With the first of the NFL’s eight dreaded bye weeks upon us in Week 5, fantasy football managers who typically start Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers RBs will need to find alternative options. It really shouldn’t be too hard to replace the type of fantasy production that Browns, Chargers and Buccaneers RBs have been providing lately. In his two starts since taking over as the Browns’ lead back Jerome Ford is averaging just 2.32 YPC. We’ll give him a pass since his two starts have come against two good run defenses (Ravens and Titans). Rachaad White is averaging just 3.3 YPC for the Bucs this season, and after a big Week 1 performance Chargers RB Joshua Kelley’s production has flat lined. He’s averaging just 2.83 YPC in his three starts since filling in for the injured Austin Ekeler (ankle). Speaking of Ekeler, fantasy football managers who roster him are hoping that the rumors suggesting that he’ll be back in Week 6 are true. 

If you’re looking for RB help this week, we’ll fill you in on a Broncos rookie who could see an increase in playing time in Week 5. We’ll also tell you about a Ravens rookie RB who is eligible to return from injured reserve and could be playing some meaningful snaps before long. In addition, we’ll break down the fantasy implications related to the latest news regarding Jonathan Taylor’s possible Week 5 availability, and we’ll check back in on the Dolphins’ RB usage in this week’s RB 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

Indianapolis Colts

Fantasy football managers are often advised to “start their studs” and when Jonathan Taylor is firing on all cylinders he certainly qualifies as a fantasy football stud. With the news that Taylor will return to practice this week and might even have a chance to play in Week 5 some fantasy managers might be considering putting him in their starting lineups this week, but that could be a very risky move. Even if Taylor is an active participant in Week 5 there’s a good chance he’ll be on a limited snap count. Fantasy managers also must consider the Colts’ matchup for Week 5. Colts RBs will face a Titans defense that has given up the second lowest average PPR fantasy points per game (13.2) to RBs this season. When healthy Taylor is matchup proof, but he’s been recovering from major ankle surgery that forced the Colts to place him on the PUP list and caused him to miss the first four games of the season. Fantasy managers shouldn’t be looking to cut ties with Zack Mossbased on the Taylor update just yet. Although the Colts reportedly would like to keep Taylor, and head coach Shane Steichen says that Taylor is “super excited” to get back on the field, his future with the team is still murky. Once Taylor returns to practice, the Colts have 21 days in which they can activate him at any time. If they don’t activate him by the time the 21 days have passed, Taylor will remain on the PUP list for the remainder of the season. The Colts may also opt to trade the disgruntled 2021 rushing champ before the NFL’s trade deadline expires on October 31st. Hold onto Moss. At best he’ll remain the Colts’ RB1 and at worst he’ll be the handcuff to a RB who recently suffered a major ankle injury.

Denver Broncos

In our first column of the season, we advised you to put Jaleel McLaughlin on your watch list and with Javonte Williams possibly missing time due to a hip injury, McLaughlin could play a significant role in the Broncos’ backfield against the Jets this week. McLaughlin, who is the NCAA’s career rushing leader, opened some eyes in Week 4 with a breakout performance that saw him carry the football seven times for 72 yards (10.3 YPA). He also caught three balls for 32 yards and added a receiving TD. McLaughlin got a lot of buzz in league waiver wires this week and with the volatility surrounding the RB position it’s deserved, but if Williams is inactive in Week 5 Samaje Perine will also see an uptick in playing time. As an excellent pass protector Perine should play a significant number of snaps this week and with a 49-pound weight advantage over McLaughlin, he’s likely to be used in short yardage and goal line situations. Broncos RBs have a good matchup against an underperforming Jets defense that has given up the 12th highest average PPR fantasy points to the RB position. However, with both McLaughlin and Perine likely to see plenty of action if Williams is out, counting on either to provide much more than flex type fantasy production would probably be a mistake. Keep tabs on Williams’ status as game time approaches. The good news is that early reports suggest that he shouldn’t miss an extended period of time.

Miami Dolphins

Despite having just one more carry than Raheem Mostert, rookie RB De’Von Achane saw his workload continue to increase in Week 4. Achane played 60% of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps, up from 40% in Week 3. Conversely Mostert saw his snaps played percentage drop to 43%, down from 51% in Week 3. Mostert had previously played 73% of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps in each of the team’s first two games of the season. Highlighted by a fourth quarter 55-yard dash, Achane was targeted five times in the passing game and added three catches for 19 yards. It’s looking like Achane will take over as the Dolphins’ lead back moving forward, with Mostert settling into more of a change of pace role that’s more suitable for a RB who is 31 years old and has an extensive injury history. Mostert will also likely continue to contribute on third downs. Like Achane, Mostert was also targeted five times and had three catches, but Achane ran 28 routes compared to Moster’s 16. Jeff Wilson is eligible to be reinstated from the injured reserve list, but based on the way Achane has played of late, Mostert will be the Dolphins RB most likely to see his playing time negatively impacted by the additional mouth to feed in the team’s backfield. Unfortunately for Salvon Ahmedhe could be the odd man out if Wilson Jr. is active this week. Dolphins RBs should feast on a Giants defense that’s given up the fourth most rushing yards (463) to the position so far this season. 

Baltimore Ravens

The fact that Gus Edwards led the Ravens with 15 carries and 40 (or 69%) of the team’s offensive snaps played isn’t all that surprising. However, the fact that he ran 17 routes and actually caught two passes in Week 4 is very surprising. Edwards, who has a career 5.1 YPA, probably doesn’t get the respect that he deserves. The Ravens’ backfield has seen its fair share of injuries this season and other than Edwards, the Ravens backfield is partially composed of fantasy retreads like Kenyan Drake and Melvin GordonJustice Hill is considered Edwards’ handcuff, but he’s been extremely limited due to a foot injury. The Ravens do have an exciting rookie RB who is eligible to return from injured reserve this week in Keaton Mitchell who you should consider stashing or who should at least be on your watch list. The undrafted, and undersized rookie RB is a speedster who can catch the ball and averaged 6.5 yards per carry across three seasons in his college career.