Fantasy RB Handcuffs Part One: 2013 Strategy and Tips
RB Fred Jackson, BUF - Over the Hill (decreased production)
It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterdayyy. Jackson was having a great season back in 2011 until it was derailed by injuries. Since then, his playing time has been on the decline and now, those injuries and his age have caught up to him. Speaking of being caught up to, C.J. Spiller has no problems with that given his game-breaking speed. Expectations for Jackson should be nearing an all-time low. The Bills' offense doesn't yet have a starting quarterback and Spiller just might see a huge majority of the touches, leaving very little to his elder teammate. Jackson's value is likely limited to deep formats only.
Recent FFWC Draft: 11.10Injury Status: Out - Groin
RB Isaiah Pead, STL - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Depending who you ask or where the moon is in its cycle, you are going to get a different answer about the presumed featured back in St. Louis. Pead is the guy, for now, given his ability to run in-between the tackles and provide the first- and second-down running style that Daryl Richardson can't. If Pead is the starter, keep an eye on rookie Zac Stacy out of Vanderbilt. He will certainly go undrafted and should be widely available in all but the deepest of formats.
Recent FFWC Draft: 11.7Injury Status: Injured Reserve
RB Bernard Pierce, BAL - Fantasy Handcuff
To my bewilderment, Ray Rice isn't a Top 5 pick anymore. While his 2012 season wasn't bad, his 257 carries (lowest since 2009) have the fantasy football community shaking in their boots. Rice, to me, is still an elite back despite the wide-ranging concerns that exist out there. Pierce has a lot to do with this change in perception though. In his rookie campaign, he rushed for 532 yards on 108 carries. Those are solid stats considering his limited opportunities. Pierce is a bargain if available around the ninth or tenth rounds, assuming you can stash him on your bench. The Ravens have been an "establish the run to set up the pass team" for years and Pierce can provide fresh legs and a bigger body to run for those tough yards.
Recent FFWC Draft: 10.5 but if Ray Rice were to go down....
RB Ben Tate, CLE - Fantasy Handcuff
One of the most highly-prized handcuffs in the game, Tate possesses just the right balance of talent, opportunity and as an added bonus, scheme. The Texans continue to operate one of the more run-dependent offenses on the shoulders of Arian Foster. Tate didn't see much consistent work in 2012, but if any starting back were to go down for a long period of time, he is the one backup that all owners would add in a heartbeat. His serious drop in production was due to a combination of hamstring and foot injuries and the monster year put up by Arian Foster yet again. Tate is a safe backup, but don't reach for him as it isn't 2011 anymore.
Recent FFWC Draft: 10.4
RB Shane Vereen, NE - Quality Backup
This former Cal runner seems to have finally carved a niche out for himself due to the departure of RB Danny Woodhead to the San Diego Chargers. Vereen is expected to see a lot of work on third down and other passing situations, making him an excellent sleeper in PPR formats. One obvious concern is how he will fit in among a crowded backfield composed of Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount. Then again, the Pats may have to fall back on the run far more this season given their dwindling options in their receiving corps.
Recent FFWC Draft: 6.10