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2011 Fantasy Football: Running Back Handcuffs

By Brent Namejko

Fantasy Analyst

Rashad Jennings is worth a late pick in most fantasy drafts, namely as a handcuff to Maurice Jones-Drew.

This article touches base on the various handcuffing opportunities for the running backs heading into the 2011 fantasy football season. Below is a glossary of sorts as this is the best way to describe what handcuffing is and when it is appropriate to do so.

Handcuffing - To grab a player in the later rounds that is the back-up of one of your starting running backs.

Reason to Handcuff - if your main back goes down you have back-up to plug in and therefore don’t have to worry about getting him off the wire

When to Handcuff - When you stud back is in a one back system. This is key, if the back-up will really benefit from your stud going down you might want to grab him. Sometimes if a stud goes down it will become a committee and therefore it does not make sense to handcuff. You do not always have to draft your key running backs back-up as a handcuff. You can draft other owners backs handcuffs in the later rounds. If you think someone is a huge injury risk that you do not own you might want to roll the dice on their back-up for the upside if said running back goes down.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

Starter – Maurice Jones-Drew / Handcuff – Rashad Jennings

Everyone is scared of Jones-Drew going down due to his knee issues so he is slipping down draft boards. The inverse affect of this is the fact that Jennings is flying up draft boards. We feel is a mistake since he is going as early as the 8th round in a 10 team league. Jennings is a solid player but will not have any value unless Mojo is out for an extended period of time. Burning a middle round pick on him is crazy. Burning a late round pick as a handcuff or to steal someones handcuff makes sense.

Tennessee Titans:

Starter – Chris Johnson / Handcuff – Javon Ringer

Much like Jennings, Ringer is moving up draft boards as a little more than a handcuff with the hold out of Chris Johnson. Not so fast however, Ringer has been banged up so if Johnson does hold out into the season expect a time share between Ringer and rookie Jamie Harper who has been taking first team reps in camp.


Baltimore Ravens:

Starter – Ray Rice / Handcuff – Ricky Williams

With Ray Rice moving up draft boards he is one guy that you might really have to consider handcuffing. Rice is suppose to get the goal line carries this year which means he is an every down back aka one back system. Ricky Williams is a big name but will not have value unless Rice goes down. Due to the system that could be RB2 value and therefore Williams is the epitome of a handcuff.

Cincinnati Bengals:

Starter – Cedric Benson / Handcuff – Bernard Scott

Last season everyone was talking about how Benson could not take a 300+ carry load for the entire season. This made Bernard Scott was a great late sleeper pick. Benson proved everyone wrong and was the starter the entire year. This season Benson is being talked about as a bust again but no one is thinking about Scott as a late round pick. We feel that is not the way to go, Scott is the handcuff to Benson but he could have value even if Benson stays healthy. If Cincy starts to tank (and lets be honest its going to happen) they might give Scott a shot to prove himself before heading into the 2012 draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers:

Starter – Rashard Mendenhall / Handcuff – Isaac Redman

If you believe in the curse of 370 (the curse states that a back that touches the ball over 370 times the prior season is a lock to get hurt the following year) then you dont like Mendenhall. Mendenhall touched the ball over 400 times last year as the Steelers went to the Superbowl. Now we are not a huge believer in the curse but if you are in a deep league or just want to handcuff him Isaac Redman is your guy. Redman is a bigger back that fits what the Steelers want to do.

Indianapolis Colts:

Starter – Joseph Addai / Handcuff – Delone Carter

Addai has had a tough time staying healthy over the last few seasons so a couple of years ago the Colts drafted Donald Brown. Since being drafted Brown has not really worked out so the Colts took Delone Carter this past draft. We believe Carter has already moved ahead of Brown on the depth chart. Carter has been impressive in camp and he is a big back with nice hands so he could be a great target for Manning if and when Addai goes down.

Denver Broncos:

Starter – Knowshon Moreno / Handcuff – Willis McGahee

Moreno will get the shot to the starter for the Broncos but if he starts to breakdown expect McGahee to get some run. Even if Moreno goes down we dont see McGahee being the every down back in Denver but he will benefit the most. We stay clear of this handcuff situation since burning a roster spot is not worth of the reward.

Kansas City Chiefs:

Starter – Jamaal Charles / Handcuff – Thomas Jones

This is a quite odd situation. Charles is a top five back and Jones is certainly the handcuff to him but Jones is technically the starter. Odd huh? Well that is how it is and if Charles gets knocked out Thomas Jones’ value will increase but so will second year player McCluster. Unless you can get Jones late dont waste a mid round pick on him to cuff Charles.

Oakland Raiders:

Starter – Darren McFadden / Handcuff – Michael Bush

McFadden is injury prone – we are not sure why people forgot that. In his three years in the NFL he has never played more than 13 games. So if you draft McFadden ensure you get Bush late as the Raiders have a one back system and Bush would be that one guy.

Cleveland Browns:

Starter – Peyton Hillis / Handcuff – Montario Hardesty

Hillis really started to break down towards the end of last season and therefore slipping down draft boards for a guy that finished as a top five back. This season the Browns are going to get Hardesty more involved so he should have some value regardless. Since Hillis is a bigger back and the fact he is already stating his back is hurting him it might not be a bad idea to grab Hardesty with your second to last pick if you have Hillis. If you are wondering if new addition Brandon Jackson will get any run he is hurt and will miss at least the first couple of games this season.

Philadelphia Eagles:

Starter – LeSean McCoy / Handcuff – Ronnie Brown

This just in, Ronnie Brown is only a handcuff, not a goal line back, not a 3rd down wildcat back, a handcuff only. Now the Eagles don’t have many other options so Brown’s value will go up if something happens to McCoy but the fact he is going in the early late rounds makes it tough to waste that pick on him if you got McCoy in the first.

Detroit Lions:

Starter – Jahvid Best / Handcuff – Maurice Morris

We liked Best before Mikel LeShoure went on IR for the season and now that has occured Best has been flying up draft boards. He is a special talent but a big time injury risk. If you are in a deeper league and want to handcuff him that would be Maurice Morris but they are very different backs and Morris does not even come close to the upside of Best.

Minnesota Vikings:

Starter – Adrian Peterson / Handcuff – Toby Gerhart

This one is pretty easy, his nickname is All Day for a reason. When healthy Peterson is in a Vikings system that pretty much only lets him run the ball. If the worst was to happen Gerhart would be that guy but not even come close to Peterson’s value.

Atlanta Falcons:

Starter – Michael Turner / Handcuff – Jason Snelling

News flash, Jacquizz Rodgers is not the handcuff to Turner. They resigned Snelling and he would be that guy. On a side note in a points per reception league Snelling would have great value as he has proven in the past he can take the lead back roll and do well catching the ball out of the backfield.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Starter – LeGarrette Blount / Handcuff – Kregg Lumpkin

As discussed in the opening it is not always the right move to handcuff your star because if an injury happens the team would split the carries between a few backs. That is not the case for the Bucs. They list Kregg Lumpkin as the back-up to Blount and the coaching staff says he is an every down back if necessary. I am sure you are asking who the heck is Kregg Lumpkin, well he is a third year back that came out of The University of Georgia with pretty good hands.

San Francisco:

Starter – Frank Gore / Handcuff – Kendall Hunter

Gore has only made it an entire season once in his 6 year career so one would be wise to grab Hunter as a handcuff. We (mainly Dustin) loves this kid but for good reason. He had a stellar season at Oklahoma State last year and is a good fit for the 49ers system.

Houston Texans:

Starter – Arian Foster / Handcuff – Ben Tate

I dont want to even write about this, Foster is on both my keeper teams, I have already drafted him in another, and my man crush for him is well documented. Since you are probably reading this not really caring about my team let me tell you why we believe the handcuff is Tate and not Ward. The Texans spent a high draft pick on Tate two years ago but he went on IR during the preseason and never got a chance. This season he is 100% and looking great in training camp plus he is also a similar back to Foster and therefore fits the Texans scheme better than Ward.

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