2020 Fantasy Football Running Back Handcuff Tiers

Raheem Mostert San Francisco 49ers
The original edition of this article was originally posted on our Patreon page on June 11. We’ve pulled it out from behind the paywall on Week One Eve.

Running backs are, by far, the most annoying parts of fantasy football. You think you’re rocking and rolling with your sweet RB corps. You have two great starters and a solid backup for the bye week. Fast forward three weeks and your formerly-solid running back room looks like a M*A*S*H* unit. Guys are nursing lingering injuries or get wiped out for the year, and you need to know the situation going on behind them.

Since we are here to help, we are here to give you a breakdown of every single running back room in the NFL. The traditional term for getting your running back’s backup is a “handcuff.” Generally, we do not advocate handcuffing, but you still see two groupings of running backs that involve handcuffing. In deeper leagues, best-ball leagues, or leagues where you would otherwise have trouble rectifying the problems inherent in the ownership of running backs, you’ll want to snag some handcuffs.

We’ve divided the league into eight groupings: Cream of the Crop Handcuffs, Secondary Handcuffs, Don’t Bother With Backups, Toss Ups, True Splits, It’s Gonna Get Messy, Watch Your Back, and Mike Davis(!!!) isn’t Christian McCaffrey Tiers (the difference is so stark it merited its own tier). Let’s do a quick rundown of every running back situation in the league

Cream of the Crop

If you’re going to get a handcuff, get one of these three guys. They’re not only the most talented, but the starter ahead of them showed a likelihood of missing time in 2020. They’re also insuring high-price investments. All three starters are top-five or six running backs in 2020, depending on the format.

Dallas Cowboys
Starter – Ezekiel Elliott
Backup – Tony Pollard

This is one of the top-flight handcuff situations to monitor this season. Not only did Tony Pollard produce when given opportunities (two 100+ yards-from-scrimmage games last season), Zeke is entering dangerous territory. In the last ten years, no running back has three-straight seasons of at least 300 carries, and he’s already dealing with the potentially dangerous aftereffects of COVID-19. Ezekiel Elliott has two-straight seasons of over 300 carries. It feels inevitable that Zeke misses time, so Pollard is your guy.

Minnesota Vikings
Starter – Dalvin Cook
Backup – Alexander Mattison

Dalvin Cook has missed multiple games in each of his first three seasons in the NFL and the threat of a Melvin Ingramesque hold in still looms large with his contract issues. Like Zeke & Pollard, this Break in Case of Emergency is looking as likely as anything else in 2020. Mattison and Cook are built nearly identically and both have dreadlocks. That, combined with both being extremely talented backs make it very difficult to tell them apart. When Mattison gets on the field, it’s also hard to tell them apart. Careful, though. Last year Mattison was injured the week before Dalvin Cook, completely negating carrying him on your roster for weeks.

New Orleans Saints
Starter – Alvin Kamara
Backup – Latavius Murray

Like Cook, the threat of a hold-in looms large over the Kamara/Murray backfield. The Saints & AK41 had contentious contract negotiations that set the world ablaze last week. Latavius Murray is legitimately a starter-quality talent in the NFL. The former Raider and Viking had three-straight seasons of 240+ touches before downshifting to a backup role in New Orleans. Last year, we saw what Murray could do when given a shot: Murray paced out for over 1,300 yards and sixteen touchdowns in his five starts he made in the middle of 2019 when Alvin Kamara’s ankle cost him time. He’s one of three guys I would recommend having on your roster as a handcuff. And not because I was cavalier with my Kamara shares last season and did not have Murray. No sir, it couldn’t be latent anger at myself that put him in this tier.

Secondary Handcuffs

These guys aren’t necessarily recommended handcuffs but are names you should know. Should the player ahead of them go down, they are due for massive roles. This is where things start to get murky between “secondary handcuffs” and “true split backfields.”

Arizona Cardinals
Starter – Kenyan Drake
Backup – Chase Edmonds

Last year, Kenyan Drake hit his career-high for carries, toting the football 170 times last season. While Drake hasn’t missed any significant time in his four-year career, he already spent a week in a walking boot as a “precautionary measure.”. The Cardinals showed last season that they are willing to test Drake’s limits, giving him 123 carries in eight games, which would pace out to just under 250 for the year. At this point, we don’t know if Drake can handle that. This isn’t to raise alarms, but to give you something to chew on. Last year, the Cardinals had one game where they shelved David Johnson before Kenyan Drake arrived: Chase Edmonds had 29 touches for 150 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants. The skill is there, and we don’t know about Drake’s durability ahead of Edmonds. This could easily also fall into a split backfield out of precaution this year, but we don’t know if that’s the case yet.

Denver Broncos:
Starter – Melvin Gordon
Backup – Philip Lindsay

Depending on who you ask, this could belong in the true split backfield tier. Instead, I’m promoting this situation to a secondary handcuff. Philip Lindsay is good! He’s a talented runner, though he doesn’t catch a lot of balls. That’s likely why John Elway & Co. have had big troubles signing Lindsay long-term and why they have now demoted him to backup. This could easily end up a 50/50 split like Lindsay’s dealt with throughout his young career. But, I think that the Broncos brought in Gordon to be the guy. Gordon’s played sixteen games just once in his five-year career (though last year was a holdout). Lindsay might steal this job outright; through their careers, Lindsay averages over 5 yards per touch, while Gordon is sitting at about 4.8 yards per carry. It’s one worth monitoring, and the handcuff might just be for when the Gordon/Lindsay split flips.

 Green Bay Packers
Starter – Aaron Jones
Backup – A.J. Dillon

Just like Philip Lindsay, this one could end up as a split backfield, but I think that the addition of rookie A.J. Dillon does more to stifle the short-term prospects of Jamaal Williams than anything else. Dillon is a very different back than Aaron Jones. Whereas Jones is an athletic and shifty dude, Dillon is more of a battering ram. Dillon should get a lot of run this season as a short-yardage and goal-line banger, even if Aaron Jones still gets his. But, should Aaron Jones go down, it’s A.J. Dillon’s time to shine. There’s a lot of Derrick Henry in Dillon’s game, though not enough to steal the job from Aaron Jones outright. Jones hasn’t shown a propensity for injury yet in his career, so this one is more of an insurance policy for best ball or very deep leagues than anything else.

Kansas City Chiefs
The Definite Starter – Clyde Edwards-Helaire
The Backup – Darrel Williams

The Chiefs went out and took Clyde Edwards-Helaire (from hereon known as CEH) to supplant Damien Williams. There is no other scenario that makes sense. Williams’ 141 touches last year were a career-high. He just isn’t built to carry a full load as a team’s #1 back. It’s a good thing they took CEH, because Damien Williams opted out of the season due to COVID-19, leaving another D. Williams to be CEH’s backup. Could Darrel Williams be a quality short side of the platoon guy? Absolutely. If Andy Reid & Co. can move him into a closer role, banging through beat-up defenses in the second half, Darrel could return a ton of value.

But, CEH is really, really good, guys. He’s a bowling ball back who can catch passes like nobody’s business. Darrel Williams is nothing but a depth dart throw to see how things shake out. Damien Williams is going to sit a year and come back to have completely lost his job.

Philadelphia Eagles
Starter – Miles Sanders
Backup – Boston Scott

This backfield situation, also, could end up in a true split backfield by the time we reach the season. The acolytes of Zero RB (waiting until late to get your running backs) see Boston Scott as their savior. I’m not so bullish on Scott taking touches from Sanders. History tells us that Doug Pederson loves to split his backfield touches up among several backs, but he and Howie Roseman gushed over Sanders when they drafted him, noting they had been waiting like a back like Sanders to come around. Boston Scott flashed at the end of the season, but the majority of his big numbers came in the second half of the week seventeen game against a 4-12 Giants team who had already packed it in after Miles Sanders injured his ankle. Scott produced there, but he should have.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Starter – James Conner
Backup – Benny Snell (Anthony McFarland and Jaylen Samuels, as well)

It looks like Benny Snell is the clubhouse leader, despite all my efforts to make Anthony McFarland a thing. This might qualify for the “It’s Gonna Get Messy” Tier of backs, given the presence of McFarland and Jaylen Samuels on the roster. We had a front-row seat to the Benny Snell Experience last season, and it was not very good. Reportedly, he’s gotten trimmed up enough to the point that he’s put rookie running back Anthony McFarland, who I had as being the darkhorse camp leader in July, in the backseat.

Watch Your Back

Someone is going to be leading these backfields at some point during this season. Unfortunately for the veterans, it’s likely to be the rookie running backs taking over at some point… with varying degrees of certainty.

Baltimore Ravens
Starter – Mark Ingram
Backup – J.K. Dobbins

The Baltimore Ravens backfield could end up getting sliced up a million different ways this year. Mark Ingram was one of the most productive running backs last year on limited touches, and he had a ton of touchdown opportunities. It’s probably his backfield to control this year, but the Ravens’ efficiency and diversity of attack could also be Ingram’s downfall. J.K. Dobbins was a top-tier running back in the 2020 draft class, and the Gus Edwards and Justice Hill combo ended with 206 touches last year. Dobbins is better than both of them, and giving him touches might open a spigot that John Harbaugh can’t turn off.

Buffalo Bills
Starter – Devin Singletary
Backup – Zack Moss

Devin Singletary played this role last season: stealing touches from an established player before banishing them to the nether-realm (an Adam Gase running back room). This year, unfortunately, it seems like Moss will play that role for Singletary. I like Devin Singletary, but I like Zack Moss a lot more. The Bills said they are going to use Moss like they used Frank Gore to start last season. Frank Gore averaged 15.5 touches per game in the first six weeks of 2019. If Buffalo starts off using Moss like that, he could just be off to the races, leaving Singletary in the rearview mirror. Moss is a deep round pick in most fantasy football leagues.

Camp reports have this getting closer and closer, with Zack Moss coming to slice off enough for Devin Singletary’s touches to make Moss the RB1 in Buffalo.

 Detroit Lions
Starter – Kerryon Johnson
Backup – D’Andre Swift

This one is just playing the waiting game for Kerryon Johnson’s inevitable IR stint. In both of Johnson’s two years in the league, he had over 50% of the carries in five straight games. He never made it to a sixth, because he hit the IR after those five games both times this happened. Swift, like Dobbins for Baltimore, was one of the top-tier running backs in this year’s draft class. He’s a multi-talented, multi-faceted running back who Detroit took in the second to be their RB of the future. He just has to wait until about week six to get the opportunity to shine. He’s a priority draft pick in fantasy football leagues.

Adrian Peterson and a D’Andre Swift injury gum up these works a bit, but I see AP as insurance for the injury, not anyone to worry about. Swift was their second-round pick, and they picked AP up off the scrap pile.

Indianapolis Colts
Starter – Marlon Mack
Backup – Jonathan Taylor
Wildcard – Nyheim Hines

This is a weird one because I fully expect Jonathan Taylor to take over for Marlon Mack within the first 4-5 games of the season. But, I also expect Nyheim Hines to take almost all the third-down and passing-down snaps, limiting what either can do. That’s because Hines is a pass-catching back and neither Mack nor Taylor put catching passes in their top skills. The Mack/Taylor situation is going to be an absolute mess until it shakes out as they fight over the first and second downs in Indy. I like Taylor to shake out over Mack as the season marches on. Why? Jonathan Taylor was the best back in the 2020 draft class. Marlon Mack is decent enough, but he’s no Jonathan Taylor. As the saying goes: the cream will rise to the top. And Jonathan Taylor is the cream, I guess. I don’t know what that makes Nyheim Hines, though.

Don’t Bother With Backups

This tier is guys who you can ignore their room entirely if they go down with an injury. There’s either a massive drop off in talent or a situation that just falls apart insanely quickly once the head of the snake is missing. 

Las Vegas Raiders
Starter – Josh Jacobs
Backups – Jalen Richard, Devontae Booker

This one is kind of self-explanatory. Devontae Booker took a third fiddle role to Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, of all duos, in Denver. Josh Jacobs was a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and a first-round pick in 2020 fantasy football leagues. It isn’t the situation, either. If Josh Jacobs goes down, expect the Raiders to shift hard into a passing attack. This one doesn’t get messy behind Jacobs, but it sure gets uninspiring. Don’t worry about this backfield sans Josh Jacobs

 New York Giants
Starter – Saquon Barkley
Backup – Dion Lewis

I originally gave undrafted free agent Javon Leake some love here, but the Giants, unfortunately, cut the rookie. That leaves us with Dion Lewis. In the past, we tried to convince ourselves that guys like Wayne Gallman and Jon Hilliman (who turned 59 total touches into 224 yards, or 3.8 yards per touch). If Saquon Barkley goes down in 2020, we’ve already seen what this backfield looks like: not worth it. Dion Lewis probably gets a crack at carries before they relent and give it to a random street free agent. Neither comes close to Saquon Barkley’s profile, let alone his talent level. I’m not touching this backfield with a ten-foot pole (or as I call it: a pole as long as four Jon Hilliman carries).

 Tennessee Titans
Starter – Derrick Henry
Backup – Darrynton Evans

We know who Derrick Henry is at this point: the human embodiment of pain inflicted on others to achieve a goal. He runs with reckless abandon and wrecks opposing defenses in the process. Henry has more 50+ yard touchdowns than 25% of the league since he’s come around. He’s a beast, a monster. Henry is irreplaceable in the Titans’ offense. Darrynton Evans is… different. He’s also a home run hitter but he gets swallowed up at the line of scrimmage while he dances trying to find the perfect run on every single play. He reminds me a lot of a bad version of Justice Hill. I’m passing on this situation if Henry goes down. Coincidentally, the Titans will also be passing over giving the ball to Darrynton Evans in the event of a Derrick Henry catastrophe.

 New York Jets
Starter – Le’Veon Bell
Backup – Frank Gore

Part of me was tempted to just leave this as-is, as not chasing thirty-seven-year-old Frank Gore seems like a no brainer. I guess I’ll fill in some words, though. Le’Veon Bell had a down year last year, but a lot of that had to do with his style being a mismatch for the offensive line (bad OLs make his patience turn into a liability) and a mismatch for his head coach (Adam Gase is a ding-dong). If Bell goes down, imagine all those runs instead of going to a running back who started playing in 2005. Things probably won’t work out well for your fantasy football squads if you try to squeeze any sort of value out of a situation that barely let Bell squeak in as a top-twenty RB last year. If that was Bell’s fate, what do you think will happen to Frank Gore? Sunshine and rainbows?

The True Split Backfields

These backfields have two guys who fill two different skillsets. You have a bruiser and a pass catcher, or in the case of the Texans, you have two overpaid D. Johnsons.

 Chicago Bears
Starter – David Montgomery (in a couple of weeks)
Split Starter – Tarik Cohen

This one is weird because David Montgomery is the traditional running back, and he played terribly last year. You would think they could have turned to Tarik Cohen for a bit more in the rushing game, but he also played terribly last year. This one is a mess all around, but there’s some hope here. Tarik Cohen is consistently in the top-five of running back targets, and it’s been around one calendar year since the fantasy football community went absolutely gaga for David Montgomery. Nick Foles provides this squad some hope, but I don’t know how far that will get you. Either way, if David Montgomery goes down, Tarik Cohen will likely stay split out wide while the Bears re-add Mike Davis or take a shot on Christine Michael.

Cleveland Browns
Starter – Nick Chubb
Split Starter – Kareem Hunt

We had a preview of this backfield in the second half of 2019. There were some things to not like about it, but there were a lot more things to enjoy with the Chubb/Hunt pairing. There was much ado about nothing with regards to how Hunt stole touches and looks from Nick Chubb. Chubb didn’t have a single ten zone target all season long, and most of Hunt’s damage came through the passing game. Even with Hunt’s return, Chubb still had over 800 yards in eight games. He scored just two touchdowns in those games, but that sounds more like a Kevin Stefanski problem than anything else. As for Kareem Hunt, he mostly played the role of the pass-catching back, pacing out for 74 catches for 570 yards over the course of a sixteen-game season. He also chipped in 179 rushing yards on just 43 attempts while scoring six total touchdowns. Both these guys are viable fantasy football options for 2020 leagues, and this is a situation where “timeshare” isn’t a dirty word.

Houston Texans
Starter – David Johnson
Split Starter – Duke Johnson Jr.

This backfield really depends on how you feel about David Johnson in 2020. Personally, I think he looks toast. Kliff Kingsbury was able to hold off his toastedness long enough for Kenyan Drake to replace him, but I don’t know if Bill O’Brien is as dedicated to peppering David Johnson with targets (41 in the first six games of 2019). This isn’t to say that I don’t think that David Johnson won’t be productive this season. After all, BoB schemed Carlos Hyde into over 1,000 yards from scrimmage last year, and DJ should have at least as much left in the tank as Hyde.

The Duke Johnson Question does loom large, though. Duke had 62 targets for the second-straight year last year but also had 83 carries. This led Johnson to total 820 yards and five touchdowns. There’s a lot of production to be had in this backfield, it’s just a matter of figuring out where it will go. As of right now, it’s split up, which isn’t good for fantasy football purposes.

 New England Patriots
Starter – Sony Michel/Damien Harris
Split Starter – James White

The Patriots have a messy situation on their hands, but the Patriots always have a messy running back situation on their hands. This year, it’s that ineffective third-year back Sony Michel had surgery on his foot and may miss a part of the season. This means that the lead back role will go to Damien Harris. I don’t expect a whole mess of this backfield as we’ve seen in years past. Probably because in years past, the Patriots had an embarrassment of riches in their backfield. This year, it’s a pretty straight split. It’ll be Harris and/or Michel handling the banger carries, with Dion Lewis getting the targets, and Rex Burkhead doing enough to make this whole situation mighty obnoxious.

James White’s role may change in this offense, but as of right now, I am banking on him returning to his prior form with Cam Newton. That means lots of dump-offs and lots of PPR value. Right now, he’s going in the RB30 range in PPR. To me, he seems to be a shoo-in to return that value, meaning mash that draft button if you’re in PPR leagues and he’s there in the seventh round.

Toss Up Backfields

These are the backfields that are the most hotly contested in terms of who will be the RB1. We are all reasonably certain that someone will be the top dog in these situations, but we haven’t seen a civil war like this since the Sokovia Accords… am I right, folks? (I’m 3,500+ words into this, please clap).

Los Angeles Rams
The Definite Starter – Cam Akers
The Definite Starter – Darrell Henderson

The fantasy football community is of two minds on this one. First, the Darrell Henderson stans. They look at his college tape, the fact that the Rams drafted him in the third round last year to supplant Todd Gurley, and… that’s it. That’s why those folks think that Darrell Henderson will be the lead back. While it’s entirely certain that he might be the lead back there, but I would like to submit for their approval: his NFL tape. It’s bad. It’s just… not good. He has a few big runs through Mack truck-sized holes but by and large didn’t get much going on the ground.

Now, we get to my group. The Cam Akers stans. One: Darrell Henderson was a third-round pick, and in a year where the Rams were dedicated to undoing past mistakes (ditching Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks’ massive contracts), they took Cam Akers in the second round. The second round was also their first pick this year, so out of all the players, they took Cam Akers first. That sort of undoes that “Darrell Henderson was a third-round pick!” arguments. Cam Akers was a higher pick; the first player off their board this year. I think that Cam Akers will be the guy, but here comes the fun part.

It looks like, at this point, Cam Akers won the battle. That’s not super fair, since Cam Akers was healthy and Darrell Henderson was not. So I guess, the battle is on hold with a tentative winner. Get Cam Akers, you won’t regret it.

Cue 250 touches for Malcolm Brown, of course.

Miami Dolphins
The Definite Starter – Matt Breida
The Definite Starter – Jordan Howard

This one is hope versus resignment to reality. We all hope that Matt Breida can handle a full workload and become the RB1 in Miami, but as a 49ers fan, I can tell you that hope doesn’t match reality. In reality, Breida is better used as the short side of a platoon, ideally topping out at ten or so carries a game. This gets Breida in to use his explosiveness in favorable situations without exposing him to unnecessary hits that might invite injuries. If Miami is smart, they’ll turn the ball over to the prudent option: Jordan Howard.

Howard isn’t exciting, but he definitely gets the work done. He averages about 75 yards per game so far in his NFL career, and he bangs in enough touchdowns to be fantasy relevant. This is the likely outcome of the Breida-Howard split, no matter how much we all wish that something different might be true. It would be more exciting if it was Matt Breida, but we aren’t allowed to have fun, so it’s going to be Jordan Howard, instead.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Definite Starter – Leonard Fournette
The Definite Starter – Ronald Jones II
The Annoyances – LeSean McCoy & Ke’Shawn Vaughn

Hoo boy. This is another backfield that got tossed on its head in the last couple of months. Unlike Washington below, who lost two running backs atop the depth chart, Tampa Bay added two running backs (Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy). Fournette is definitely the starter unless Ronald Jones is definitely the starter. At this point, we don’t know who will get the majority of the snaps for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. It could be 4ners, it could be Rojo, it could be neither! It’s a complete mess of a backfield at this point. There’s nothing we can do but wait for it to get sorted out.

Washington Football Team
Starter – Bryce Love & Antonio Gibson
Backup – Peyton Barber & J.D. McKissic

When I originally wrote this post, this listed Derrius Guice as the starter, and Adrian Peterson in the backup. Things have changed in Washington over the last two months or so (they didn’t even have a team name in the original version of this article!). Washington wants to use both Bryce Love and Antonio Gibson, as cutting AP signaled completely turning the team over to the young’ns. Antonio Gibson has flown up draft boards in the wake of AP’s release, to the RB25 range. That price is too steep for me. Go grab Bryce Love on the cheap and laugh uproariously after he gets 16 carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns in week one.

It’s Gonna Get Messy

If something goes awry, these are the backfields with a high “flying off the rails” quotient, where investing in these backfields could get you a few weeks of RB1 numbers, if only you could figure out where that dang mole was coming out so you could whack it.

Atlanta Falcons
Starter – Todd Gurley
Also-Rans – Brian hill, Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison

This is sort of like “don’t bother with backups” but that tier had clear backup options in the event that the starter goes down. In Atlanta, Todd Gurley’s knee presents an unusual situation. Last year, he was hobbled by it as Los Angeles tried to keep him upright all year. It seems as though Atlanta has no qualms about running him into the ground this year, which makes it more likely he hurts his knee. Still, I’m investing in Gurley in Atlanta. The “messy” comes when trying to figure out what to do if (when) Todd Gurley sits out. We saw this mess last year; none of the options are all that inspiring, and most of them have plenty of warts of their own. I’m not rostering anyone in this backfield outside of Gurley, and that includes if they’re free off the waiver wire. I don’t want any part of this.

Cincinnati Bengals
Starter – Joe Mixon
Also-Rans – Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams

Just like with Atlanta, the Cincinnati backfield will be a series of landmines if Joe Mixon misses any time. Giovani Bernard is a more-than-adequate pass catcher but the backfield’s diversification could lead to issues if Mixon goes down in 2020. Mixon didn’t miss any games in 2019, but in 2018 and 2017, he missed four games. In those games, Giovani Bernard averaged 19.38 PPR points per game and was a great force, ranking as a top-five RB in all formats in those games.

The Bengals likely will turn back to Giovani Bernard this season if Mixon gets hurt, but Trayveon Williams could end up in the mix, lowering Bernard’s upside. This one gets a “light” messy rating and isn’t anything like the Falcons backfield if Gurley goes down with an injury.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Starter – Ryquell Armstead (?) or Devine Ozigbo (?) or James Robinson (?) or Chris Thompson (?)
Also-Rans – Ryquell Armstead (?) or Devine Ozigbo (?) or James Robinson (?) or Chris Thompson (?)

The Jags cut Leonard Fournette and turned this entire backfield into a mess. Then Ryquell Armstead went on COVID-19 IR, turning this backfield into a bigger mess. Week one is going to be Devine Ozigbo and James Robinson bashing futilely into DeForest Buckner before maybe Ryquell Armstead comes back. At this point, I’ll get Chris Thompson to jam into my flex in PPR leagues until he gets hurt in week six and misses the rest of the year.

Los Angeles Chargers
Starter- Austin Ekeler
Also-Rans – Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson

I actually like Austin Ekeler this year. I like him a lot. What I don’t like is whatever the short-side of this platoon is going to be up to this season. Justin Jackson is more of a pure runner than Ekeler, and Joshua Kelley is a blend of the two. I initially wanted to invest in Ekeler and J-Jax, but I’ve read the tea leaves and gone to Ekeler and Kelley. The drumbeat from camp is just too strong for Kelley. it’s possible that Joshua Kelley gets a load of touches, or it’s possible that Justin Jackson gets a load of touches… Or it’s possible they split them down the middle since neither of them has the profile to lead the way. This one is likely to get messy in the event of an Austin Ekeler injury, with no clear backup and no clear roles for two backup running backs who combined for zero NFL carries in 2019.

San Francisco 49ers
Starter – Raheem Mostert
Also-Rans – Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson Jr.

If you know one thing about the San Francisco 49ers’ backfield, it’s that Raheem Mostert ran for a billion yards and a ton of touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game last year. If you know two things about that backfield, it’s that Kyle Shanahan doesn’t like to give one running back a ton of touches weekly. Three different backs led the 49ers in touches in individual games last year, and Mostert had over 14 touches just twice last season as the lead back. Also, Jeff Wilson Jr. had a game-winning catch. Shanahan wants to use his entire stable of backs in different situations.

The Raheem Mostert love isn’t as likely to continue his torrid running from last year. The 49ers traded Matt Breida to Miami, which some people see as them plowing the road for Mostert but Breida was a non-factor last year after fumbling away his opportunities in inopportune times. The Breida trade was more about moving out space for Jerick McKinnon than Raheem Mostert in 2020. This backfield is going to be more of a headache than people want to admit, and right now your best bet is to take the cheapest part of it. After all, last year the cheapest part of it was… Raheem Mostert.

Seattle Seahawks
Starter – Chris Carson
Also-Rans – Carlos Hyde, Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas

Chris Carson is set to be the starting running back for Seattle this season, that is, if his hip heals. It looks like that should be the case, but the Seahawks took DeeJay Dallas in the middle rounds of the draft and then kicked the tires on every retread running back in the league before Carlos Hyde took the contract they were wandering around holding out to everyone with over 300 career carries. That doesn’t bode well for Rashaad Penny’s hopes of being back in time for the season from his ACL tear that he admitted was “more than a normal” tear. It’ll be a problem for Seattle, given that Carson is already hurt with his cracked hip, and he’s yet to play a full season in the NFL. It’s likely that Carson’s playstyle costs him one or more games for the fourth time in his career, and it’ll lead to a messy backfield that will be Rashaad Penny’s if he’s healed… or Carlos Hyde’s if he can shoulder the load… or DeeJay Dallas’ when neither can fulfill their obligations. Quite the mess.

Mike Davis is Not Christian McCaffrey

Carolina Panthers
Starter – Christian McCaffrey
Backup – Mike Davis

Come on. Don’t waste your time with this one; Christian McCaffrey is an excellent multi-talented back who is one of the best players in the NFL. I’m sure Mike Davis is a nice guy, but he is on his 25th team in four years (do not fact check this).  Mike Davis has spent years tricking fantasy football players into having him on his roster. Don’t fall for him again.

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Beersheets Arizona Cardinals Seattle Seahawks Los Angeles Rams San Francisco 49ers

About Jeff Krisko

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