Are you into handcuffs in fantasy football? They’re not for everyone, but they are quickly becoming a dominant trend in Week 2.
An injury to the left knee of Devonta Freeman — the same balky knee that forced him to miss two games in the thick of a playoff chase last season — will sideline the NFL’s highest-paid running back drafted prior to 2015. That means Tevin Coleman enters a prime opportunity not only to get Atlanta off the schneid when the Panthers claw their way into town Sunday but find a new gear early on in his contract season as he seeks his own big payday.
In the three games that Freeman has missed over the past three seasons, Coleman has finished as fantasy’s RB11, RB16 and RB4, with an average of 19 touches, 88 yards and 1 touchdown. Many would argue Coleman is a better receiving back than Freeman — he’s averaged over four yards more per grab and has one less touchdown than Freeman on 135 fewer catches.
The Panthers stifled the Cowboys in Week 1 and generally play terrific ‘D,’ but they were more susceptible to backs through the air than on the ground last season. Coleman, who opened the week as our RB21 with Freeman’s status up in the air, will get a nice little boost, likely into the high-end RB2 neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Leonard Fournette’s hamstring injury forced him to miss all three practices in Week 2 and led to a questionable designation. It sounds like he’ll be a game-time decision, but T.J. Yeldon filled in ably in New York in Week 1 with 69 total yards and a touchdown on 17 touches. Yeldon averaged 12 carries for 70 yards with one score in three Fournette-less games last season, when Corey Grant also sprinkled in 21 combined touches for 123 total yards and a touchdown.
The Patriots come to Jacksonville after letting Lamar Miller average nearly 5 yards per rush a week ago and ranking 31st in Football Outsiders’ DVOA vs. the run last season.
Yeldon, too, is in a contract season and should have a chip on his shoulder after seeing Grant sign a $2.9 million one-year restricted tender in the offseason — nearly half of Yeldon’s total over the life of his four-year deal. If Fournette can’t go, Yeldon, currently our RB26, should head safely into the RB2-sphere this weekend.
One more handcuff situation to keep tabs on involves one of our favorite 2018 sleepers, Eagles RB Corey Clement. He saw Darren Sproles essentially slide back into the role Clement so capably filled as an undrafted rookie, upon Sproles’ return from 2017 ACL surgery in Week 1.
Sproles was ruled out for Sunday’s road game against the Bucs, who had no answers for Alvin Kamara (who does?) as a receiver in the opener. Clement, then, could make for an interesting dice throw, even after Jay Ajayi was removed from the injury report on the heels of his impressive 15-62-2 rushing debut that didn’t see him garner a touch until the second quarter.
The Eagles are enamored with Clement, who spent his offseason tethered to Sproles and showing that his increasingly valuable role down the stretch for the Super Bowl champs wasn’t an aberration. And once again opportunity is knocking for the Eagles in an early almost-must-win situation against a Bucs club riding high on the strength of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career day.