Welcome to the Handcuff Report, 2014 primer. The Almighty J-FOH has bestowed upon me the honor of keeping you knuckleheads up to date on the latest NFL arrests, felonies, and misdemeanors. If Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen are smoking weed in a Pontiac Firebird, we’ll be there. If Titus Young finds his way back into the league, we’ll be there. If Golden Tate decides to steal maple bars from a Detroit bakery, we’ll be there. You get the point…. Wait.?!?! That’s not what this post covers?…. It’s about running back committees? …Hmmm I don’t think that’s right. Jay, I think we have a problem…..I had 1,300 words about Ray Rice, Josh Gordon, Le’veon Bell, and LeGarrette Blount. It seemed reasonable, there are a lot of arrests, and they do in fact impact our rosters. But okay… I got it now, you meant handcuff in a less literal sense. Oops! Welp, time to refocus. I guess instead I’ll be discussing the ever evolving Running Back committee situations around the league. For today and at least the first few weeks of the season, I’ll be providing a list of depth charts and commenting on the situations I feel need to be covered. In other words I’ll be spending less time on teams like the Vikings, Bears, or Seahawks and more time on teams like the Lions, Falcons, and Dolphins. As the season progresses, I’ll probably switch to more of a “handcuffs to watch format”, where I’ll cover a handful of backs with expanding roles. But who knows, we’ll see, you guys can tell me in the comments if you like the depth chart rankings. I’m cool with that. After today I will be sticking with the tried and true tiered approach (say that three times fast Micro Machine Man) and the tier names that J-FOH had last year, because what else is there outside of Fuzzy, Standard Issue Police, and Duct taped handcuffs? That pretty much covers the handcuff gamut. No??? Are there other varieties besides the ones covered? Like those weird plastic ones, that cops use, maybe? Did you notice I said “cops use”… do you know why? Because Standard Issue Police That’s Why!!!
Keep in mind these situations are constantly in flux and much can change from week to week and day to day. The depth charts provided below are as of September 2nd at 4 pm. Don’t hate me if one of these guys crashes their motorcycle in the parking lot of a local community college. Hey, it’s not my life!
Any of us fantasy football vets recall the days of the workhorse running back. Knowledgable drafters would target running backs almost exclusively in the first two maybe three rounds. These same owners scoffed at the less savvy players drafting QB’s and WR’s in the first and second round. Workhorses were our fantasy foundation. They were the players that totted the rock 300+ times a year. If you were really lucky you got your mitts on a workhorse who was also heavily involved in the passing game like LaDainian Tomlinson or Ray Rice. In the last 5 years the running back position has gotten extremely specialized. It seems every team besides the Vikings and Bears deploys a multi-back system with 1st and 2nd down rushers, 3rd down receiving specialists, and change of pace guys. This has caused the once straight forward running back pool to become extremely diluted and difficult to navigate. Hence the need for this trusty Handcuff Report. As I mentioned in my disclaimer these committees are always in flux and extremely volatile.
I’ll be dropping my first tiered rankings after week one, so today we’ll go team by team and comment on each situation briefly.
I don’t for a hot second or a cold minute believe that this depth chart will look this way in two weeks time, but who knows. After watching Hard Knocks, I’ve lost all faith in Mike Smith as a coach, he just seems defeated. Any the who! I like Freeman to shoot to the top of the depth chart in the coming weeks. Jacquizz Rodgers has shown us he’s nothing more than a scat back, and Antone Smith should be listed four. Sorry he should. I could see Steven Jackson having a Football Zombino kind of year if he stays healthy. That’s a big IF. Jackson will do this just to defy logic, common sense, and all that’s right in the universe.If he gets hurt, Freeman will take the job and run with it.
This is Ellington’s show. I hope people start calling him The Duke. I just think it would be cool. We have too many A-Rod, Car-go, type of nicknames. We need actual nicknames again, ones that sound like kick ass middle names or wrestling monikers. BTW no one else on this team is worth owning or talking about. If Ellington gets hurt they should call BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
This is an interesting situation and one that has been highly debated on the Razzball 32in32in32 shows. Nick Cappozzi is a huge advocate for Bernard Pierce and the logic is sound. I just don’t believe. He was terrible last year and it wasn’t just the line. Ray Rice is the better player he’ll prevail.
C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon
This is arguably the best group of backs in the league with three players on the depth chart that have the ability to be true impact runners. That is of course if the right situation presented itself. C.J. Spiller if healthy is explosive and one of the most exciting players to watch, Fred Jackson has developed into the epitome of a good veteran as he’s shared duties with Spiller over the last few years, but has managed to stay relevant fantasy wise, Bryce Brown is a wild card, some have talked about him as a dynasty pick to stash but I wonder if he’s always going to be a good complimentary guy and that’s it. His compliments last season did wonders for LeSean McCoy’s self esteem.
Who knows with this group, it’s like a rubik’s cube I have no desire to decipher it.
All Matt Forte everything. This is the L.T throwback. Catches, rushes, and goal line work. Well we hope for goal line.
The word on the street is that the Bengals are going to take a 50/50 approach in terms of carries, Saying that both Hill and Bernard would see about 200 carries each. That’s fine because Bernard has the ability to catch 50-60 balls. By the same token Hill has the ability to be a goal line vulture. This could hurt Bernard’s value but I still see him having a very good season. This is fur sure a fuzzy handcuff situation. pun point!
There was a lot of talk about West and hope that he could be a mid-round steal. What ended up happening is he’s now clearly overvalued. Ben Tate is the guy here until further notice.
Demarco Murray, Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle, Ryan Williams
This is Demarco Murray and everyone else. Well until he gets hurt. Oh yes it will happen. I don’t like any of his backups. Problem is he seems to always miss a few games a year. Don’t talk to me about Dunbar or Randle, there’s nothing there.
Monte Ball, Ronnie Hillman
Denver is all in on Monte Ball and so am I. He’s found his way onto quite a few of my teams. Please be a workhorse.
I don’t believe in Reggie at all. I am 100% on team Bell. It’s an easy choice for me, he was the better player last year in all facets of the game. Watch the tape and tell me who the better back is. Do it! Bush has a brand name and a lot of star power, that makes him attractive to owners. Bell is the better player and Bell is going to have this job soon rather than later.
Green Bay Packers
I say Eddie Y’all say Lacy. Eddie! Lacy! Eddie! Lacy! nuff said! Update: Left the first game concussed…Uh-Oh!
This is a much discussed backfield but it’s much ado about nothing. This is Arian Foster’s offense when healthy, I do like Blue to take over if Foster breaks down again. You’re my boy Blue!
Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Daniel Herron
I think this will be the first hierarchy change to happen. If Richardson comes out week 1 and looks the way he did last year and in the pre-season, it’s Mr. Bradshaw’s job. Well until he breaks a bone somewhere around week 3 but I digress. I own both of them on a few teams I think it’s a committee that could produce some useful numbers. Whether Richardson or Bradshaw is the guy remains to be seen.
Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman, Denard Richrdson
This is Toby Gerhart’s job to lose. I like Jordan Todman for sentimental reasons, we’re from the same area of Massachusetts and we played in the same athletic conference in high school, it was a decade apart but who cares. Gerhart isn’t that good and the line is bad. I don’t have any faith. Then again I believe in nothing.
Kansas City Chiefs
I already spoke about this ad nauseam in my Lamar Miller underrated post but I think he breaks out this year. It’s a committe to watch and at this point both backs are ownable.
I’m going to just skip this one.
New England Patriots
Ridley should be the lead dog in this pack because he is the best runner. His fumbling problems are ruining his career, hopefully he can get this issue fixed. James White looks like a solid player but Ridley is one of the better runners in the league when not in Belichick’s doghouse. This uncertainty makes Shane Vereen the most intriguing fantasy option of the lot. He’s such a threat in the passing game he could put up top 10 RB numbers, easy. He just needs to stay on the field, not easy.
New Orleans Saints
This is the toughest one to figure out because I just assumed coming in that it was Thomas’s job. Mark Ingram had a great camp/pre-season and finds himself on the top of the depth chart. Will it hold up? Is it even real to begin with? We’ll see. I’d watch this situation like a cyclops with a monocle until something starts to materialize. Until then I’m veering away from the telephone pole that is the Saints backfield.
New York Giants
Rashard Jennings, Andre Williams, Peyton Hillis
After the report broke that the Giants brass considered Williams “a bit too raw”, I was finally sold on Jennings. Forgive me for my reluctance to be associated with the Giants run game. As my good friend Matt can attest I got burned pretty badly by David Wilson in maybe a dozen leagues last season and I don’t forgive easy. I’ve gotten over it through therapy, Ben and Jerry’s pints, and listening to the Cure. I am now stronger, and ready to love, and trust a Giant RB again. Rashard, I’m ready…..In all seriousness the man is going to handle something like 80% of the work in the Giants backfield. He’s got the potential to be that increasingly rare workhorse we discussed in the opening. I’m all in on Jennings and don’t see Williams threatening until later in the season. I do like Williams’ potential should the injury bug that plagued Jennings in Jacksonville return.
New York Jets
I’m not sure what happened to me over the past 9 months but I find myself feeling two things that I couldn’t have imagined feeling at the end of last season. First salads are very delicious and I really like eating vegetables. Strange right? Well with #2 it gets worse. I…Trust…Chris…Johnson. I actually think Johnson is a good pick and has a great chance of out performing his draft position easy. I can’t really explain it other than I just think he’s going to receive the most valuable gift any Head Coach can give a running back. Lots and Lots of delicious
salad playing time. If Johnson produces even remotely productive numbers he’ll get lots of opportunity to be the feature weapon in the Jets offensive (and I use this word loosely) attack. As for his handcuffs, Chris Ivory stinks and Bilal Powell should go back to singing hooks for Talib Kweli. There’s not much to worry about here.
This is one of the more intriguing backfields for a couple of reasons. First and foremost they have two players who at one point or another were considered fantasy studs, whether real (MJD) or imagined (DMC), that are looking for a return to glory. Second and most importantly every year the Raiders give us fantasy players one thing, a productive RB2/Flex. Who will it be this year? Will they revive MJD? Will Mcfadden stay healthy and effective and finally deliver on all the promise he’s shown in flashes? Time will tell. Then again maybe everyone on the Raiders stinks and they’ll go 0-16. It all seems possible.
Lesean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Chris Polk
This is one of the few situations where there are two backs who will be highly productive and more than likely not effect the others value too much. We all know what McCoy can do and I was an advocate all draft season for taking him first overall. He’s just so dynamic. It’s a pleasure to be able to watch McCoy work in a Chip Kelly offense. Truly a match made in heaven. This brings me to Sproles. I’m unbelievably excited to see what Chip has schemed up for old Sprolesy. Yes I made up that nickname thank you very much. Can you imagine what he has the potential to do? I wouldn’t be totally surprised if he morphs into Foles favorite option in the passing game. Would it be a stretch if I projected 70-80 catches? He might be a WR 2 with a running back title.
Le’Veon Bell, LaGarrette Blount, Dri Archer
The Cheech and Chong of the Allegheny are set to burn rubber like a sweet Chevy Camaro driven by a 17 year old by with a penis shaped pot pipe. Oh wait that’s Le’Veon Bell. Well nevermind. My understanding is that Bell is still the lead dog and will see almost all of the passing work in the backfield. Blount will factor in here and there but he’s not really as good as he looked in New England late last year. That was an illusion, a mirage, don’t get caught. Bell is the superior player.
San Diego Chargers
Hit me! I’m dying to see what the Chargers do with their top three backfield options this season. Mostly because I own both Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead in several leagues. But I do have a sneaking suspicion that Donald Brown will be the worst kind of handcuff. The dreaded double standard issue police, minimizing the Fuzzy Handcuff potential of the true handcuff, in this case Danny Woodhead (hi!).
San Francisco 49ers
It sounds like it’s still Gore’s job. Sort of…. I’m under the impression that their aim is to keep Gore “Fresh” this season and that Hyde could see 10-12 carries a game. I think that makes Hyde valuable as a bench stash in all 12+ team leagues. He’s got solid pedigree as a big time college player at The Ohio State and as a second round pick. He did average 5.7 yards per carry in the preseason, which could mean something or absolutely nothing. I know, I know, great analysis! When it’s all said and done here’s how I see the season playing out. Gore has a solid start with Hyde showing some flashes, about 7 or 8 games in they slowly start to pull more carries from Gore and the split is more 55%-45%, until we reach the last four weeks and Hyde becomes the starter. Boom! I’ll bet anyone 5 lbs of steak tips that it happens!
Early pre-season Christine Michael hype be damned, this is the Beast Mode show. I’m watching the opening game against the Packers while I write this and one guy is running all over the field and the other is inactive. Any guesses who? You didn’t need to answer it out loud, now everyone thinks you’re weird.
St. Louis Rams
I love Zac Stacy. I love him, His back up is a grown man with the name Benny and the other guy is a bust in the making, sorry Ma$eo. Tre is just not good enough in pass-pro or as a receiver to be relevant. At least not as of yet. I’m not that high on him, but I may just be blinded by my Zac Stacy love.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Remember when Booby Rainey was good for like three weeks last season? Yeah those were fun times. Now it’s 2014, and 2012 hero Doug Martin is back healthy, and the Bucs just traded for one of the better offensive lineman in football. I’d say this is a pretty good situation for Martin. I don’t see Rainey emerging again but I could see James being ownable at some point. That point has not yet come.
This is looks to be a triple handcuff situation as I just don’t see Shonn Greene holding off Bishop Sankey for too long. Because he is Shonn Greene, we’ve seen enough of this guy to know what he is. The only wildcard here is Bishop Sankey may not be that good. I don’t think that’s the case but he’s done nothing to justify my blind faith in him.
Washington Football Team
Alfred Morris, Roy Helu Jr., Silas Reed
I’m not sure how much value Roy Helu Jr. has anymore, he showed great promise in 2011 as both a rusher and pass catcher but he’s never really been used correctly. I’m interested to see what Jay Gruden has in store. Helu can be an asset in the passing game and that’s something the 4th Greatest Player in Arena Football history knows how to take advantage of. Knowing Gruden’s offense I feel Helu is one to watch.