Fantasy Football 2014: 5 Most Valuable Running Back Handcuffs
It’s mid-August. Do you know who your running back handcuff is?
Knowing is especially important when your draft is early and your preseason NFL game viewing ritual includes crossing your fingers that your No. 1 RB makes it out of the game healthy. But it’s also vital to know later in fantasy football draft season—when other owners are looking for high-upside rushers on the cheap.
If you’re pinning your hopes of a fantasy championship on Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Arian Foster or Trent Richardson this year, keep a close eye on the following players looking up at them on the depth chart.
5. Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts
If his 2.9 yards-per-carry average from 2013 persists this season—or in the event of injury—the next man up will once again be Ahmad Bradshaw.
The 28-year-old veteran expects to start the regular season following neck surgery. He’s got injury concerns of his own, but Bradshaw also has a career rushing average of 4.6 yards per carry.
He even ran for 200 yards in a single game just two years ago.
4. Jonathan Grimes, Houston Texans
As the Houston Chronicle’s Brian T. Smith reports, Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien has sketched out the depth chart at running back: "Grimes' experience overall probably has him a little ahead of Alfred [Blue].”
Of course, “Alfred’s doing a good job for a guy that just got here,” but Grimes is currently the guy you want in case Arian Foster misses any time. Foster’s already out with a hamstring injury—an injury that has lingered in recent years with other skill guys like Miles Austin.
Foster’s absence in the first preseason game left 10 carries open for Grimes. Sometimes, opportunity is more than half the battle.
3. Ka'Deem Carey, Chicago Bears
Rookie running back Ka’Deem Carey will fall in behind Matt Forte in the Windy City. Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman has devised an offense that sent 383 opportunities—including 289 carries and 94 targets—to Forte alone in 2013.
That’s a lot of activity.
Forte has only missed five of a possible 96 regular-season games in his six-year career. Nevertheless, the sheer volume of his work suggests that the Bears need an all-purpose rusher to make the offense go—even if it isn’t him.
Carey is used to a heavy workload, having recorded 714 touches—and 44 touchdowns—in his final two collegiate seasons.
2. Knile Davis, Kansas City Chiefs
Knile Davis is second in line behind fantasy football’s No. 1 RB last season, Jamaal Charles.
While De’Anthony Thomas also figures to get some touches for the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s Davis who will likely have the more featured role if Charles misses time. The thinking remains that “small” players can’t hold up under a heavy workload in the NFL.
Thomas is 5’8”, 176 pounds; Davis is 5’10”, 227 pounds. Charles, meanwhile, is 5’11”, 199 pounds. Andy Reid continues to deploy some of fantasy football’s most productive running backs, which would make Davis fantasy’s hottest pickup if he were to go down.
Charles averaged 24.2 combined rushes and targets per game last year.
1. Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks
Marshawn Lynch isn’t going to see a lot of preseason action this year—but he didn’t get more than a handful of carries last preseason, either. That didn’t stop him from getting 300-plus totes for a second consecutive season.
Christine Michael was the Seattle Seahawks’ first selection in the 2013 draft. Expectations are high in his second season, whether or not Beast Mode is running ahead of him. Robert Turbin is going to see targets and carries regardless, but Michael’s role stands to change the most if Lynch’s absence extends to the regular season.
Michael only played in four regular-season games as a rookie.
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