4 Fantasy Handcuffs to Draft Independently

Anthony Knox
@hardknoxffb

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but we are dangerously close to training camps! At the time of this article, we are less than one month from the Hall of Fame game! Okay, I know, the Hall of Fame game is terrible, BUT IT’S FOOTBALL!

If you haven’t begun to draft preparation, now is the time to start! I’m here to help you with your running backs, and maybe to make some of your friends mad in the process.

For those of you who don’t know what a “handcuff running back” is, that means they are the back-up to the starting running back on that team. What that usually means is that they aren’t getting a significant amount of work unless the starter is out.

There are exceptions to this rule, and that’s what I’m here to help you understand. There are four running backs that you should be drafting even if you don’t have the starter for that team. These four will be players that will return flex position worthy value for the majority of the year.

Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans

The Titans love to run the football. They ran the ball the 4th most times in the NFL last season. DeMarco Murray is the starter for their team, and he should be. But, Derrick Henry showed everyone that if he is given the chance he can be a dominant running back. On less than half of the number of carries, he had a better yard per rush average than Murray (4.5) and scored 4 fewer touchdowns (5).

Let’s not forget, DeMarco Murray has an injury history. I don’t think the Titans forgot about it when they traded for Murray and then immediately drafted Henry. If (and probably when) Murray gets hurt this year, Derrick Henry will be a top 12 running back every week. Until then, he’s always a possibility for a touchdown each week.

Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons

Two years ago, when the Atlanta Falcons drafted Tevin Coleman, he was supposed to become the starter. Unfortunately, he became injured and Devonta Freeman showed that he should be the starter for the Falcons. Coleman didn’t do anything in 2015 that would show he was going to be a talent in the NFL.

Then 2016 happened! Tevin Coleman wasn’t the starter, but you couldn’t tell that by the numbers he had. For a back-up running back, Coleman was providing RB 2 numbers on a consistent basis. This was also while Freeman continued his crusade to prove he shouldn’t have ever left the starting running back conversation.

Below is a breakdown of their stats from last season:

Devonta Freeman Tevin Coleman
Rushing Attempts 227 118
Rushing Yards 1,079 520
Rushing TD 11 8
Targets 65 40
Receptions 54 31
Receiving Yards 462 421
Receiving TD 2 3
Total Fantasy Points 286.1 191.1

On half as many total touches, Tevin Coleman was not far off from what Devonta Freeman did for the season. Coleman also played in 3 fewer games than Freeman. Coleman is a player that no matter who drafts him should be your flex starter every week.

Jacquizz Rodgers – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

To begin, I love Doug Martin this year. Every time he has a bad year due to injuries he comes out swinging the next year and puts on a show. That being said, he is suspended for the first three games of the year, which means someone else needs to start.

Enter Jacquizz Rodgers.

In limited work last year, he had a 4.3 yard per rush average. If you gave him all of the work that Doug Martin received (which should have happened because Martin was terrible), he would have had almost 1,200 rushing yards based on his average and 5 touchdowns. That essentially 10 points per game from either your number tw0 running back or flex player.

If Jacquizz can prove to the coaching staff that he can continue to perform at that level, I believe we will see a split in carries between him and Doug Martin. That means that both players will end up being low-end running back two’s or flex options each week for your team.

Bilal Powell – New York Jets

Matt Forte is the starting running back for the New York Jets, not Bilal Powell. The Jets have also stated that they want Forte to be the “workhorse” this year for the team. If you’re paying attention to the what the Jets have done in the offseason, you understand they are trying to lose 16 games this year so they can have the #1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Powell is the better running back in the backfield, but will at least start the season as the back-up. Forte missed two games last year and played limited time in the games he did play as Bilal Powell took the reins and showed he should be the starter. For a back-up, when you compare the numbers, it’s clear Powell should be the starter heading into 2017:

Matt Forte Bilal Powell
Rushing Attempts 218 131
Rushing Yards 813 722
Rushing TD 5 4
Targets 43 74
Receptions 30 58
Receiving Yards 263 388
Receiving TD 1 2
Fantasy Points 173.6 205

Need I say more.

Do yourself a favor, add these guys to your list of potential running backs to draft. Don’t worry about paying the price for the starters when you can get these guys for a cheaper draft price.

Be safe this 4th of July!

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