The Eagles were on their bye week, so I took Sunday off from football this week. And by took Sunday off I mean I got up early to set my lineups and monitor the actives and inactives for FantasyPros, went to the movies with my wife around noon, and was back home by 3pm for the afternoon and evening games. That counts as taking the week off from football, right?

Two of the top four scoring running backs this week play for the Saints because it is that kind of year. Another one of them was Dion Lewis, one of the 14 running backs on the Patriots (depending on your scoring settings), who rushed for a touchdown and returned a kick for a touchdown. DeMarco Murray was the fourth guy on the list. Since I mentioned the other three, figured I might as well tell you who the other guy was.

Two other running backs making appearances in the upper tier of scorers in Week 10? Austin Ekeler and Corey Grant? Wut. Yup. Ekeler, who is the running back on the Chargers not named Melvin Gordon, rushed 10 times for 42 yards and added five catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Congrats to Ekeler’s mom, who finally cashed in on that FanDuel lineup that featured Austin Ekeler for like $1,800.

According to Google, Corey Grant is 25 years old, has the same birthday as my dog Young Money (different year), played college football at Auburn, and currently plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also did this on Sunday:

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What is more surprising, that Corey Clement scored three touchdowns or that Corey Clement scored three touchdowns and wasn’t even the top scoring running back in Week 9? Yeah, I guess the first one, but the second part is pretty interesting too. Alvin Kamara scored two touchdowns of his own and added six catches and over 150 yards from scrimmage to eek out the top running back spot for the week.

Kamara is finally helping Saints fans forget about Darren Sproles and appears to be the perfect compliment to Mark Ingram in New Orleans. Despite the handcuff label, as I have discussed with a few readers in the past few weeks, Kamara is still valuable in fantasy, especially in PPR formats. The Saints have made it pretty clear since their bye week that they want to get the ball into the talented young running back’s hands and are carving about 15+ touches for him each week. And it is working, so don’t expect them to go away from it anytime soon.

In Philadelphia, Clement scored three touchdowns in a week where many wondered if he would even be active on gameday with the addition of Jay Ajayi. With Zach Ertz a late scratch, all of Philly’s running backs were active, even Wendell Smallwood. However, don’t get used to Clement finding so much success and that many touches going forward. The Eagles are on a bye this week and will have had two more weeks to get Jay Ajayi up to speed. While Clement will probably be active over the forgotten Wendell Smallwood, most of the touches are going to go to Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount. This tweet would say otherwise, but remember this was a blowout in Philly:

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Well, that was certainly one of the busier NFL trade deadlines in my lifetime. A number of big names got traded, and for our purposes here the biggest name was Jay Ajayi going from the Miami Dolphins to the Philadelphia Eagles. The initial consensus was that this would boost his value, going from a struggling Miami offense to one of the more productive offenses in the league in Philadelphia. However, I’m not so sure.

While the Dolphins have been hot garbage this season, Ajayi at least had the benefit of being top dog. In Philadelphia, he joins a committee that currently features LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and Kenjon Barner. The Eagles have announced that Blount is, at least for now, still their starting running back. While Ajayi shouldn’t lose much time to the latter three once he gets assimilated into the offense, he will probably lose some touches to Blount, especially near the goal line.

The Eagles also love to throw the ball pretty often, despite the success they have had running the ball. Don’t expect just because they now have Ajayi that they are going to start running the ball 75% of the time. This is still a West Coast offense that runs the ball for the sake of balance rather than some kind of desire to actually run the ball. They like to pass for the lead and run things down when they can. Between that and Blount still being around, don’t expect Ajayi to get the ball 30 times a game.

He should still be a valuable back going forward, but I would be a little worried about starting him this week. Assuming he is active, the Eagles are probably going to have a package of plays for him and not ask him to do too much. They have a bye week next week and will probably wait until after that to fully unleash him.

On the Miami side of things, Damien Williams and Kenyon Drake are going to compete for touches. My money is on Williams getting first crack, but the Dolphins are probably going to split time and roll with the hot hand until (if?) someone takes the job. With how things have gone in Miami so far this year, I wouldn’t want to rely on either one until we see some kind of production.

Now, to the charts!

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All over the box score and all up in the backfield in Green Bay is the answer, as Aaron Jones has officially taken the job from Ty Montgomery with his solid performances. The offense overall in Green Bay is going to take a hit with the other A-Aron out for what looks like the rest of the season, but they are more likely to want to run the ball, which is good for Jones owners.

Montgomery is still a solid all-around running back and, really, is a solid all-around player in general, as he is a wide receiver who really became a running back out of necessity for the Packers. He didn’t do anything to lose his job other than get hurt and give Jones a chance.

Jones is the better and more explosive running back, and rolling with him as the hot hand is the right decision for now. Montgomery is not going to disappear, though, and he is going to rotate into the backfield and as a wide receiver going forward as the Packers figure out ways to get him involved and use him as a matchup problem for opposing defenses.

For fantasy purposes, Montgomery’s value is probably going to fluctuate on a week-to-week basis depending on the matchups and the gameplan. He is probably going to light it up some weeks and be a non-factor others, so it is going to be hard to rely on him other than as the occasional flex or RB2 when the bye weeks call for it.

Jones, on the other hand, is going to be the more reliable running back and is coming off his best game as a pro last week. Unfortunately, this is a ROS play and not a Week 8 play because the Packers are on a bye this week.

If you are looking for a Week 8 play, may I interest you in a Jalen Richard now that Marshawn Lynch has lost his appeal and will miss this week? (eyes emoji)

Now, to the charts!

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The Giants finally got off the schneid this past week when they upset the Denver Broncos. More importantly, they started giving the ball to Orleans Darkwa, something a certain Razzball writer has been asking for for what seems like two years now. Paul Perkins, your reign of terrible tip-toeing to the line of scrimmage is over!

Darkwa took 21 carries for 117 yards with a long of 47 yards and added a catch for 13 yards. OD seemed to always produce when given limited touches, and he did the unthinkable when given a full supply of touches: continued to produce! Who would have thought such a thing was possible! Oh, right, everyone who, like me, have been clamoring for Darkwa for two years.

After turning eight carries into 69 yards for a nice little average of 8.625 yards per carry, OD rushed for more than 5.5 yards per carry on nearly three times as many carries. The logical assumption would be the keep feeding him the ball. However, with this year’s New York Giants, who knows what to expect, but a few things are working in OD’s favor.

For starters, the Giants lost roughly 14 wide receivers to injuries over the last two weeks. And in better news for Darkwa, Ben McAdoo handed over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Now, I don’t know a ton about Sullivan, but he does have one very important quality: he isn’t Ben McAdoo. Oh, and he seemed to enjoy employing a more balanced offense that featured a running back who has been having success.

The Broncos had boasted one of the league’s better rushing defenses heading into last week’s game, but they barely slowed Darkwa down for most of the day. Granted, his yards per carry average is boosted by that one long run, but he was still hitting holes fast and running hard and should have earned himself a steady taste of touches at least in the short term. I have been stashing OD in a deep roster dynasty league for two years now, and it looks like I might finally get to play him. Hooray for me.

Now, to the charts!

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Adrian Peterson is free! On Tuesday, AP was traded from the New Orleans Saints (who seemingly never wanted him?) to the running back-desperate Arizona Cardinals. He is here to save the day for all fantasy owners who stashed him through the first few weeks or were able to submit a successful waiver claim for him after the trade. Our prayers are answered. All is right in the world. Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!

Right?

Well, kind of. There is no doubt that getting traded from the pass-happy Saints, where Peterson was an odd fit from the second they signed him, to the Cardinal who lost David Johnson in Week 1 and have gotten zilch from the running back position in the weeks since, significantly improves Peterson’s fantasy value. The questions we have to answer now are: just how much has it improved? And what exactly can we expect going forward?

In the last few weeks, AP was not seeing regular touches, and his value was pretty much nonexistent. When he signed with the Saints in the offseason, you could hear a collective “huh?” from football fans and writers everywhere. We gave the Saints the benefit of the doubt and figured they knew what they were doing, but it turned out exactly how we all thought it would. Peterson was an odd fit for a Saints team that likes to pass the ball and likes to operate out of the shotgun, two things that don’t mess with Peterson’s style. Add to that the presence of Mark Ingram and youngster Alvin Kamara, and it is no surprise the team moved on from AP.

With the Cardinals, Peterson should get plenty of opportunities. Chris Johnson has not looked good in a couple years now, and he was a free agent until David Johnson got hurt. With Peterson entering the fold, the Cardinals did not even wait a week or two before cutting CJ. He got cut to make room for AP.

There are, however, a few reasons to roll our Peterson optimism back to “cautious optimism.” For starters, he is moving to a new team with a new playbook in the middle of a season. The complexity of NFL playbooks and schemes is why we don’t see a ton of in-season trading in the NFL. It is very difficult to fully learn everything while also preparing to play every week. To start out, they are going to have to feed him plays in bunches and get him acclimated a little bit more every week. Early playing time/snaps are question marks for Peterson right now.

Next, there is the issue of the Arizona offensive line. They’re bad. They’re really bad. They are particularly bad at run blocking, which is the primary reason the Cardinals have struggled so much on the ground this season. If they can’t open up some room for Peterson, he might have a fairly low ceiling in Arizona.

Lastly, the Cardinals are another team that likes to throw the ball. Carson Palmer currently leads the NFL in passing attempts. Part of that is likely because they have struggled to run the ball so much that they have been forced to pass, but they are not going to flip the script and decide to run the ball 60% of the time just because Adrian Peterson has arrived. Peterson is not much of a pass-catching back, so will he get enough touches to be valuable on a weekly basis for fantasy owners?

These are all valid questions that cause concern. Of course, the upside with Peterson is definitely worth taking the chance on him, even if just to stash him for a couple weeks while you see how he looks in that offense. Just don’t get your hopes up too high until we actually see him getting the ball with some space to work with.

Now, to the charts!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

One more week in the books, a few more young running backs on the shelf. This week, the devastating running back news was Dalvin Cook going down with a torn ACL. If you watched the injury live or watched the replay over and over again like I did, you had to feel for the kid. He went down with a non-contact injury less than four weeks into what was quickly becoming an impressive rookie season, and it looked as ugly as it sounds.

But we fantasy owners don’t have time to feel bad for Cook. Pour out some Duff for your boy and move on with your fantasy life. For Cook owners, this likely leaves you scrambling for replacements. For owners desperate for running backs and streaming options, Latavius Murray just started dancing into your dreams.

While Murray won’t be confused for Cook on the field, he does have some appeal. The Vikings signed Murray before they were able to go out and draft Cook, so they at least considered him a serviceable option in the event that the draft did not go their way. They also signed him to a three-year deal, and even though most NFL contracts are filled with fake money and fake years, that is more than nothing (what an endorsement!).

While some have pointed to Jerick McKinnon as taking over a bigger role, I really don’t see that happening. He should continue with his current role, and he might see a slightly increased workload, but Murray is going to get the first shot at taking the lead role. I am desperate for running backs in at least two of my dozen leagues, and I am going to use the waiver priority I have been saving on Murray this week.

To the charts!

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The talk of this week at the running back situation has been Wendell Smallwood. If you don’t believe me, take a scroll through the last dozen or so Razzball articles to see the takes and advice. With Darren Sproles somehow breaking his arm and tearing his ACL on the same play, there are touches available in Philadelphia. LeGarrette Blount is still around and actually looked productive on Sunday, and Corey Clement scored his first career touchdown and could rotate into games going forward, but Smallwood is the guy who stands to benefit the most from the Sproles injury. If you don’t believe me, the Eagles offensive coordinator said as much in his press conference on Tuesday. I have the transcript if you want it.

For me, though, there is a more exciting running back to target. Heading into Week 3, we knew two things: 1. There would be a new offensive coordinator. 2. Marvin Lewis has been coaching the Bengals for 15 years without winning a single playoff game. Number 1 is relevant for fantasy owners, while number 2 is simply fascinating.

The position to watch in Week 3 was running back, as it was expected that we could see more Joe Mixon and less Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. And that is exactly what happened. Mixon looked like the complete running back he was projected to be coming out of college, gaining more than 100 yards from scrimmage on 21 total touches. Expect that trend to continue going forward, as Mixon should only get better and the Bengals should continue to ride him.

I talked up Mixon last week as a great buy-low option prior to the change at offensive coordinator. Hopefully, you either drafted and stashed him or grabbed him on waivers last week because he is less likely to be available this week. But if he is, grab him and go. On the flip side, I would also try to hold onto Jeremy Hill and/or Giovani Bernard if you have the kind of league that provides you with the roster/bench space to do so. It looks like Mixon will be the guy, but we have seen before that one week doesn’t mean everything and that injuries happen all the time. If you have to pick one, I would probably lean Bernard in PPR.

To the charts!

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Another week of the NFL season is in the books, and we have a few more developments at the running back position to keep an eye on. There are a few injuries hitting the wire this week, and out in Seattle, a youngster is outplaying some familiar names. Over in Philadelphia, the guy who is supposed to be the lead back barely saw the field…

Razzball Football’s partner FantasyDraft is starting a new sign-up promotion this week, all new depositing signups receive a free $4 “Everyone Wins” NFL GPP ticket for the upcoming Sunday slate along with offering all players 4% cash back on their initial deposits! 

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Does anyone else get the old Sherwin Williams jingle stuck in their head when they see Kerwynn Williams’s name? No? Just me?

Anyway, welcome to the 2017 Handcuff Report. For those who followed this post last season, welcome back. For those who are new, where were you last year? Too good for us? I have researched other available handcuff reports and tell give you my completely unbiased opinion that none of them are half as good as this one. Shame on you, and welcome.

So, first things first: what exactly is a handcuff? For the fantasy football n00bs out there, or perhaps for those who have taken the last few years off, a handcuff is a backup who will likely take over as the starter in the event of an injury, extreme ineffectiveness, off-the-field trouble, or coach’s decision. There are probably other reasons that I am forgetting here, but those are the most common one.

Most NFL teams now run a running back by committee of some sort. While not every team is as unpredictably maddening as the Patriots, most teams share the load in an effort to keep guys fresh and give defenses different looks. With fantasy leagues more competitive than ever, thanks to sites like Razzball offering great advice, it is important to recognize trends and identify value quickly. If you drafted a stud running back early, you might want to grab his handcuff in case of injury. Or if you went zero RB or went really light on RB early, you might want to squat on a couple handcuffs or, especially in PPR leagues, grab a change-of-pace/pass catching back. With the influx of young running backs and each team having two or three options this season, I tended to do the latter in drafts this year. For every Melvin Gordon, I have like two Shane Vereens or Theo Riddicks this year. Speaking of young running backs:

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