The top five fantasy football handcuffs
1. Rashad Jennings (JAX): This is a pretty obvious one. There's no telling when Maurice Jones-Drew is coming back. Reports from the Florida Times Union yesterday suggested that Jones-Drew will miss multiple regular season games. Though MJD should really just cut his losses and report, he seems too proud to admit that he's lost this fight. Jennings boasts an impressive 5.4 career yards per carry, and could be a stud for the first few weeks of the season. If he impresses coaches enough, they may even let him keep a significant role once Jones-Drew returns.
2. Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL): This one seems to be going a bit under the radar. The Falcons have been more than open about the fact that they are transitioning to a pass-first offense that will feature Matt Ryan and their array of aerial weapons. Incumbent starter Michael Turner is essentially useless in the passing game, as his career high in catches is 17. Rodgers, on the other hand, is a very solid option out of the backfield. Head coach Mike Smith has also raved about Rodgers and insists that he is a three down back.
In addition, Michael Turner is entering his age-30 season, and is coming off of seasons with 301 and 337 carries. Everyone knows that 30 is a deadly number for running backs, and Turner now faces high injury possibilities, a possible decrease in burst, and an offense that needs things out of a running back that Turner can't offer. Rodgers could be a great value pick by season's end.
3. Taiwan Jones (OAK): Everyone knows you have to handcuff Darren McFadden, but until the third preseason game, no one knew who to handcuff him with. Both Taiwan Jones (Al Davis' final pure-speed draft pick) and Mike Goodson were in the hunt, with Goodson looking like the favorite. However, in the third preseason game, Jones took ten carries for 50 yards, while Goodson had seven for 18. In a close position battle, the third preseason game could very likely be the deciding factor. McFadden's extensive injury history requires his owners to secure a handcuff, and Jones will likely be the guy to own should McFadden go down.
4. Toby Gerhart (MIN): Adrian Peterson is recovering from knee surgery at lightning speed, but he will still likely be eased in to the season having not played in any preseason games. While Peterson is limited to a snap count, Gerhart will be a viable flex option. There's even the possibility of Peterson suffering a setback and Gerhart taking over as the bell cow. Gerhart averaged 75 yards per game while Peterson was out with an ankle injury last season, and ran for 109 yards on 11 carries after Peterson left the Vikings' Week 15 matchup with his knee injury.
5. Michael Bush (CHI): The Bears didn't pay Michael Bush $14 million this offseason to warm their benches. The Bears must have some sort of role planned for Bush, and it very well could expand as the season rolls on. Bush is one of the most talented backup runners in the league, as he averaged 106 yards per game for the Raiders in the five games after Darren McFadden got hurt last season. His production declined down the stretch due to his monstrous workload, but he can still be a beast in a more balanced role. Should starter Matt Forte go down with another knee injury, as he did last year, Bush is an immediate fantasy monster. Even with Forte healthy, Bush could very well carve out a role for himself by vulturing touchdowns and making the most of his early season carries.
Honorable Mention: Ben Tate (HOU): Texans' starter Arian Foster doesn't have a bad injury history, but I put Tate on here because of how incredible he'll be in the event that Foster does go down. Despite Foster playing 13 games last season, Tate still racked up 942 rushing yards. He averaged 100 yards per game in the first three weeks, two of which Foster missed. When Foster rested in Week 17, Tate put up 97 yards, a touchdown, and four catches. Tate even had two hundred-yard games with Foster as the starter. He's an immediate RB1 should Foster go down, and could even be a flex option with Foster healthy.