2012 Fantasy Football’s Top RB Handcuffs
I’m not a huge risk-taker when it comes to running backs. However, I know that sometimes you have to cover your eyes and pull the trigger on guys like Darren McFadden if you want a shot at a dream fantasy season. However, if you’re going to draft a risky guy, you may want to make sure you have his top backup.
The bad part is that not every stud with red flags has a backup that you “must” own. However, a lot of them do. Here are the top handcuff options that could pay off in the later rounds if your starter goes down in 2012:
Toby Gerhart (Minnesota Vikings)
Adrian Peterson messed his knee up pretty bad to end the 2011 season, and while his freakish recovery may mean Gerhart has little value in 2012, history still suggests Gerhart should be owned this year. Even if Peterson makes it back and is his usual beastly self, Gerhart will be more involved and is a solid insurance policy for All Day owners, should the former Sooner hit the shelf again.
C.J. Spiller (Buffalo Bills)
Fred Jackson should be the clear-cut starter in Buffalo entering 2011. After all, he was leading the league in rushing and flat-out beasting it until he went down with a broken leg. However, he did break that ol’ leg, and Spiller did show he’s got the goods to make it happen at the highest level. Sort of.
Jackson is a legit running back, but Spiller is still going to start cutting into his carries a bit, and should be as active as ever as a receiver out of the back-field. And of course, if F-Jax goes down, Spiller will be a nice guy to own.
Daniel Thomas (Miami Dolphins)
I’m not in love with Daniel Thomas’s talent, but he’s a steady back that should share the rushing load to a certain degree with Reggie Bush. What I do love about Thomas, however, is the solid chance of the usually fragile Bush going down and a big role knocking on the door. He’d still have to battle with rookie Lamar Miller, but he’d almost certainly get the first crack at being “the guy” if Bush takes a knee in 2012.
Bernard Pierce (Baltimore Ravens)
Pierce is slated to be Ray Rice’s top backup with Ricky Williams retired and seemingly staying that way. If Williams returns, Pierce’s case is moot. If he sticks as the first guy in line behind Rice, though, he’ll at the worst help shoulder some of the load, and could vie for some goal-line work, too. And if Rice, who has touched the ball over 330 times in each of the last three seasons, goes down, Pierce could benefit immensely.
Ben Tate (Houston Texans)
Even people who aren’t Arian Foster owners may want to think about going after Tate a little early. Even though he’s a backup, he has the ability to get 10-15 fantasy points (maybe more) in any given week due to Houston’s strong rushing attack. In fact, he did so six times in 2011, and actually finished with 942 rushing yards.
Tate should arguably be drafted ahead of a lot of other starters in fantasy drafts, especially given his enormous potential should Foster ever go down.
Peyton Hillis (Kansas City Chiefs)
Hillis was ravaged by injuries and inconsistency in 2011 after a huge 2010 season. Luckily, he’s out of Cleveland, where talent goes to die. In Kansas City, he’ll be reunited with former Browns OC Brian Daboll, who helped make Hillis that guy who doesn’t chew gum but chew’s rocks back in 2010.
While you can freely doubt Hillis going into 2012, you can’t ignore the fact that Jamaal Charles is coming back from a serious knee injury, and that the Chiefs will definitely try to run the ball a lot. He should bring good goal-line value, and if Charles struggles or goes down, his role could easily expand.
Mike Goodson (Oakland Raiders)
Darren McFadden tours with the circus. That’s how much of a freak he is. And while I respect and acknowledge his freak ability, I also am very aware of his horrible health history. Call it bad luck all you want, but McFadden has yet to play more than 13 games in a season, and has topped 620 yards just once.
Now, I’m not enamored with Goodson, but he’ll have a pretty nice role if/when McFadden gets hurt again. If you’re spending your first-rounder on McGetsinjuredalot, you have to grab Goodson and/or possibly even Taiwan Jones as insurance.
David Wilson (New York Giants)
I don’t trust Ahmad Bradshaw, and in some ways, I think Wilson can be a better running back. In his first season.
Bradshaw is still a shifty runner with good speed, but he’s a smaller dude that gets hurt a lot. In fact, for all the hype he gets, Bradshaw has played a full season just once in his career, and has managed to top 800 rushing yards just once, as well. Wilson is an explosive, versatile back that should have a role right away with Brandon Jacobs gone to San Francisco, while he has unlimited potential if the starting spot suddenly becomes his.
Felix Jones (Dallas Cowboys)
It’s funny that I’m talking about Jones as a handcuff, when just last year he was a major sleeper and we were talking about current starter DeMarco Murray as his handcuff. But the tables have turned, and now Jones is more of a third down and change of pace back entering 2012. He still has some sick potential, but he’s pretty grounded as long as Murray is running the show.
Michael Bush (Chicago Bears)
Bush is in Chicago now and Matt Forte still hasn’t received a new deal. In other words – if Forte holds out or for some reason gets traded, Bush could be in for a huge role. And if Forte signs and then goes down due to an injury like last season, Bush would – yet again – have a huge role. I like him as the goal-line back, and you should grab him if you get Forte, too.
Jason Snelling (Atlanta Falcons)
Snelling isn’t that special of a talent, but he’s a tough runner with some nice versatility. He’s proven in the past that he simply “gets it done” when he’s handed the ball, and with Michael Turner’s load and health history, he might get some opportunities again in 2012.
Ryan Williams (Arizona Cardinals)
Both Williams and Beanie Wells are still recovering from leg injuries. Williams’s is way more serious (torn patella), but he was hurt all the way back in preseason and should be close to 100% by the time the season starts. I think he’ll help shoulder the load, and if Wells struggles or can’t get healthy, he could pay off as a late steal. Wells has a sketchy injury history anyways, so grabbing Williams is a smart move if you draft Wells.
Isaiah Pead (St. Louis Rams)
Steven Jackson seems to always be hurt. Whether it’s his back, quad, or something else, he’s always nicked up and not quite the elite option you thought you were getting when you drafted him in the first or second round. Still, despite this, he hasn’t rushed for less than 1,000 yards since his rookie year – way back in 2004.
With that said, Jackson is going to be 29 before the season starts, and he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning. There were even some whispers about him being traded or released. Pead’s presence at least suggests the Rams are inching in another direction at running back. So, if you draft S-Jax, just make sure you’re as prepared as they are for a sudden decrease in production or overall role.