Fantasy football managers are rejoicing. Yahoo, ESPN, NFL.com, and Fox have all opened their fantasy football leagues for the 2012 season. It’s time to set up those teams, select the perfect fantasy football team names, and start your draft rankings.
It’s also time for fantasy football managers to start reviewing handcuffs to the running backs they plan to draft. Owners of Jamaal Charles, Darren McFadden, Jahvid Best, and a host of other backs last season can attest to the importance of having the backup to your stud runner sitting on your bench.
With that in mind, here are five of the best handcuffs to target in your fantasy football draft.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans
With Arian Foster widely touted as the No. 1 overall pick in most fantasy football drafts, his backup, Ben Tate, is vitally important for Foster owners to have, too. Just be prepared to overpay for him because even when Foster is healthy, Tate is a very talented RB. In 15 games last season, he rushed for 942 yards. Fantasy football managers who don’t own Foster are likely to be eyeing Tate, too, so be prepared to pay if you want him.
Mike Goodson, Oakland Raiders
Darren McFadden is made of glass, so Run DMC owners definitely must pick up this former Texas A&M Aggie and Carolina Panther. Keep Taiwan Jones on your radar, too, although it currently appears to be Goodson’s job to lose as McFadden’s backup.
Isaiah Pead, St. Louis Rams
Speaking of injuries waiting to happen, owners of Steven Jackson should take a long, hard look at Pead—a rookie out of Cincinnati—in the late rounds of their fantasy football draft. Pead is lightning quick, and he wasn’t drafted by the Rams with the No. 50 overall selection just for decoration. All signs point to him being the heir apparent in St. Louis.
Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals
Color us skeptical that BenJarvus Green-Ellis is going to succeed outside of New England. One of our interns watched The Law Firm play at Indiana and continues to be amazed that he has lasted this long in the NFL. Scott makes for an interesting late-round stash whether you own Green-Ellis or not.
Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs
Hillis probably has one or two screws loose, but he showed in 2010 that he can be a viable feature back, rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Browns. Now he takes the backup role to Jamaal Charles, who is coming of a major knee injury, in a run-oriented offense. Should Charles fail to impress or should he reinjure that knee, Hillis will be a hot commodity.
Looking for the handcuffs for other stud running backs? Here’s how things stand right now:
Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions: Mikel Leshoure
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears: Michael Bush
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Kendall Hunter / LaMichael James
Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills: C.J. Spiller
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans: Javon Ringer
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: Rashad Jennings
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: Leon Washington
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers: Ronnie Brown
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: Dion Lewis
Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos: Ronnie Hillman
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers: Isaac Redman
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys: Felix Jones
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Toby Gerhart
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: Bernard Pierce
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns: Brandon Jackson
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons: Jason Snelling / Jacquizz Rodgers