2012 Fantasy Football | Underrated RB Handcuffs
Let’s face it. We are all anxiously anticipating the start of the NFL season, not just for our pleasure as fans, but as fantasy football enthusiasts, as well.
Injuries are probably the most frustrating part of the game, and they will happen. There’s no way to get around it, as nearly every year a big time player goes down with injury and many fantasy owners feel lost when their player is out for the season or even for a few weeks.
Running back is clearly one of the most important positions in football, and in a passing league it seems even harder to find legit backs that qualify as anything less than a RB1. This leads me to discuss the importance of handcuffs at the position, which is simply having a backup running back on the roster, or in your watch list so that if an injury happens, you can plug him in your lineup and not miss a beat.
Jonathan Stewart has been one of my top handcuffs in recent years, while Ben Tate led me to several wins in 2011 when Arian Foster went down, as well as Roy Helu.
The key here is not to let the drafting of Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson or Darren McFadden end your season, so I present some of the most underrated handcuffs that should be considered when drafting in the later rounds and filling your bench.
I’m going to avoid obvious handcuffs such as Michael Bush, Jonathan Stewart and C.J. Spiller and give you some names that will make you think outside the box.
Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens
Pierce has missed a bit of training camp time unexpectedly for the Ravens due to a bothered hamstring, but the potential for him to step in as the #2 back in Baltimore is heavy as I don’t see Anthony Allen challenging him as much.
Granted Ray Rice seems to never be injured and miss time, you still never know what could happen, and as talented as Pierce is, I would not be surprised to see him have some fantasy value in 2012.
Kendall Hunter/Brandon Jacobs, San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore is aging and does not have a lot of tread left on the tires. While rookie LaMichael James looks to be the heir apparent, I do not expect him in the mix until 2013 at the earliest.
For 2012, Kendall Hunter making plays on third downs out of the back field and sneaking a few carries, while Brandon Jacobs scoops up some goal line duties makes me believe that either could step in if/when Gore misses playing time.
They’ll be waiver wire guys for much of the season, but be prepared to keep them on your watch list.
Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals
I’ve really been on Scott’s bandwagon for the last couple seasons as I really think he has the ability to break out and become a very solid running back for any team if utilized properly. Being a quicker back that can catch out of the back field, I think Scott see’s a strong improvement on his touches in 2012.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis is no better than former incumbent Cedric Benson, but he will get into the end zone. However, I don’t expect The Law Firm to carry the load for the entire season.
David Wilson, New York Giants
When the Giants are not complaining about Wilson’s inability to stay in and protect the quarterback, they are raving about his abilities as a runner.
He has great speed and is talented both between the tackles and making plays on the edge, and catching out of the back field. The chances of Ahmad Bradshaw starting 16 games is slim to none and I fully expect the Giants to work on Wilson’s pass protection in order to rush getting him into the lineup. Wilson is the future #1 tailback for the Giants and they will utilize him in 2012.
Taiwan Jones, Oakland Raiders
Darren McFadden’s injury issues aren’t likely to go away anytime soon, so Run DMC owners enjoy him while he lasts. But don’t hesitate to pick up Jones who’s break away speed is exceptional and ability to make people miss in the open field is mind blowing.
Jones will see playing time this year, not only to cut down the carries for McFadden, but also to flash the Raiders latest weapon in their offensive youth movement at skill positions, outside of Carson Palmer.
Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs
It would be silly to ignore what Hillis was able to do in fantasy on a Cleveland Browns team in 2010, that really, really stunk. Of course in 2011, we saw a completely different Hillis that disappointed fantasy owners and even worse, Browns fans.
We know Hillis has the ability to put up gaudy numbers, and he’s backing up agile stud Jamaal Charles who is coming off of a torn ACL in 2011. If Charles goes down, the Chiefs should still be in decent shape with Hillis, as will your fantasy team behind an offensive line that’s improved.
Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks
With the legal issues Marshawn Lynch is getting in, Turbin is looking like a top tier handcuff that needs to be added in every league. He’s impressing in Seahawks training camp and is showing that he may have gone under the radar after not being drafted until the fourth round in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Even if Lynch does not receive any discipline, Turbin is going to see playing time as he’s simply too talented not to be on the field for a Seahawks team that needs to win now.
Alex Green, Green Bay Packers
The talented and underrated Green is coming off of ACL surgery in his rookie campaign. Despite a crowded back field, Green has the ability to make plays between the tackles and strength to come in on goal line situations.
Of course the entire Packers back field is a crapshoot right now with James Starks looking to be the lead back, and Ryan Grant coming back. I suspect that Green will be the third back that could see some touches if either Grant or Starks struggles or goes down.
Isaiah Pead, St. Louis Rams
It’s no secret that new head coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams are high on the talented speedster out of Cincinnati. Pead looks to back up stud Steven Jackson immediately, and will likely see touches early on, especially on third downs.
Jackson is a tough runner who does not let knicks and cuts keep him out of games, but at some point he will slow down. Pead is a guy that should likely be drafted at the bottom of 10 team drafts.
Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Rashard Mendenhall potentially being PUP’d, Isaac Redman will likely come in as the lead back for the Steelers, which leads Jonathan Dwyer as the likely back up behind the big man.
Redman and Dwyer are similar runners who are physical between the tackles, but Redman’s initial burst and experience make him the better candidate. However, in the even that he goes down, the Steelers will have to feed somebody else.
Dwyer is best left as a free agent handcuff, but don’t ignore him if the Steelers running back situation plays out differently.