Running back, for years, has been the core position of any fantasy team. With wide receivers seemingly taking over as top dog, and with running back committees becoming more and more prevalent, there has never been a more important time to pick your handcuffs wisely.
Not every running back you draft needs to be handcuffed, including some first round picks. The Texans were miserable last year when Arian Foster went down. Based off this, if Lamar Miller were to go down, running to the waiver wire to pick up Alfred Blue or Jonathan Grimes would not be a necessity. Todd Gurley also falls into this category. Even though Benny Cunningham ran well in the first preseason game, he has been known to be a change of pace guy who has only started three games in his three year career.
So far to us the following running back pairings we consider to be must haves:
Player (ADP) /Handcuff to target
Adrian Peterson(5)/ Jerick Mckinnon(164)
Peterson may have turned back the clock last season but his career is going to be coming to an end soon. Mckinnon performed well in the 2014 season. He may have not scored with Matt Asiata being the goal line back, but he averaged 4.8 yards per carry for over 500 yards in a split role. We would expect a heavier workload for a more dynamic player than Asiata, who is currently not being drafted.
David Johnson(6) /Chris Johnson(150)
CJ2K he may no longer be but, Chris Johnson was able to string enough good outings last year before a season ending tibia injury to earn the second man up role.
Jamaal Charles(16) /Spencer Ware(198)
ACL injuries are season ending injuries that normally will not linger into the next season. No one uses their running backs better than the Chiefs, and because of this Spencer Ware should be considered a must have for a Charles owner. There is the worry that Charcandrick West will still be a factor finishing just outside the top thirty at running back and posting a nearly 850 total yards stat line with five touchdowns after Charles’ week five injury. How these backs are used through the preseason should be monitored.
Eddie Lacy(20) /James Starks(133)
Lacy has slimmed down and running hard so far this preseason. Tack on the easiest schedule any team could have this year, and you’ve got a return to form for the not so big guy. There is the chance though, that he loses the coaches favor like last season, or becomes injured, moving Starks into one of the most premium backfield spots in football.
Devonta Freeman(14) /Tevin Coleman(122)
Which Freeman are we getting this season is the question. Does he repeat Weeks 3 through 6 that went for a combined 700 total yards and 8 scores, or repeat weeks 13 through 16 with 356 total yards and only 2 scores? Before his rib injury, Coleman was the guy coach Quinn and staff wanted to use as their bellcow. After the injury to Coleman, Freeman took advantage of a team that wanted to be dynamic on the ground as well as the air. Whether or not Freeman could keep his job is being brought into question with Coleman currently having a round ten A.D.P. slightly higher than most other handcuffs.
Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams is still a predicament. We do not know for sure how long Bell will be out, as we are still awaiting his appeal. That means you’re going to have to take both within the first six rounds to fulfill the pairing. Williams went crazy in the time he did see the field and was able to finish as the number four running back in fantasy. Consider this pairing to be a high upside play, but at a high cost.
The next group should not be seen as must haves and only when you can get both guys.
Latavius Murray/ Deandre Washington
C.J. Anderson /Devontae Booker
Demarco Murray /Derrick Henry
Mark Ingram of the Saints, as well as Thomas Rawls of the Seahawks are candidates, due to their injury history and their teams commitment to the run. Tim Hightower and Christine Michael are both potentially last round picks you can get, Michael has been receiving a great amount of buzz lately, so his A.D.P. may rise.
Lastly, the pass catching back such as Giovani Bernard, Charles Sims, Theo Riddick of the Bengals, Bucs, and Lions respectively should not be seen as true handcuffs. They have their own role to play on their teams and would not get a giant boost like some other backs might receive if the guy in front of them went down would.