Strategy session: Fantasy Football handcuffs
Marshawn Lynch – Christine Michael
Mr. Beastmode really came into his own last season, posting career-best numbers nearly across the board. Tack on some mild contributions as a receiver and there is no reason to shy away from Lynch. Michael looks like a great fit for Seattle's offense. The former Texas A&M back split time often in college and doesn't have much tread on his tires. Seattle will need him fresh since they have one of the more prolific ground games in the NFL. Finally, Lynch should probably be higher than this since he is a true workhorse in the prime of his career. The order of these players is strictly based on average draft position. 2012 rookie Robert Turbin remains in the backup discussion.
VERDICT: Yes, but like always, do try to wait until the third to last round.
Ray Rice – Bernard Pierce
How the mighty have fallen. One less than stellar season and suddenly Rice is practically falling out of the first round. This is likely a testament to fantasy owners taking Rice's prolific talent for granted while also overvaluing Pierce's role. They might have a point though. Pierce really came out of nowhere and rushed for over 500 yards on 108 carries. If you ask around enough, you might even find a few fantasy analysts who feel Pierce could finish 2013 as the team's leading rusher and that's without an injured Rice. I wouldn't go that far. Pierce showed a lot of promise as a rookie and it has translated into a lot of respect moving forward. The Ravens' dependence on a stout ground game boosts the value of both players.
VERDICT: Yes. Pierce's ADP is mixed in with a lot of average RB2s. If called upon, he could outproduce all of them with ease.
Trent Richardson – Brandon Jackson
I don't want to waste your time here, so if Jackson were a candle, he'd have been burned down to almost nothing. His time has already come and gone in this league. He can certainly contribute a little something on all three downs; however, in an already lackluster Cleveland offense that is supposedly going to be better this year, even a supreme talent like Richardson accomplished very little. Jackson isn't a terrible player; he's a solid back with a decent all-around game. He is simply in a bad situation and his durability is a serious enough issue that we can save it for another day.
VERDICT: No. Just no.
Alfred Morris – Roy Helu
For those with enough forethought to take a chance on Morris last year, they bet wisely considering all the hubbub last offseason about the terrible, no-good Mike Shanahan and his inability to start only one running back. In fact, Helu was supposed to be the guy at one point. That obviously never panned out. Morris dominated in 2012 and was just as important to Washington's resurgence as Mr. RG3. Helu should do very well in a secondary role and the Redskins look to be on the verge of something special. As Washington's third-down back (and considering he's produced in a starting role previously), Helu is worthy of late round love even for non-Morris owners. Then again, Morris played so well that he didn't let another soul come close to significant playing time. It is to the point that beat writers are already speculating Helu will be on the move next year.
VERDICT: Plot twist! Yes, yes on Helu the Handcuff. I know, I took it one way and then I went the other direction. Helu's strong preseason and newfound health all look very promising. He has enough talent where I've taken notice.
DeMarco Murray – Lance Dunbar
Murray and the following back in this list are a bit of an added bonus here. The first 10 backs were the Top 10 backs according to ADP. I've added Murray to the list given his injury history. Firstly, Murray is an excellent football player who, if given a full 16-game schedule, could sincerely challenge all of fantasy football by potentially finishing the No. 1 back in all the land. All hyperbole aside though, he must stay healthy and that is why he has plummeted down everyone's draft boards. Given his injury problems, handcuffing may feel like a wise choice. The problem is actually that Dallas has three backs on the depth chart behind Murray who could eventually emerge as the team's de facto backup: Dunbar, Phillip Tanner and Joseph Randle.
VERDICT: No. Given the uncertainty behind Murray and the inability for one guy really to nail the backup job on lockdown is troublesome.
Darren McFadden – Rashad Jennings
At this stage of his career, McFadden's name is inching very close to becoming a verb for "gross underachiever" in the same way Roy Munson's name took on a life of its own in the movie "Kingpin." Now that I've wedged that unnecessary comparison, the Raiders are… Well they are the Raiders and there isn't a whole lot to get excited about on offense. Jennings actually took over at times for Maurice Jones-Drew last year and did absolutely nothing. It can be safely assumed he'll do the same in Oakland. If Jennings showed some life last season, handcuffing McFadden would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately Jennings earned a lot of playing time and even managed to lose his starting role in Jacksonville.
VERDICT: No. If you have the guts to take a chance on McFadden, you don't need no stinking handcuffs.