The third week of the preseason is in the books and a lot has changed from our initial running back depth chart projections. Real-life action, and of course injuries have changed the landscape considerably. James Koh (follow him on Twitter) gives you the quick skinny on how running back depth charts are shaping up for all 32 teams with his Handcuff Cheatsheet 2.0. His full color-coded chart is below:.
Last updated: August 29th
Editor's note: This is organized alphabetically by team name, not city because James Koh marches to the beat of his own drum.
San Francisco 49ers
Projected Starter: Carlos Hyde
Handcuff: Matt Breida
Dark horse/PPR Option: Joe Williams
Forgot the offseason noise, Hyde is shredded and has looked fantastic in Shanny's scheme. He looks to be the bell cow. As a handcuff, Matt Breida has emerged as the guy after bypassing fellow rookie Joe Williams. A 5-foot-9, 195 pound back out of Georgia Southern, Breida is an awesome athlete posting a 4.39 40-yard dash and a ridiculous 42-inch vertical at his pro day.
Projected Starter: Jordan Howard
Handcuff: Tarik Cohen
Dark horse/PPR Option: Jeremy Langford
Cohen has been an absolute stud during the preseason, living up to his "Human Joystick" moniker despite going from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to the pros. He's looked explosive in the pass game, which was expected, but has also looked solid as a ball-carrier in spite of his diminutive size. Cohen is worth a super-late pick.
Projected Starter: Jeremy Hill
Handcuff: Joe Mixon
Dark horse/PPR Option: Giovani Bernard
Mixon could out-touch Hill despite being a "backup." That being said, if everyone stays healthy it's hard to see Mixon paying off his top-40 price. Hill will at the very least see goal line work, while Gio will see some passing down usage. Also, interesting note from Cincinnati.com, Hill apparently suffered a significant shoulder injury in Week 4 last year that he and the team kept pretty quiet. Hill had a woeful 2.6 yards per carry average after the injury. Before the injury? Hill averaged 5.4.
Projected Starter: LeSean McCoy
Handcuff: Jonathan Williams
Dark horse/PPR Option: Mike Tolbert
Jonathan Williams is the nominal backup but reports have indicated he and Mike Tolbert have split reps. Ball security continues to be an area of concern and some camp observations have painted an inconsistent picture of Williams in terms of decisiveness in a new offense. Meanwhile, Tolbert has a history with Sean McDermott from their days in Carolina.
Projected Starter: C.J. Anderson
Handcuff: Jamaal Charles
Dark horse/PPR Option: De'Angelo Henderson
In Denver's third preseason game, Charles finally saw the field and looked quite spry. It's a small sample but we saw the explosive jump cuts he was known for in his prime. I don't mind taking a late-round dart throw at Charles. Henderson has had a great camp overall and is a name you should familiarize yourself with though he isn't draftable, as of yet.
Projected Starter: Isaiah Crowell
Handcuff: Matthew Dayes
Dark horse/PPR Option: Duke Johnson
George Atkinson was cut and Duke Johnson is doing a ton of work as a wide receiver. As a result Dayes is the de facto handcuff to Crowell. But Dayes at 5-foot-8, 205 pounds won't bowl you over and he doesn't have breakaway speed. Leave the North Carolina State rookie on the waiver wire for now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected Starter: Jacquizz Rodgers
Handcuff: Charles Sims
Dark horse/PPR Option: Peyton Barber
Doug Martin is suspended for the first three games of the regular season but has looked good in limited action in the preseason. Rodgers is the starter for now and Sims will see passing game work. Rookie Jeremy McNichols has not impressed coaches and thus, the fifth-round pick could be cut.
Projected Starter: David Johnson
Handcuff: Chris Johnson
Dark horse/PPR Option: Kerwynn Williams
The team re-signed Chris Johnson and essentially anointed him the backup (yes, that Chris Johnson and yes, for realsies). Meanwhile rookie T.J. Logan suffered a dislocated wrist and is out for the next few months.
Los Angeles Chargers
Projected Starter: Melvin Gordon
Handcuff: Branden Oliver
Dark horse/PPR Option: Kenjon Barner
By all accounts Melvin Gordon has looked good in camp, so draft with confidence. Branden Oliver appears to have reclaimed his role as the primary backup, having recovered well from the Achilles tear he suffered last preseason but isn't a draftable asset without a Gordon injury.
Kansas City Chiefs
Projected Starter: Kareem Hunt
Handcuff: Charcandrick West
Dark horse/PPR Option: C.J. Spiller
Spencer Ware reportedly has a torn PCL and is likely done for the season, meaning it's Hunt's backfield all the way. Given the skills and Andy Reid's history with producing top-flight fantasy RB's, Hunt is absolutely worth a top-40 pick.
Projected Starter: Frank Gore
Handcuff: Robert Turbin
Dark horse/PPR Option: Marlon Mack
The reports surrounding Robert Turbin continue to be solid and he's the handcuff to the 34-year-old Frank Gore. That being said, Mack has also had a good camp and has drawn praise as a pass blocker from head coach Chuck Pagano. That's significant because it could lead to consistent work as a passing-down option and given his explosive athleticism, it potentially opens the door to a bigger role down the road.
Projected Starter: Darren McFadden
Handcuff: Alfred Morris
Dark horse/PPR Option: Rod Smith
With Ezekiel Elliott facing a six-game suspension, Darren McFadden appears to be the starter. Before the Hall of Fame game there was a lot of digital ink spilled projecting Alfred Morris as a cut candidate. Ever since, Morris has continued to play well. Given McFadden's injury history, Morris is a name you need to keep handy.
Projected Starter: Jay Ajayi
Handcuff: Kenyan Drake
Dark horse/PPR Option: Damien Williams
Jay Ajayi missed a week of practice in early August with a concussion and while he was out, it was Kenyan Drake, not Damien Williams, getting first-team reps in the team's base packages while Williams got in for passing-down work. Should something happen to Ajayi, Drake is your guy.
Projected Starter: LeGarrette Blount
Handcuff: Wendell Smallwood
Dark horse/PPR Option: Darren Sproles
LeGarrette Blount missed a few days of camp due to personal reasons, and in his stead Wendell Smallwood got first team reps and reportedly looked good. Then out of nowhere came rumors that Blount was a potential cut candidate. The reports were confusing and conflicting with what Doug Pederson was saying publicly so perhaps there's nothing to it. Sproles has value in PPR, take him in the double-digit rounds if it fancies you.
Projected Starter: Devonta Freeman
Handcuff: Tevin Coleman
Dark horse/PPR Option: Terron Ward
Remember my love for Wyoming rookie Brian Hill? Yeah, about that, he's apparently failed to separate himself from the pack and is fighting for a roster spot. Draft Freeman as you normally would, but you guys, chill on Coleman. Taking him with a top-80 pick, ahead of established names with bigger workloads, makes no sense.
New York Giants
Projected Starter: Paul Perkins
Handcuff: Orleans Darkwa
Dark horse/PPR Option: Shane Vereen
Believe it or not, Orleans Darkwa is having a great camp and splitting first team reps. I would move Perkins down your board significantly.
Projected Starter: Leonard Fournette
Handcuff: Chris Ivory
Dark horse/PPR Option: T.J. Yeldon
The Jaguars were so cute when they released their first unofficial depth chart, listing Leonard Fournette, Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon as co-co-co-starters. This is like, so adorbs. On the field, Fournette has looked like the real deal and during practices, reporters have remarked how good he has looked as a pass catcher. The foot injury is troubling, to say the least, but the team maintains L4 will be good to go Week 1.
New York Jets
Projected Starter: Matt Forte
Handcuff: Bilal Powell
Dark horse/PPR Option: Elijah McGuire
Realistically Matt Forte and Bilal Powell are projected to split the work about 50-50, that is if Forte is still on the roster. Both have had their moments in the preseason. In their game against the Giants, Powell exploded for 110 yards receiving on the strength of an 85-yard catch-and-run for score. Elijah McGuire, the smallish pass-catching rookie back out of LA-Lafayette, has had a good camp but isn't worth an add in fantasy.
Projected Starter: Ameer Abdullah
Handcuff: Zach Zenner
Dark horse/PPR Option: Theo Riddick
Abdullah (foot) finally got back on the field and when he did, he looked like his normal explosive self. Given how smooth he is in the pass game and given Riddick's injuries (double wrist surgery), it's entirely possible Abdullah emerges as an every-down option for the Lions. Zach Zenner had a good camp and looks to be the goal-line back and the handcuff to own should Abdullah suffer injury.
Green Bay Packers
Projected Starter: Ty Montgomery
Handcuff: Jamaal Williams
Dark horse/PPR Option: Aaron Jones
By all reports, Jamaal Williams has been terrific in camp and earned first-team reps, pushing Ty Montgomery, leading to much hand-wringing from those hoping for a Montgomery breakout. But in the team's preseason game versus the Broncos, the converted wide receiver looked powerful as a ball carrier helping to restore faith in his truthers. The injury concerns are real but I'll still buy the upside given the fourth-round price.
Projected Starter: Jonathan Stewart
Handcuff: Christian McCaffrey
Dark horse/PPR Option: Cameron Artis-Payne
Consider me a full convert. I've always loved the talent but questioned the volume. And given that Stewart is still the starter and Cam Newton himself poured a bunch of cold water on the whole "YOU GUYS, HE'S GOING TO RUN LESS!" narrative. I thought the top-30 cost was prohibitive. No longer. The route-running, the shiftiness, the smoothness in the run game; everything has been on display for McCaffery and I now believe that even with limited touches Run CMC could be a wildly productive.
New England Patriots
James White along with Dion Lewis were originally listed as first teamers with Burkhead on the second team. Burkhead popped up as having a good camp thus far, with one beat reporter going so far as to say "it appears Burkhead is on track to be the lead back." No one else is quite as bullish though and the expectation is Gillislee, Burkhead, Lewis and White will all have their moments depending on game script. Or not. Literally no one knows except for Bill Belichick.
Projected Starter: Marshawn Lynch
Handcuff: Jalen Richard
Dark horse/PPR Option: DeAndre Washington
By all accounts, Marshawn Lynch has looked engaged and rejuvenated in camp thus far. He's a guy that during his last few years in Seattle reportedly didn't go too hard during camp to preserve his body for the rigors of the regular season. Not so this year. It should also be noted that Jalen Richard was listed as the next man up followed by DeAndre Washington. I'm on record saying Richard is one of my favorite deep sleepers this year.
Los Angeles Rams
Projected Starter: Todd Gurley
Handcuff: Malcolm Brown
Dark horse/PPR Option: Justin Davis
One of the biggest disappointments in fantasy last year, Gurley could be in line to bounce-back given the rebuilt line, the new offensive scheme and potentially improved quarterback play. Lance Dunbar went down with a knee injury, making Malcolm Brown the clear handcuff but he's not worth a fantasy roster spot yet.
Projected Starter: Terrance West
Handcuff: Lorenzo Taliaferro
Dark horse/PPR Option: Danny Woodhead
Terrance West and Danny Woodhead are expected to split most of the snaps, even if West has the nominal "starting" gig. Woodhead in his last two healthy seasons has averaged 1062 scrimmage yards and 8.5 touchdowns to go along with 78 receptions. The Ravens, meanwhile, have pounded targets to the running backs, throwing 154 and 156 passes to backfield players the last two years. Seems like a good match. You can get Woodhead in the eighth or ninth round and at that price, I'll buy all day.
Projected Starter: Rob Kelley
Handcuff: Samaje Perine
Dark horse/PPR Option: Chris Thompson
Most assumed Perine would eventually win the starting gig but as the weeks have gone by, it's become abundantly clear it's Fat Rob's backfield to start the season. Perine's draft stock is in freefall, now coming off the board after pick 100 in more recent drafts, which is fine by me. As double-digit round pick, I'll draft and stash all day.
New Orleans Saints
Projected Starter: Mark Ingram
Handcuff: Adrian Peterson
Dark horse/PPR Option: Alvin Kamara
Ingram and Peterson have been splitting first-team reps thus far and both could block each other from having truly productive seasons. Kamara is a name to keep circled in PPR. He's looked downright dynamic at times and could fill the Darren Sproles role in the Saints offense.
Projected Starter: Thomas Rawls
Handcuff: Eddie Lacy
Dark horse/PPR Option: C.J. Prosise
This backfield screams "hot hand approach." Rawls was the projected starter and maybe he still will be, but Lacy looked quite powerful in the team's third preseason game against the Chiefs. A game in which Lacy started with Rawls nursing an ankle sprain. A name not listed here but one you should highlight with a giant fat marker is Chris Carson. In the same Chiefs game, Carson split carries with Lacy as he also ran with the first unit. A Mack truck out of Oklahoma State, Carson has played extremely well this offseason and is a deep sleeper I love.
Projected Starter: Le'Veon Bell
Handcuff: James Conner
Dark horse/PPR Option: Fitzgerald Toussaint
Don't worry about the missed camp time, Bell is top-two pick. Period. Rookie James Conner showed well statistically but has been up and down in real life. If Bell were to miss time, my gut reaction would be that the Steelers would employ a committee approach with Connor and Toussaint.
Projected Starter: Lamar Miller
Handcuff: D'Onta Foreman
Dark horse/PPR Option: Alfred Blue
There haven't necessarily been any negative reports surrounding Lamar Miller at camp, but there haven't been many positive reports either. Meanwhile, D'Onta Foreman has been a beast. At the very least Foreman will cap the ceiling for Miller, making the veteran's top-30 price tag a tough ask. Foreman inexplicably is going well after round 12 in most drafts. Take him and stash him for weeks on end if you must. If he ends up starting, Foreman could be a league-winner.
Projected Starter: DeMarco Murray
Handcuff: Derrick Henry
Dark horse/PPR Option: David Fluellen
The Tennessean described Henry as looking like a "star in the making." Most are expecting increased usage in 2017, which scares me off Murray a bit given his late-first, early-second round ADP. David Fluellen has reportedly had a terrific camp but is irrelevant for fantasy.
Projected Starter: Dalvin Cook
Handcuff: Latavius Murray
Dark horse/PPR Option: Jerick McKinnon
Latavius Murray finally got activated off the preseason PUP list recently but not before Dalvin Cook basically snatched the starting gig before a competition could even begin. The rookie has looked as advertised in the pass game and a capable runner between the tackles, as well.
HANDCUFF CHEAT SHEET CHART
Red = Volatile backfield / Starter could change weekly
Yellow = Clear starter in a commitee / Starting gig up for grabs
Green = Stable backfield / Clear lead back
**This is a projected depth chart and as such does not necessarily follow the unofficial depth charts released by the teams. Suspended players aren't listed. Don't like it? You're probably wrong but feel free to make your weak, uninformed arguments in the comments below. *
-- James Koh is the host of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast and an analyst on NFL Fantasy LIVE. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast!