Given the rate at which injuries strike the running back position, knowing who's next in line for carries is critical for fantasy owners.
Not all backups are created equal, and while the league-winning potential for players like Jaylen Samuels and Latavius Murray may be obvious, there are many handcuffs who aren't getting the respect they deserve in fantasy drafts.
Here's a look at 14 backups who have top-15 upside if their team's starter is sidelined, with notes on all 32 backfields below.
|James Conner||Jaylen Samuels|
While the Steelers have talked up a committee approach, beat writers aren't buying it. That makes Samuels an overqualified backup. In the three games where Samuels saw at least 15 touches last season, he placed as the RB11 in PPR formats.
|Alvin Kamara||Latavius Murray|
Murray doesn't really qualify as a handcuff since he'll have standalone value even with Kamara on the field. He'll flirt with top-30 fantasy numbers in Mark Ingram's old role and would instantly vault into the top 12 if Kamara has to sit for any reason.
|Damien Williams||Darwin Thompson|
The Chiefs' running back-friendly system produces fantasy stars. It transformed Williams from career backup to late-season hero. Now, Williams enters the year as the clear starter, but if he struggles or is sidelined, Thompson could have a similar second-half surge. The rookie boasts a versatile skill set, which he's displayed in the preseason while catching passes, running between tackles, and powerfully taking on would-be tacklers.
|Sony Michel||Damien Harris|
Harris' landing spot and draft capital make him a very intriguing option. Michel's previous injuries have the fantasy community questioning his durability. It also might explain why New England used a third-round pick on Harris, just one year after drafting Michel in Round 1. The Patriots will continue to lean on the run as Tom Brady's career winds down, creating significant touchdown upside on the ground. Harris will be the next man up if Michel can't stay on the field, with James White handling passing-down duties.
|Dalvin Cook||Alexander Mattison|
The Vikings' shift toward a run-heavy approach began late last year and was further choreographed by offensive adviser Gary Kubiak upon his arrival. With Cook's injury history - he missed 17 games over two seasons - fantasy owners need to become familiar with his new backup. Mattison, a surprise pick at the end of the third round, stood out against weaker competition in college, and while he doesn't offer elite talent, he has enough in his toolbox to produce in this scheme.
|Chris Carson||Rashaad Penny|
Carson and Penny are more of a one-two punch heading into their second season together. The Seahawks led the league in rushing attempts last year and will challenge for that honor again in 2019, which could make both backs fantasy starters. However, an injury to Carson would turn Penny into a top-10 option.
|Tevin Coleman||Matt Breida|
Coleman is the lead back in Kyle Shanahan's system, but with Jerick McKinnon's availability up in the air, Breida is now entrenched as the immediate backup. Like Penny, Breida will offer weekly value while also providing massive upside if Coleman goes down. Though his ADP is rising, Breida is still a steal in the ninth or 10th rounds.
|Mark Ingram||Justice Hill|
Ingram is the man in Baltimore with the Hill set to spell him. The rookie has flashed in the preseason, showing a propensity to break tackles. No team rushed the ball more than the Ravens once Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback, so Hill will be in consideration as a flex. Last year's fantasy darling Gus Edwards will need an injury to Ingram to get back into the lineup.
|Ezekiel Elliott||Tony Pollard|
If Elliott ends his holdout, Pollard is clearly the immediate backup in Dallas. Pollard has been the Cowboys' best bargaining chip with Zeke, as the rookie has racked up yards with the first-team offense all preseason. If Elliott continues to sit out, Pollard will be in the conversation as an RB2 in fantasy.
|Todd Gurley||Darrell Henderson|
Gurley's workload will be reduced in 2019, turning him into more of a low-end RB1 in fantasy while instantly creating a role for Henderson. If Gurley's knee causes him to miss time, Henderson and Brown would share duties in one of the league's top rushing attacks. Don't be afraid to draft either just to see how this situation plays out.
|Joe Mixon||Giovani Bernard|
Bernard is one of the league's most reliable replacements, delivering borderline RB1 numbers whenever Cincy's lead back has missed time. Bernard racked up 182 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in his two starts last season. This could be his final run with the Bengals as he heads into a contract year.
|David Johnson||Chase Edmonds|
Edmonds has impressed head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who said he expects a "really nice role" for the sophomore back. Still, it's unlikely Edmonds makes any real impact on Johnson's touches. Edmonds did show enough as a rookie for fantasy owners to stash him with confidence in the event he's thrust into a bigger role due to an injury. The Cardinals' new high-volume attack should benefit their running backs just as much as their receivers.
|David Montgomery||Mike Davis|
Davis' comments since signing in Chicago suggest he believes he'll get regular work with his new club. However, the Bears used a third-round selection on Montgomery, who profiles as a three-down option, and dynamic pass-catching threat Tarik Cohen isn't going to be completely phased out anytime soon. On the plus side for Davis, his all-around skill set allows him to serve as the backup to both Montgomery and Cohen, giving him two paths to fantasy relevance in 2019.
|Kerryon Johnson||C.J. Anderson|
Similar to the division rival Vikings, Detroit has announced its intention to power the offense with the run, which started last season and progressed with the hiring of coordinator Darrell Bevell. Anderson proved he can still make a difference after the Rams signed him as Gurley insurance in December. The veteran had at least 123 rushing yards and a score in three straight games before Gurley returned to the lineup. The Lions' attack isn't nearly as prolific as Los Angeles' and their offensive line won't be opening the same kind of holes, but Anderson needs to be owned in case he's called upon again as an emergency starter.