Fantasy Football 2013: Must-Have Handcuffs at Running Back Position
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Fantasy football drafts are right around the corner. Team owners have formulated draft strategies and picked out players they want.
One question still leaves owners torn: Should I handcuff my stud running back?
In some cases the answer is no. In others, the answer is a resounding yes.
In this slideshow, we'll look at the must-have handcuffs in 2013 fantasy football. Keep in mind that depth charts can change often. Injuries can also play a role in the decision to handcuff or not.
Start the slideshow below and see who the must-have handcuffs are for the upcoming season.
Bryce Brown, Philadelphia Eagles
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Bryce Brown of the Eagles is a must-have handcuff if you take LeSean McCoy.
According to his game logs on Pro-Football-Reference, Brown was little more than a change-of-pace back until late in the season. He never had more than five carries in a game and failed to score a touchdown.
Brown was given the reins against Carolina and seized the opportunity. Brown rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. He made an instant impression on fantasy football players.
The next week, he followed up with another two-touchdown game against Dallas. Brown ran for 169 yards on 24 carries that night and had the feel of a late-season boost that fantasy teams wanted.
After those two games, he fell back to reality with 40 carries for 76 yards and no touchdowns in the Eagles' final four games.
Brown is still a must-have handcuff given McCoy's injury history. He missed six games last season due to a concussion. Philadelphia will have a new offense with former University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly calling the plays. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Kelly called more than 600 rushing plays and fewer than 400 passing plays during any of his four seasons at Oregon.
While there will be adjustments to that ratio, McCoy can't possibly take all the carries in the offense. Brown would stand to get a high number of carries should McCoy miss time. Additionally, the Eagles will be without wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn due to season-ending knee injuries. It's likely that the Eagles will look to the ground game for their offense this season.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans
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Tate only had one game with more than 50 rushing yards in 2012. It came against Jacksonville in Week 2, when Tate rolled up 74 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.
Foster has put plenty of miles on his tires in the last couple seasons. His player page on Pro-Football-Reference shows Foster had 391 touches last season, and 40 of them were receptions. The season before, it was 333 total touches, and 2010 saw a heavy workload of 393 touches.
Foster also was slowed by a mild calf injury that saw him start training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
The workload is a big one for Foster. If he were to miss time, Tate would inherit the role. Tate's contract also runs out after the season, so he would be eager to prove what he can do.
At some point, Foster will break down. When he does, make sure you have Tate on your roster.
Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers
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Danny Woodhead of the Chargers is our third must-have handcuff for the upcoming season.
Questions exist about the durability of starting running back Ryan Mathews. Last season, Mathews played in 12 games and rushed for 707 yards on 184 carries. Mathews scored one rushing touchdown for the season.
There's also been talk of the Chargers riding the "hot hand" in the backfield, according to Alex Marvez of Fox Sports. If that happens, a Mathews owner should own Woodhead if he gets hot.
Woodhead is a better option in the passing game than Mathews. Woodhead is also better as a third-down back and in pass protection. He's also showing early signs of being a go-to guy for quarterback Philip Rivers, according to Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
If you're willing to take a chance on Mathews having a bounce-back year, you should also have Woodhead on your roster as insurance if the bounce-back doesn't happen.
Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts
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Bradshaw originally began training camp on the PUP list due to a foot injury. The Colts were forced to activate him Monday after Bradshaw participated in a walk-through, according to USA Today. The article says that Bradshaw's participation violated league rules, and he had to be activated because of it.
Bradshaw has a history of foot and lower leg injuries. Bleacher Report's Will Carroll reviewed them two months ago and shows the issues Bradshaw may have running on a turf surface.
Enter Ballard and his value as a handcuff. His Pro-Football-Reference game logs show he had double-digit carries in nearly every game after Week 6. The downside is he had only game with more than 100 rushing yards last season. He wasn't able to get into the end zone often, as Ballard posted three total touchdowns (two rushing) last season.
The combination of Bradshaw's foot injuries and a long stretch of games on turf will give Ballard opportunities. Make sure you pick Ballard if you own Bradshaw. Indianapolis closes with games against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16 and Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17.
Bilal Powell, New York Jets
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Our fifth handcuff is Bilal Powell of the Jets. Chris Ivory came over from New Orleans and is expected to be the lead back for the Jets this season. According to Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, Ivory had his first practices of the season and showed some quickness.
In another article, Walder wrote that Powell was in danger of being overworked while Ivory recovered from a hamstring ailment.
When you put those two things together, Powell looks to be the handcuff in fantasy football. According to his Pro-Football-Reference page, Ivory has never recorded more than 137 carries in a season. It's a fair question to ask if he's ready to make the leap to the number of carries an NFL lead back usually takes. Ivory has three career receptions in three seasons, so he doesn't add anything in the passing game.
Powell's stats show 437 yards and four rushing touchdowns last season for the Jets. He added 17 receptions so he was used sparingly in the passing game.
Ivory might be able to break out after being buried on the depth chart in New Orleans last season. If you want to go with Ivory as a lead running back for your fantasy team, pick up Powell as well.
Andre Brown, New York Giants
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Just like with the Chargers, the Giants could be riding the "hot hand" at running back. According to Marc Sessler of NFL.com, both Wilson and Brown were listed as co-starters on the team's first unofficial depth chart.
Brown finished last season with 358 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Brown finished with 385 yards on 73 carries with eight touchdowns. Brown's season ended from a broken fibula suffered in Week 12 against Green Bay.
According to his player page on Pro-Football-Reference, all eight of Brown's touchdowns came from fewer than three yards out. That screams of a fantasy football vulture waiting to let Wilson get the ball down by the goal line before Brown finishes it off.
Ebenezer Samuel and Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reported that Wilson also wants to return kickoffs. Wilson averaged nearly 27 yards per return last season. That would be a foolish move on Wilson's part, as no other starting running back in the league also returns kickoffs.
If you want to try Wilson this season, make sure you get Brown on your roster as well. The Giants have a potentially explosive running game, and you'll need to have both backs to maximize the fantasy points from it.