The idea of having a handcuff is that you are investing in a backfield by taking the backup to one of your starting running backs. Every year running backs get hurt and go down. The list of running backs that finished the season on Injured Reserve last year included Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, Fred Jackson, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray and Jamal Charles. That does not include running backs like Arian Foster and Ryan Matthews among others that missed a few games during the season. So, most likely during this year’s fantasy season, you are going to find yourself with an inactive or injured reserved running back. That’s why you invest in backfields by handcuffing running backs to your starters.
By having your starting running back’s backup already on the roster, you do not have to worry about trying to get him off of waivers, and it provides you a safety blanket at the most often injured position in fantasy football. Ask anyone that drafted Michael Bush as a handcuff for Darren McFadden. Having a handcuff allows your team to absorb an injury and have your team not be totally devastated by it. Here is a list of players that are handcuffs that should look into drafting.
Michael Bush, Chicago
Same handcuff different team. Michael Bush was a Top 10 running back last year after Darren McFadden went down with his foot injury. He followed that year with a four-year deal with Chicago. Michael Bush is a must draft for those who take Matt Forte. Matt Forte was a Top 5 running back before being shelved with MCL sprain and also had injures hold him back in 2009, making him an injury risk. The big thing, though, that will worry Forte owners is a holdout that is extremely possible with him upset that the Bears have not given him a long-term deal while they were willing to accommodate Bush with a four-year deal. Bush is an expensive handcuff though because he most likely will be drafted in the sixth or seventh rounds of your draft.
Peyton Hillis, Kansas City
Peyton Hillis was signed to share the backfield with Jamaal Charles. Hillis had a breakout season in 2010 with the Cleveland Browns which he followed up with a disappointing season in 2011 where he could not get over injuries and contract issues. He now finds himself in Kansas City hoping to vulture Charles’ touchdowns and steal away as many carries as possible. Charles was amazing in 2010 averaging more than six yards a carry. He followed that year up with an ACL tear in Week 2 of 2011. While Charles is expected to be healthy for the start of the season, we have yet to see him take the majority of the carries in a season. Both backs could easily have good seasons coexisting in the Kansas City backfield.
Toby Gerhart, Minnesota
Adrian Peterson is coming off his ACL Tear in Week 15, and even though he has said the common cliche that his rehab is ahead of schedule, there is a very good chance that he will not be ready by Week 1. Gerhart is not going to be a Top 10 running back, but he will get 20 carries a game if Peterson is unable to go early in the season. Anybody that gets 20 carries is worth a spot on somebody’s roster, and he should be on all Adrian Peterson owners’ rosters.
David Wilson, New York Giants
Ahmad Bradshaw has yet to prove he could handle the load in the Giants backfield by himself. Bradshaw has yet to prove he can stay healthy for an entire season. The Giants drafted Wilson in the first round for when Bradshaw cannot carry the load or stay on the field. If you draft Bradshaw and he fails, David Wilson will have tremendous value as Bradshaw’s handcuff.
If there is one player that should have a handcuff, it is Darren McFadden. McFadden has not been able to stay on the field in his four years in the league, missing 19 games in that span. The question, though, is who will get the carries if McFadden goes down again. Taiwan Jones showed brief glimpses of potential before getting injured himself while Goodson is going to compete for the backup job in Oakland this year. We will have to wait and see, but it doesn’t matter whichever one wins the backup job. Whoever is the backup is a must-draft for McFadden owners.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo
Fred Jackson is coming off a broken leg and is on the wrong side of 30 (31). Spiller looked serviceable in his absence last year. Spiller showed the quickness that made him the No. 9 pick in the draft. Spiller has great explosiveness and good hands that make him a threat and is too good not to grab for Jackson owners.
Ben Tate, Houston
If Arian Foster goes down, the only thing that is going to ease your pain is owning Ben Tate. Tate looked good the first three games last year while Foster was overcoming his hamstring issues. After Foster’s return, Tate still received a handful of carries and played pretty well. Tate is a nice security blanket for one of the elite running backs in fantasy football.
Felix Jones, Dallas
I am not quite sold on DeMarco Murray and if his health will hold up. Murray looked brilliant before he went down with his ankle injury. He has had injury problems dating back to college, which is a major concern for his owners. Murray’s health is no guarantee, so his owners should take Felix Jones, the former first-round pick who Dallas had a lot of faith in going into last year, but has still yet to show his full potential.
Daniel Thomas, Miami
No one is sure yet if Reggie Bush’s stellar play last year is fluke or not. There is the question if Bush’s health will hold up for the entire season. That’s why you should handcuff Thomas to Bush. Thomas was drafted last year to share the backfield with Bush, and if Bush struggles or gets hurt Thomas could easily be a 20-carry-per-game player. Last year Thomas was regarded as the rookie running back to draft, and he might be one year late on cashing in for his fantasy owners.
Ryan Williams, Arizona
Beanie Wells just had his first fantasy relevant season one year ago. Beanie Wells is still oft-injured as well, having another knee procedure in the offseason. I do not believe that Wells will suit up for all 16 games next year, so when he goes down you have the guy getting his carries. That will be Ryan Williams, who the Cardinals had very high hopes for last year before he got injured.