Some running backs are less than secure at their starting jobs and have done little to truly secure their role as a force to be reckoned with. The following are the backs who have a slight edge over the upcoming rookies or newcomers who strive to take their jobs. Consider drafting, trading for, or picking these players up to ensure yourself that you have the starter in case of injury. The starting running back can often change through a season, and in many of these cases it will definitely happen. If it’s possible, at all costs handcuff your investments.
- LaDainian Tomlinson for Shonn Greene. Tomlinson was once on everyone’s radar as a top three running back and was for several years a clear-cut number one pick. But after his decline in 2008, Tomlinson is only a shadow of his former self and was cast out to sea by NFL fans everywhere, as Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson pulled in to port. Greene may be the so-called number one right now, but as the preseason has shown, Tomlinson hasn’t lost all his step and intuition. Tomlinson will get more than a few chances to be a big name once again and earn a spot in the Big Apple. Most likely, LT will never be the Jets number one running back, or a number one anywhere else for that matter, but he will be stealing enough carries from his teammate that he is well worth having on your team if you decide to draft Greene.
- Thomas Jones for Jamaal Charles. Jones and Charles are two running backs any team would love to have. Jones is coming off a career year where he helped the New York Jets get to the AFC championship game, and a few years earlier he took the Bears to the Super Bowl. Charles is the back that is currently the number one, and why not? His explosiveness brought him to stardom last year with 1,120 yards and a staggering 5.9 yards per carry. Having to choose between a proven but aging stud and a star awaiting his supernova is a decision every team would like to make, but when it comes to fantasy football, it’s something you hate to see. Jones will continuously steal carries from Charles all year, leaving the two with average to lower than average amounts of carries a game. Charles is definitely worth a fairly high pick, but be sure to pick up Jones shortly after doing so.
- Brian Westbrook for Frank Gore. Westbrook was signed in mid-August for a one year deal, and players are signed for one year to play, not to develop. Though this is true, Gore is still the obvious number one here and Westbrook will get the remaining carries. Don’t consider Westbrook deep in Gore’s shadow — for a large amount of this season the two will be sharing the backfield. Gore is a great fantasy football pickup this year, but take into consideration the time Westbrook will be taking from the veteran.
- Kareem Huggins for Cadillac Williams. Huggins has the elusiveness and speed to be a dangerous fantasy option if he should receive the opportunity he deserves at the start of the season. As of now, Williams is the clear starter, but he’s obviously had his health problems in the past. You can count on Huggins being a third down runner at the beginning of the season, but if he should play well in this limited role, he will be a threat to Williams. Because of Williams’ history with injury, look for Huggins’ role to increase as the year progresses. Expect Huggins to get several amounts of carries during the first two weeks, as the Buccaneers play the Browns and Panthers, and both should be weak against the run.
- Bernard Scott for Cedric Benson. A lot of people expect Benson to have a great year and be a top ten fantasy running back; I’m not one of them. Benson is injury prone, and besides a one year glimmer of talent last year, he is only an average running back. Be cautious when drafting him to take Scott. Bernard Scott will definitely not take Benson’s job this year, but with Benson being as prone to injury as he is, the Bengals could quickly find themselves with Scott as their starting running back. When drafting Benson, take his past that is filled with injury into consideration and pick up Scott as his handcuff.
When drafting any of these players, it is in your best interest to draft their handcuffs with them. Running backs are often the most important position in fantasy football, so ensure that your high draft picks are secured, and draft one of these players in case your heavy hitter is hurt. Injuries can happen at any time; make sure you are prepared for the worst.
Ben Hendrix is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Ben in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of B3N1ZJAM1N.
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