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It might be early for some of you in terms of preparing for your 2013 fantasy football leagues but it’s never too early for me. And heading into training camp, it’s always a good idea to scout the backup situations for your favorite players. So for now, let’s take a look at the Top 10 Fantasy Running Back Handcuffs, according to me, the Fantasy Football Junkie.
Remember that even though these guys are considered handcuffs, it doesn’t mean they will go cheap in drafts. Some of these guys have huge potential if their counterpart takes a seat on the bench for whatever reason.
1. Ben Tate, Houston Texans - Everyone knows that Tate, when given the opportunity, has shined. Despite missing multiple games in 2012 to injuries, his 2011 campaign was no fluke. If Foster goes down, Tate would be an immediate top 10 RB. Head Coach, Gary Kubiak had this to say about Tate at the end of May, “He’s had a really good offseason… He’s been here every day, and it’s an opportunity for him in these next six practices to be the bell cow, so to speak, and that’ll be good for him in the long run.”
2. Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts - With the veteran Ahmad Bradshaw getting signed on to be the starter, Ballard will take a backseat. As much as I love Bradshaw and the way he plays the game, he is an injury liability. If you draft Ahmad, you almost have to take Ballard a couple of rounds later. It may be a maddening year for Ahmad owners as they troll the injury blogs but you’ll feel better knowing Ballard is on your roster.
3. Andre Brown, New York Giants - Brown came out of nowhere last season in relief duty and then got injured. Which in turn opened the door for then rookie David Wilson to shine. Now, coming into 2013, Wilson is the likely starter with Brown playing backup. But if the second-year player, Wilson, can’t put it all together, I believe Brown will be called upon. Coach Tom Coughlin doesn’t like to mess around, and if David doesn’t show improvement in pass and ball protection, he’ll ride the bench.
4. Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens - I almost left Pierce off the list because that’s how much I respect what Ray Rice has done since coming out of college. Rice is a beast and hasn’t missed a game the past four seasons but during that time, he’s put on a lot of mileage. And I think Pierce showed enough in 2012 to warrant more of time-share going forward. This is good for both players and will help keep Rice fresh all-season but for fantasy this is terrible news. Pierce will have decent numbers when all is said and is going to be valuable in super deep leagues, but if Rice were to go down, Pierce would climb up into the top 12 at the position.
5. DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers - It is really weird to think of Williams as the handcuff but it appears that the Panthers were ready to roll with Jonathan Stewart at the beginning of 2012. That is, until Stewart got injured. For now, Stewart is a question mark for training camp and whispers on the web indicated that he could even be unavailable for the start of the season. Williams is a very capable back and could be valuable early in the year. It’s also worth mentioning that Williams has a bit of a stigma for getting injured himself but he has appeared in all 16 games the past two seasons. I’m just saying.
6. DuJuan Harris / Johnathan Franklin, Green Bay Packers - This is purely based on rookie Eddie Lacy winning the job as the starting back but because of my distrust in rookie RB’s, its lead me to list DuJuan Harris ahead of Franklin but just slightly for the backup job. I love Franklin and his talent is greater than Harris’, but Harris has that “want“, that something I can’t put quite explain that makes me think he can stay in the mix.
7. Michael Bush, Chicago Bears - Bush was brought in for insurance against Matt Forte. While Forte managed to miss only one game in 2012, it seemed as if he almost missed 4 or 5 of them. I know almost isn’t a good reason to get a backup but Bush can also be used in bye-week situations. He was the goal-line back (scoring 5 TD’s) in 2012 and will most likely retain that role going forward.
8. Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals - Many would probably rank Bernard higher but I’m not too keen on giving rookie RB’s the benefit of the doubt. Some think that incumbent starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis will lose the job before getting injured and that is possible but I’m just not sold. The Law-Firm started performing well in the second half of 2012 and I look for this signing to give him a little extra motivation going into 2013. Green-Ellis could be a steal as your RB3. But I might take Bernard quickly after just in case.
9. Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders - Speaking of rookies, Murray only has to battle Rashad Jennings for the RB2 role in Oakland and I believe he’s got the job. We all know what Jennings can do and it’s not much. And we all know that Darren McFadden will get hurt as some point so if you take a chance on DMC, take a chance on Murray.
10. Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings - Nobody wants to think about what would happen if the miraculous Adrian Peterson were to suffer a major injury but the concern should be front and center. With the violent way he plays the game, another injury at some point in his career is almost inevitable. Toby Gerhart didn’t shine in his limited role last season but played well in his first two years. He would be the bell-cow if All Day went down and is worth stashing in deep leagues.