When drafting in fantasy football, acquiring your starting running back’s primary backup is always an important move to make—especially when that starter has a history of injuries and you already know that he’s going to miss at least one week of action for you at some point this season.
But you can’t always get what you want, and sometimes you are left to pick from a slew of backups of whom you simply aren’t sure.
Not all backups are made equal, and not every team utilizes those backups in the same way.
Let’s see if we can shed some light on who is worthy of your time.
Michael Bush, Chicago Bears
Bush isn’t going to take away much of the regular workload from Matt Forte, but he is going to take away goal-line carries, and that alone makes him a viable fantasy option as a flex player.
Should Forte go down with an injury, Bush has shown over the course of his career that he has the ability to keep a running game moving, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards in place of Darren McFadden last year for the Raiders.
Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles looks like he’s back in top form, fully recovered from the torn ACL that ended his season in Week 2 last year; but that doesn’t mean Hillis isn’t going to be a factor in the Chiefs offense.
When asked by reporters how he planned on splitting up the carries, Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel was non-committal (via 810 Chiefs Zone):
Just how we feel, how it's going. And, that's totally honest with you. You can't say how a game is going to go. We go up there, and we work all these hours at night, and we put a game plan together, but if a play is not working, then you don't keep calling that play.
It’s important to note that the man running the offense for the Chiefs this year is Brian Daboll, who just happened to be running the show in Cleveland when Peyton Hillis had his breakout season.
At the very least, Hillis could become a touchdown vulture, taking the brunt of the punishment at the goal line to limit the pounding that Charles takes on weekly basis.
But he could also force the issue and wind up as part of a two-headed running attack for the Chiefs.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans
Arian Foster isn’t exactly the poster boy for running backs who constantly stay healthy, and Tate proved that he’s a viable threat on the ground in the NFL last season, averaging 5.4 yards per carry when he stepped in for the oft-injured Foster.
Whether it’s giving Foster a breather or as a substitute in a blowout—the likes of which, given the perceived lack of competition in the AFC South, Houston could find itself in quite often—Tate is going to get plenty of touches.
Tate is actually a viable flex option as a backup right now. If Foster goes down for any length of time, Tate has proven that he’s capable of picking up the slack in Foster’s absence.
David Wilson, New York Giants
Don’t let Wednesday night’s contest with the Cowboys scare you off from Wilson, who was unimpressive, rushing only two times for four yards and a lost fumble.
Ahmad Bradshaw is only a misstep away from being relegated to the sidelines with an injury, and the Giants didn’t use a first-round pick on Wilson because they planned on not using him extensively this season.
Wilson is a quick, elusive back who is going to see more time behind Eli Manning as the season wears on and as Bradshaw, predictably, starts to break down.
Solid on the ground and a viable pass-catcher out of the backfield, Wilson is going to put points on the board for someone’s fantasy team in 2012.