Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Best Handcuffs to Have at Running Back

Rob Tong@colickyboyContributor IIIAugust 16, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: 5 Best Handcuffs to Have at Running Back

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    Though the strategy of running back handcuffs for fantasy football is as old as stadium dirt, I personally have never used that strategy.

    I would rather draft a starting RB on another team than a backup on the same team. The reason being that another team's starting RB is typically more talented than the injured RB's backup.

    For example, I would rather take a starter like Mark Ingram or Donald Brown than Ray Rice's projected backup, Anthony Allen.

    As a matter of fact, I would more often take a RBBC player, like David Wilson or C.J. Spiller, than LeSean McCoy's projected backup, Dion Lewis.

    That said, there are a few situations where taking a handcuff makes absolute sense.

1. Ben Tate, HOU

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    In every draft I have seen so far this year, not a single Arian Foster owner has taken Ben Tate.

    Not one.

    Although I don't normally advocate taking a handcuff, I will strongly argue that if you draft Arian Foster, it is a cardinal sin if you do not take Ben Tate later in your draft.

    Tate showed last year that he can have stud games even with backup minutes.

    And if Foster goes down, you know Tate is an absolute lock to put up Foster-like fantasy numbers.

    In fact, it would be a travesty if you owned Foster, he had a season-ending injury and someone else got Tate, reaping Foster-like production while you're scrambling for some hope-and-pray waiver wire guy like Peyton Hillis.

    If you take Foster, Tate is a must.

2. Isaiah Pead, STL

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    As I've written before, Steven Jackson is on the precipice of the notorious cliff that mileage-heavy or older running backs fall off when they are no longer productive.

    Yet, Jeff Fisher is a coach known for running the football.

    So if you're going to draft Steven Jackson, you have to draft rookie Isaiah Pead at some point as well.

    If Steven Jackson is able to fight off the NFL version of the Grim Reaper for one more season, great.

    But if Jackson doesn't make it through the season, Pead will be the bell cow. And again, with Jeff Fisher's penchant for running the football, Pead will get the volume to make him a viable fantasy starter.

    With Jackson's red flags, you must take Pead as insurance. No ifs, ands or buts.

3. David Wilson, NYG

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    Over his five seasons, Ahmad Bradshaw has played all 16 games only once.

    In other words, odds are good that someone else will start in his place at some point this season.

    Rookie David Wilson is a talented player who is already expected to be a sizable chunk of the Giants' dreaded RBBC.

    But given Bradshaw's inability to stay out of the trainer's room, taking Wilson as a handcuff will ensure you get the Giants' RB fantasy production regardless.

4. C.J. Spiller, BUF

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    Fred Jackson is the starter in Buffalo.

    In an effort to keep the talented Spiller on the field more often, the Bills have toyed with Spiller split wide this preseason.

    But the bigger consideration is that Jackson is 31 years old.

    While he has little mileage on him, Jackson is not just knocking on the proverbial door of the 30-year-old declining running back. He's just about rammed the whole door down.

    Could Jackson suffer another significant injury on his aging body?

    Jackson owners would be wise to draft Spiller just in case such an event happens, because it will ensure you get those quality fantasy totals from that productive Bills position. After all, Spiller would be much more productive than whatever RB you find off the waiver-wire scrap heap.

5. Ronnie Hillman, DEN

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    Willis McGahee is also going to be 31 years old on October 21st.

    In other words, the NFL RB Grim Reaper could be plenty busy this year.

    If McGahee ends up being out with an injury or falls off the cliff, rookie Ronnie Hillman has the goods to take advantage of head coach John Fox's running-back-friendly system.

    Strongly consider Hillman if you take McGahee.

Other Considerations

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    Arizona's Ryan Williams should be in play for Beanie Wells owners. The only problem is that Williams himself is recovering from injury.

    Jacksonville's Rashad Jennings should be in play for Maurice Jones-Drew owners, as MJD appears to be digging in his heels on his holdout.

    Minnesota's Toby Gerhart acquitted himself in Adrian Peterson's absence last year, but it's not like Gerhart made anyone forget Peterson. Peterson was cleared for full activity, so unless he regresses, Gerhart's value drops with each passing day.

    Darren McFadden has looked fantastic so far in camp. But given his injury track record, Oakland's Taiwan Jones should be on the radar of McFadden owners.

    I'm not quite sold on Atlanta's Jacquizz Rodgers yet, although age is knocking on Michael Turner's door this year too.

    With Jahvid Best likely to miss the first six games of the season and Mikel Leshoure missing the first two games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, Kevin Smith is one to target if you are looking for the Lion's RB handcuff.

    Michael Bush is a solid RB and it's still unclear how much he will vulture from Chicago's Matt Forte, but in terms of an injury handcuff, Forte's injury was a freak injury. He had not missed a game prior to that, so it's not like he's injury prone.