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Today I cover my take on the multiple running back handcuffs that will see starting duties this weekend. Unfortunately, as we enter the first round of the playoffs, we are down a few heavy hitters, that have carried us to this point. James Conner, Kareem Hunt, Melvin Gordon, and Matt Breida are a few of the studs that will be missed. If you have followed along all season then you have built your bench depth adequately to compete for a championship. Hopefully, some of these players below can come to our rescue.

Repeat Offenders

  • Jeff Wilson Jr.- Let me provide you with some mental comfort, if you are relying on Mr. Wilson this Sunday. He finished RB11 last week – posting 134 yards of total offense and 8 catches for 15.40 PPR points. Kyle Shanahan has a history of getting quality production out of his backs, with his run schemes, regardless of who’s name is on the jersey. If you are down a running back then Wilson is a viable starting option for you. In his senior year at North Texas, Jeff had 188 carries for 1,215 yards, 6.5 ypc, and 16 touchdowns. He finished his 4-year collegiate career with 4,009 all purpose yards. His metrics do not jump off the page but after watching the tape on him you notice he runs hard and has service-able pass catching abilities. Opportunity and scheme is the name of the game here. Matt Brieda is out and Alfred Morris was a healthy scratch last Sunday. Jeff Wilson OR Jaylen Samuels- this is the biggest debate in fantasy for running backs this week. In week 14, I give the slight edge to Wilson. There is no questions around his #1 opportunity in San Fransisco and we do not know how Samuels or Steven Ridley will split touches. The Niners have a decent matchup this week against the Denver defense. The Broncos have surrendered an average of 22.4 PPG to running backs since their bye. A nice DFS play, as well. I still like Jaylen Samuels, more on him below.
  • Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson- The other culprits hot on the wire this week. Melvin Gordon has missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday but has yet to be ruled out. There was a video that surfaced of him making cuts on the sideline at practice earlier this week but the tweet was later removed. As of Thursday evening, Gordon is trending in the wrong direction. Fortunately, the Chargers face the Swiss-cheese Cincinnati Bengals run defense that coughed up 218 yards and 2 TDs on the ground to the Broncos backfield last week. Between Ekeler and Jackson, I lean Ekeler. I trust Ekeler’s body of work this season and his ability as a pass catcher. Sure, Justin Jackson has earned more touches after flashing last week but he was only on the field for 23% of offensive snaps to Ekeler’s 77%. Even if Ekeler yields 10-15% snap share to Jackson, I still like the volume left for Ekeler. Ekeler is the safer play in PPR leagues and Jackson is the high-risk high-reward “swing for the fences” play. I trust Jeff Wilson and Jaylen Samuels over Jackson. The only scenario I see Jackson outscoring Ekeler is if the Chargers get up big early and lean on Jackson to close the game out. Allowing them to evaluate Jackson and rest Ekeler for a playoff run.
  • Spencer Ware- At least Ware was able to find the end zone last week, salvaging a sub-par outing against the Oakland Raiders. I understand the need to play Ware with multiple stars unavailable but I fear his matchup against the toughest run d in the league. Hopefully we can find solace in an Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes lead team. Given the opportunity as the lead dog in the leagues best offense, I still view Ware as a flex play with RB2 upside against the Baltimore Ravens. Does the signing of Charcandrick West speak to the Chiefs confidence in Ware’s pass catching abilities? This is worth keeping an eye on.
  • Gus Edwards and Ty Montgomery- The Baltimore Ravens have turned out 267-242-207 rushing yards over their last three games since Lamar Jackson took over for Joe Flacco. Edwards is operating as the lead back with 17-23-21 touches in those games. Temper you expectations for Edwards this week. Kenneth Dixon returned from injury and Ty Montgomery has planted himself as the passing down back. Edwards’ value is minimized in PPR leagues after recording zero targets since taking the starting job. Negative game script will haunt Edwards if the Ravens find themselves in a hole early against the record setting Patrick Mahomes. You will be begging him to fall in to the end zone like I am with Fournette in this Thursday night game. Yikes, the Jaguars have fallen off!
  • Quick Hits- Marlon Mack cleared concussion protocol but Nyheim Hines found 9 catches on 9 targets and dominated the snap share while the Colts struggled to find offense. I’m not starting Hines this week unless desperate but he deserves a spot on your bench.  Joe Mixon was limited this week in practice, but does not seem at risk of missing time. Giovani Bernard is a pure handcuff play, keep an eye on Fridays final injury/practice report. Kerryon Johnson has missed practice everyday this week. A near 50-50 split between Theo Riddick and LeGarrette Blount last week, I still like Riddick in PPR leagues over Blount. I hope you do not have to rely on either for your first round playoff game even though we have a decent matchup against the Cardinals. Carlos Hyde and TJ Yeldon might not be worth a bench spot even as a handcuff. I do not want any part of this Jacksonville offense after last nights performance. Chris Carson popped up on the injury report with a dislocated finger but everything points to him being ready for Sunday. I will take Rashaad Penny first followed by Mike Davis, as the handcuffs to own in Seattle. Isaiah Crowell missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, he is looking doubtful for this weekend. Elijah McGuire will be the lead back for the Jets and is a desperation flex play that I am avoiding, if possible.

New Offenders

  • Jaylen Samuels and Steven Ridley- What has not been covered about Samuels and Ridley this week? I rank the top RB handcuffs this week in the following order: Jeff Wilson-Austin Ekeler-Jaylen Samuels-Spencer Ware-Justin Jackson-Steven Ridley. I put Gus Edwards behind Samuels and in front of Ware based on his matchup. If you are in a yahoo league, fire up Samuels in your TE spot if you do not own Zach Ertz, Tracis Kelce or Eric Ebron. Samuels, himself, came out this week stating he will split time with Ridley. This is a cause for concern because we just don’t know how this will play out on Sunday. Will Ridley get the goal line work? The early down work? OR Will Samuels lead this backfield in carries and receptions? I like Samuels versatility as both a runner and pass catcher. I am confident he will finish with more targets/catches than Ridley, which bodes well in PPR leagues. Samuels can be moved around the offense and lineup at multiple position, RB/TE/WR. In PPR formats I like Samuels as middle of the pack to low-end RB 2 with a nice matchup against the Raiders.

Other Notable Handcuffs

Starter Handcuff
Todd Gurley John Kelly
Ezekiel Elliot Rod Smith
Saquon Barkley Wayne Gallman
David Johnson Chase Edmonds
Lamar Miller Alfred Blue (D’Onta Foreman- speculative add)
Phillip Lindsay Royce Freeman
Christian McCaffrey Camero Artis-Payne
LeSean McCoy Chris Ivory
Aaron Jones Jamaal Williams

Good luck this weekend, let me know if you are starting any of these handcuffs and if they help you win your game. As always, leave your comments below and follow me on twitter for updates on your handcuffs.