Because of the lack of quality, low risk RB's this season, I believe all drafters will sooner, rather than later, be forced to take a RB with which they are not comfortable. This is due to either injury risk, the comittees so many teams use at this time, or plain lack of clarity as to who wil be carrying the football. Because of this I think it is essential to handcuff a number of RB's with their backups. This is an attempt to open a discussion on who are the backups and strategies for drafting them. In no particular order......
Darren McFadden: as a first round pick in most draft, and being a clear injury risk, I think DMC is the poster boy for handcuffing. Although Taiwan Jones is listed as his back-up, I believe due to his lack of size, Mike Goodson is the guy to own here and with a current ADP of 15.02, it is not painful to pick him up. Goodson put up 452 yd on 103 carries and 40 catches for 310 yds while starting only 3 games in 2010 with the Panthers, so he does have a history of production that Jones does not have. IMO I have to get Goodson if I draft DMC.
Adrian Peterson: If you're going to draft this stud, less tha a year removed from a torn ACL and MCL, you have to get Toby Gerhart. Peterson's ADP of 2.11 is way to high for the risk he poses, and Toby's ADP of 9.04 is pricey and I believe you would have to reach higher than this to make sure you get him. A second round pick and an 8th or 9th round pick to fill one position on your roster is too much for me and I wil stay away from this situation. With that said, Gerhart represents real value as a stand alone RB if his ADP stays in the 8th or 9th round. He did well last year with 109 carries for 531 yds and a TD. He also caught 23 balls for 190 yds and 3 TD's. If the Viking slowly work in AP or if he has a set-back, I would expect Gerhart to fill in quite well and serve as a RB2. I like his value where he is being picked and his chances to produce. I would draft him at his current ADP and expect a number of games with reasonable production.
Jamal Charles Although he suffered his torn ACL in week 2 of last year, he, like Peterson, is less than a year removed from this major injury. His ADP of 2.09 is too rich for my blood, with such a high risk factor. Throw in the fact that his backup is Peyton Hillis with an ADP of 8.02, and reports of a split of 500 carries, between the two, I believe Hillis represent greater value. Hillis should get goal-line opportunities and the OC is comfortable with him from there time in Cle. together. He's also young (26) and in a contract year as he only signed a 1 year deal, so he should be highly motivated. I would have little problem drafting Hillis in the 8th even if I didn't own Charles, but if you grab Charles, you must handcuff with Hillis. Just don't be surprised if Hillis puts up more fantasy points and you end up using Charles in a flex role (which could be a viable strategy).
Arian Foster In my opinion, Foster should be the overall #1 pick in all drafts and will justify that pick by the end of the year. His ceiling is too high to pass up and he has a history of being a top producer. Ben Tate is his backup, and is draftable in his own right. Although his current ADP of 7.12 is high for a handcuff, I think playing Tate in a flex role if you own Foster is a good strategy. He put up 924 yds on 175 carries last year with 4 td's. He caught 13 balls for 98 yds. I would have no problem using pick 1.01 on Foster and 7.01 on Tate, and run each of them out there every week. Tate will be inconsistant but will put up points in a flex role.
Ray Rice Rice's backup is Bernard Pierce. He is being undrafted at this time and holds little to no value unless Rice goes down. Even if Rice goes down, I don't see Pierce as a productive starting RB. I will not handcuff Rice.
Ryan Matthews Like Rice, Matthews back-up, Curtis Brinkley, ADP 21.06 and Ronnie Brown, ADP, undrafted, offer little to no value. This, I believe raises Matthews value, as he will have no competition for carries. I will be taking Matthews as my fourth pick if Foster, Rice and McCoy are gone. I wiil not handcuff Matthews.
LeSean McCoy Dion Lewis (ADP:undrafted) is listed as the backup for McCoy, but I believe Bryce Brown is more talented and is the handcuff to own here. Brown is also not being drafted, so picking him up in the last round or grabbing him off of waivers is an option here. Brown has size, speed, burst and good hands. In deep drafts he is a guy I will keep in mind for a roster stash.
Maurice Jones-Drew The combination of 386 touches last year, carrying the ball more than any RB in the last 3 years, and a contract hold-out will keep me from drafting MJD. He's an injury waiting to happen. This makes Rashad Jennings, with an ADP of 14.05 at this time, (I believe this will rise steadily the longer MJD holds out), a must handcuff. A sprained knee kept him out in 2011, but prior to that had shown some big-play ability in 2010 and put up 459 yds on 84 carries with 4 tds. and 223 yd on 26 catches that year. He's a must handcuff for MJD and with my belief that MJD will not make it through this year healthy, I would not hesitate to draft him with a late pick (13rd or later) in his own right.
Michael Turner On the back end of 30, Turner has seen better days and is a prime candidate for a dramatic fall-off in production. The Falcons moving to a more pass-oriented offense will also hurt his production. He's not a RB I want on my team. His backup, Jacquizz Rodgers is being called a 3-down back in Atlanta and they are sayng he will be very involved in the Falcons offense this season. With an ADP of 13.03, he is a must handcuff for Turner and like Jenning, I would not hesitate to draft him late as a roster stash.
Ahmad Bradshaw Bradshaw has bad feet. Plain and simple. I would put the odds of him playing the whole season at about 25%. Regardless, his decline is coming. The Giants used a first round pick on David Wilson this year. He is good after contact and has good speed. He may serve as a 3rd down back early in the season, but is projected as the Giants future starting RB. With a higher ADP of 9.07 it wll be expensive to handcuff Bradshaw. I will stay away from this situation.
Chris Johnson I hate this guy. In my opinon he is soft. He avoids contact and seldom fights for extra yards. He is not a football player. What he does have is incredible speed and talent and reports are he has rededicated himself after a poor 2011. I would hate to pick him between 8-12 in round 1, but his ceiling is just too high to pass up. I would take him as the 6th RB off the board and hate myself for it. He has no competition for touches, per se, but his backup is Javon Ringer (ADP 18.09). With a 3.1 YPC and 6.7 YPR last year in a bigger role (87 touches), Ringer has not impressed and has little value as a handcuff. Jamie Harper is a guy to keep an eye on in training camp as he may surplant Ringer as CJ's backup. I would not handcuff CJ4.2.
Steven Jackson Like MJD, SJax's large career workload is keeping me from drafting him. With that said, he is, at this time, in line for a huge workload ths year and if he does stay healthy will represent good value at his ADP of 3.01, although I really wish this guy could score more than 6 td's in a year. This brings us to Isaiah Pead. Drafted in the 2nd round this year, Pead will serve as a compliment to SJax. He has good vision, speed, burst and can catch the ball out of the backfield. His current ADP is a comfortable 14.11. I would not mind having SJAx as a RB2/3, but would definitely back him up with Pead. I think Pead is drafable even if you don't own SJax, as a roster stash, who will probably get some opportunities as a starter this year.
Willis McGahee I'm not sure I have a handle on this situation yet. McGahee is the clearcut starter at this time, but he certainly has limitations. With Manning as the starting QB, this should be a more pass oriented offense, The last three years Manning ran the Colts offense they finished 29th, 31st and 32nd in rushing. McGahee has not been used out of the backfield as a receiver and has caught the ball 41 time in the last 3 years. He's on the back side of 30, although his workload has been limited the last few years. His ADP of 6.10 is nice for a starting RB. Basically he's a risky and has little upside but his low ADP make him interesting. He should command the red-zone touches so his main value may be dependent on whether Denver offense can move the ball efficiently. Ronnie Hillman, drafted in the 3rd round is an intriguing handcuff to McGahee. He got great speed and vision, but lacks size and experience. His playing time may be dependent on how well his pass protection is. His ADP is 11.08. He is intriguing. My feeling is it will be hard to draft McGahee at his current ADP with so many quality receivers still on the board and I'm not sure I would want to back him up a few round later with a Hillman. I'm avoiding this situation.
Frank Gore Part of what has made Gore so valuable the past few years is his pass catching ability. Last year he caught 18 passes. He has a lot of mileage on those legs and an extensive inury history. The Niners do not dump the ball off to Gore any more, and do not produce many red-zone opportunities, and they brought in Brandon Jacobs, ostensibly for his goal-line abilities. His ADP of 4.03 is not particularly attractive either. I just don't see any upside here. Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James? I don't see a true handcuff here and think a committee will be used if Gore goes down again. No value here. I'm staying away from this situation.
Marshawn Lynch Marshawn should have been in line for close to 300 carries, which would provide enough chances to put up good yardage and TD numbers. Throw in 30 catches and he's a RB1. With a new contract, he may lack motivation and this poses a risk. There will also be inconsistency. Thus, he is not someone I would draft in the first couple of rounds. But, with a suspension looming, does he now become a value pick? I think so. If he starts dropping into the 3rd or 4th round, following the announcement of a suspension, I would grab him and then his handcuff who I believe will be Robert Turbin. Turbin has good size, quick feet, can catch the ball. Leon Washington is too small to carry the load. Turbin's ADP of 16.05 makes this strategy intriguing. Wait for Lynches supension announcement, if it comes, and when he drop to 3rd or 4th round grab him and then Turbin late. This could provide great value and close to RB1 production throughout the year.
Matt Forte I think the signings of Michael Bush and Brandon Marshall will hurt Forte's production significantly. Marshall is a target monster and should eat into Forte's reception numbers. I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't approach 50 this year. Bush is a good RB and I believe he will be used extensively throughout the year to keep Forte fresh. I expect his carries to decrease and wouldn't be surprised if they were closer to 200 than 300. He's coming off an injury and just signed a big contract. I don't like his situation at all and would not draft him in the first round or early 2nd (ADP 2.01). Michael Bush with a ADP of 8.11 seems to represent greater value. If Forte were to go down, Bush becomes a RB1 and someone you want to own. I would be a buyer in the late 8th, early 9th round.
Shonn Greene The only thing this guy has going for him is opportunity, and as of yet, he has not grabbed it. He's a plodder who doesn't score much and doen't catch the ball particularly well. If you expect 70 yds/game and a score every 3rd game then he's your guy. I think is ceiling is extremely low and can't see drafting him at his current ADP of 5.07. Throw in Tebow stealing the goal line carries and he's not attractive to me at all. He is in a contract year though, which may light a fire under him. Joe McKnight and Bilial Powell serve as Greene's backups. At this time, McKnight (ADP 18.05) seems to be the handcuff, but he doesn't seem to have the confidence of the coaching staff, carring the ball on 82 times in the last two years. He doesn't have the appearance of a 3-down back. Powell (ADP 21.07) has only carried the ball 13 times and has been less than impressive. I will stay away from the Jets running game.