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RB Handcuffs to Target: AFC Edition


Continuing the theme of the offseason, we will be looking at the AFC teams this week to establish who the handcuffs to target are in your fantasy drafts. Again, a handcuff isn’t necessarily going to be someone that has stand-alone value (think David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen for the Bears).

My last article looked at the NFC teams and their handcuff situations and this week will focus on the AFC. With plenty of running backs looking at the final year of their contract and the ever-present threat of COVID-19, it is imperative this season to understand running back depth charts to maximize the upside of your team.`1

ADP data in this article is from fantasyfootballcalclator.com

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Baltimore Ravens

2020 Starter: Mark Ingram II
Others: J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, Bronson Rechsteiner
Handcuff: JK Dobbins (RB34, 7th round)
Priority: Medium

Notes: Unfortunately for fantasy players, the most run-heavy offense in the NFL also has a plethora of riches to utilize. Three players (Mark Ingram: 202, Lamar Jackson: 176, and Gus Edwards: 133) had over 100 carries for the Ravens in 2019. 2019 fourth-round pick Justice Hill also had a role in the offense, carrying the ball 58 times while also seeing the second-most targets (15) out of the backfield. The Ravens added JK Dobbins in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL draft, further complicating things.

Realistically, Ingram enters 2020 as the starter, but there is value in adding Dobbins as he could have a pass-catching role or evolve into the lead back as he becomes acclimated to the NFL.

 

Buffalo Bills

2020 Starter: Devin Singletary
Others: Zack Moss, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones, Christian Wade, Antonio Williams
Handcuff: Zack Moss (RB46, Round 10/11)
Priority: High

Notes: The Bills utilized a split backfield with Frank Gore and Devin Singletary in 2019. Gore played in 16 games, carrying the ball 166 times for 599 yards and two touchdowns while adding 13 receptions (16 targets) and 100 yards. Gore also had a primary role as the goal line back. Their rookie, Devin Singletary, played in 12 games, carrying the ball 151 times for 775 yards and two touchdowns, but saw more of the receiving work. Singletary was targeted 41 times, catching 29 passes for 194 yards and two additional scores.

Expect Moss to fill in the Frank Gore role initially, especially in the red zone. If anything happens to Singletary, it is very realistic for him to take on the lead role in the backfield.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

2020 Starter: Joe Mixon
Others: Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson, Samaje Perine, Devwah Whaley, Jacques Patrick
Handcuff: Likely a Giovani Bernard and Trayveon Williams split
Priority: Medium

Notes: Joe Mixon is one of the running backs with the ability to hold out if he so chooses. In 2019, Mixon carried the ball 278 times for 1,137 yards and five touchdowns. He was the recipient of 45 targets, catching 35 passes for 287 yards and three additional scores. In the case of a holdout or injury, the Bengals will likely split his carries while giving Giovani Bernard the bulk of the passing work.

Bernard saw just two fewer targets than Mixon in 2019 while producing five fewer catches and 50 fewer yards. Bernard hasn’t exceeded 100 caries in a season since 2017, so Bengals would likely just expand his role in the passing game while limiting the hits he takes between the tackles. Both Bernard and Trayveon Williams are currently going undrafted.

 

Cleveland Browns

2020 Starter: Nick Chubb
Others: Kareem Hunt, Dontrell Hilliard, D’Ernest Johnson, Johnny Stanton, Brian Herrien, Benny Lemay
Handcuff: Kareem Hunt (RB27, 5th round)
Priority: High

Notes: Kareem Hunt has stand-alone value, making him more than a mere handcuff. From Weeks 12-17 in 2019, Nick Chubb was RB18 while Kareem Hunt was RB21. During that time, Hunt was on the field for 61% of the offensive snaps in four of six contests. He averaged 5.5 carries and 4.5 targets per game. While Chubb is very clearly the 1A in the backfield, Hunt will have a role for Cleveland.

If anything were to happen to Chubb, Hunt would immediately vault into a weekly RB1 level player given the track record of production in his career. If you take the chance on Nick Chubb in the late first or early second round, it is worth using a fifth-round pick to also secure Hunt as a potential FLEX with massive upside.

 

Denver Broncos

2020 Starter: Melvin Gordon III
Others: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Khalfani Muhammed, Levante Bellamy
Handcuff: Phillip Lindsay (RB42, 9th round)
Priority: High

Notes: Phillip Lindsay continued to flourish for the Broncos as an undrafted free agent. Lindsay carried the ball 224 times for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 35 passes (48 targets) for 196 yards. Despite that, the Broncos brought Melvin Gordon in during free agency on a two-year $16 million deal. Gordon will likely take the lead rushing role but can also cut into Lindsay’s production in the passing game.

Lindsay has shown the ability to handle the load for the Broncos, so a reduced workload could keep him fresh as the season progresses, and should something happen to Gordon, it gives him upside to produce once again.

 

Houston Texans

2020 Starter: David Johnson
Others: Duke Johnson Jr., Buddy Howell, Karan Higdon, Scottie Phillips
Handcuff: Duke Johnson Jr. (RB51, 12th/13th round)
Priority: Medium

Notes: The 2019 season saw Carlos Hyde thrive in the Texans’ backfield. Hyde played in all 16 games, carrying the ball 245 times for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. He also added 10 receptions for 42 yards through the air. The Texans let Hyde walk in free agency, opting to bring in David Johnson in a trade with Arizona. David Johnson will be the starter, but his final year was highlighted by injuries and general struggles carrying the ball. The former Cardinal has averaged less than 3.8 yards per carry since 2017, but still excels as a receiver.

If you draft David Johnson early, it is worth a mid-round pick to secure Duke Johnson. Duke has at least 62 targets per season the last five season and over 4.2 yards per carry since 2016. If David Johnson is unable to stay healthy, Duke Johnson would be poised to see a major uptick in his workload.

 

Indianapolis Colts

2020 Starter: Marlon Mack
Others: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Darius Jackson, Bruce Anderson
Handcuff: Jonathan Taylor (RB22, 3rd/4th round)
Priority: High

Notes: This is the first AFC team that has an ADP flip between the incumbent starter and the handcuff option. Both Mack (RB36, 8th round) and Taylor (ADP listed above) will have a role in the backfield, especially early in the season. Mack played 14 games in 2019, carrying the ball 247 times for 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns. He also added 14 catches (17 targets) and 82 yards in the air. Those stats didn’t stop the Colts from investing a second-round pick in Jonathan Taylor.

Frank Reich and the coaching staff have already said the Colts will likely have a 1A and 1B backfield, so it makes sense to try and invest in both players until one establishes himself as the lead option.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

2020 Starter: Leonard Fournette
Others: Chris Thompson, Devine Ozigbo, Ryquell Armstead, James Robinson, Tavien Feaster, Nathan Cottrell
Handcuff: Unclear (Likely an Armstead/Thompson split)
Priority: Low

Notes: Leonard Fournette finally had a mostly healthy 2019 season, playing in 15 games for the first time in his career. Fournette carried the ball 265 times for 1,152 yards and three touchdowns while adding 76 receptions (100 targets) and 522 yards. Despite the heavy workload, Fournette struggled to find the end zone. The Jaguars brought in Chris Thompson to help in the passing game during the 2020 free agency. Thompson has had four straight seasons of 48+ targets but hasn’t played only one 16 game season since 2015.

A combination of Thompson and Ryquell Armstead would take over the backfield in case of a Fournette injury. Armstead played in all 16 games his rookie season, carrying the ball 35 times for 108 yards while adding 14 receptions, 144 yards, and two touchdowns. Neither Thompson nor Armstead is being drafted, although Thompson is an interesting late draft flier given his likely work in the passing game.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

2020 Starter: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Others: Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, Elijah McGuire, Darrell Williams, DeAndre Washington
Handcuff: Damien Williams (RB31, 6th/7th round)
Priority: Medium

Notes: The Kansas City Chiefs decided to invest a 2020 first-round pick in former LSU Tiger Clyde Edwards-Helaire, making him the likely starter heading into next season. It is likely Damien Williams still has a role after a successful 2019. Damien Williams played in 11 games, carrying the ball 111 times for 498 yards and five touchdowns. He also added 30 receptions for 213 yards and two additional touchdowns. Williams split time with LeSean McCoy for most of the season. McCoy compiled 101 carries for 465 yards and four touchdowns while adding 25 receptions (34 targets) for 181 yards and a score in 13 games.

It is worth noting that Andy Reid has had 15 running backs register an RB1 season in 21 years of coaching, including 10 seasons with a back finishing in the top-10. Edwards-Helaire is poised to have a huge impact, but it is worth rostering Williams in case the rookie takes time to acclimate to the NFL.

 

Los Angeles Chargers

2020 Starter: Austin Ekeler
Others: Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Darius Bradwell, Bobby Holly, Gabe Nabers, Derrick Gore
Handcuff: Justin Jackson (RB49, 11th/12th round)
Priority: Medium

Notes: A 2019 holdout allowed Austin Ekeler to produce as the lead back in Los Angeles. Ekeler parlayed his shot into a 16-game season with 132 carries, 557 yards, and three touchdowns along with 92 receptions (108 targets) for 993 yards and eight touchdowns. Ekeler finished as the RB4 for the 2019 season despite splitting time with Melvin Gordon for 12 games.

Historically, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn employs a roughly 60/40 split in the backfield with his running backs, so grabbing a handcuff is worth it. Justin Jackson is likely to get the initial shot at carries after his role in early in 2019 but keep an eye on fourth-round pick Joshua Kelley to take some work as the season progresses.

 

Miami Dolphins

2020 Starter: Jordan Howard
Others: Matt Breida, Kalen Ballage, Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Perry, Patrick Laird
Handcuff: Unclear (Likely a split between Matt Breida (RB38, 8th round) and Kalen Ballage or Myles Gaskin)
Priority: Low

Notes: The Dolphins saw a rotating cast of characters at the running back position after they traded Kenyan Drake to the Arizona Cardinals for the final eight games of the season. The most noteworthy contributors were Kalen Ballage and Patrick Laird. Ballage carried the ball 74 times for 135 yards and three touchdowns while adding 14 receptions and 63 yards. Laird factored more in the pass game, carrying the ball 62 times for 168 yards and a touchdown while adding 23 receptions for 204 yards. Knowing this, the Dolphins went out and got Jordan Howard during free agency and Matt Breida in a draft-day trade.

Jordan Howard played in 10 games with Philadelphia in 2019, carrying the ball 119 times for 525 yards and six touchdowns while adding 10 receptions for 69 yards and a score. On the other hand, Breida played in 13 games for the 49ers, carrying the ball 123 times for 623 yards and touchdown while adding 19 receptions for 120 yards and an additional score. Breida has been very effective as a receiving and change-of-pace back throughout his career, which is the role he will play in Miami. His standalone value makes him worthy of a midround pick, while Gaskin and Ballage are worthy of a last round flier to sit at the end of your bench.

 

New England Patriots

2020 Starter: Sony Michel
Others: James White, Brandon Bolden, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Dan Vitale, JJ Taylor
Handcuff: Unclear (It could be any combination of any of the names above)
Priority: High (Again, impossible to know which guy to target outside of James White)

Notes: Sony Michel had another lukewarm season in 2019. In 16 games, Michel had 247 carries for 912 yards and seven touchdowns while adding an underwhelming 12 receptions (20 targets) and 94 yards. An offseason foot surgery to go with chronic knee problems make identifying a handcuff even more important. James White (RB40, 8th/9th round) will have the standalone value given his important role in the passing game. White played in 15 games last season, carrying the ball 67 times for 263 yards and a touchdown while adding 72 receptions (95 targets) for 645 yards and five touchdowns.

The complication comes from the fact that Rex Burkhead (13 games, 65 carries 302 yards, three touchdowns, 27 receptions, and 279 yards) and Brandon Bolden (15 games, 15 carries, 68 yards, three touchdowns, nine receptions, 111 yards, and a touchdown) also had defined roles in the offense. Add a year of development to 2019 third-round draft pick Damien Harris, and the Patriots backfield remains an enigma. For later drafts, keep an eye on training camp cuts and invest in the last man standing (Burkhead or Harris) in the final rounds of your fantasy draft.

 

New York Jets

2020 Starter: Le’Veon Bell
Others: Frank Gore, Trenton Cannon, Lamical Perine, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
Handcuff: Unclear
Priority: Low

Notes: Le’Veon Bell had a disappointing year of production despite an unquestioned lead role in the Jets’ backfield. Bell played in 15 games, carrying the ball 245 times for 789 yards and three touchdowns. He added 66 catches (78 targets) for 461 yards and a score. During the 2020 offseason, the Jets added Frank Gore and fourth-round pick Lamical Perine to the running back room. On the surface, they will have very reduced roles assuming Bell is healthy.

If something were to happen to Bell, a combination of Perine and Gore would likely take on the bulk of his work. Neither player offers much value outside of an injury situation, which is why they are going undrafted.

 

Oakland Raiders

2020 Starter: Josh Jacobs
Others: Devontae Booker, Lynn Bowden Jr., Jalen Richard, Rod Smith, William Stanback
Handcuff: Unclear (Split work between Lynn Bowden Jr. and Jalen Richard)
Priority: Medium

Notes: Former first-round pick Josh Jacobs dominated the backfield for the Raiders in 2020. Jacobs carried the ball 247 times for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also targeted 27 times, catching 20 passes for 166 yards. The Raiders used a third-round pick in 2020 on former Kentucky Wildcat Lynn Bowden Jr. Bowden Jr. led the SEC in rushing in 2019, carrying the ball 185 times for 1,468 yards and 13 touchdowns despite rotating between quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. He will likely split pass-catching duties with Jalen Richard and could easily take on the lead back role if Jacobs were to get injured. Bowden Jr. is currently going undrafted and is worth a last-round flier in PPR leagues.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

2020 Starter: James Conner
Others: Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., Ralph Webb, Kerrith Whyte Jr.
Handcuff: Unclear (Mixture of Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell Jr., and Anthony McFarland Jr.)
Priority: High (Conner injury risk)

Notes: Injuries caught up to James Conner in 2019 after a stellar 2018 replacing Le’Veon Bell during his holdout. Conner was only able to play in 10 games due to a variety of injuries, carrying the ball 116 times for 464 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 34 receptions on 38 targets for 251 yards and three touchdowns. A series of injuries forced Benny Snell Jr. and Jaylen Samuels into action to a mixed set of results. Snell Jr. played in 13 games, carrying the ball 108 times for 426 yards and two scores. Samuels' main impact came in the passing game, catching 47 of his 57 targets for 305 yards and a score.

Conner will be the lead back in 2020 for as long as he is healthy, with a timeshare between Snell Jr. and fourth-round pick Anthony McFarland Jr. and Jaylen Samuels in the passing game. McFarland Jr. is more explosive than Jaylen Samuels and is currently going off the board as RB53 (13th round), making him worth a handcuff given Conner’s injury-prone nature.

 

Tennessee Titans

2020 Starter: Derrick Henry
Others: Darrynton Evans, Dalyn Dawkins, Khari Blasingame, Shawn Wilson, Cameron Scarlett, Senorise Perry
Handcuff: Darrynton Evans (RB60, 14th round)
Priority: High

Notes: Derrick Henry enters 2020 as the unquestioned leader in the Titan’s backfield. In 2019, Henry played in 15 games, carrying the ball 303 times for 1,540 times and 16 touchdowns. He also had a minor role in the passing game, catching 18 of 24 targets for 206 yards and two touchdowns. The Titans also utilized Dion Lewis, primarily in the passing game. Lewis played in all 16 games, carrying the ball 54 times for 209 yards while adding 25 receptions (32 targets) for 164 yards and a touchdown. The Titans let Lewis walk in 2020, instead opting to add rookie Darrynton Evans in the third round of the draft.

Evans will have some stand-alone value in the passing game but would be poised to see a massive increase in work if anything happened to Derrick Henry. Evans is currently being drafted in the 14th round of fantasy drafts. He is worth considering as early as round 12 given his role as a pass-catcher and the lack of competition around him in 2020.

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Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football rankings, tiers, player news and stats for Week 7 of the 2020 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings  ... Read More


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The fantasy trade market is always a fun one to evaluate. Articles like this are essentially glorified "Who's Hot and Who's Not" pieces but the tables are turned to where sometimes, you want to trade for those that are cold and trade away those hot. Now, six weeks into the season, we have several big-name players underperforming... Read More


Re-Evaluating the Rookie Running Back Class of 2020

We're six weeks into the 2020 NFL season and are starting to get some good ideas of what usage patterns are looking like. Which means we probably have enough data now to start to re-evaluate where certain players stand in relation to other players. For example, we've got a better idea of how this year's... Read More


WR/CB Matchups to Target and Avoid - Week 7

The CB Matchup Chart has been a helpful resource all season, specifically in Week 6. Last week's article was predictive in forecasting boom games for Julio Jones, Justin Jefferson, and Christian Kirk. It also predicted let-downs from Robby Anderson, Cooper Kupp, and Mike Evans. This week's chart will give the most accurate landscape of CB matchups yet,... Read More


Pivot Plays and Post-Waiver Pickups - Week 7

Things are starting to get difficult for fantasy football managers. Indianapolis, Minnesota, Miami and Baltimore all have the week off, so fantasy managers are already playing shorthanded. Fielding a full lineup is going to be tough as it is if you have a few injuries. If one of your key guys is listed as questionable... Read More


Week 7 Stream Team - Shallow and Deep-League Pickups

Welcome to Week 7 of the NFL season. Each week we will be providing streamer advice for all of those who need it, which is pretty much anyone and everyone. Streaming players with the best matchups each week as well as during your stud's bye weeks is an integral part of winning a fantasy championship... Read More


Lies, Damned Lies, and Fantasy Football Statistics (Week 7)

The more data we get as the season goes on, the better equipped we are to interpret matchups and make informed decisions. Then Week 6 comes along and blows it all to hell. The unpredictability of sports is what keeps us intrigued, as frustrating as it may be at times. Numbers are supposedly to be... Read More


The King's Week 7 Fantasy Football Lineup Rankings (Premium Content)

Welcome back, RotoBallers!  Below you will find my Week 7 fantasy football lineup rankings. The ranks are available in PPR, Half PPR and Standard formats. They will be updated as needed, so make sure to check back for the latest versions. Skill Position analysis is primarily based on the PPR ranks. The rankings are powered by... Read More


Slow Starters Ready to Break Out in Fantasy?

We are now more than a third of the way into the fantasy football season and a seemingly clearer picture is available across the landscape. After a pandemic-shortened offseason and lack of preseason exposure, there were plenty of worries headed into the first month specifically. Thus far, one of the most prevalent topics with regards... Read More


Fantasy Football Warning Signals for Week 7

The warning signals get brighter by the week since we have more data to work from. The larger the sample size the easier it is for us to connect the dots from the latest trends. Football is a game of small samples and many variables, making it one of the hardest sports to predict. How... Read More


How to Value Clyde Edwards-Helaire with Le'Veon Bell in KC

Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Jonathan Taylor? Coming into the season this was the biggest question for fantasy GMs, both dynasty managers who were thinking long-term and redraft managers who wanted to know who would be better for this season. There were many different theories and believe me when I say, both sides thought they were 100%... Read More


NextGen Stats - Quarterback Breakdowns and Takeaways

It's been a month since the last time we took a look at our beloved quarterbacks. Numbers are numbers, and numbers don't lie. You can twist them, but looking at them objectively, numbers say that no matter what, rushing the ball is almost always a worse option than passing it in today's game. That's why... Read More


Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 7

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement.... Read More


Coaching Matters: Offenses That Will Improve From Week 6

This series continues into its sixth week of where I dive into offensive areas that will improve or decline based on coaching in order to glean insight as to fantasy football value. In Week 6, we saw performances such as Ryan Tannehill throwing for 364 passing yards, the Houston Texans running backs combining for 66 rushing yards, and the New... Read More


Tape Tells All: D'Andre Swift's Week 6 Performance

Welcome to another edition of Tape Tells All. I've been thinking of rebranding as just TAPE. All-Caps like that. Probably wouldn't be a good idea for SEO purposes, right? Anyways, this week we'll be discussing Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift. Swift set a lot of career highs this week, with bests in carries... Read More


Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

Week 6 was like the 2020 of fantasy football weeks. All those great matchups meant nothing, those studs let you down, and your bench likely went crazy. The good news is that we didn't have any season-ending injuries to running backs or games canceled due to COVID, so in retrospect maybe we shouldn't complain. The... Read More


FAB Bidding - Week 7 Waiver Wire Targets

Whether it's injuries, bye-week blues, or simply poor performance, we've got the waiver-wire cure...but it just might cost you! Alongside our famous waiver wire pickups list and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Budget (FAB). In... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 7 Lightning Round

Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


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Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


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Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

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Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

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Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

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Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

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