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Key handcuffs among top fantasy football free-agent finds for Week 13

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Is Blount the Lions RB to roster? (1:12)

Field Yates and Matthew Berry wonder if LeGarrette Blount's Week 12 is something to build on going forward. (1:12)

The final week of the ESPN Fantasy regular season is here.

Wait, what?

That's right. A full 12 weeks has blitzed by, leaving just one more Sunday where all members of your ESPN fantasy league (default settings) are assured a chance to secure a final win.

We're also past the point where bye weeks are a thing. No longer do you have to decide whether your starting kicker is too valuable to drop during a forced week off -- shoutout to Harrison Butker, who in no way was I dropping last week. There's also no more consternation about deciding between two backup running backs because your normal starters are among the up to six teams' worth of players getting a well-deserved rest.

Bye weeks impact our roster construction in a huge way. However, now that they're done, things change. There's more flexibility, as you no longer need to, for example, keep room for that second quarterback to fill in for Patrick Mahomes. The waiver wire also now serves a different purpose, as it's about finding ways to improve upon your starters -- which isn't always easy at this time of the year.

There's another key component to the waiver wire in the form of handcuffs. Handcuffs are the players who serve as a top backup to your fantasy superstars, most commonly at the RB position. There's always plenty of debate about the value of rostering handcuffs throughout the season and if it is worth holding a roster spot for a player who might not see the field much, if at all.

If you drafted James Conner after using your first-round pick on Le'Veon Bell, that decision will likely go down as the most important pick you made this season. If you rostered Chase Edmonds because you also took David Johnson, that's been a far less essential move.

Still, with no more teams on bye and the possibility that some of the elite backs will garner a lighter load down the stretch as teams clinch playoff seeds -- perhaps even staying on the sideline for an entire game -- handcuffs are key for fantasy success.

Today, we'll outline our preferred handcuff down the stretch for each of the top 10 running backs this season. Additionally, as always, we'll start off with the usual assortment of waiver-wire adds.

Reminder: Players must be available in more than 50 percent of leagues on ESPN.com to be eligible for this column.


Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (49.1 percent rostered): He is dynamic. There's no better way to describe Jackson, who rushed "only" 11 times in Week 12 yet put up 71 rushing yards, a rushing score and 20.2 fantasy points. While Jackson has thrown for just 328 yards in two starts, his rushing ability raises the floor substantially. He's a legitimate top-12 option going forward, especially as he develops as a passer.

Theo Riddick, RB, Detroit Lions (37.2 percent): As we await Kerryon Johnson's return to the lineup, Riddick remains my preferred Lions running back to roster and utilize. He had seven catches on Thanksgiving, bringing his total to 25 over the past four games. While LeGarrette Blount will get the short-yardage work, Riddick has the most secure role each week until Johnson returns, as he's going to stay involved thanks to his pass-catching aptitude.

Tre'Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints (42.9 percent): A knee injury held Smith out of Week 12 action, and it's too soon to tell whether that will impact his availability for Week 13 against the Cowboys on Thursday night. Still, the exciting rookie had a phenomenal Week 11 with 10 catches for 157 yards and a score. He should be rostered in all leagues due to his ability to seize the No. 2 WR role in New Orleans once he is fully recovered. There's plenty of upside here.

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (43.6 percent): Prescott also delivered in a big way on Thanksgiving, posting QB1 numbers on the strength of a season-high 289 passing yards, plus his fifth rushing score in six games. He has been playing decidedly better ball of late, has a favorable schedule down the stretch and gets enough read-option red zone work to make those end zone visits at least a possibility in any given week. He's a matchup-dependent starter you can pair with your normal starter for when his matchup is not nearly as generous.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (38.8 percent): With the news Monday that Leonard Fournette is suspended for Week 13, we have a one-week window for Hyde to step in and create value. Hyde is a capable player who should see close to 15-20 total touches. He's a top-25 play this week.

Nyheim Hines, RB, Indianapolis Colts (29.9 percent): Marlon Mack has been on a tear for the Colts of late, but he left the team's thrilling Week 12 win over the Dolphins due to a concussion. While it's possible that Jordan Wilkins would get some work if Mack has to miss Week 13, Hines handled 11 total touches on Sunday. He should be rostered in all leagues.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (42.9 percent): Mayfield is red-hot, posting multiple passing touchdowns in five straight games while completing 69.6 percent of his passes over that stretch. Mayfield just went through the easiest portion of his schedule, but he's playing well enough to merit streaming consideration in Week 13. The "It" factor is real here, and he's worth a roster spot in all leagues.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Detroit Lions (18.5 percent): Blount made good on those who utilized him in Week 12, carrying the ball 19 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns. The situation was ideal. It was a close game in which Detroit relied upon Blount heavily at the goal line, resulting in that pair of 4-yard TD runs. With an upcoming matchup against the Rams -- where the Lions figure to play from behind -- Blount's projected value decreases for Week 13.

John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (15.9 percent): Until A.J. Green returns to the lineup, Ross is going to stay busy for the Bengals. The good news is that he's now delivered for three straight weeks, racking up a touchdown in each game. The less encouraging news is that he has just seven catches in those games, albeit on 20 targets. The play on Ross is to add him for his big-play propensity. Frankly, few players are as big-play capable as the NFL combine's fastest-ever player (4.22 speed).

Key RB handcuffs for the rest of the season

Below is a look at the players I'd suggest rostering if you currently rely on any of the top 10 scoring running backs this season, listed by most points scored entering Week 12.

1. Todd Gurley II, Los Angeles Rams: Malcom Brown

2. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints: None. Mark Ingram II is a bona fide stud in his own right and rostered in 95.5 percent of leagues.

3. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants: Wayne Gallman

4. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers: Jaylen Samuels

5. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers: Austin Ekeler, and with Gordon getting injured in Week 12, you're looking at the most important add on this list.

6. Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs: Spencer Ware

7. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers: Cameron Artis-Payne

8. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys: Rod Smith

9. James White, New England Patriots: Rex Burkhead, even though Sony Michel is also a top RB play.

10. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals: Chase Edmonds

Deeper league adds

Adam Humphries, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (27.6 percent): Humphries has been a frequent visitor to this space, as he continues to have a role in one of the NFL's most prolific passing offenses, week over week. He continues to deliver, with five-plus targets in eight of 11 games this season and five straight games with 50-plus receiving yards, delivering four touchdowns in that stretch. He's a deeper-league flex consideration.

Taylor Gabriel, WR, Chicago Bears (44.4 percent): The Bears' offense was without Mitchell Trubisky in Week 12, but the team's passing game held its own with Chase Daniel under center. That included Gabriel, who posted his second straight game with seven catches. He's a nimble and agile player with the ball in his hands, and a weekly flex consideration in deeper leagues.

David Moore, WR, Seattle Seahawks (6.8 percent): With a hat tip to my pal Matthew Berry, who has touted Moore as a player in whom the Seahawks have strong internal faith, the wideout makes this list after a four-catch, 107-yard outing in Week 12. While Doug Baldwin was able to play on Sunday, he's been dealing with an injury that, if it were to cost him any time, would open the door to a heavy reliance on Moore. He's an intriguing young talent.

Bruce Ellington, WR, Detroit Lions (0.8 percent): He's made an immediate mark on the Detroit offense, catching six passes in both of the games in which he has played. There's enough volume in this offense, which figures to have to throw it plenty when playing from behind, so that Ellington should see a steady diet of targets.

Dante Pettis, WR, San Francisco 49ers (0.7 percent): What an exciting talent Pettis is! He led all 49ers wide receivers in Week 12 with 77 yards and a touchdown. While Marquise Goodwin is the No. 1 receiver for the 49ers when on the field, he missed Week 12 due to a personal matter. Pettis is a talent-based deeper-league add.

Trey Quinn, WR, Washington Redskins (0.4 percent): The "Mr. Irrelevant" of the 2018 draft found the end zone in Week 12, which was his second pro game. The Redskins like what he brings to the table and have been searching for WR production all season.

Marcell Ateman, WR, Oakland Raiders (0.3 percent): While Ateman managed just three catches in Week 12, he had a team-high 10 targets -- more than double his next-closest teammate. Someone has to catch it in Oakland. Why not him?