Ronnie Brown will instantly regret signing with the Philadelphia Eagles as he will receive minimal playing time. That is, unless LeSean McCoy goes down to injury.
In that scenario, some fantasy owners will have their hearts broken while others will emerge from the shadows to reign supreme in their fantasy league.
For this article’s purpose, we’re going to avoid backs we know will be major contributors.
Shonn Greene and Ahmad Bradshaw may start and dominate the majority of their New York backfields for Gang Green and Big Blue respectively, but LaDainian Tomlinson and Brandon Jacobs will play monster roles.
LT will serve as a primary third-down back for the Jets. Jacobs is still the top dog for goal-line carries, albeit undeservingly at this point in his career, for the Giants.
Mike Tolbert and Thomas Jones are part of time-shares and will take backseats to Ryan Mathews and Jamaal Charles on draft day. Still, they will both become phenomenal flex options as potential touchdown vultures.
In Tolbert’s case, I guarantee he will have a superior season than Mathews since he’s the better option all-around.
We’re looking for deep sleepers and handcuffs you need to target on draft day to secure success down the road. You don’t want to be that person who was ousted from the postseason or even worse, failed to make it because you didn’t do your homework.
Luckily for you, I’m here to provide the cliff notes.
Fantasy football is all about value and preparing for the worst. Instead of waiting to react to an injury and waiting for the waiver wire to work in your favor, take precautionary measures.
It is imperative you game plan for the fantasy playoffs by drafting backup running backs that have the potential to shine during the season.
Redman has already shown that he is a capable short-yardage back, but he proved in preseason Week 1 that he has what it takes to make an impact. He carried the rock five times but gained 42 yards and a touchdown.
He is a powerful runner with solid speed and vision. Since Ray Lewis has taken Rashard Mendenhall out before, it is an extreme possibility that Mendenhall could miss some time after carrying the rock 324 times in 2010.
If you’re drafting Mendenhall, I expect to see Redman on your roster!
Frank Gore wants a new contract. He is also looking to stay healthy.
He’ll get his new contract, but is he a lock to stay healthy? I don’t think so. After dismissing injury concerns early in his career, they’re back.
Brian Westbrook was an admirable option last year, but he’s no longer with the team. One would think Anthony Dixon would be the next option, but Jim Harbaugh drafted former Oklahoma State Cowboy Kendall Hunter for a reason.
Hunter was a top-five running back in the eyes of many fans heading into the 2011 draft. He is a solid all-around runner with his speed, power and hands.
Last year with the Cowboys, Hunter ran for 1,548 yards and 16 touchdowns on 271 yards, the second 1,500-plus-yard and 16-touchdown campaign of his collegiate career.
He is the perfect fit for the 49ers’ offense.
Marion the Barbarian has been unjustly cast aside in the NFL world, but he will emerge as a threat with the Chicago Bears once again.
Barber is a fantastic receiver out of the backfield, which means Mike Martz will have every intention to feed him the rock when Matt Forte is on the sidelines.
The main reason Barber is even in the Windy City is because Forte is abysmal in short-yardage situations. He may be a solid fantasy threat and receiver, but Forte is by no means fit for tough yards. The Bears also do not have any red zone threats in the passing game for Jay Cutler.
Barber excels in smash-mouth situations and has one of the best noses for the end zone in the league. Barber has 47 career touchdowns on the ground. Expect him to be a touchdown vulture this season when the Bears get to close to the red zone.
If it feels like we’ve been hinting at Bernard Scott for years, that’s because we have been. Not many, mainly myself, ever believe in Cedric Benson as a legitimate fantasy threat.
The tide is turning in Cincinnati. The Bengals are
enjoying undergoing a youth movement, and Benson just looks out of place. He’s a ticking time bomb and third-year runner Scott would benefit most from Ced Ben’s destruction.
After a tumultuous offseason, how many people really expect him to produce like a solid No. 2 back? It seems the only reason the Bengals brought him back was because they couldn’t attract many offensive skill players, and Benson had nowhere else to go.
The Bengals have a good offensive line and a rookie quarterback, which is perfect for a running back to enjoy success. Scott is a superior receiver out of the backfield and would be a better check down option for Andy Dalton than Benson.
It seems to happen every year. A player will hold out and then suffer an injury during the season. Chris Johnson may be a freakishly gifted athlete, but he is not invincible.
We saw Darrelle Revis hold out last year, and what happened? BAM! Injured hammy against the Patriots.
Ringer may not be CJ2K, but the man has skills. The Titans will be running early and often this season due to the lack of receivers. The offensive line will be improved from last season, so they will be lining up ready to make noise.
Ringer is entering his third year in the league and has just 59 career attempts for 287 yards and two touchdowns. He is fresh and ready to make a name for himself. It’s all about opportunity, and Ringer has the skills to make the most if relieving or filling in for Johnson.
Ray Rice is my No. 1 overall running back, which means it is imperative everybody grab his backup, Ricky Williams. Williams’ time off to collect himself did wonders for his longevity and is still a viable threat in both the rushing and passing attacks.
Now reunited with former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Williams will still see success. Rice is expected to be the primary goal line back, but if he falls to the Steel Curtain, Ricky is prepared to dominate the league.
Baltimore landed the premier lead blocker in the league in Vonta Leach, so whether it’s Rice or Williams, major yards will be gained on the ground. Ricky was a disappointment last year, but he is two years removed from taking the fantasy world by storm with a monstrous campaign.
He racked up 1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns and could easily do so again if given the opportunity.
Ronnie Brown would excel in Andy Reid’s offense, but he won’t receive much playing time unless LeSean McCoy goes down to injury since Reid rarely uses a committee.
Still, Brown is a must-have as a handcuff. McCoy was productive with a rib injury last year, but he’s still not immune to missing action. McCoy resembles a young Brian Westbrook, and we all know how many injuries B-West compiled in his career.
Brown has an injury history of his own, but he would be phenomenal in this prolific offense due to his vision, receiving skills and nose for the end zone.
In Miami, Brown was the focal point of the offense, but in Philly, he would be an afterthought. His ability to exploit defenses and take them by surprise would provide the recipe for instant success and fantasy playoffs dominance if he is handed the starting job.
Darren McFadden may be a monster on the rise following his breakout season, but he has yet to prove he can stay healthy for an entire season. Bush is coming back to Oakland to repair his image and earn a contract next offseason.
Bush has solid power and receiving skills, which will prove to be invaluable moving forward this season. The Raiders’ offensive is extremely weak due to an inexperienced, injury prone and inconsistent receiving corps.
He won’t put up similar numbers to McFadden, but Bush has the skills to be a solid contributor as a flex option if needed to start a game. The one thing the offense will hang its helmet on is the ability to run the ball.
At least you’d be guaranteed a maximum amount of touches from this handcuff.
Knowshon Moreno skyrocketed up the rankings after the Broncos passed on DeAngelo Williams for Willis McGahee, but there’s still reason to doubt his ascendance to the upper echelon of fantasy runners.
McGahee was a known touchdown vulture in Baltimore and head coach John Fox will look to limit the pounding the somewhat injury prone Moreno takes this season. McGahee is a capable receiver and gives Fox a superior short-yardage and between the tackles back.
More importantly, Fox is known for using multiple running backs. Both Williams and Jonathan Stewart enjoyed success in Carolina. Fox and John Elway have no reason to trust the aerial attack with Kyle Orton and a motley crew of receivers, so expect the Broncos to run early and often as they play smash-mouth, conservative and winning football.
Given Moreno’s injury concerns, McGahee could be a monster this season as he receives a ton of carries. With his experience, it wouldn’t even surprise me if McGahee receives more carries than Moreno as the season wears on.
Moreno owners, you've been warned.
Raise your hand if you trust Maurice Jones-Drew as a first-round fantasy selection.
Not bad, more than I thought.
Now raise your hand if you think he will last the entire season.
Nobody believes MoJo will last the entire season as he comes into the year with more injury concerns than ever before. Our favorite bowling ball is doing everything in his power to get healthy, but his knee is still the reddest of all red flags.
I have absolutely no faith in Jones-Drew this season, which is a shame too because he’s one of the most lovable runners in the league.
Jennings is the top back in line to take the reins from MJD if he goes down. Given the lack of receivers and the possibility of rookie Blaine Gabbert starting at some point, Jennings would receive an extraordinary amount of touches.
Jennings is entering the third year of his career and prime of his life, so he could explode with MJD’s touches. He scored four touchdowns last season, including a three-game stretch with one score each.
He topped 100 yards rushing on just five carries against the Raiders. In the season finale against the Texans, he carried the rock 22 times for 108 yards and a score.
He’s coming folks. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
Jahvid Best’s value skyrocketed when rookie backup Mikel Leshoure went down to injury. Best is expected to be cured from the turf toe that destroyed his rookie campaign, which began with a boom.
Not many will downgrade him after the signing of Jerome Harrison, but they should.
Harrison’s career took a turn for the worst after Peyton Hillis emerged as a breakout star for the Cleveland Browns, but he’s set to creep back into our lives again.
Remember, this is the same man that singlehandedly won fantasy owners their playoff matchups in 2009 when he posted one of the greatest three-game stretches ever. He ran for 286 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries.
He backed it up with 148 yards and one touchdown on 39 carries. He finished that season with 127 yards and one score on 33 carries.
Fluke? Maybe, but he has the skills to excel in Detroit’s Super Bowl caliber offense.
Harrison has a very good combination of speed, power and receiving skills. He will thrive as part of an obvious platoon as the Lions look to keep Best healthy, but Best isn’t a lock to play 16 games.
Harrison can run to the outside and between the tackles. He can take a ton of pressure off Matthew Stafford and the aerial attack. Don’t be surprised to see him vulture touchdowns and receive a boatload of carries during the season.
At this point, you’d be hard pressed to find more Peyton Hillis believers than doubters.
He wore down last season, badly. He won’t catch anybody by surprise this season as defenders will be looking to take him out each and every play. He has fumbling issues. He has a new head coach. He actively looks to engage defenders given his brute strength and intensity.
Finally, he is on the cover of Madden, and we all know about the daunting cover curse.
Keep in mind I had him last season, so I know firsthand how amazing Hillis is, I’m steering clear. Given all of these negatives attached to the Madden 12 cover boy, we immediately have to think handcuff.
Brandon Jackson became the top handcuff in Week 1 last year when Ryan Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Philadelphia. Jackson went on to help lead the Packers to the Super Bowl, could he do the same for the Browns? Not a chance in hell, but he can still help you achieve fantasy gold.
Cleveland still lacks quality receivers, which means second-year QB Colt McCoy will be checking down to his running back early and often. The Browns boast one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league and would pave the way for B-Jax to enjoy success.
Jackson isn’t an elite option as a starter, as evident by last year’s 703 yards and three touchdowns on 190 carries, but he would still be the focal point of the offense if everything goes wrong for Hillis’ encore season. Jackson, not Monario Hardesty, is the top handcuff to Hillis.
|Top 25 2011 Fantasy Running Backs|
|1. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens|
|2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings|
|3. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans|
|4. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs|
|5. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles|
|6. Arian Foster, Houston Texans|
|7. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders|
|8. Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers|
|9. Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons|
|10. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams|
|11. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers|
|12. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars|
|13. Shonn Greene, New York Jets|
|14. Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns|
|15. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears|
|16. LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|17. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants|
|18. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers|
|19. Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions|
|20. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos|
|21. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks|
|22. Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins|
|23. Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints|
|24. Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers|
|25. Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills|
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