Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/29/13
Running back “handcuffing” if a popular topic amongst fantasy drafts these days, not only because of the recent slue of ACL injuries to elite running backs, but also because many consider this “year of the running back” especially important. For those who don’t know (I’m assuming 95 percent of people reading this do), handcuffing is simply keeping the backup running back of the ones you have on your fantasy roster to protect yourself against potential injury.There are many things to consider when deciding whether it is necessary to handcuff the backup.First of all, examine your league. Is it a 10-team, 12-team, or 14-team league. If it is a shallow league, such as a 10-team league, it becomes less imperative to lock these guys in due to a plethora of waiver wire talent.In deeper leagues such as 14-team and even 16-team leagues, it is ESSENTIAL to lock in the key backups due to running back scarcity on the waiver wire. The standard league is typical the 12-team league, and that is where decisions need to be made as far as the need to handcuff your backup or not.Here are my top five essential running back handcuffs:1. Ben Tate (Arian Foster)2. Bryce Brown (LeSean McCoy)3. Fred Jackson (C.J. Spiller)4. Michael Bush (Matt Forte)5. Andre Brown (David Wilson)The reasoning behind these rankings are simple. Each of these handcuffs CAN STEP INTO BIG ROLES if any of these lead backs go down with injury, and you can get a few of these handcuffs for cheap in your fantasy draft.In nearly all cases, it is a good idea to lock in the handcuff if you own any of these players (for your peace of mind and roster safety if nothing else). Taking a flier on one of these guys in the late rounds is also a good idea because it then gives you trade bait to the owners of these lead running backs.In deeper leagues, it can be a good idea to lock in lesser handcuffs to protect your stud, but many of these lesser guys won’t be fed the ball as much as the lead backs, so it is important to keep that in mind.Many people may also justify protecting big studs such as Adrian Peterson. Being an Adrian Peterson owner the year he tore his ACL, I can tell you first hand that Toby Gerhart is nothing to write home about.I don’t even consider the guy a handcuff, quite honestly. The rest of the Vikings' offense is lackluster behind Peterson, and teams WILL stack the box with 8-man fronts, thus making Toby Gerhart and his less-than-stellar speed irrelevant.When drafting this year, I urge you to lock in the main handcuffs, and don’t be afraid to draft these guys over wide receivers with limited upside and backup tight ends. Take some fliers and some chances in the late rounds, and you will be pleasantly surprised on some of these “lottery ticket” guys that may just pay dividends to your fantasy squad in the long run (i.e. Alfred Morris last year).
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