As the NFL pre-season kicks off this weekend with the Hall of Fame Game, I have decided to kick off my fantasy football mailbag as well. With this weekly feature I will be answering questions submitted via email, Twitter DM and other avenues in order to help provide insight into some of the issues facing the modern day fantasy football owner.
So now that we have the particulars sorted out, let’s reach into the mailbag and see what we can find:
Our first question comes to us from Twitter follower @_HATERNATION who asks:
“Who is your number one handcuff running back this year? I’m liking Isaiah Pead.”
Excellent question and something all fantasy owners should pay attention to. Many readers know the meaning of the term “handcuff” as it relates to fantasy football, but for those owners who do not, a “handcuff’ is the backup or complimentary back to your starting RB and is a valuable asset in terms of maintaining continuity in the case of injury or poor performance.
That being said, let’s identify a few starting running backs for whom a handcuff is essential.
First up is Darren McFadden or Run DMC as he’s been nicknamed over the years. McFadden has missed at least 3 games in all 4 of his seasons in the NFL, missing 9 games last season due to a Lisfranc problem in his foot, so his durability is definitely an issue. These injury problems coupled with his Round 1 draft status make it a necessity to snag his backup in the mid-to-late rounds of your draft.
At this point it’s a training camp battle between Mike Goodson, who was previously a member of the Carolina Panther backfield, and second year pro Taiwan Jones. Whoever wins this battle to become the number two back in Oakland will likely see playing time during the season.
It’s a training camp storyline that needs to be watched if you intend on drafting McFadden, although my feeling is that if he goes down, you may see a running back by committee approach implemented. Just the same snag McFadden’s backup when drafting Run DMC in 2012.
The next starter who needs a handcuff play attached to him is Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. Peterson is coming of an ACL and MCL tear resulting from a hit sustained in a week 16 tilt with Washington last season. Many medical professionals have indicated in the past that this is an injury from which it can take up to 9 or 10 months to fully recover. This puts Peterson in jeopardy of missing time at the onset of the 2012 season, making it an absolute necessity to snag Toby Gerhart if AP ends up on your roster.
Gerhart is a very capable backup, proving his worth down the stretch of the 2011 season. His current ADP (average draft position) is ranging from the middle of round 8 to the middle of round 9 so if you plan on drafting AP, make sure to lock in on Gerhart mid-draft.
Lastly, and to answer @_HATERNATION’s question, I look to the New York Giants to identify my “must have” handcuff this season. The Giants abysmal running game, finishing last in the NFL at 89.2/YPG, prompted the team to draft Rookie running back David Wilson out of Virginia Tech in an effort to alleviate some of these ground game woes.
Wilson’s value as a handcuff is two-fold as Giants starter Ahmad Bradshaw has injury concerns with ineffectiveness to boot. This is a good combo for owners who pickup Wilson on draft day. Not only could he get a shot to perform due to a Bradshaw injury, but he may very well out play Bradshaw as the season progresses.
For these reasons I like David Wilson as a must have fantasy running back handcuff.
Our next question comes from Ron Cseh of Mentor, Ohio who asks:
“What rookie running backs do you believe are worth a high draft pick?”
This is another good question to mull over. Obviously the first name that comes to mind is Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns, whom I feel warrants late first round or early second round consideration.
For those readers who follow me on Twitter you already know that I am a lifelong Browns fan, so I’ll preface the following analysis with this remark. I love the Browns, but I do not and will not allow my fandom to skew any analysis that I may give regarding one of the team’s players.
With that said I will suggest to you that Richardson is very worthy of a high round draft pick as he will be leaned on heavily in both the running and passing games in Cleveland this year. With no real backup running back behind him, Richardson stands to get the bulk of the touches out of the backfield and with the West Coast Offense that Cleveland runs he will see his fair share of targets in the passing game as well. This makes his stock even higher for all you PPR players out there.
An important item to note in the analysis of Trent Richardson and his value as a high round draft pick is the fact that Browns running backs were targeted a total of 72 times in the passing game last season, catching 65 balls with an average of 6.2 yards per reception. With a conservative estimate for Richardson to have 80% of last year’s receiving numbers he stands to catch 52 balls for 322 yards. Couple that with a full workload as a feature back and you can see why he stacks up as a late first round or early second rounder.
Another Rookie who is making waves at training camp is Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin. Martin was my “Rookie of the Week” on Twitter and by the responses I received there, many of you feel as if he will produce a quality fantasy season in 2012.
Currently Martin is being drafted in the third round in many of the mock drafts I have done to date. If you would have asked me two weeks ago if that was a reach I would have been inclined to say yes. However, in the last week or so, as training camp began, we started to hear more and more about Martin and his expanding role in the Tampa Bay backfield.
The main reason I endorse Doug Martin as a third round value is the fact that he is playing under Rookie Head Coach Greg Schiano. Schiano is a run first guy that had the luxury of having Ray Rice in the backfield during his tenure at Rutgers University. Rice and Martin have virtually the same build and attributes as running backs so it’s fair to speculate that Schiano jumped up in the draft to snag Martin, a back he sees as a Ray Rice caliber player.
If Martin continues to get the bulk of the carries in the Buccaneer backfield he could put together a very nice season that would greatly benefit his fantasy owners.
Well that concludes my inaugural mailbag column. Thanks to all who submitted questions and feel free to keep them coming to John.Beckler@nfldraftmonsters.com. Please keep in mind that even if your question does not appear here, you can expect an answer via reply email. Simply put, if you take the time to write me, I will take the time to write you back.
Thanks for reading and I’ll be seeing you all on my Twitter timeline soon!