Handcuffing your top running back is a fantasy football strategy utilized to provide insurance in case something happens to one of your early-round picks by drafting the backup at that position. Below is a list of the top running back handcuffs for the 2014 fantasy football season. These players are worthy of serious consideration in the late rounds as a strategic way of “handcuffing” your stud running back.
Out of all of the handcuffs heading into 2014, Freeman is the most intriguing to me. Steven Jackson is clearly slowing down in his old age and I fully expect Freeman to take over as the starting running back for the Falcons at some point in the second half of the season. Even if you don’t draft Jackson, I think you consider drafting Freeman in the later rounds.
Frank Gore just keeps having solid season after solid season, but he is going to trail off at some point. In my opinion the 49ers drafting Hyde is a clear indication that they are preparing for the future at running back. Hyde should fit the 49ers offense well and if Gore does get hurt this year, then I think Hyde could be a great fantasy running back. Hyde is going to be one of the biggest upside picks in the later rounds.
Pierce has shown flashes of greatness at times, but it seems like every time he gets more carries he doesn’t necessarily take advantage. All that being said though he is in a good situation heading into 2014 and he might get another chance to show us what he can do. Ray Rice is getting a bit older these days and there is a good chance he gets suspended for part of the season.
It’s not that I believe that much in Lance Dunbar, it’s more that I feel that DeMarco Murray has a good chance of getting hurt. Murray was able to stay healthy last year and he had a great season, but that doesn’t erase all of the injury issues he has had in the past. If Murray were to go down then I think Dunbar would be in a decent spot to have fantasy value. I doubt the Cowboys would use Dunbar as a workhorse type running back, but even if he was getting around 15 touches a game, I think he could have value on the Cowboys high scoring offense.
Beast Mode Marshawn Lynch has taken a beating over the years and at some point you have to think he will slow down. I think there is a decent chance that it happens this year and I think Christine Michael is ready to take on a bigger role once the time comes. The news out of Seahawks camp is that Michael is a freak of nature running back and he is being compared to Adrian Peterson in terms of his running ability. Out of all of the handcuffs for 2014 I think Michael might be the best actual running back out of the group.
So far this preseason there has been a decent amount of hype around Terrance West, with some reports even hinting that he might have a chance to start over Ben Tate. I doubt he will win the job outright before the season starts, but if he outplays Tate during the season, I don’t think it’s too crazy to think that he might take over as the lead back for the Browns. He is a big man at 225 pounds, but when watching him run he doesn’t look like he is a man of that size. This is going to be an interesting competition to watch this preseason.
Since the Colts now have Trent Richardson it’s easy to forget that they brought over Bradshaw last off season to be their featured running back. Bradshaw has a proven track record and I think there is a chance that he could win the starting job, even if Richardson stay healthy. You certainly have to be concerned about Bradshaw’s neck injury, but the reports have been positive so far this preseason. This is certainly a situation you need to pay close attention to as we get closer to the season.
The reports on Mason so far this preseason have been positive and it looks like Zac Stacy might need to watch his back a little bit. Even though Stacy had a great year in 2013, I feel like it was more because of the volume of touches he had, rather than him actually producing at a high level. If you draft Stacy in the early rounds then you should certainly consider taking Mason with one of your last picks.
Matt Forte is going to be one of the first players drafted in most fantasy leagues and as of now it looks like the rookie Carey is going to be his primary backup. The 4th round pick out of Arizona had amazing stats in college and he also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. If Forte were to go down with injury, then Carey should fit perfectly in the Bears offense as his replacement.
Doug Martin disappointed many fantasy owners last year after getting hurt early in the season. The Bucs were then scrambling to find a replacement and that running back situation was a mess for the rest of the year. They now have Sims who is a rookie out of West Virginia and they seem excited about their new running back. Doug Martin is in no danger of losing his job, but if he were to get hurt again then Sims is a guy that could certainly carry the load for the Bucs in his absence.