We all know the running back position comes with a lack of job security when it comes to fantasy football. A number of different variables can determine a shift in the pecking order on a team’s depth chart. Whether it’s an injury, a lack of production, or a team’s losing streak – it’s imperative that fantasy owners have a keen eye for some of the league’s next-ups in running backs. Without further adieu, here’s some of the most intriguing handcuffs for 2017.
Fresh off his Junior year at Alabama, Derrick Henry amassed over 2,200 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns en route to a Heisman trophy. Wasting no time in transitioning to life in the NFL, Henry spent his rookie season spelling DeMarco Murray in a relief role and posted a solid 110-490-5 line to go along with a 4.5 yards per carry average. While Murray returns as the starter after a reinvigorating 2016 campaign, where he rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns, there’s no denying Henry’s talent and skill set. Henry was a punishing rusher during his rookie season and was no slouch in the passing game either.
The ‘Bama product has already been a stand out at training camp, causing Titans’ beat reporters to gush over the possibility of an increased role, as a complement to Murray. A big bonus to Henry’s potential is the fact the Titans feature two absolute maulers at the tackle position, in Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin. Henry has rightfully carved out a role in the Titans offense and given the fact Murray turned 29 in February, you never know how the Tennessee backfield could play out in 2017. Henry should be squarely entrenched at the top of the list when it comes to RB handcuffs.
It wasn’t shocking when Kyle Shanahan integrated Tevin Coleman more into the Atlanta offense last season. Coleman gave the Falcons everything they could hope for in a role slated behind incumbent starter, Devonta Freeman. T-Cole fit-in perfectly as a pass-catcher in Shanahan’s spread offense, hauling in 31 of his 40 targets for 421 yards and three TDs. He also quietly evolved into one of the better goal line backs in football, as he ripped off eight rushing TDs. With Shanahan now in San Francisco, Falcons fans can rest assured new OC Steve Sarkisian understands the importance of getting both backs involved in the offense. Coleman will maintain standalone flex value and could force the Falcons to go with a hot-hand approach at RB if he continues to impress in his third-year.
When the Lions drafted Ameer Abdullah in 2015, they figured to have a franchise cornerstone at the running back position moving forward. Two years later and that sentiment still remains up in the air. Abdullah played in just two games last season before being placed on season-ending I.R. with a lisfranc tear. Theo Riddick picked up the slack in Abdullah’s stead, doing what he does best: catching the football. After hauling in 80 receptions across 16 games in 2015, Riddick remained a focal point in the Detroit passing game last season, recording 53 receptions in 10 games – to go along with five receiving TDs. While he’s not a reliable source for 15 + carries a game, he’ll always be an intriguing back who has solidified an important role in the Motown offense. With Abdullah remaining a big question-mark, one could argue Riddick is the most reliable back on the Lions roster.
Let me start with a full disclaimer: this one is more of a sleeper obsession. That said, I wouldn’t be shocked if Jamaal Williams catapulted off this list and was the starter in Green Bay. That might sound ridiculous for a team as talented as the Green Bay Packers to start a rookie they drafted in the fourth-round, but there’s a lot to like with this situation. Williams was a juggernaut for BYU last year in college, totaling 1,375 rushing yards and seven TDs in just 10 games.
By all reports from Packers training camp, he has looked the part, applying some pressure to Ty Montgomery’s grip on the starting gig. As we know, Montgomery was converted from wide receiver to running back last season, which makes it difficult to comfortably believe Montgomery will last the whole year as the premier back on the Packers roster. Considering some of Montgomery’s shortcomings in pass-protection, don’t be surprised to see a changing of the guard if those troubles carry over to the regular season and he struggles to find running lanes early in the year. By all indications, Williams is shaping up to be a rather savvy pickup in the latter rounds of drafts.