It’s always nice when fantasy owners frantically scramble to pick up the latest waiver wire gem only to realize he has been on your team this whole time.
If you want to look like a fantasy genius later in the year, pick up these handcuffs as star-player insurance during the late rounds of your draft.
Michael Bush, Chicago Bears
Michael Bush is no secret anymore. After years of filling in for the often injured Darren McFadden, Bush has arguably become the No. 1 Fantasy handcuff to have.
This year is no different as Bush joins the Chicago Bears where he will play second-fiddle to Matt Forte, who is coming back from his own knee injury.
Whether Forte gets hurt is not really of consequence here because Bush will still get a number of carries each week and will be the go-to-guy for the Bears on every goal-line opportunity. Draft him as a good spot-starter who has the potential to be a top-notch fantasy running back if Forte goes down.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans
Arian Foster carried the ball 278 times for 1,224 yards last season and Ben Tate still nearly broke 1,000 yards in his own right. The Texans averaged over 34 rush attempts per game in 2011, so whether Arian Foster gets hurt or not, Ben Tate will still get plenty of chances.
With 175 carries for 942 yards, it was actually Tate who averaged more yards per carry last year than did Foster. Ben Tate tallied a nice 5.4 yards per attempt last season and put up four 100+ yard games on his own. Like Michael Bush, Tate is going to put up fantasy stats from the second-string position on the depth chart, but if he becomes the starter at some point during the season, his fantasy value will be off the charts.
Mike Goodson, Oakland Raiders
Thanks to the departure of Michael Bush to the Chicago Bears, Mike Goodson now takes over as the Oakland Raiders second-string running back. Darren McFadden, his first-string counterpart, may be one of the best young players in all of football, but Run DMC has not been able to stay on the field much.
In his first four years in the league, McFadden is averaging just around 11 games a season, which includes only seven games in 2011. In fact, Darren McFadden has never played a full 16-game schedule in his career – the smart money says Mike Goodson will become the feature back for the Raiders at some point this year.
Michael Bush rushed for 977 yards and nine touchdowns while being the first-string back for just nine games last season. Mike Goodson doesn’t have Bush’s track record, but he did show flashes in 2010 when he averaged 4.4 yards on 103 carries for the Carolina Panthers.
Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars
If ever there was a year to bet the house on Rashad Jennings becoming a fantasy sleeper it is this one. Maurice Jones-Drew is currently embroiled in a contract dispute with the Jags’ front office and has decided not to show up for training camp. This tactic might work to get him a new deal, but it doesn’t do a lot for his fantasy prospects this season.
We all remember Chris Johnson’s similar dispute with the Titans last season and how that translated to his worst statistical year of his career.
Aside from the contract issue, Jones-Drew has also averaged 318 carries per year over his last three seasons, including a high of 343 in 2011. At just 5-7, the likelihood Maurice Jones-Drew will start to wear down becomes more and more possible with each carry. Whether it is due to injury or ineffectiveness, Rashad Jennings may find his way into the Jags’ lineup a lot more in 2012.
Seattle Seahawks’ No. 2 Running Back
We can’t put a name to this yet because it is still up in the air just who will be Marshawn Lynch’s backup, but one thing is for sure, whoever it is may be very very valuable this fantasy season.
After Lynch was arrested for DUI earlier this offseason, the possibility of Roger Goodell handing down a lengthy suspension has become something of a 50/50 proposition. On one hand, Lynch is a repeat offender, and on the other, Lynch has stayed out of trouble for over three years now. Which way Goodell’s pendulum of justice will swing is anybody’s guess, but the Seahawks now have to find someone for more than just third-down carries.
The current suitors for the job are Robert Turbin and Leon Washington. Turbin would seem to be the more likely candidate based on Washington’s value as a kick returner, and his Reggie Bush-like inability for a 20+ carries per game workload. Turbin is a rookie who is thought of more as a power runner, so the jury is still out on what type of pro he could be.
Do not sleep on the possibility of the Seahawks going out and signing a veteran free agent like Cedric Benson as insurance for Lynch. And don’t let Goodell slow play you; just because Lynch isn’t suspended at the start of the season does not mean the commish won’t give him the heave later in the year.
Other Players To Watch
Mikel Leshoure, Detroit Lions
Isaiah Pead, St. Louis Rams
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers
Javon Ringer, Tennessee Titans
Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals
Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins
Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs
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