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Little Bang Handcuffs

When Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin was neck whipped by Chandler Jones’ knee, I felt a certain queasiness come over me. It was the same queasy feeling I have felt upon taking one too many shots of Jack Daniels; I‘m sure some readers can relate. Just 24 hours prior to my sickness, I paid a whopping $53 ($200 salary cap) in The Huddle Expert Auction league for Martin’s services in 2013. Needless to say, watching the highlight in slow motion was like being kicked in the family jewels by a size 14 steel-toed boot, an aggrandized metaphoric tale of emotional pain.

Now, the pain could’ve been remedied very quickly had I been smarter and more open to the theory of handcuffing my prized possession. Instead, I was more focused on looking like the narcissistic Sheldon Cooper by selecting destined injury report superstar Demarco Murray’s sprained backup, Lance Dunbar. The light bulb was on; it was just dimly lit.

Lucky for me, Martin seems to be okay and can smell the strawberry flavored bubble gum he was recently asked to chew. Take it from me though, as a fantasy owner the last thing you want to worry about is outsmarting 11 owners with similar fantasy IQs, for a backup that will be gift wrapped and tied with a Mr. Irrelevant bow come draft day, in an unintentional “screw the next guy” blind-bidding war. This will be my steady uphill battle moving forward no matter how well Martin practices and how much gum he ends up chewing.

Then again, to my defense, most of the names you will find on this underdog report are really only thought of as simple waiver wire fodder.


Note: All average draft position references are courtesy of MyFantasyLeague.com (all redraft league sizes and scoring systems)

MINNESOTA

Very bad assumptions sometimes breed fantasy championships. Such could be the case when it comes to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson has quickly become the Robert Downey, Jr. of the NFL, although he probably has never listened to Black Sabbath. Backup running back? The Vikings clearly don’t need a backup running back. Besides, if something cruel does happen to Peterson, the purple and gold towels will still be flying high and the horn will be just as obnoxiously loud, because the Vikings have Christian Ponder at quarterback (coffee spitting laughter ensues).

Alright, let’s get serious here. The Vikings’ feeble backup running back situation is one that fantasy owners should wrap their heads around. Yes, Peterson is a freak of nature, but sometimes even freaks take treacherous and ridiculous tumbles; use your imagination. Now enter Toby Gerhart.

Gerhart is no iron man, nor can he run with the same kind of grace Peterson runs with on every carry. However, he can be a nice fill-in-the-gap fantasy backup, whose lagging competition is laps behind him. You won’t have to break the bank for his services, either. His current average draft position places him outside the Top 75 among running backs.

STAT CHECK
Gerhart has missed just one game in three seasons. He has 240 career carries, 64 receptions, 1,534 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns. His career yards per carry average is not extraordinary at 4.3 yards and his yards per reception is 8.0.


CLEVELAND
Reports out of Cleveland indicate that Trent Richardson is ready to roll. That‘s great, but so are at least 31 other running backs across the NFL. If he isn’t ready to roll, Cleveland is in trouble. Furthermore, if the Browns lose Richardson at any point during the 2013 season, not only will the city shut down, but Terry Allen might re-emerge with Gary Anderson kicking from the hip. Simply put – beyond Richardson the Browns are a mess at running back.

Before the second preseason game began Brandon Jackson was considered the Browns’ fourth option, on the outside looking in. Since that time, an arthroscopic knee surgery (Montario Hardesty) and fractured fibula (Dion Lewis) have opened the door for Jackson to take the backup spot behind Richardson. The only other player at this poker table capable of posing as an immediate threat is Chris Ogbonnaya, whom has had plenty of time to shed some pounds and become a runner who sidesteps tacklers with the ball instead of a blocker who plows through them without it. Rookie Miguel Maysonet can be an explosive runner at times, but will need some time to develop his pass blocking skills.

The bottom line is that Jackson will likely be the backup to start the season, as he has the overall skill set needed for the newly installed Rob Chudzinski-Norv Turner offense. He has an average draft position outside of the top 85 among running backs, but should be considered late in drafts for those owners who desire Richardson early on.


KANSAS CITY
When I think of the name Jamaal Charles the first words that come to mind are hot ugly. When Charles is healthy and breaking defensive ankles, every fantasy owner drools over him as if he is Megan Fox promenading down the Sunset Strip in just a push up bra and thong (women included). Once Charles breaks down, a mad dash away from him follows as if he is transforming in to Julie White without makeup. Note: For all those not in tune with the references I have just used, please watch the first
Transformers
movie from 2007.

Just put it this way, to play it safe, most fantasy owners should feel inclined to handcuff Charles. You just never know when Charles is going to need service. To do so, owners will need to remember two names on draft day – Knile Davis and Shaun Draughn. The rookie Davis currently sits directly behind Charles on the Chiefs depth chart as the first backup and fits the Chiefs new offense like a disposable latex glove. Draughn has more NFL experience and offers a little more versatility, having the ability to be a heavy contributor on special teams.

Davis has a current average draft position that places him just inside the top 70 at the running back position, but a top 60 bid may be in the cards in the near future if Charles doesn’t show that his bad ankle is 100 percent better by the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Draughn is a more affordable handcuff outside of the top 90 RBs, with one season of statistical history to boot.

STAT CHECK
In 2012, Draughn carried the ball 59 times for 233 yards, caught 24 passes and scored two touchdowns as an offensive threat. He returned 23 kicks for 537 yards while playing special teams.


TAMPA BAY
Shout the name Channing Tatum at a teenage (or adult for that matter) slumber party and you’ll likely hear shrills of giggles and proclamations of “he’s so hot.” Shout the name Doug Martin at your next fantasy draft, 11 other fantasy owners will open up their wallets and negotiations will begin. Indeed, it is safe to say that because of a lack of trust in Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ emerging running back is quickly becoming a polarizing name at the top of many draft boards. The biggest question heading in to 2013 remains: Who is his backup?

A look at the depth chart reveals that veteran Brian Leonard is the current leader in the clubhouse, and, knowing what I know about the competition behind Leonard, I’m certain that he will be wearing down mouth guards the fastest if anything happens to Martin. Peyton Hillis was an interesting name back when the Dawg Pound in Cleveland was actually loud. Since his breakout 2010 season Hillis has been a fantasy teaser hampered by injuries. Of course, there is Mike James, who has fresher legs and has looked good in preseason action, even against first string defensive units. He also is a rookie sixth-round pick, though, with much to learn about pass protection.

The bottom line here is that Leonard is the frontrunner to back up Martin, so at this point he is safe to draft as his handcuff. Leonard typically doesn’t see his name called in most league formats, so it’s possible that he’ll slip on to the waiver wire. Now, if you’re hesitant in drinking the Rutgers Kool-Aid, consider flavoring your selection Orange by selecting James instead. I would stay away from Hillis for now, as sour milk doesn’t exactly taste good.

FINAL THOUGHTS
There are a few takeaways here. For one, don’t draft unproven backups like Lance Dunbar if you don’t have a good reason to do so in the first place. Secondly, handcuffs are what they are; backup plans designed to alleviate the pain when the original plan is taken off the destined path. They will be the pain killers that transform that hammer, that taps your skull, in to a soft pillow. Bazinga!

Thank you for reading.

Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for Fantasysharks.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). Email him your thoughts ehuber@fantasysharks.com or follow him on Twitter @EricHuber12.

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FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.