2014 Running Back Handcuffs: AFC Edition
(Editor's intro: Not every back deserves to be handcuffed, but just in case you disagree, we've got a complete guide for every backup to every starter. Fantasy Football Expert Ryan Foley shares your best options should you choose to handcuff your running back. Click here for the NFC Edition.)
Pierce will actually start the first two games of the season while Rice is serving his suspension. When Rice returns, Pierce is clearly the backup. If Pierce was to go down in those first couple of weeks, Justin Forsett would be the starter, and some reps would probably go to rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro.
This one is a bit tricky as Brown was brought in during the offseason, but Anthony Dixon has run ahead of him throughout preseason. You should be confident that Brown will eventually be the starter if either of Spiller or Jackson gets injured, which is likely to happen.
Hill is the clear handcuff to "Giodude." BenJarvus Green-Ellis was thought to have this role, but Hill has quickly overtaken him and will be featured as a power-back complement to Bernard.
Tate is the starter for now, but he is facing a big challenge from West in camp. Although Tate has performed well so far, West is a great handcuff to own considering Tate's history of injuries.
C.J Anderson was believed to be the handcuff to own, but Hillman has proved himself thus far in training camp and has been the starter while Ball recovers from an appendectomy. The Broncos just can't quit Hillman. It also didn't help that Anderson suffered a concussion in Denver's first preseason game, limiting his reps to showcase why he should be No. 2.
The Texans' backfield has played musical chairs in the preseason. Andre Brown was signed in April to be the primary backup. Then he didn't get any reps in the first preseason game and was subsequently cut along with second-year back Dennis Johnson the following week. That leaves Grimes and rookie Alfred Blueon the roster. Grimes got the start in the first preseason game and looked very good. Blue is a six-foot-two power runner, but one with zero receiving touch. The Texans have signed veteran Ronnie Brown,who is 32 years old, and William Powell, a former backup with the Arizona Cardinals. Both backs are unlikely to see much playing time and make the final roster.
If this was a month ago, most would have told you Vick Ballard is the handcuff to Richardson. He tore his Achilles and may never play another game in the NFL. Bradshaw is a very important handcuff, as Richardson's struggles are well-documented, and Bradshaw could very well end up starting games for the Colts this year.
While Todman is the favorite for this gig, it should be noted that our own brilliant Scott Atkins loves him some Denard Robinson and swears he will be a factor in the run game. However, Robinson may not even be above rookie Storm Johnson, let alone Todman, for No. 2 work. However, Robinson has been impressive in the preseason, running behind Todman.
Davis is decent. He's been the primary handcuff to Charles for a season now and has proved he can get the job done when needed. The only real threat to his No. 2 duties is rookie RB De'Anthony Thomas. Thomas is fast. Real fast. He's also had a good training camp and preseason, notably turning on the jets on an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first preseason game. It was impressive to say the least. The only disadvantage Thomas has – and why he may never be a true handcuff – is his small frame of 5-foot-9, 174 pounds. He profiles as more of a sparsely-used offensive weapon rather than an every-down workhorse.
Miller will be the primary back with Moreno potentially being the passing-down back. That is, if Moreno can stay healthy. He has missed most of training camp and sat out the first preseason game after undergoing a knee scope in June. He's not the greatest option for a handcuff, but if you believe last year's numbers are real and not just a product of being in a Peyton Manning offense, he could provide excellent support to your fantasy team.
White profiles as an average back that doesn't do one thing well but everything well enough. The rookie is sure-handed, something head coach Bill Belichick covets, especially after Ridley's fumble issues last season. Reports out of camp suggest White has been a standout in the passing game. He could potentially back up either Patriots RB.
Johnson is the fast-paced lead back while Ivory is the ground-and-pound player at the goal line. If Johnson gets hurt, Ivory could be a workhorse, and RB Bilal Powellwould return to being the passing-down back. It may be wise to avoid this situation as Ivory will vulture TDs from Johnson but may not be consistent enough to be an RB2 on your squad.
MJD is the favorite to win the starting job over the injury-plagued McFadden even though it will be his first year in the Raiders' offense. Latavius Murray is finally healthy after two surgeries on his ankle last season, and he would be in the mix if either of the aforementioned RBs misses time. For dynasty formats, it's probably best to own Murray over McFadden for the long term.
Blount has been brought in as insurance in case Bell happens to get injured. Blount isn't a great option, but if Bell goes down, the Steelers' backfield has only him and scat-back rookie Dri Archer, who could not carry the total load. Blount is one of the more important handcuffs to own this season.
The Chargers' handcuff situation is a mess of sorts. If Mathews is felled by injury, Woodhead would get the bulk of the carries and still split time with Brown. However, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco has said that even if all of his RBs are healthy, Brown would get the "grunt work." What that means in terms of touches for Brown remains to be seen, but this may be a situation to wholly avoid.
This situation changes by the day. Greene figures to be the power back while Sankey plays the early-down role. Small and versatile RB Dexter McCluster is also in the mix, adding a wrinkle to how effective Greene and Sankey can really be for your fantasy team if they don't hold their own in the passing game. Also, Greene started instead of Sankey in the Titans' first preseason game. If you can predict the different workload splits, and use that to your advantage in your upcoming draft, you may be able to cash in nicely. For now, you should expect Sankey to get the bulk of the work. Although Greene is the handcuff, McCluster may be better to own.