When selecting handcuffs in the late rounds, there are two things to look for: talent and opportunity. When I talk about talent, I want someone who is able to make an impact once given the opportunity. Players who have a history of past production, either in college or the NFL, that indicates that they solid chance to perform at a high level.
When discussing opportunity, I want players who are in an offense that scores a lot of points. Of equal importance, is targeting players who will receive feature back touches if there’s an injury. I don’t want the backups to Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill because it’s a role that’s split no matter which backs are healthy. The Carolina Panthers backfield is another example of a handcuff wasteland.
Here are three running backs that fit the ideal criterion that I am looking for:
Average Draft Position (ADP) reflects where each player is being drafted on FantasyFootballCalculator.com.
Knile Davis, ADP: 14.02
Few match the talent and opportunity situation of Knile Davis and somehow, he’s being taken in the 14th round of mocks. The Intersect touched on this recently, explaining Five Reasons Why You Need To Own Knile Davis. Not only is he freakishly athletic but he also backs up the running back with arguably the best job in fantasy football. Andy Reid’s offensive scheme has a history of making running backs look good.
In fact, Knile Davis had two chances to start last season. First when the Chiefs benched Charles in Week 17 and then when Charles was concussed at the beginning of their Wild Card game against the Colts. He did not disappoint.
As a player that needs one injury to be elevated RB1 status, Knile Davis presents a strong draft day value.
Chris Polk, ADP: Undrafted
While Darren Sproles is being drafted with the 9th pick of the 7th round, Chris Polk is not being drafted. Some may want to call Sproles LeSean McCoy’s handcuff, but it’s unlikely that he’d receive a lot of carries even in the event of a McCoy injury. He’s 31 years old and hasn’t received more than 93 carries in a season.
Polk is the traditional back that would see a large bump in playing time. He earned his job by being extremely efficient in a small sample last year. He only received 11 carries but rushed for 98 yards (8.9 YPC). In the receiving game, he caught just four passes but gained 61 yards (15.3 YPR). His performance even made the talented Bryce Brown expendable in Chip Kelly’s eyes.
The starting running back in Kelly’s offense should arguably be the most sought-after position in fantasy football. One injury away from having a big role, Chris Polk should be drafted in every league.
Ka’Deem Carey, ADP: Undrafted
Despite dominating at the college level, Ka’Deem Carey struggled at the combine and fell to the Bears in the 4th round. The Bears are an ideal situation for a handcuff: Marc Trestman runs an efficient offense that utilizes one back, Matt Forte (who has a history of lower-body injuries) will turn 29 years old this season, and the Bears’ scheme targets the running back position heavily.
Last season, this offensive scheme led to Matt Forte finishing as the No. 2 PPR running back – the best fantasy season of his career. While I’d never question Forte’s talent, a lot of the success has to do with Trestman’s offense scheme. In the event of a Forte injury, Carey would be in line for a monster workload.
Over his last two seasons at the University of Arizona, Carey rushed 652 times for 3,814 yards (5.85 YPC) and displayed soft hands in the passing game. He also added 44 total touchdowns. With one injury, Carey could have an enormous fantasy impact this season.