Each year a running back comes out of nowhere and tilts the fantasy football world on its head. The RB position goes through a ton of attrition and ups and downs. A wise fantasy owner will draft Jamaal Charles in the first round and handcuff him with his backup Knile Davis in the later rounds as an insurance policy. Last season Justin Forsett received his opportunity due to the the legal situation of Ray Rice and led the NFL in yards per carry while taking many fantasy owners to “The Ship.” Here is a list of the top RB handcuffs (backups) who can potentially stake that same claim if the main guy goes down or doesn’t produce early on.
Reggie Bush – SanFrancisco 49ers…Now with his fourth team of his career Reggie Bush continues to be a factor in his 9th season. Bush will backup first time starter Carlos Hyde with the departure of 49ers’ great Frank Gore who had been a mainstay for years in the backfield. Bush will predominately play on third downs and passing situations but can potentially eat into Hyde’s early down carries if he struggles out of the gates. Hyde is also battling injuries in OTAs which allows Bush to build a rapport with Colin Kaepernick and the first team offense. Bush is a name to watch in fantasy drafts and should definitely be a handcuff to Hyde.
Giovanni Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals…Last year’s breakout candidate was drafted as high as round 1 in fantasy drafts. Giovanni Bernard turned out to be a fantasy bust as he missed games with injuries and got his spot taken by rookie sensation Jeremy Hill. The Bengals prefer Hill’s tough, physical running style over the speed and elusiveness of Bernard. Both backs in my opinion are young and very talented, and together they make up the best running back duo in the league as they bring that thunder and lightning element to the Bengals’ backfield. Although Bernard is the clear backup coming into the season he offers huge upside if Hill goes down with an injury. Therefore, Bernard is a player to have in your fantasy draft queues as he offers the most upside among backup running backs in all of fantasy football.
C.J. Spiller – New Orleans Saints…The Saints get their Darren Sproles replacement that was lacking in Sean Payton’s offense last season. Enter C.J. Spiller, a dynamic all-purpose back that can do everything on the field. Spiller’s speed and hands are great for quarterback Drew Brees to check it down to or create quick passing plays out of the backfield for. Although the Saints plan to give starting running back Mark Ingram the bulk of the carries, Spiller will also be heavily utilized because of the fit within the Saints’ offense and what Payton likes to do offensively. Those in PPR leagues need to take notice of Spiller as Payton gets more out of his running backs in the passing game than any other play caller in the league.
Ryan Mathews – Philadelphia Eagles…It was a little odd that the Eagles and Ryan Mathews agreed to a deal after the signing of starting running back Demarco Murray. The Eagles already had Darren Sproles and Chris Polk on the roster to go along with Murray. Mathews’ decision to sign with the Eagles as a backup after starting in San Diego the last couple seasons was surprising. As it stands, head coach Chip Kelly has quite a backfield with both Murray and Mathews manning it. The Eagles’ decision to give Mathews a deal probably stems from the injury history of the M&M boys. Look for Kelly to get Mathews on the field often to spell Murray to try to keep both backs fresh for a potential playoff run. If Murray does happen to get hurt Mathew will be the main beneficiary.
Tre Mason – St Louis Rams…What did Tre Mason get for coming in last season and producing as a rookie for the Rams, a backup position. For the third consecutive season head coach Jeff Fisher has a new starting running back, drafting Todd Gurley with the tenth overall pick in the first round. Before we ignore Mason in our fantasy drafts consider the circumstances surrounding the Rams’ backfield. First and most importantly Gurley who tore his ACL last season for the Georgia Bulldogs will not be 100% recovered at the start of training camp and possibly for the start of the season. Yes, Gurley is the future but Mason has a chance to prove how effective he can be for the next couple of months leading up to the regular season. Also, once Gurley gets up to speed don’t think Mason will become an after thought in the offense. The Rams will try and ease Gurley in early on which will give Mason the opportunity to shine. Fantasy owners who draft Gurley should also handcuff him with Mason later in the draft. Believe me.
Andre Williams – New York Giants…The New York Giants comes into the 2015 season with a crowded backfield. The addition of Shane Vereen in free agency and last year’s starter Rashad Jennings muddy things a bit for last year’s 4th round draft pick Andre Williams. Second year offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo loves backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield which also dampens Williams’ fantasy value. With all that said I believe Williams’ running ability can’t be ignored as he is a physical runner that can carry the load for the Giants. If Jennings gets hurt which has become the norm I believe Williams will be the go to guy. Vereen is a passing down specialist whose role will not increase as much as Williams’ if Jennings does go down with an injury. Add that to the fact that Williams has been working all off-season on his pass catching ability furthers my recommendation to handcuff Jennings with Williams.
Alfred Blue – Houston Texans…Don’t forget about Alfred Blue when you talk about successful LSU rookies last season. Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Jeremy Hill get all the pub but Blue held his own as Arian Foster’s backup. Foster, known in NFL circles as injury prone with soft tissue injuries missed 11 games in the last 2 NFL seasons, and that is not counting the games he started but could not finish due to his chronic soft tissue flare ups. Of all the top 10 backs Foster is the one that needs to be handcuffed the most and Blue is the guy that will get the opportunity. Don’t forget about Alfred Blue on draft day.
James Starks – Green Bay Packers…The Packers already have a stud with Eddie Lacy in the backfield. But what happens if that stud goes down with an injury? James Starks would be the guy running the ball in an Aaron Rodgers led offense. Starks is an elusive back who has proven to be a capable NFL ball-carrier as he was integral in Green Bay’s last Super Bowl run. Eddie Lacy owners need to watch Starks as you can get him for relatively cheap in fantasy drafts.
Knile Davis – Kansas City Chiefs… Perennial handcuff running back Knile Davis is a name I speak about every season. If Jamaal Charles ever goes down like he has done in the past, Davis will be a definite number 1 waiver addition. Why not beat the rush and draft Davis as he has an amazing power/speed combination which he has already displayed in the league. In a 3 week span last season when Charles battled injuries Davis ran for 318 yards with 3 TDs. In his 1 start last season against the Dolphins Davis received 32 carries for 132 yards with a TD. Davis is a guy you need to handcuff Charles with as he can produce RB1 numbers if Charles cannot play.