Ah, the running back handcuff. Few players in fantasy football have more inherent value than a high-upside backup to a stud RB. They typically come dirt cheap in drafts, yet their return on investment can be enormous and possibly save your season.
The fantasy football landscape continues to evolve with league trends. In the ever-growing running-back-by-committee era, fewer teams employ a true workhorse running back. As a result, the scarcity of non-committee backups heightens the value of a true handcuff.
Sure, there’s a chance they will sit on your bench for an entire season. However, if they replace a starter for even one game, it can instantly provide a full return on investment and then some.
To illustrate this point, I offer the following tale of caution.
The year is 2012. Your fantasy team is doing pretty well, and you’re fighting for a playoff spot. To make it, you desperately need your first-round draft pick, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, to put up some big numbers and finish out the regular season strong.
In Week 11, he goes down with a scary head injury. He could miss several weeks. Your running back situation is suddenly in shambles. The trade deadline has passed. The waiver wire is seemingly picked clean.
With a win-or-go-home Week 12 matchup standing between you and the fantasy postseason, you pray that the rest of your roster will carry your team in the absence of its stud running back.
“Who in the world is Bryce Brown?” You ask this question over and over, while you watch your fantasy season go up in flames. Your opponent started the Eagles’ third-string rookie running back who goes on to torch your squad to the tune of 178 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
If only you had the foresight to roster McCoy’s high-upside backup. But he wasn’t even on your radar until it was too late.
Don’t let it happen again in 2014.
The following list profiles five must-own running back handcuffs. Every player sits behind a top fantasy back on his team’s depth chart. Therefore, no one listed here is expected to start the coming year in a running back by committee. As a result, for the purposes of this list, guys like Fred Jackson and Joique Bell do not qualify as handcuffs.
If your starting running back goes down next year, these are the guys you want to be ready to jump in.