Fantasy RB Handcuffs Part One: 2013 Strategy and Tips
The Search for the Next Larry Johnson
Running Back Handcuff Analysis with recent High Stakes Draft Results
In those final few rounds of your fantasy draft, instead of selecting some fourth-string, boom or bust wide receiver or a backup kicker, grab a RB handcuff. It doesn't even need to be a backup to a back you own. Given heavy turnover and injuries, backs come out of nowhere every season. Unless you draft a RB in each of the first four of five rounds, it's unlikely every one of your guys will be a starter anyway.
No fantasy team is complete without a handcuff RB or two. It's always great when you leave a guy like Ben Tate on your bench and if Arian Foster misses a game, you can either trade Tate for a big return on your investment or start him in what will likely be his most productive game of the year. There are no sure things this game and since talent can only take you so far, sometimes all that matters is opportunity. These handcuff options, which are ordered by average draft position, are the guys you'll want to strongly consider in your upcoming drafts. I used OurLads.com for current depth charts when determining the starters and backups.
RB Vick Ballard, IND - Sleeper (undervalued)
Only a couple weeks ago, I felt Ballard was a tremendous value pick as one of the last workhorse backs coming off the board. Then the Colts signed Ahmad Bradshaw and that all went out of the window. Granted, the Colts threw the ball a lot last season, but that was under Bruce Arians. New offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has spent the last few years calling plays for Stanford and he will be implementing a more conservative offense with what should be a balanced approach. Although, Ballard will be trending down in most drafts, but he could be a sneaky afterthought type of pick as people simply aren't taking him seriously. Bradshaw has a laundry list of injury issues and has only played a full 16-game schedule once in his six-year career.
Recent FFWC Draft: 11.12Injury Status: Injured Reserve
RB Giovani Bernard, CIN - Quality Backup
Not so fast, my friend. Bernard is in a tricky situation. Everyone knows he has the inside track to start, but he still has to earn it officially. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is currently being drafted about a half round to a round after the rookie. So while technically this is a handcuff recommendation, the former UNC back will be the starter sooner rather than later. BJGE will be drafted in most leagues, but it may be best to avoid him given his to-be-determined role this upcoming season.
Recent FFWC Draft: 6.8
RB Andre Brown, HOU - Fantasy Handcuff
I recently penned an article about David Wilson that anointed him FFToolbox's 2013 breakout player. While the hype is running hot for Wilson, don't completely forget about Brown and his 2012 accomplishments. He broke out in his own way early in the season, rushing for 113 yards and two scores against Carolina. Injuries slowed him down for most of the rest of the season, but he should see a large chunk of the offense. Problem is, if Wilson breaks off a big run or two in the preseason, everyone will quickly forget about Brown. That might help his draft stock, but ultimately hurt his chances to contribute.
Recent FFWC Draft: 9.2
RB Bryce Brown, PHI - Fantasy Handcuff
Just a few days after Thanksgiving, Brown burst onto the scene by accumulating 189 total yards and two touchdowns. Before anyone could catch their breath, he followed that breakout game with another, gaining 183 total yards and scoring twice again. Defenses will see him coming now, but the Eagles have a new wrinkle in their arsenal now that Chip Kelly is holding the big whistle. LeSean McCoy was a major disappointment a year ago and if Brown is able to establish a sizable portion of the offense, the second-year back is a major value selection in the middle rounds.
Recent FFWC Draft: 10.1
RB Mark Ingram, NO - Gamble (high risk)
This situation is a bit tricky. Technically, OurLads lists Pierre Thomas as the No. 1 starter, but that just isn't right. So I'll tentatively rank Darren Sproles first, then Ingram and Thomas third. Ingram has accomplished very little in his short career. He rushed for 602 yards last season and five TDs; Nothing to write home about, that's for sure. The Saints' coaching staff has said they plan on expanding his role, but even if he carries the ball more than 200 times, his pedestrian 3.9 yards per carry average leaves me unsatisfied. There's always potential for points in New Orleans' offense though.
Recent FFWC Draft: 9.4