Running Back Handcuffs with Standalone Fantasy Value

by Tyler Strong ·

Zero RB is dead, so they say. The upper echelon running backs dominate the first round of fantasy drafts and only Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, and ocassionally Travis Kelce are capable of bursting into the first twelve picks. On the contrary, Zero RB and the equally popular Modified Zero RB experienced historically bad years in 2019 and are primed for comebacks in 2020. These “handcuff” backs, both in reputation and ADP standing, represent some of the highest-upside selections in the middle to later rounds. All are capable of operating as an RB1 if given the opportunity, and all can have standalone fantasy value. Let’s use PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats, metrics, and analytics to pinpoint the high value handcuffs in the dead heat of summer.

Kareem Hunt

The league rushing champion as a rookie in 2017 can now be found as the RB27 per FFPC ADP. Now operating as part of the best running back duo in football, Kareem Hunt completely took over receiving back duties in Cleveland in the back half of 2019.

The investments on offensive line and a new coach in Kevin Stefanski who funnels the offense through the running backs are green lights. As are Hunt having a better Catch Rate and averaging more Yards per Touch than Chubb. There have even been whispers that he will operate more as a receiver in 12-personnel. That’s all gravy. Even with all this upside, there’s a small chance he is dangled as a trade chip mid-season, which would likely see him enter an even more valuable role as a team’s clear RB1. There are too many avenues for Hunt to outperform ADP. He makes a great first RB to target after smashing wide receivers in the early-to-mid rounds.

Trayveon Williams

I’ve just had a vision. It’s Joe Mixon going down with injury and Trayveon Williams being inserted immediately into an upward-trending offense with a quarterback that targeted his running backs 55 times last year. Williams’ rookie year was derailed by preseason foot sprain in what was already a disaster season for the Cincinnati Bengals. No wonder he couldnt’ get any run on a team that seemingly packed it in by Week 4.

Check out Trayveon Williams’ 2020 Projection on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:

Williams’ FFPC ADP right now falls outside the first 330 picks. We know who Giovani Bernard is, and he’s not reaching RB1 status if Mixon is compromised. Williams ran for 1,760 yards as a senior at Texas A&M in 2018. He drew an 8.8 (65th-percentile among qualified running backs) Target Share throughout his college career. It’s a picture perfect profile for a cheap, cheap player with upside on a shallow depth chart. Come on. He’s free.

Chase Edmonds & Eno Benjamin

Kenyan Drake took the fantasy world by storm after David Johnson gave up the ghost last season. Are we sure it’s not just stolen valor from Chase Edmonds? After Johnson went down in Week 6, Edmonds went nuclear in Week 7 for 35 fantasy points. He then was injured himself and the team brought Drake in. If Edmonds doesn’t get hurt,¬†Drake isn’t even on the team.

Chase Edmonds Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Drake performed well, but has a small sample size as a lead dog and was buoyed by touchdown variance down the stretch. In fact, Edmonds outperformed Drake in True Yards per Carry, Yards per Touch, Breakaway Run Rate, basically everything. The two players should be closer in ADP (RB9 vs RB50) based on their similarity in skill. One player benefits from recency bias, and the other had an unfortunately timed injury. I’ll take Edmonds at the discount every time.

Eno Benjamin deserves mention in this spot too. Outside the top 70 RBs via FFPC ADP, he’s bascially free. In any other running back draft class, he would’ve been selected much higher than the seventh round. With an athletic profile and workhorse history in college, including a 14.4-percent (92nd-percentile) College Target Share, Benjamin is free money.