Fantasy Football: Jamaal Charles’ Injury Scare Highlights Importance Of Drafting Handcuffs

1 of 10

Importance of Handcuffs Highlighted By Jamaal Charles Injury Scare

Charles
John Reiger–US PRESSWIRE

Jamaal Charles gave owners and drafters a scare Monday morning when he was carted off the practice field with an injury. Unfortunately for everyone else in the AFC West, Charles’ injury turned out to be a foot sprain. Thankfully for the Kansas City fans and faithful, X-rays came back negative, and the injury doesn’t appear to be anything to put Charles’ Week 1 status into question. It does, however, highlight the importance of having your handcuffs ready. We’ve already seen a plethora of wide receivers drop like flies this training camp and preseason. The injury bug does not discriminate. It will bite everyone: running backs, receivers, even coaches.

While I would never wish an injury upon anyone, savvy owners know that someone on their roster is going down. It is really more a matter of when and who as opposed to a matter of if. I don’t know a fantasy owner who has ever escaped the injury bug all season, do you? If so, rub that guy’s head or steal his lucky shirt — do whatever you can to get some of that mojo.

You need to have your backups ready. When your starter goes down, do you really want to gamble on getting the handcuff on the waiver wire? Once that starter gets hurt, everyone and their mother will put the claim in. Hopefully your guy stays healthy, you don’t need the handcuff, and then you have a tradable asset at your disposal.

So who are the top running backs, and who are their handcuffs? Let’s get right to it.

2 of 10

Toby Gerhart Is Not A Viable Option

Gerhart
Brace Hemmelgam–US PRESSWIRE

Let’s just call a spade a spade. Adrian Peterson is the man. He is a superhuman cloaked in a running back’s body. If he gets hurt, he will just do his Wolverine impression and heal himself up in no time. While injury is always a threat with any player in this league, if Peterson does go down, don’t expect much from Toby Gerhart. With an inconsistent Christian Ponder, no Percy Harvin to stretch the field, there is simply no value here. Move along.

3 of 10

Kendall Hunter

Hunter
Ed Szczepanski–US PRESSWIRE

Kendall Hunter has been the no. 2 guy behind Frank Gore for two years in San Francisco. Entering his ninth season, Gore is now 30-years old, and this is about the time that injuries start to take their toll on most running backs. Look for coach Jim Harbaugh to rest Gore a little more often this season to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Hunter has a 4.6 YPC average over the last two seasons, and with Michael Crabtree injured, the aerial attack is really limited to Vernon Davis. Harbaugh knows he can’t have Colin Kaepernick running all over the place now that he’s the franchise quarterback. Look for Hunter to get his touches.

4 of 10

Shane Vereen

Vereen
Howard Smith–US PRESSWIRE

Against a stout Houston Texans defense, Shane Vereen went nuts in the playoffs and ran three touchdowns in addition to 124 yards. If you saw that coming, move to Vegas and start making bets on everything. Vereen seems locked in as New England's third-down back, and has superior catching ability over Stevan Ridley, giving him even more value in PPR formats. The question is how much opposing defenses fear Tom Brady and the passing attack without Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker? Also of note is LeGarrette Blount, who looked pretty solid in the team's first preseason game, but is currently listed third on the New England depth chart. The Patriots ride the hot hand, and they could easily turn to Vereen.

5 of 10

Joseph Randle

Randle
Andrew Weber–US PRESSWIRE

DeMarco Murray is clearly the man in the Dallas Cowboys running attack. The only question is if he can stay healthy. Murray has missed nine of a possible 32 games in his career so far. Enter 2013 fifth-round pick Joseph Randle, who had a successful career at Oklahoma State, racking up 4,002 all purpose yards and 43 touchdowns. I consider Murray injury-prone until I see otherwise. I think it’s only a matter of time until Murray gets sidelined, and Randle gets his shot. This is one of the most likely handcuffs to be thrust into a starting gig this season.

6 of 10

Marcel Reece

Reece
Kyle Terada–US PRESSWIRE

If you haven’t had to draft Darren McFadden, get burned and scramble to find his backup, you haven’t played enough fantasy football. Run DMC is easily one of the most fragile backs in the league. His explosive speed and talent is enough to make owners drool with anticipation, just as his ability to get injured by someone looking at him wrong drives us mad. Last season when McFadden missed time, Marcel Reece stepped in and proved that he could be a starter on some other teams. In PPR formats, Reece has even more value as he established last season that catching the ball is no problem. You have better odds winning the Powerball than seeing McFadden play a full 16 games. Like DeMarco Murray in Dallas, I think it’s only a matter of time before DMC drops and Reece is thrust into the starting spot.

7 of 10

Fred Jackson

Jackson
Timothy T. Ludwig–US PRESSWIRE

Two years ago, Fred Jackson was a top-10 running back for the Buffalo Bills. A few injuries opened the door for C.J. Spiller and he exploded onto the scene with a ridiculous six YPC average. Now entrenched as the Bills' starter, Spiller will get the rock early and often. I don’t believe that Spiller is capable of carrying the ball more than 20-ish times a game. Jackson will still get at least 8-10 touches weekly, and he still has the potential to make the big play should Spiller happen to get bit by the injury bug.

8 of 10

Ben Tate

Tate
Brett Davis–US PRESSWIRE

Ben Tate could be a starter on most teams. Tate is entering a contract year, and coming off a down season, I think he will bounce back strong this year. Even with Andrew Luck helming the ship in Indianapolis, the Texans are still the class of the division. We’ve seen them get a big lead consistently in the past, and when that happens, Arian Foster is on the bench and Tate’s in the game. In 2011, Tate almost hit the 1000-yard mark as a rookie backup running back. With two games against Jacksonville and Tennessee each, and games against Oakland and Arizona, its only a matter of time before Tate gets his touches, healthy Foster or not.

9 of 10

Michael Bush

Bush
Dennis Wierzbicki–US PRESSWIRE

Matt Forte has been the main man in Chicago since they selected him in 2008. Entering his sixth season at age 27, Forte will again be the featured back for the Bears in 2013. However, Forte missed time last season with an injury and when he did, Michael Bush stepped in beautifully. Even before Forte’s injury, Bush was known to Forte owners as a touchdown-stealing vulture as Bush is a beast near the goal line and excels in short yardage situations. Coincidentally, Forte struggles in those short yardage scenarios, making the pair a formidable duo and attractive options for coach Marc Trestman. Bush will have value even if Forte remains healthy, and if Forte goes down, Bush’s value will only increase. If you draft Forte, you need to draft Bush.

10 of 10

Bernard Pierce

Pierce
Robert Deutsch–US PRESSWIRE

While Ray Rice is clearly still one of the focal points of the Ravens' offence, coach John Harbaugh has mentioned that he will start to scale back Rice’s workload to keep him fresher as the season goes on. Sounds awfully similar to what that coach in San Francisco said -- I wonder if there is a connection there? Bernard Pierce will definitely get his touches this year. In fact, Pierce’s role with the Baltimore offense looks to be so locked in, I debated if he even qualifies as a handcuff. His recent sprained knee from the preseason opener is nothing to worry about. I predict that Pierce could very easily surpass 600 yards with a few touchdowns (4-6) mixed in along the way.

1 of 10

Importance of Handcuffs Highlighted By Jamaal Charles Injury Scare

Charles
John Reiger–US PRESSWIRE

Jamaal Charles gave owners and drafters a scare Monday morning when he was carted off the practice field with an injury. Unfortunately for everyone else in the AFC West, Charles’ injury turned out to be a foot sprain. Thankfully for the Kansas City fans and faithful, X-rays came back negative, and the injury doesn’t appear to be anything to put Charles’ Week 1 status into question. It does, however, highlight the importance of having your handcuffs ready. We’ve already seen a plethora of wide receivers drop like flies this training camp and preseason. The injury bug does not discriminate. It will bite everyone: running backs, receivers, even coaches.

While I would never wish an injury upon anyone, savvy owners know that someone on their roster is going down. It is really more a matter of when and who as opposed to a matter of if. I don’t know a fantasy owner who has ever escaped the injury bug all season, do you? If so, rub that guy’s head or steal his lucky shirt — do whatever you can to get some of that mojo.

You need to have your backups ready. When your starter goes down, do you really want to gamble on getting the handcuff on the waiver wire? Once that starter gets hurt, everyone and their mother will put the claim in. Hopefully your guy stays healthy, you don’t need the handcuff, and then you have a tradable asset at your disposal.

So who are the top running backs, and who are their handcuffs? Let’s get right to it.

2 of 10

Toby Gerhart Is Not A Viable Option

Gerhart
Brace Hemmelgam–US PRESSWIRE

Let’s just call a spade a spade. Adrian Peterson is the man. He is a superhuman cloaked in a running back’s body. If he gets hurt, he will just do his Wolverine impression and heal himself up in no time. While injury is always a threat with any player in this league, if Peterson does go down, don’t expect much from Toby Gerhart. With an inconsistent Christian Ponder, no Percy Harvin to stretch the field, there is simply no value here. Move along.

3 of 10

Kendall Hunter

Hunter
Ed Szczepanski–US PRESSWIRE

Kendall Hunter has been the no. 2 guy behind Frank Gore for two years in San Francisco. Entering his ninth season, Gore is now 30-years old, and this is about the time that injuries start to take their toll on most running backs. Look for coach Jim Harbaugh to rest Gore a little more often this season to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Hunter has a 4.6 YPC average over the last two seasons, and with Michael Crabtree injured, the aerial attack is really limited to Vernon Davis. Harbaugh knows he can’t have Colin Kaepernick running all over the place now that he’s the franchise quarterback. Look for Hunter to get his touches.

4 of 10

Shane Vereen

Vereen
Howard Smith–US PRESSWIRE

Against a stout Houston Texans defense, Shane Vereen went nuts in the playoffs and ran three touchdowns in addition to 124 yards. If you saw that coming, move to Vegas and start making bets on everything. Vereen seems locked in as New England's third-down back, and has superior catching ability over Stevan Ridley, giving him even more value in PPR formats. The question is how much opposing defenses fear Tom Brady and the passing attack without Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker? Also of note is LeGarrette Blount, who looked pretty solid in the team's first preseason game, but is currently listed third on the New England depth chart. The Patriots ride the hot hand, and they could easily turn to Vereen.

5 of 10

Joseph Randle

Randle
Andrew Weber–US PRESSWIRE

DeMarco Murray is clearly the man in the Dallas Cowboys running attack. The only question is if he can stay healthy. Murray has missed nine of a possible 32 games in his career so far. Enter 2013 fifth-round pick Joseph Randle, who had a successful career at Oklahoma State, racking up 4,002 all purpose yards and 43 touchdowns. I consider Murray injury-prone until I see otherwise. I think it’s only a matter of time until Murray gets sidelined, and Randle gets his shot. This is one of the most likely handcuffs to be thrust into a starting gig this season.

6 of 10

Marcel Reece

Reece
Kyle Terada–US PRESSWIRE

If you haven’t had to draft Darren McFadden, get burned and scramble to find his backup, you haven’t played enough fantasy football. Run DMC is easily one of the most fragile backs in the league. His explosive speed and talent is enough to make owners drool with anticipation, just as his ability to get injured by someone looking at him wrong drives us mad. Last season when McFadden missed time, Marcel Reece stepped in and proved that he could be a starter on some other teams. In PPR formats, Reece has even more value as he established last season that catching the ball is no problem. You have better odds winning the Powerball than seeing McFadden play a full 16 games. Like DeMarco Murray in Dallas, I think it’s only a matter of time before DMC drops and Reece is thrust into the starting spot.

7 of 10

Fred Jackson

Jackson
Timothy T. Ludwig–US PRESSWIRE

Two years ago, Fred Jackson was a top-10 running back for the Buffalo Bills. A few injuries opened the door for C.J. Spiller and he exploded onto the scene with a ridiculous six YPC average. Now entrenched as the Bills' starter, Spiller will get the rock early and often. I don’t believe that Spiller is capable of carrying the ball more than 20-ish times a game. Jackson will still get at least 8-10 touches weekly, and he still has the potential to make the big play should Spiller happen to get bit by the injury bug.

8 of 10

Ben Tate

Tate
Brett Davis–US PRESSWIRE

Ben Tate could be a starter on most teams. Tate is entering a contract year, and coming off a down season, I think he will bounce back strong this year. Even with Andrew Luck helming the ship in Indianapolis, the Texans are still the class of the division. We’ve seen them get a big lead consistently in the past, and when that happens, Arian Foster is on the bench and Tate’s in the game. In 2011, Tate almost hit the 1000-yard mark as a rookie backup running back. With two games against Jacksonville and Tennessee each, and games against Oakland and Arizona, its only a matter of time before Tate gets his touches, healthy Foster or not.

9 of 10

Michael Bush

Bush
Dennis Wierzbicki–US PRESSWIRE

Matt Forte has been the main man in Chicago since they selected him in 2008. Entering his sixth season at age 27, Forte will again be the featured back for the Bears in 2013. However, Forte missed time last season with an injury and when he did, Michael Bush stepped in beautifully. Even before Forte’s injury, Bush was known to Forte owners as a touchdown-stealing vulture as Bush is a beast near the goal line and excels in short yardage situations. Coincidentally, Forte struggles in those short yardage scenarios, making the pair a formidable duo and attractive options for coach Marc Trestman. Bush will have value even if Forte remains healthy, and if Forte goes down, Bush’s value will only increase. If you draft Forte, you need to draft Bush.

10 of 10

Bernard Pierce

Pierce
Robert Deutsch–US PRESSWIRE

While Ray Rice is clearly still one of the focal points of the Ravens' offence, coach John Harbaugh has mentioned that he will start to scale back Rice’s workload to keep him fresher as the season goes on. Sounds awfully similar to what that coach in San Francisco said -- I wonder if there is a connection there? Bernard Pierce will definitely get his touches this year. In fact, Pierce’s role with the Baltimore offense looks to be so locked in, I debated if he even qualifies as a handcuff. His recent sprained knee from the preseason opener is nothing to worry about. I predict that Pierce could very easily surpass 600 yards with a few touchdowns (4-6) mixed in along the way.


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