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Fantasy Fix: Top 20 RBs

I've never been a big fan of handcuffs - at least not in a fantasy football context. Drafting two RBs from the same team seems like a good idea in theory if the so-called star is an injury risk. It also can be worth doing if that team is committed to the run, and serious about splitting the workload between its top two RBs, especially the end zone opportunities.

However, it also usually means you're using a high draft pick on a guy you don't have complete faith in, and a mid-level pick on his teammate earlier than anyone else might draft him just so you can get your house in order.

Having said that, the RB pickings this year are rife with risky bets, and in a lot of situations, using a handcuff strategy might make sense. I probably still won't do it, but that's just me. See below for some ideas won who to handcuff to whom.

My top 20 RBs:

1. Ray Rice, BAL: The more I think about it, he is the closest thing to a sure-thing, double-threat, top-tier RB. I like the next two guys, but I'm starting to think they aren't even close.

2. LeSean McCoy, PHI: If Michael Vick's injury is serious, the Eagles may lean on McCoy, which is mostly good. With Vick healthy, his carries are likely to go down.

3. Arian Foster, HOU: Another great dual-threat, but also an injury threat. Handcuff him to Ben Tate, who may even be good enough regardless to get a decent share of the touches.

4. Ryan Mathews, SD: An up-and-coming dual-threat, but he already could be out Week 1, and good, ol' Ronnie Brown is a pretty good tag-team option when Mathews is out.

5. Chris Johnson, TEN: Looking decent in preseason, and could even re-claim his status as the league's top rusher if Rice and McCoy slack off a bit.

6. Darren McFadden, OAK: It would surprise no one if he led the league in rushing after eight weeks. It would surprise everyone if he played a full schedule. Unfortunately, his backup Taiwan Jones is not much of a viable draft pick, handcuff or not.

7. Marshawn Lynch, SEA: While the QB contest is getting the attention in Seattle, Lynch is the go-to scorer on this team. Only Rice and McCoy are more certain to deliver on expectations.

8. Darren Sproles, NO: He moved up on my list (and actually into my top 20 overall) because a couple other guys slipped (see below). A triple threat if your league counts return yards.

9. Fred Jackson, BUF: Great year last year for this workhorse, who may be challenged if Buffalo feeds C.J. Spiller. Spiller is a decent handcuff option, but I really do like Jackson as the lead dog.

10. Matt Forte, CHI: He was on course for a huge 2011 before injury. That shouldn't be a problem, but the presence of handcuff Michael Bush and the an inclination to pass might be.

11. Trent Richardson, CLE: A rookie with a lot of hype, but there's a growing mystery around how healthy he is after a recent knee surgery. He slipped three spots on my big board.

12. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC: He's slipping fast as the Jags appear set to go without the holdout, and would-be handcuff Rashad Jennings is getting a lot of good reviews. If you have him as a keeper or commit to him early, Jennings is a must-draft.

13. Adrian Peterson, MIN: Things were looking up when he was activated earlier than expected, but now looks like he won't see the field in the preseason. Toby Gerhart is your handcuff.

14. Michael Turner, ATL: The Falcons have a lot of RB options, and some are handcuffing Turner to up-and-coming Jacquizz Rodgers. A safe play, but I'm betting Turner has gas left to burn.

15. DeMarco Murray, DAL: He has basically stolen the lead RB job from Felix Jones, though Dallas hasn't been known to lean on the run even when it should.

16. Steven Jackson, STL: Somehow, he keeps coming back for more and put up good numbers last year. However, injuries are always a concern with Jackson, and handcuff Isiah Pead can likely be had as a last-round pick.

17. Jamaal Charles, KC: Like Peterson, coming back from a bad injury, but further along, He was a top five RB in preseason 2011, but now you've got to cuff him to a possibly resurgent Peyton Hillis.

18. Reggie Bush, MIA: He was supposed to be handcuffed to Daniel Thomas last year, but shook it off for a solid season. Miami's offensive woes could work against him, but he's their best bet.

19. Doug Martin, TAM: A rookie who has moved ahead of the once-hyped LaGarrette Blount. Could get a good workload if QB Josh Freeman has another bad year throwing the ball.

20. Frank Gore, SF: A lot of runners could go here - and I just mean Gore's teammates Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter. The 49ers may be less dependent on Gore than in the past, but with 1,211 yards rushing last year, he's still a marquee yardage eater.

Sleeper: Cedric Benson, GB: He went from unemployed to possibly the best RB option in the most productive offense on the planet. The Packers don't demand much from their runners, and still their recent options have lacked consistency. Benson, similar to Turner, can scratch out yards all day long.

RBs not on this list who should be on this list: There are two that come to mind. Donald Brown, IND, will get a lot of dump-off passes from a frazzled Andrew Luck, and could easily be among RB total yardage leaders. Also, Rashard Mendenhall, PIT, is not supposed to play until Week 6 and could be slow to return to full strength, but when he's all the way back, watch out.

Expert Wire
* The National Football Post also offers handcuff advice.

* Yahoo! Roto Arcade monitors which players' stocks are rising and falling.

* Bleacher Report says don't draft Tim Tebow. I did anyway, but not until the last round.


Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

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