As the impact of running backs was diminished around the NFL, and thus in fantasy football, drafting your top running back’s primary backup (his “handcuff”) became a less viable strategy. But the running back came back in 2017, with the position accounting for three of the top four and five of the top 11 scorers in ESPN fantasy leagues (default PPR scoring).

For those who draft a top-tier running back in leagues with 12 or more teams this year, securing his backup with a late draft pick or auction dollar for a little injury insurance will be firmly on the radar.

So here’s a who’s-who guide to handcuffs for the top-ranked running backs this year, in some order. Where it seemed applicable, I added a second option who could be on the radar in some situations.

Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams
Handcuff: 
Malcolm Brown
Handcuff #2: John Kelly

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Handcuff: Rod Smith
Handcuff #2: Bo Scarbrough

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Handcuff:
 James Conner

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Handcuff:
 Jonathan Stewart

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
Handcuff: Chase Edmonds

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
Handcuff: Trey Edmunds/Jonathan Williams/Terrance West
Note: Mark Ingram is suspended for the first four games, but the strict Week 1-4 backup to Kamara, if one emerges, could a viable handcuff option in very deep leagues.

Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs
Handcuff:
Charcandrick West
Handcuff 2: Spencer Ware

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
Handcuff: T.J. Yeldon
Handcuff #2:
Corey Grant

Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers
Handcuff:
Austin Ekeler
Handcuff #2:
Justin Jackson

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
Handcuff:
Latavius Murray

LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
Handcuff: Chris Ivory

In the mold of Ingram-to-Kamara, leaving Ingram’s suspension aside, Tevin Coleman, Tarik Cohen, Latavius Murray, C.J. Anderson, Jonathan Stewart, Giovani Bernard and Matt Breida have at least the potential for standalone value. So they don’t fit the mold of a strict handcuff to a back that’s likely to go off the board in the first couple rounds of a draft. But pairing Devonta Freeman with Coleman, Jordan Howard with Cohen or Jerick McKinnon with Breida, as examples, is not a ridiculous notion in drafts and auctions as the running back ranks thin.

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