When it comes to drafting your fantasy football team, sometimes you have to protect the players you draft. For instance, if you draft a top-tier running back, you should draft his backup just in case of an injury or the possibility of split carries.
This theory is called handcuffing and should be used in all leagues. You need to protect your investment if you draft a running back with your top pick, and handcuffing is the way to do that.
Some teams already have established a platoon backfield, and they will not be listed under the top 20 running backs to handcuff.
BAL: Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain
TEN: Chris Johnson and LenDale White
CAR: DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart
PIT: Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall
NE: Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris
ARI: Tim Hightower and Chris Wells
BUF: Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson
The Top 20 Running Backs To Handcuff
Rank Team Starter Backup
1. IND Joseph Addai Donald Brown
Reason: After an injury-filled season, Addai heads into camp with a first-round draft pick in Brown right on his tail. The Colts wouldn’t waste a first-round pick on a running back if they weren’t going to use him, so expect Brown to see significant time as the primary backup for Addai.
Brown’s expected draft position: rounds 7-10
2. DAL Marion Barber Felix Jones
Reason: The Cowboys backfield isn’t a fully-fledged platoon backfield yet, but as the season progresses it may become one if Jones can build off of his rookie season. In 2008, Jones started the season off great as a change-of-pace back for the Cowboys, but only lasted through week six before being sidelined for the rest of the season due to injury.
Jones’s expected draft position: rounds 5-8
3. PHI Brian Westbrook LeSean McCoy
Reason: The Eagles went ahead and drafted McCoy as the replacement for Westbrook in this year’s NFL draft. Over the last four seasons, Westbrook has not been able to stay on the field for a whole season, which leads me to believe he won’t again in 2009. McCoy will see plenty of time as the primary backup in the Eagles’ offense, and should definitely be drafted by Westbrook owners.
McCoy’s expected draft position: rounds 5-8
4. SD LaDainian Tomlinson Darren Sproles
Reason: In 2008, most of Tomlinson’s numbers decreased from the year before, which will most likely happen again in 2009. Sproles was the primary backup last season for the Chargers, and was able to be very productive in that role. With Tomlinson on the decline, you may see a serious role change between the two running backs, and should protect your investment in Tomlinson with a draft selection of Sproles.
Sproles’ expected draft position: rounds 6-9
5. NYJ Thomas Jones Shonn Greene
Reason: Although Jones had his best season of his career in 2008, he is due for a letdown in 2009. Jones finished the season with 15 touchdowns, which was 13 more that he had the previous season. The Jets drafted Greene early in the draft, expecting him to be the future of the Jets backfield. Greene’s playing time is uncertain at this point, but he is worth picking up in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.
Greene’s expected draft position: rounds 10-14
6. MIN Adrian Peterson Chester Taylor
Reason: Even though Peterson is the best running back in football, it is still important to draft his backup. In 2008, Taylor was able to cross the goal line seven times, after only starting for the team once all season. Peterson will need to take a few plays off throughout the season, which will give Taylor time to shine.
Taylor’s expected draft position: rounds 9-12
7. ATL Michael Turner Jerious Norwood
Reason: In 2008, Turner surpassed the ever-deadly 345 carries threshold, crushing that number by carrying the ball a total of 376 times. This is the reason to draft Norwood, who compliments Turner in the Falcons’ backfield. Norwood has been able to be the “lightning in a bottle” for the offense over the last few seasons, and looks as if he will do it again in 2009.
Norwood’s expected draft position: rounds 10-14
8. NYG Brandon Jacobs Ahmad Bradshaw
Reason: Now with Derrick Ward in Tampa Bay, Bradshaw will be the primary backup for Jacobs in the Giants' backfield. Although Jacobs is the starter, the Giants love to use more than one back in their system. Bradshaw should see plenty of time, especially if Jacobs injures himself, which seems to happen every year.
Bradshaw’s expected draft position: rounds 8-12
9. TB Derrick Ward Earnest Graham
Reason: Although the Bucs signed Ward in the offseason, Graham still has plenty left in his tank. He is only two years removed from his 2007 breakout season, when he scored 10 touchdowns. Graham should see significant time heading into 2009.
Graham’s expected draft position: rounds 7-10
10. SEA Julius Jones T.J. Duckett
Reason: In 2008, Duckett was a touchdown machine for the Seahawks. Jones was considered the top back in the system, but he never received the goal line carries. Expect much on the same heading into 2009, especially with Maurice Morris out of the picture.
Duckett’s expected draft position: rounds 12-15
11. KC Larry Johnson Jamaal Charles
Reason: As you all know, Johnson has a hard time staying out of trouble, so it is always good to have his backup. In Johnson’s absence last season, Charles was able to record 357 yards rushing and one touchdown as a starter. Charles is a good late round pick once the other backups are taken.
Charles’ expected draft position: rounds 14-18
12. MIA Ronnie Brown Ricky Williams
Reason: The Wildcat offense allows multiple players the opportunity to make big plays at multiple positions, as the Dolphins showed last year. Brown lined up as a quarterback multiple times, which allowed Williams to get on the field more than a usual backup. Expect to see similar time for Williams as the Dolphins continue to turn people’s heads.
Williams’ expected draft position: rounds 9-12
13. CLE Jamaal Lewis James Davis
Reason: Lewis had a great season for the Browns in 2007, scoring 11 touchdowns in his first season with the team. It looks as if Lewis rejuvenated his career, but last season was a disappointment for the seasoned veteran. Davis is coming into his rookie season in 2009, and is already impressing everyone in the organization. Expect to see Davis get significant playing time in the Browns new offensive scheme.
Davis’ expected draft position: rounds 14-17
14. OAK Darren McFadden Michael Bush
Reason: As the Raiders try to improve on last year’s mark, the team is trying to change up how the team runs the football. Al Davis has shown favoritism towards Bush already this season, which means Bush will get plenty of playing time. McFadden should get the bulk of the carries, while Justin Fargas and Bush fight for the backup position.
Bush’s expected draft position: rounds 18-20
15. DEN Knowshon Moreno Correll Buckhalter
Reason: The Broncos have as many running backs ion training camp as the Yankees have championship rings. There is really no clear-cut No. 1 back in this system, but you would have to figure that Moreno will receive the bulk of the carries, with Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, Arrington and Hillis all seeing time as well. Then again, it’s the Broncos backfield, so you never know who will see the carries.
Buckhalter’s expected draft position: rounds 10-13
16. CHI Matt Forte Kevin Jones
Reason: The only reason I have Forte on here is that he is a top five pick in most drafts and should be protected in case of an injury. There is no chance Jones will see significant time this season as long as Forte stays healthy.
Jones’ expected draft position: rounds 17-20
17. SF Frank Gore Glen Coffee
Reason: Gore proved over the last few season he can't stay healthy. Coffee has impressed the staff in San Francisco in training camp thus far, making him a solid rookie pickup in the late rounds.
Coffee’s expected draft position: rounds 17-20
18. WAS Clinton Portis Ladell Betts
Reason: Last season, Portis was one of the best running backs in the league through the first eight weeks of the season. After that, he seemed to get hit by a freight train, and put up horrible numbers. If Portis can’t bounce back from the end of the season last year, Betts may see significant time.
Betts’ expected draft position: rounds 17-20
19. JAC Maurice Jones-Drew Rashad Jennings
Reason: Jones-Drew is the clear-cut No. 1 back for the Jaguars, now that Fred Taylor is with the Patriots. He may need time to adjust to a full-time role, and that’s where Jennings comes in. Jennings could end up being a solid change-of-pace back for the Jaguars offense in 2009, as long as he gets a chance to.
Jenninngs’ expected draft position: rounds 18-20
20. GB Ryan Grant Brandon Jackson
Reason: Although Grant couldn’t repeat his 2007 season in 2008, he was still able to put together a solid season for the Packers. The team should continue to keep feeding Grant the ball, but if he gets hurt Jackson will be the primary back in the Packers' offense.
Jackson’s expected draft position: rounds 17-20
This article was originally published at www.rotoinfo.com.