Due to offseason moves in free agency and the draft, a handful of NFL teams currently have depth chart question marks. Each of the following teams has a clear starter—and, in many cases, a workhorse—but the handcuff role is yet to be determined.
Some of these roster spot competitions are particularly important for fantasy purposes, considering several lead backs have significant injury history. Once these depth chart battles play out, there could be a few more premium handcuffs worth drafting in all leagues.
In lieu of a definitive handcuff for each team, I've projected the best value backup option when accounting for each player’s expected draft cost.
San Francisco 49ers (handcuff to Frank Gore)
Candidates: Kendall Hunter, Carlos Hyde, Marcus Lattimore, LaMichael James
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Carlos Hyde
Big names, crowded backfield. As Gore, 31, enters his 10th year in the league, the battle for his successor may be the most intriguing of the remaining handcuff situations in terms of fantasy.
Cleveland Browns (handcuff to Ben Tate)
Candidates: Dion Lewis, Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Terrance West
The Browns signed Tate this offseason to a barren backfield looking for its bell cow. While Tate is presumed to carry the load in Cleveland, rookies West and Crowell could impress in training camp.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (handcuff to Doug Martin)
Candidates: Mike James, Bobby Rainey, Charles Sims
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Charles Sims
Martin received medical clearance back in March and is in line to resume duties as Tampa Bay’s workhorse. James and Rainey flashed solid production last year in Martin’s 10-game absence, but Sims is a talented rookie prospect with great pass-catching ability.
Green Bay Packers (handcuff to Eddie Lacy)
Candidates: James Starks, Jonathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Jonathan Franklin
It didn’t take long for Lacy to take full reign over Green Bay’s backfield as a rookie. Who sits directly behind him is not quite as clear. Starks has longevity with the team but Franklin could offer greater upside.
Atlanta Falcons (handcuff to Steven Jackson)
Candidates: Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Devonta Freeman
Jackson will enter his 11th pro season at age 31 with over 2,500 regular-season carries on his résumé. Rodgers has failed to impress in his backup role, and recent reports suggest Freeman’s stock is quickly rising.
Cincinnati Bengals (handcuff to Giovani Bernard)
Candidates: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jeremy Hill
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Jeremy Hill
Gio will undoubtedly receive the most touches in this backfield, but Hill and Green-Ellis are both goal-line threats. Hill’s superior talent should bump him ahead of the “Law Firm” as the season progresses.
Dallas Cowboys (handcuff to DeMarco Murray)
Candidates: Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Lance Dunbar
Murray finally broke out in 2013, but still poses a relatively high injury risk to his owners. Neither Randle nor Joseph has earned the No. 2 role outright, and recent addition Williams has a lot to prove. New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan reportedly prefers Dunbar for now.
Houston Texans (handcuff to Arian Foster)
Candidates: Andre Brown, Dennis Johnson, Deji Karim
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Andre Brown
The Texans swapped one injury-prone backup for another when they signed Brown to replace Tate as the handcuff to Foster. There’s not much of a backup battle here, but Brown’s inability to stay on the field makes Karim and Johnson mildly relevant.
Minnesota Vikings (handcuff to Adrian Peterson)
Candidates: Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon, Joe Banyard
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Matt Asiata
With Norv Turner onboard as the Vikings’ new offensive coordinator, Peterson could be poised for another monster season. His handcuff role is a valuable one, but no back stands out at this time. Asiata is most likely to get the job but is not worth a roster spot.
Arizona Cardinals (handcuff to Andre Ellington)
Candidates: Stepfan Taylor, Jonathan Dwyer
Best Cost-Value Projection for 2014: Stepfan Taylor
Ellington is unlikely to receive an extreme workload, which means other backs will get touches. Dwyer is the more likely goal line vulture but Taylor possesses greater upside.