There are some NFL backfields with two fantasy-relevant running backs who have standalone value in fantasy football even if both RBs stay healthy.
And there are other backfields that feature a backup who doesn’t offer much standalone value but is still a must-roster player due to the workload he’d assume if the starter went down. That’s a handcuff running back, or an insurance running back, and these are five of the top candidates you should consider this season.
Mike Davis behind J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Once he’s healthy, Dobbins is a candidate to have a big year. Dobbins (ACL) has an uncertain status for Week 1, though, and Baltimore brought in Kenyan Drake to add more depth to the backfield. Drake might also be worth stashing if you draft Dobbins, but Davis proved in 2020 he can be a valuable handcuff. When Christian McCaffrey went down that season, Davis totaled 1,015 yards from scrimmage and scored eight touchdowns in 15 games (12 starts). Davis should be a late-round target for fantasy managers who draft Dobbins.
D'Onta Foreman behind Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
After a solid preseason, Foreman appears to have jumped Chuba Hubbard on the Panthers’ depth chart, making him an important insurance back if anything happens to CMC. McCaffrey has missed double-digit games in each of the last two seasons, and Foreman proved to be a capable injury fill-in with the Tennessee Titans last year, rushing 133 times for 566 yards and three touchdowns in nine games (three starts).
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Eno Benjamin behind James Conner, Arizona Cardinals
Conner was a fantasy darling last season and, if he stays healthy, should have another productive season this year. Unfortunately, Conner has missed at least two games due to injury in each of the last five seasons. Benjamin’s not a flashy name, but he’d have a huge volume opportunity if anything happens to Conner during the season.
Mark Ingram behind Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Ingram is getting older (32), but the Saints trust him and he would inherit a heavy workload if Kamara misses any games this year (he missed four games last season) via injury or a possible but exceedingly unlikely suspension. New Orleans also features RBs in the passing game, improving Ingram’s PPR value. Ingram looked good in preseason, and he should be a late-round add for Kamara owners.
Alexander Mattison behind Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Like the other RBs on this list, Mattison doesn’t have much (if any) standalone value when his team’s primary running back is healthy. Mattison does have tremendous upside when he does get on the field, though. He has been extremely productive every time the Vikings have featured him, and Cook has missed at least two games every year he’s been in the NFL, including four games last season. Mattison is the top handcuff in fantasy, and he’s worth rostering even if you don’t draft Cook.