Just a few months ago, DeAngelo Williams looked like a washed-up NFL vet. He hobbled to a career-worst 3.5 yards per carry while dealing with 4 injuries and missing 10 full games.
Then he signed with the Steelers, whose O-line ranked 9th in Pro Football Focus' run-blocking grades last year and 6th in Football Outsiders' adjusted line yards. (Carolina checked in 22nd and 27th, respectively.) And then came Le'Veon Bell's 3-game suspension.
Suddenly, Williams looks like a no-brainer handcuff to the consensus top per-game PPR RB in 2015 fantasy football rankings. Yet he's still lingering on the board more than halfway through Round 11, on average, in MyFantasyLeague.com public drafts -- even just in July drafts.
Williams makes for a nice-looking RB5 on any fantasy roster, especially when you throw in the injury risk on Bell that we revealed this week. And the longtime Panther easily tops our rankings for fantasy football handcuffs.
Here's the full group, separated into tiers:
1. DeAngelo Williams, Steelers
2. Tre Mason, Rams
Mason doesn't step into as good a situation as Williams, mostly because St. Louis doesn't approach Pittsburgh in offensive firepower. But the Rams love to run the ball, and rookie Todd Gurley remains a big question mark thanks to the ACL tear that ended his final college season prematurely. HC Jeff Fisher warned that he'd be cautious after drafting Gurley 10th overall, though he more recently said that a healthy Gurley could "play sooner than you think."
At worst, Mason should be in for a decent share of the early-season workload, and he'd likely grab a workhorse role if Gurley misses any games this season. The Rams' leading rusher from last season might yet open 2015 as the team's starter, too. Unfortunately, he's no special value in the middle of Round 7 in MFL10 drafting right now.
Who needs to cuff?
These guys would see big workload boosts if the back in front of them went down. But they also just might garner enough work to help your fantasy team in their current roles.