The ten most important handcuff running backs to lock up in fantasy drafts
This is a list of the top ten handcuff running backs for this season. This is not a list of the league's best backups - taken in to account here is the talent of the handcuff, how injury-prone the starter is, how much work the starter is likely to receive, and how much success the handcuff likely will have if given a heavy workload. These are not the best backup running backs to have on an NFL team, but rather the best backups to have on a fantasy team:
1. Bernard Pierce (BAL) (Starter: Ray Rice): The Ravens already loved Pierce after his great showing during their Super Bowl run (202 yards, 5.2 YPC), but he impressed the team even more when he showed up for training camp. Pierce gained ten pounds of muscle during the offseason, and head coach Jim Harbaugh said that the second-year running back is noticeably "bigger and faster." Rice's carries have decreased by an average of 25.0 per year since 2010, and though the 26-year-old has been durable to this point in his career, he also has a ton of wear and tear on his legs. The Ravens are so high on Pierce that Matt Gagne of Sports Illustrated believes he will become "the go-to carrier" in Baltimore this year. At the very least, Pierce is a stud RB1 if Rice misses any games.
2. Ben Tate (HOU) (Starter: Arian Foster): I would not say that Foster is "injury-prone," but the elite all-purpose back certainly has a tendency to pick up nagging injuries. He appeared on the Texans' injury report for half of their games last season, the reasons (in order) being chest/knee, illness, knee, hamstring, knee, knee, finger, arrhythmia. Having carried the ball a league-leading 351 times last season (plus another 40 touches in the passing game), Foster is even more likely to pick up lower body injuries in 2013. With four 100-yard rushing games and a 5.1 YPC over two career seasons, Tate has proven that he can be a fantasy stud when given the opportunity. Foster owners should be sure to lock up Tate.
3. Bryce Brown (PHI) (Starter: LeSean McCoy): I think we all remember what happened when McCoy went down with a concussion last season - Brown came in looking like Barry Sanders and ripped off 347 rushing yards in his first two games as the starter. Fumbling issues got the coaching staff frustrated with Brown, which caused him to lose carries down the stretch, but he still finished the year with an impressive 4.9 YPC. Though Brown is currently in a camp battle for the No. 2 running back job with Chris Polk, I expect Brown to prove to be the superior option during preseason action. If McCoy gets hurt again, Brown could be a fantasy superstar. Even if McCoy stays healthy all year, Brown is talented enough to earn some significant carries of his own.