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Faceoff: Discussing RB Handcuffs

August 28th

Clayton Gray: Who is the best handcuff at the running back position? Why?

Andy Hicks: These categorizations can be debatable, but it helps me narrow things down.

There are a few RBBC teams out there and I need to rule them out first, such as Buffalo, Carolina, Miami and New Orleans.

Next we have teams that have a weak or unclear No.2 such as Baltimore, Denver, San Diego, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Oakland.

Then we have teams that don't run the ball well in Indianapolis, Detroit and Green Bay.

After that I'm ruling out backups that I don't think can carry the load such as in Atlanta, San Francisco, Tennessee and the NY Jets.

We then have battles for the starting jobs or murky situations such as in Arizona, New England, Washington, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh.

That leaves us with clear starter/backup positions in Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Minnesota, NY Giants, St.Louis.

I'm cautious about Trent Richardson and don't have a great deal of faith in Montario Hardesty in Cleveland, don't think Toby Gerhart can manage anywhere near to the same level as Adrian Peterson and need to see more of Isaiah Pead before I can consider him the "best" handcuff.

Michael Bush is ok, but not the all round back that Matt Forte is, Peyton Hillis worries me at the Chiefs and I'm not convinced that either DeMarco Murray or Felix Jones can manage to stay healthy to get full time back status.

The leaves me with a top 3 of Houston, Jacksonville and the NY Giants.

Before we get to the best handcuff, Bronze goes to David Wilson of the Giants who is in a nice situation able to play behind Ahmad Bradshaw on a passing team. He may be better next year, but if something were to happen to Bradshaw, I have no doubt that Wilson will be great value in the 8th round.

The Silver goes to Rashad Jennings who can be gotten in kicker/defense territory. Jennings is coming off a knee injury, but with Jones-Drew potentially holding out and even if he plays needing a reduced role, Jennings will be the kind of back who scores very well if he were to play full time.

That leaves the obvious Gold medal going to Ben Tate at Houston. When the backup can accumulate over 1000 combined yards and score points when Foster is fit, what would he do should Foster go down? He averaged over 5.4 yards a carry, has excellent vision as a runner and excels as a blocker. For a 7th round price, he is the most obvious handcuff for Foster Owners and at not that prohibitive a price.

Jeff Haseley: I think a lot of people will say Ben Tate is the best handcuff, simply due to his ability and opportunity in Houston. If Arian Foster goes down, Tate is a very adequate and completely capable replacement with major fantasy implications. Another key handcuff on a team that is projected to run the ball a ton is Peyton Hillis for Jamaal Charles. I say this, because I am a big fan of Hillis in Brian Daboll's offensive system that worked so well in Cleveland in 2010. The Chiefs strength is their running game. Hillis and Charles figure to have good value as it is. If one goes down, the other will automatically see a tremendous spike in production.

Jeff Pasquino: The best handcuff traits are:

  • Solid / unquestioned backup
  • Strong player just waiting to get into that lineup
  • 3-down back potential
  • Good team with a commitment to the run

The top answer for all of the traits above is clear - Ben Tate. The guy can deliver and he would be a fantasy stud if Arian Foster was not in the lineup. Houston includes Tate as it is as they know he is just too talented to sit idle on the bench.

After that obvious choice, I would consider Michael Bush next in Chicago. He almost was the top guy before Forte ended his holdout and he was a stud spot starter for Oakland when Darren McFadden was out with injuries.

One more to consider - Rashad Jennings. Maurice Jones-Drew doesn't want to report, and Jennings has always looked good on limited touches. I like him to get plenty of work even if MJD shows up before Week 1 - and players often rush into the season when they miss training camp. That can lead to an injury, giving Jennings the job anyway.

Maurile Tremblay: I like Jeff's criteria, but I'll add another one: low average draft position.

Peyton Hillis would quite valuable if Jamaal Charles were injured, and CJ Spiller would be quite valuable if Fred Jackson were injured, but the problem with them as handcuffs is that they're likely to get a fair amount of playing time in any case, and their average draft position reflects this. The way I think about them, true handcuffs should be cheap, and Hillis and Spiller aren't. Ben Tate isn't going too far after Hillis and Spiller -- unfortunately for those who draft Arian Foster.

Michael Bush and David Wilson are more reasonably priced.

And then we have some real bargains as handcuffs: Ronnie Hillman, Isaiah Pead, Bernard Scott, and Bilal Powell. I think all of them have the talent to do well as starters if they get the opportunity. If I pick Willis McGahee, Steven Jackson, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, or Shonn Greene, I will definitely make an effort to select their backups late in the draft.

Steve Holloway: Jeff's criteria are great, but for me Maurile nailed it with his additional consideration. As we continue to see the NFL and fantasy league both increase the value for wide receivers the running backs continue their decrease in value. I place more emphasis each year to be more solid at wide receiver and tight end, sliding the running back position farther down and it makes it that more difficult to alot two picks for what I expect to be only one scorer. For me that means when I evaluate the tandems that I think will be "good" running back hand-cuffs, I tend to avoid both.

Mark Wimer: Tate is essential for owners who spend the first or second pick on Foster. You should be willing to take Tate one-two rounds before his ADP would indicate, because the Texans' offense could easily produce two 1,000+ yard rushers - I can see weeks where a Foster-Tate owner might choose to start BOTH backs (say when Indianapolis' sorry defense is on the menu?). If Foster goes down, Tate becomes an uber-stud immediately.

Jeff is also right on about Michael Bush - he'll be the goal line back for Chicago (worthy of spot starts in his own right during weeks with favorable matchups) and he'd be more effective as the Bears' featured back if Forte goes down to injury (Forte missed four games last year, remember). I think if Forte is out for any extended period Bush has a good chance to unseat Forte as the leading back in this committee. Like Tate/Foster, I think Bush is an essential handcuff for Forte owners.

Will Grant: I'm not a big fan of handcuffing running backs - feels like you're spending two draft picks to get one guy.

However, in the case of injury/suspension such as Smith/Leshoure in Detroit or a guy coming back from injury like Ryan Williams and Beanie Wells, you might consider a handcuff just to see who comes out on top.

The problem is that if you end up drafting these guys you either spend two high draft picks and neglect another position.