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RB Handcuffs

You have all heard the term “handcuff” before when referring to fantasy football players and their backups. Generally, I am not a huge fan of automatically drafting a “handcuff” for your starter, but there are situations when it can be valuable.

I would only recommend drafting a handcuff if you are drafting a RB with a high (e.g. first 3 or 4 rounds) who is (1) injury-prone and (2) plays in a high-powered offense. For example, I would recommend grabbing Westbrook’s backup, because he is injury prone and the Eagles’ offense is very good. Conversely, I would not recommend grabbing RB Steven Jackson‘s handcuff, because he will not perform at anywhere near the same level. My point is this: Do not waste a pick by automatically selecting a handcuff for each of your RBs. There are more valuable players out there in many situations.

For your 2009 fantasy football draft, I would recommend the following handcuffs if you draft any of these players:

RB Adrian Peterson (MIN): Peterson accounts for a large percentage of the Viking offense. And it is reasonable to assume that if AP goes down, RB Chester Taylor will assume a similar role. Grabbing Taylor as a handcuff for AP can be tough, though, since Taylor gets enough touches on his own to make him worth drafting late. But it is always worthwhile to protect your investment in a guy like AP, who gets a lot of touches and thus is more exposed to potential injuries.

RB Brian Westbrook (PHI): Westbrook is old and about to breakdown. Or so everyone (including me) says. He could very well prove us all wrong this year, and avoid any injuries. But he is a risk. Handcuff = RB LeSean McCoy.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX): I do not consider MJD to be injury-prone, but any time a guy increases his workload in a significant way, you have to also consider him an increased risk to get injured. And the Jags like to make their RBs the focal point of their offense, so his backup should still do fairly well.  The only problem is, right now we are not entirely sure who that is going to be. Keep an eye on this situation throughout camp. Potential Handcuff(s) = FB Greg Jones, RB Chauncey Washington, and RB Rashad Jennings.

RB Brandon Jacobs (NYG): Jacobs is a bruiser. And although he usually doles out more punishment than he receives, you can almost guarantee he will miss time in 09 with a nagging injury. However, much like the Jags, it is not clear yet who would be the primary ball carrier if Jacobs goes down. Keep an eye on the battle for his backup during camp. Potential Handcuff(s) = RB Ahmad Bradshaw, RB Danny Ware, and RB Andre Brown.

RB Marion Barber (DAL): Although Barber did miss some time last year due to injury, I do not consider him injury prone. However, due to his running style, it is always a possibility. Handcuff = RB Tashard Choice (Note: I do not consider RB Felix Jones to be a handcuff for Barber, because I think Jones will be used differently in the offense.)

RB LaDainian Tomlinson (SD): As we all know, LT is getting older. And last year showed us that he is, in fact, human. Although I do expect him to have a better year in 09, there is no reason to be foolish. Handcuff = RB Darren Sproles (Note: Due to the touches he will get regardless, Sproles will likely go pretty early. If you do not want to waste an early pick on a handcuff, then consider grabbing RB Gartrell Johnson later.)

RB Clinton Portis (WAS): The Skins want to reduce his workload already, but despite how tough Portis is, he has missed some time due to injury. Handcuff = RB Ladell Betts.

RB Darren McFadden (OAK): The Raiders love to run the ball. And they want to make McFadden a focal point on offense. But McFadden has a slight build, is an upright runner, and missed quite a few games in 08 due to injuries. Handcuff = RB Michael Bush (Note: RB Justin Fargas is in the mix, too, so watch how the Raiders use these guys in camp.)

RB Thomas Jones (NYG): Jones had a surprisingly good year in 08. But he is past the 30-year old mark and he is unhappy with his contract. Plus he has a shaky QB situation. And he has a rookie RB breathing down his neck. Handcuff = RB Shonn Green. (Note: RB Leon Washington, much like Sproles and Felix Jones, already has a role in the offense, but I do not expect him to become the full-time RB if Jones goes down.)

RB Marshawn Lynch (BUF): Lynch is already scheduled to miss the first 3 games of the year due to an NFL-imposed suspension. Which makes drafting him fairly risky to begin with. But he should do well later in the year to make him attractive in the middle rounds of the draft. If nothing else, you will want a replacement for the first 3 games. Handcuff = RB Fred Jackson.

RB Larry Johnson (KC): No one really knows what to expect out of the Chiefs this year. New Coach. New GM. New QB. And a happy LJ? It’s hard to say how it will all work out, but we do know that LJ has had his fair share of injury issues in the past. Handcuff = RB Jamaal Charles.

RB Jamal Lewis (CLE): I am still surprised Lewis has an NFL career, at this point. It seems like he has been around forever, and I expected him to fade away awhile ago. And this may be the year it finally happens. Handcuff = RB James Davis.

RB Joseph Addai (IND): We all know about the struggles Addai had last year. And then the Colts went out and drafted a talented rookie RB. So if you roll the dice with Addai, you better be willing to spend a mid-round pick on insurance. Handcuff = RB Donald Brown.

RB Willie Parker (PIT): Parker has been slowly declining for the past couple of seasons, and missed significant time last year due to injuries. He is getting older and there is youth behind him. Handcuff = RB Rashard Mendenhall.


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