In fantasy football, drafting key running back handcuffs is a must. As we all know, the running back pool can suddenly dry up when one or more of your top backs gets hit with a lingering or season-ending injury.
Ideally, it would be prudent to roster your own top fantasy back’s handcuff as a safety net. However, it also makes for some savvy fantasy football strategy to draft running back handcuffs that pair up with other running backs from your rival fantasy football rivals. These running back handcuffs can immediately enhance your team or make for some coveted trade bait.
With that said, let’s look at some of the best fantasy running backs to handcuff in 2023.
Top fantasy football running back handcuffs
A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers
In 2022, Aaron Jones produced 1,516 scrimmage yards to Dillon’s 976. Working with a new quarterback in Jordan Love, it’s possible Dillon starts seeing an uptick in touches as the Packers strive to assure Jones remains healthy all season. For this, Dillon is a top RB handcuff to draft.
Jerick McKinnon, Kansas City Chiefs
McKinnon is a must-draft to backup Isiah Pacheco who is currently healing from a hand injury. More importantly, McKinnon could remain start-worthy on a weekly basis in PPR leagues. Notably, he racked up a career-high 512 receiving yards and nine TDs in 2022.
Related: 2023 fantasy football rankings
Jamaal Williams, New Orleans Saints
Williams, who led the league in rushing TDs in 2022 (17), is a critical RB handcuff to draft especially with Alvin Kamara suspended for the first three games. Even when Kamara returns to the field, Williams should be fairly productive. Keep in mind also, that rookie Kendre Miller is currently dealing with a hamstring issue.
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers
As a backup who possesses stand-alone value, Mitchell is a smart RB handcuff in the event Christian McCaffrey misses time. Mitchell has averaged a stout 4.9 career yards per carry and the 49ers utilize him situationally to spell Christian McCaffrey. It’s also important to note that CMC has played only two full seasons since 2020.
Deon Jackson and Evan Hull, Indianapolis Colts
Things are a mess in Indy! With a disgruntled Jonathan Taylor in IR through Week 4, Jackson and Hull will cover at RB. Eventually, Zack Moss (broken arm) should return. However, both Jackson and Hull have appeal in deeper leagues.
D’Onta Foreman and Roschon Johnson, Chicago Bears
The Bears led the league in rushing yards per game in 2022. Aside from Justin Fields, the Bears RBs should remain busy this fall. For now, Khalil Herbert tops the depth chart as the lead RB. However, both Foreman and Johnson — who impressed in preseason — should be rostered.
Zach Charbonnet, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks saw fit to add Charbonnet in the 2023 NFL Draft. With Walker likely to retain the starting job (for now), Charbonnet wasn’t drafted just to sit around. So, make space for Charbonnet who last produced 1,680 scrimmage yards at UCLA.
Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons
Bijan Robinson will be the top fantasy football RB in Atlanta. However, it won’t hurt rostering Allgeier as a handcuff in the event Robinson becomes sidelined. Allgeier shined as a rookie last season, averaging 4.9 yards per tote.
Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens
With JK Dobbins’ health always up in the air, rostering Edwards makes a ton of sense. However, sharing the field with the mobile Lamar Jackson is never ideal with it comes to dabbling with any Ravens RBs.
Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers
Warren should definitely be rostered after he recorded 593 total yards last year while Najee Harris was present in every game. The Steelers’ offense is a work in progress, and running the ball more with Warren in tandem with Harris could be the winning ticket.
Damien Harris, Buffalo Bills
Presumably, James Cook will be the Bills’ lead back. However, the Bills saw fit to add Harris in the offseason to handle situational plays. With Nyheim Hines out for the season injured, Harris might be a bit busier than expected.
Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia Eagles
Gainwell makes a serviceable RB handcuff for both D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny who truly struggle to stay healthy. He’s a fantastic later-round pick who could potentially receive a big workload if anything goes south for Swift and/or Penny.
Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans
Derrick Henry is an absolute fantasy football stud come game day. However, should he become limited in any way, Spears is the guy to roster on a run-first Titans offense. Spears enters the NFL after racking up 1,837 total yards and 21 TDs at Tulane in 2022.
Ezekiel Elliott, New England Patriots
From a starter to a backup, Elliott has migrated to New England where he makes a strong handcuff to Rhamondre Stevenson. He won’t overtake Stevenson but could step up big-time should his younger teammate miss field time.
Samaje Perine, Denver Broncos
If Javonte Williams experiences any setbacks this season, Perine is an experienced fantasy football handcuff. Aside from his rookie season, Perine produced his best stats to date in 2022 (681 total yards and six TDs), as a former Bengal.
Jaleel McLaughlin, Denver Broncos
Doubling down in Denver, Jaleel McLaughlin will look to have an impact on offense according to reports. He’s deep roster stash and someone to keep an eye on in dynasty formats.
Tank Bigsby, Jacksonville Jaguars
Those who roster Travis Etienne will want to be aware of Bigsby competing for touches in 2023. Bigsby is a larger-bodied back entering a Jacksonville squad that seemed reluctant to fully unleash Etienne last year. Handcuff Bigsby with the hope he eventually possesses stand-alone value in 2023.
Jerome Ford, Cleveland Browns
Aside from Nick Chubb, Ford is the RB to handcuff in Cleveland in case Chubb misses any field time. Beyone Ford, would be Pierre Strong, recently signed to the Browns’ squad.
Ty Chandler and Myles Gaskin, Minnesota Vikings
Those who draft Alexander Mattison might want to grab either of these backs as an RB handcuff. As the Vikings migrate from Dalvin Cook to Mattison, another set of hands on the field at running back might just be necessary.
Joshua Kelly, Los Angeles Chargers
Nobody takes the place of Ekeler as a top fantasy RB. However, should anything keep Ekeler from suiting up, Kelly will be that player who immediately fills in. Handcuff him if your roster has the space.
Raheem Mostert, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are dealing with some banged-up running backs, including rookie De’Von Achane. This makes Mostert a plug-in-play short-term while the rest of the mix seeks to get healthy.