Most leagues are just 3 weeks away from the fantasy playoffs and everyone wants to stash a potential league winner. Every year a starting running back gets injured or benched, and the back-up steps in and has fantasy success. Two years ago it wasn't until week 12 when David Johnson burst onto the scene scoring 7 touchdowns from weeks 12-16. Many owners scooped Johnson up from the wire and rode him to a fantasy championship. I'm going to talk about some running back handcuffs who could be playoff stars if the opportunity happens to arise.
Ivory is an obvious handcuff lotto ticket for multiple reasons. For one, we've seen what this guy is capable of at the NFL level already. While he isn't going to set the league on fire, he can be a consistent fantasy contributor like he was on the Jets during the 2014 & 2015 seasons. He struggled with Jacksonville last year, but that can mostly be attributed to poor offensive line play. Over the off-season, the Jaguars improved their line and have been a top run blocking line this season (when all 5 starters have been healthy).
What really makes Ivory valuable is current starter Leonard Fournette's injury history. Fournette suffered ankle injuries which limited him throughout college. In his first year in the NFL, ankle injuries have resurfaced and are limiting him again as we saw in the Chargers game last week. If Fournette continues to play banged up, Ivory could potentially have flex value even with both of them on the field. If Fournette were to go down, I wouldn't worry about T.J. Yeldon as he would be the 3rd down back and would not cut into Ivory's workload. The Jaguars defense is elite which means the lead back is tasked with running out the clock as well as receiving multiple goal-line opportunities along the way. This current situation makes Ivory the top RB handcuff lotto ticket and should be owned in all leagues.
Tarik Cohen's college tape is quite impressive but he wasn't hyped much this past draft season due to his height, weight, and small school attendance. After going undrafted in many leagues, Cohen exploded to start the season. Everyone proceeded to burn top waiver claims and dump tons of FAAB to acquire the rookie breakout. Unfortunately, as the season progressed, Jordan Howard re-emerged and reminded us of his rookie performance from a year ago.
As Howard re-established himself as the lead back in Chicago, Cohen took a back seat. The Bears tried to utilize Cohen as a 3rd down back but he's struggled in protection and Benny Cunningham has taken over that role. With the limited touches Tarik Cohen has had, he most likely landed back to where he started the season - the waiver wire. For those of you who like to stash rb handcuff lotto tickets, I recommend Cohen. If Howard were to go down, Cohen has shown he can be successful on 1st & 2nd down. I'f you haven't seen his college highlights yet I urge you to take a look below:
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Austin Ekeler's another small school guy with great college tape. After going undrafted in the 2017 NFL draft, he found a spot on the Chargers roster and has maximized output on his limited opportunities. Ekeler had a big game against the Jaguars last week with not 1 but 2 receiving touchdowns. This performance most likely prompted many to scoop him up from the wire this week. Unfortunately for Ekeler, Melvin Gordon is still the lead back and the most talented one of that backfield. To this point, Ekeler has 0 goal line carries and only 3 red zone touches on the season. If he fails to score this week, many owners will send him back to the wire for next weeks new flash in the pan.
Ekeler has shown a lot in his limited touches rushing for 5 yards per carry and 3 yards after contact per carry. On top of these superb stats, he has passed the eye test making quick decisions when hitting the hole. His usage will continue to grow and could potentially have stand alone value even with Gordon present as the lead back. If Gordon were to go down, Ekeler should have no problem putting up RB1 fantasy numbers on a weekly basis. If Austin Ekeler is still on your waiver wire, I would scoop him up before this Sunday's match-up with the Bills. If he's currently owned in your league, it wouldn't be a bad idea to float some trade offers involving a player in which you plan to never start down the stretch and see if you get lucky. Here are some 2016 Ekeler highlights from Western State:
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