Week 3 and if he’s unavailable this week the Ravens may have to roll with Melvin Gordon and Kenyan Drake splitting carries against a very formidable run defense. The Ravens face the Browns who have given up the fewest fantasy points per game to RBs this season so you might want to avoid starting any Ravens RB this week.

Detroit Lions

Keep an eye out for David Montgomery news as we get closer to Thursday night’s kickoff. He missed Week 3 due to a thigh injury, but there’s been early word that Montgomery may be able to play on Thursday. Jahmyr Gibbs, who played a season high 60% of offensive snaps in Week 3 and had a season high 17 carries, will likely see his workload scaled down a bit if Montgomery plays this week. The Lions are up against the Packers in Week 4, and the Pack have given up the second most receptions to RBs this season, a factor that could work to Gibbs’ advantage.

Minnesota Vikings

With Cam Akers likely to make his Vikings debut this Sunday against the Panthers, it will be interesting to see how the workload will be split among the team’s RBs. It should be a favorable matchup for Viking RBs since the Panthers have given up the third highest fantasy point per game average (33.5) and the second most rushing TDs to the position thus far. Alexander Mattison, the Vikings’ lead back through the team’s first three games, had his best game of the season on Sunday (93 rushing yards, 4.7 YPC and five catches for 32 yards) but Akers is likely to play some important snaps this weekend, especially within the red zone. Last season Akers scored five TDs on his eight carries from inside the five-yard line. So far this season Mattison has four carries from inside the five-yard line and he hasn’t scored a TD and he’s lost a total of four yards on those carries. 

Tennessee Titans

At first glance it appears that some of the skills that have made Derrick Henry one of the top RBs over the last few seasons might be eroding. It wouldn’t be surprising for the 29-year-old RB to start slowing down as the effects from playing one of the most grueling positions in football start to take their toll on his body, but you might not want to write him off just yet. According to NFL’s Next Gen Stats defenses are stacking the box against him (with eight or more defenders) a league leading 50.98% of the time. That’s 12% more than last season (38.11) and despite that, he’s been able to maintain a very respectable 47.1 ROE% (Rushing Percentage Above Expected). His current ROE% is the 13th highest among RBs and almost six percent higher than last season’s rate. Two of the Titans’ first three opponents are in the top six in fewest fantasy points allowed per game to RBs and that could have contributed to Henry’s unusually low 3.2 YPA so far this season. Henry does have a very worthy backup in Tyjae Spears (6.8 YPC in four college seasons) and with the Titans love for running the football and Henry’s advanced age (for a RB) it makes sense for fantasy football managers who roster Henry to also roster his handcuff. 

Miami Dolphins

Even though Dolphins quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, is the second-best fantasy QB (based on fantasy points per game) the Dolphins are another team that loves to run the football. Rookie RB De’Von Achane put on a show this past weekend rushing for 203 yards, catching for 30 yards more and scoring a total of four TDs. He was the hottest RB waiver wire add this week and while it would be silly for fantasy football managers to sit Achane this week they should temper their expectations for him. This week the Dolphins face the Bills, who haven’t given up a TD to a RB so far this season. In addition, Achane and Raheem Mostert played a similar number of snaps in Week 3. Mostert played 37 and Achane played 30. Fantasy football managers should also note that Jeff Wilson (midsection/finger) is eligible to come off the IR after the Bills game and Salvon Ahmed, who has been battling a groin injury, may be available to play in Week 4. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel likes to keep the opposition guessing and has been known to utilize multiple RBs but at least for the short term we’re hoping that both Mostert and Achane can see enough game action to make both fantasy viable. One of either Wilson Jr. or Ahmed could eventually end up as the odd man out. For the long term, with Mostert’s injury history, Achane is the Dolphins RB to roster.