Fantasy Football 2012: Key Handcuffs to Target in Fantasy Drafts
Fantasy football is starting to heat up across the country, and players like Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy are flying off draft boards.
While these guys will always get the press, seasons can be won and lost by simply selecting a key handcuff in the later rounds of the draft.
Here are a few backups to target should you grab their corresponding starter.
Probably the most important handcuff to target in fantasy drafts is Rashad Jennings.
At this stage, Maurice Jones-Drew is still going reasonably early in fantasy drafts. You probably shouldn't grab Jones-Drew before the second round in your draft, but if he falls to you, he might be worth a look in the second or third.
If you do select Jones-Drew, though, drafting Rashad Jennings is a must. Jennings will get a decent amount of carries regardless, but he will be especially key if Jones-Drew sits out any length of the regular season.
After leading the NFL in carries in 2011, Jones-Drew will also be running on tired legs this year. That increases his risk of injury immensely, making Jennings that much more important.
Right now, Jennings' average draft position is 140.5, according to FantasyPros.com.
He has played so well in the preseason, though, that Jones-Drew owners should target Jennings around Round 8.
Doing so virtually guarantees production at the running back position.
Bernard Pierce might not be a hot fantasy commodity right now. However, after seemingly taking control of the primary backup job behind Ray Rice, Pierce should be a target for Ray Rice owners in the later rounds.
Pierce's numbers were not great against the Lions in his first taste of preseason action, but he ran hard and showed big-time talent.
If, for whatever reason, Ray Rice goes down, Pierce will get tons of carries and he has the talent to make them count.
Even if Rice avoids injury, the Ravens are well known as a team that likes to use their backup runner. Willis McGahee was still a viable fantasy running back when he backed up Ray Rice, so Pierce is naturally also worth a draft pick.
If Rice stays healthy, expect around 400 yards and a few touchdowns out of Pierce. His real value, though, is protecting owners from an injury to Rice.
Pierce's value right now isn't high, so you can probably grab him in the last two rounds of the draft. For Ray Rice owners, that's a great investment.
Frank Gore owners have the misfortune of dealing with an injury almost every season. As talented as Gore is, he just can't stay healthy.
In years past, that often meant demise for their fantasy seasons and for the 49ers themselves.
This year is different, though, as the 49ers have real depth at the running back position.
After an injury to Brandon Jacobs and a stellar performance from Kendall Hunter, fantasy owners can be sure that Hunter is a top-tier handcuff for Gore.
Even if Gore stays healthy, Hunter is a worthy sleeper in PPR leagues. He didn't catch a lot of passes last year, but he has the makeup of an excellent third-down back.
Hunter is definitely worth a late-round pick to ensure owners that they will get production out of the 49ers backfield.
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