RB handcuffs: Which ones interest me? 

August, 17, 2012
Simply put, you won't see me spending much time worrying about the novel fantasy football practice of "handcuffing" backup running backs to my starters. I've just seen too many times in which the oh so popular next guy in line cannot handle the job and quickly disappoints. This is not the case with Houston Texans running back Ben Tate, because we saw during the 2011 season how electric he can be should something again befall top overall pick Arian Foster, but past Tate, it's a largely unexciting crew of backup running backs.

[+] EnlargeBen Tate
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesDespite his backup status, Ben Tate still managed to finish 28th among running backs in (standard) fantasy scoring in 2011.
It's worth noting that because so many NFL teams have shared duties at running back to begin with, the mere notion of handcuffs is lessened more than in previous seasons. Just two running backs had more than 300 carries last season; seven did the year prior, and as recently as 2006, there were 10 players with this high a workload. Things are different now. Injuries run rampant, and ESPN Fantasy projects only 11 running backs to top 250 attempts. It seems more vital to me to draft a running back that doesn't need an injury or poor performance by someone else in order to get his own opportunity.

Tate's different because Houston runs so much, and figures to again, and he's really good. Tate flirted with 1,000 rushing yards last season and averaged 5.4 yards per carry, so he really fits the definition of handcuff in that top-10 status possibly awaits him if opportunity knocks. If Maurice Jones-Drew foolishly opts to sit out the season, I seriously doubt backup Rashad Jennings will become a fantasy superstar. That doesn't mean I'll ignore Jennings late in drafts, but the fact is I'm interested in him and Tate regardless of my starting running backs. I'm certainly more inclined to reach on Tate in the sixth round if I own Foster, which I've shown in recent mock drafts, but in general I'm drafting best available running backs by then.