With six teams on a bye last week, many fantasy football managers’ heads were probably pounding as they did their best to set a competitive lineup in Week 7. Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson seemed to be feeling their pain as he was dealing with his own headache which limited him to a total of just 11 snaps played in Week 7. As per Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, Robinson began “feeling weird” on Saturday night and woke up feeling “completely out of it” on Sunday morning. However, he wasn’t on the Falcons’ injury report and fantasy managers rostering him started him. Robinson’s paltry fantasy production left a gaping hole in many fantasy lineups in Week 7. With no teams on a bye in Week 8 some fantasy football managers will get a much-deserved break this week. Fantasy managers playing in shallower leagues should be able to avoid the messy Arizona Cardinals backfield, but managers playing in deeper leagues may not have that luxury. Other fantasy managers may have to decide if Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson, who basically walked in off the street and scored 13.6 PPR fantasy points (per FFtoday) can do it again in Week 8 or if Chicago Bears running back D’Onta Foreman can continue to be relied upon in his upcoming matchup. In this week’s RB Handcuff Report we’ll identify some of those NFL backfields that are in flux ahead of Week 8’s action and turn our attention to running backs who have seen their usage change over the past couple of weeks.
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
We simply can’t trust the Cardinals when it comes to their running back usage. Everyone expected Emari Demercado to be their primary back in Week 6 (James Conner’s first week on the IR) but he had just two carries and played 43% of the Cardinals offensive snaps. Keaontay Ingram wasn’t great, but he had 10 carries for 40 yards in Week 6. Ingram didn’t play a single offensive snap in Week 7, but Demercado played 80% of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps. He had 13 carries for 58 yards (4.46 YPC) and added four catches for 16 yards. Head coach Jonathan Gannon explained that Demercado’s increased playing time in Week 7 was the result of “how we decided to structure the game plan.” Avoid this backfield if you can but if you can’t Demercado is likely the best option in fantasy, until he’s not.
Sean McVay is another head coach who can’t be trusted when it comes to how he manages his team’s backfield. McVay must have had a good laugh when he saw a bunch of fantasy football managers spending a good chunk of their FAAB on Zach Evans last week. He knew all along that Evans wasn’t going to play an offensive snap and that Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson would split the reps out of the Rams’ backfield. Henderson played more snaps (39) than Freeman (29) and both were good in pass protection, but in post-game comments McVay seemed to be particularly impressed with Henderson’s ability to protect his quarterback. Freeman had fewer carries (12) than Henderson (18), but he enjoyed more success per carry (5.5 YPC) and rushed for 66 yards. Henderson rushed for 61 yards (3.4 YPC) but also scored a TD. Look for McVay, who’s never been known for his loyalty to his running backs, to use a hot hand approach when it comes to managing his backfield until Kyren Williams is eligible to return to action in Week 12.
Keep an eye on Chris Rodriguez He was one of head coach Ron Rivera’s favorites in the preseason and despite only playing nine snaps he had a season high seven carries in Week 7 against the Giants. He also rushed for 31 yards. Brian Robinson, who had only eight carries in Week 7, is still the Commanders’ lead back but with Antonio Gibson’s fumbling issues and the fact that the Commanders like to use him in passing down situations, Rodriguez Jr. has a good shot of being the team’s primary back should Robinson be unavailable.
Panthers head coach Frank Reich used the dreaded “committee” word when talking about his team’s backfield. He said that “it’s always going to be a little bit by committee” which is troubling since Chuba Hubbard played a season high 77% of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 6. Hubbard’s recent increased usage is likely due in part to Miles Sanders limitations due to a shoulder injury, but he had good success in Week 6, gaining 88 rushing yards on 19 carries (4.63 YPC). He also scored a TD.
D’Onta Foreman has performed well as the Bears’ lead back. He had 31 carries for 154 yards (4.96 YPC) over the past two weeks, but Roschon Johnson (concussion) has a shot at playing in Week 8. If Johnson does clear concussion protocol for Week 8 the Bears may opt to ease him back into game action, leaving Foreman as their primary back for at least one more week. Darrynton Evans has seen significant playing time over the past two weeks as well, playing 36% of the Bears’ offensive snaps in Week 6 and 48% in Week 7. Khalil Herbert will be sidelined for at least two more weeks.
Other running back observations to take note of:
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who had already missed three games (Weeks 2 through 4) due to a high ankle sprain, appeared to suffer a new ankle injury during the second quarter of the Chargers’ Week 7 matchup against the Chiefs. He temporarily missed some game action, but the good news is that he eventually returned to the field. Joshua Kelley would fill in as the Chargers’ lead back if Ekeler is inactive in Week 8.
Browns running back Jerome Ford is expected to miss one to two weeks due to what is being called a “low grade high ankle sprain”. Both Kareem Hunt and Pierre Strong should see an increase in snaps played in Week 8. Hunt, who was dealing with a thigh injury leading up to Week 7’s kickoff, already has three carries from inside the 5-yard line despite only being active in four games this season. He has converted two of those carries into touchdowns. Strong’s usage in Week 8 will depend on Hunt’s own health issues.
It seems as if it might be a little while before Packers running back Aaron Jones is fully recovered from his hamstring injury. He was a late scratch in Week 5 and had the Packers’ Week 6 bye to further recuperate but he was still a limited participant in team practices last week. He was questionable heading into the Packers’ Week 8 matchup against the Broncos and logged just seven carries compared to 15 for A.J. Dillon.
Vikings running back Cam Akers saw a significant spike in his playing time in Week 7. He had 10 carries (his most as a Viking) for only 31 yards (3.10 YPC), but his offensive snaps played percentage increased from 16% in Week 6 to 39% in Week 7. Conversely Alexander Mattison saw his snaps played percentage drop from 79% in Week 6 to 53% in Week 7.