2014 Running Back Handcuffs: NFC 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 AFC Edition.)
Jonathan Dwyer was brought in during the offseason to compete with Taylor for second-string duties. At one point, Dwyer was the favorite because of his familiarity with head coach Bruce Arians' offensive system from when the two worked together in Pittsburgh. Taylor is the superior talent, but a committee could form if projected workhorse Ellington goes down.
Had you asked any draftnik after the 2014 NFL Draft, they would have sworn up and down that Devonta Freeman would be the handcuff to own in Atlanta. That hasn't been ruled out, but Freeman has been listed fourth on the depth chart, and this was backed up in the first preseason game when Freeman ran behind Smith and scat-back Jacquizz Rodgers. However, when given chances in that first game, Freeman lit up the Dolphins' second- and third-string defense. Falcons coaches have also spoken highly of him on HBO's "Hard Knocks."
This is, without a doubt, the murkiest backfield in the NFL. Stewart hasn't played a full season since 2011, and Williams is an underwhelming, 31-year-old back. They would ideally be a one-two punch, and Tolbert would be the goal-line back, but it has never really worked out that way. It's best to stay away from all three for fantasy purposes as they are nothing more than bye-week fill-ins at best.
This one might turn a few heads with the addition of fourth-round rookie Ka'Deem Carey. But he has been consistently listed third or fourth on unofficial depth charts and has run behind Draughn during the preseason. Carey has plenty of time to overtake Draughn, but he is not an outstanding athlete and hasn't performed well through two preseason games. Draughn has an added edge as the veteran of this backup group. This is a situation to watch moving forward.
This handcuff is as straightforward as they come. Dunbar played a similar role last year, and the Cowboys even made him a healthy scratch in their first preseason game just to nix the possibility of him getting injured. Dunbar projects as a change-of-pace back but could see an increased amount of carries this season to lessen the burden on Murray, which may make him a decent flex option.
Riddick has received the majority of offseason hype. He is battling Mikel Leshoure for backup duties and seems to have the edge. Both running backs could see playing time if Bush or Bell gets injured, and both are very cheap with their undrafted ADPs.
Make sure to grab Starks if you are taking Lacy with his first-round price tag. Starks is very talented and would put up similar numbers if Lacy was to miss time.
Matt Asiata is thought to be the primary backup with Toby Gerhart now leading the Jaguars' running attack. But McKinnon, a third-round rookie, will push Asiata for handcuff duties and has been consistently impressive in camp.
This backfield will be tons of fun to watch. Where to begin? Thomas was New Orleans' primary running back last year, but he has been relegated to third-string duties with Ingram leading the way, and Robinson getting a decent amount of reps. Judging from all reports and their first two preseason games, the Saints plan to use a more traditional, balanced running attack with Ingram and Robinson. Thomas may be used as the passing-down back but not an every-down back. Second-year player Travaris Cadet is also in the mix.
Williams is the handcuff and will most likely get the goal-line work. He has looked very good in the Giants' first two preseason games. With David Wilson retiring due to a neck injury, this is one of the clearer backfields in the NFL.
Sproles is the dynamic speedster who moves really well in space. He has the receiving skills of McCoy but not the power. That's where Chris Polk comes into play. If McCoy ever got hurt, Polk would be the Eagles' goal-line power back while Sproles would be the main handcuff and passing-down player. It may be a situation to steer clear of because a split in carries between the two might make either tough to start in any week.
Cunningham is being challenged by rookie Tre Mason, but Mason hasn't impressed or stood out enough in camp or the preseason to get the No. 2 gig. However, this competition isn't over yet.
Hyde is another significant handcuff to own. He could very well start games this year, and he is a certain backup with Marcus Lattimore still not recovered from multiple knee injuries, LaMichael James dealing with a dislocated elbow, and Kendall Hunter being released after tearing his ACL. Hyde has tremendous talent and is a premium dynasty pick as well.
Turbin has been Lynch's handcuff since 2012. That hasn't changed yet, but Christine Michael is certainly pushing Turbin for the No. 2 spot. Turbin started the Seahawks' first preseason game and played in front of Michael during their second game. Both are very talented, and this situation will most likely turn into an RBBC if Lynch misses time.
Charles Sims was the backup to Martin before an ankle injury suffered last week required surgery, and now he will be out of action for at least three months. Rainey is the team's second back right now, but Mike James is providing competition. No matter who wins out, this backfield might operate as a committee since Martin is not a favorite of the coaching staff.
Sixth-round pick Lache Seastrunk was brought in as insurance, not to replace Helu or Morris. If Morris was to go down, Helu would be an every-down running back for the Redskins. He has the hands and straight-line speed to be a lead back.