Who Is a Must and Who is a Must Not
To handcuff or not to handcuff? That is the question.
At least it's the question fantasy players ask themselves continually during their fantasy drafts. When it comes to our stud RB's, there is always that voice inside of our heads saying "He might get hurt. If you don't take his backup you're going to regret it!"
Some guys are easy to know to handcuff because either they are a current injury risk or have demonstrated a propensity for injury during their careers. Arian Foster entering 2013 is a prime example of that and his backup Ben Tate has proven capable of putting up quality fantasy stats in his absence in the past. Others are easier to handcuff because they have a high quality backup who has showed enough to make you think the backup could likely be a solid starter on his own if he weren't behind someone else. Ray Rice is the example here as his backup, Bernard Pierce, looked impressive when spelling Rice throughout last season and the playoffs. Pierce put up 532 rushing yards on 108 carries in the regular season playing the understudy, and then gained another 202 yards rushing on 39 rushing attempts in the playoffs. Pierce's 4.9 yards per rush attempt in the regular season and his 5.2 in the post season both bettered Rice's (4.4 regular season; 3.6 post). Both Tate and Pierce are guys you know are worth having for the insurance policy they represent.
But not every strong fantasy RB needs to be handcuffed. In fact there are two top 5 RB's (in my opinion top 5 anyway) in 2013 that there is no need to handcuff anyone to him because the situation behind each one is as clear as mud:
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
When Dion Lewis went down with injury and likely to miss the entire season, Richardson's handcuff went out the door. Lewis had taken advantage of both lackluster performances by Montario Hardesty and Hardesty's penchant for injury to usurp Hardesty in that role. Hardesty can't be trusted and the Browns have unspectacular Brandon Jackson and FB/HB hybrid Chris Ogbonnaya as fall back options. None of Hardesty, Jackson, and Ogbonnaya is worth using a draft pick for the handcuff.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It still has yet to be determined who will be the top backup to Martin in 2013. The candidates are Peyton Hillis, Brian Leonard, Michael Smith, and rookie Mike James. Hillis gets the name recognition but he's proven to be a one season wonder while in Cleveland and has never recaptured anything that even closely resembled that magical 2010 season. We doubt he does in Tampa Bay either even if called on to try. Leonard is a RB/FB hybrid with no special qualities. Smith has failed to impress despite playmaking speed. James might be the likeliest of the group to be a lead RB if anything were to happen to Martin, but even then we'd fully expect a committee approach that would limit what he could realistically be counted on for.
Remember this when it's your turn and you're debating the handcuff.