Running Back Handcuffs To Stash On Your Bench in 2021

by Jessie Dombrowski · Sleepers

Having running back handcuffs stashed on your fantasy football bench can be the difference between a winning and losing season, especially during the playoffs. In 2021, I know that I will not be leaving my drafts without at least two. Last season, my fantasy championship run was derailed by Christian McCaffrey and Joe Mixon. Unfortunately, I was unable to grab Mike Davis or Giovani Bernard quickly enough and was stuck with a nightmare at the running back position. Thus, I am on the hunt for 2021’s best handcuffs, so that no one will end up this season like I did last year. If there is one thing fantasy owners learned during the 2021 season, it is that injuries can derail even the best teams.

Getting these guys during your drafts will eliminate the stress of trying to fight with your leaguemates for them or others on the wavier wire. In addition, with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the possibility of unvaccinated players, there is a serious case to having multiple handcuffs on your bench in case any top backs get sick.


Here are three players that are high-end handcuffs who PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats and peg as potential RB1s

A.J. Dillon

A.J. Dillon is one of my favorite backups in the league. He has an incredible amount of upside and showed glimpses of greatness when he did see opportunity in 2020. Take Week 16 against the Titans, where he had 21 carries for 129 yards, good for the week’s RB6 performance. Some nay-sayers might say this performance is a wash because it was not against a top-tier defense. However, this still proves that he can shine bright when given the opportunity to do so.

There is even potential for Dillon to have flex value in deep leagues since Matt LeFleur loves to use his running backs in the passing game. In 2020, Jamaal Williams had 31 (No. 28 among qualified running backs) receptions and Aaron Jones had 46 (No. 12). This is KEY since only one of these backs is still in Green Bay. With Dillon having the No. 18 rank in Expected Points Added (EPA), his upside is worth taking up a spot on your bench in 2021. Not to mention that he has some of the biggest quads I have ever seen. 

I mean…seriously? How can you not love the kid? An extra bonus to Dillon’s value is that his current dynasty ranking is No. 101, and his Underdog Best Ball ADP is 115.4. Do yourself a favor and draft A.J. Dillon in 2021.


Tony Pollard

I am ALL in on Tony Pollard in 2021. His upside is through the roof, and in a high-scoring offense like Dallas, he has the opportunity to thrive. Last year, Ezekiel Elliott played 15 games and was incredibly disappointing for fantasy to say the least. After Dak Prescott went down in Week 5, Elliott went from being a top five running back to barely entering the top 10. In the game he missed, Pollard absolutely KILLED it, putting up 132 rushing yards and scoring two touchdowns. Consider that Pollard put up these amazing numbers with Andy Dalton as his quarterback. Who knows what his numbers would have been like if Prescott had played in that game.

While it is a small sample size, it shows that when given the opportunity over Elliott, Pollard can ball out. Moreover, he averaged 1.54 (No. 14) Yards Created Per Touch, while Elliott averaged 1.12 (No. 40). It does not help Elliott’s case that he fumbled the ball six times and was completely unreliable down the stretch.

It is clear that injuries can never be predicted in the NFL. However, it is also clear that if anything happens to Elliott in 2021, Pollard is an immediate RB1, according to most simulations. Furthermore, he has serious potential to win fantasy leagues if Elliott misses time. And while it is hard to say how much true opportunity he will have while Zeke IS healthy, his ability to create big plays and score high in fantasy makes him a high-end handcuff in 2021.

Darrel Williams

It may be considered going out on a limb to say that Darrel Williams is a sleeper bench stash, but I have a good feeling about him. It’s no surprise that for a list like this I chose a backup on the best offense in the NFL, but Williams has real potential to make or break your fantasy season.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire had all the hype last year and was being taken in the first round in almost every fantasy league. These expectations were not met, and he was a letdown. During the playoffs, Williams was a much-needed safety net for CEH coming off his injury, and we saw him get good usage against the Browns and the Bills.

While It is hard to say what Williams’s role will be in 2021 other than strictly a backup, I think there is a huge cheap appeal to him. With the Chiefs having a 2.27 (No. 12) Pace of Play average last year, and despite Snap Share and Opportunity Share marks around or outside the top 80 RBs, he drew 26 (No. 45) targets. I would consider that relatively high for an offense with as many weapons as Kansas City. Fantasy managers that are in deep leagues need to keep Williams on their radars for a late-round pickup. He might surprise you, especially if CEH goes down at any point next season.

Closing Thoughts

Other sleepers that I would consider for your bench include Darrell Henderson, Latavius Murray, Nyheim Hines, and Tarik Cohen. All four of these players are unique in their own ways and have tremendous upside. Why not take a chance on someone underrated, because at the end of the day, anything can happen in fantasy football right?