Fantasy Football: Lions’ Joique Bell and 49ers’ Carlos Hyde are Must Own Handcuffs

Joique Bell
Joique Bell

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The word “backup” is such an ugly word. In sports, it’s used to talk about someone that isn’t good enough to be the starter. As an athlete back in high school, I understand what it feels like and the connotation that accompanies the word “backup,” and believe me it’s pretty discouraging.

Perhaps that’s why the fantasy community came up with the phrase “handcuff” to describe players that are technically backups, but to label them as such is unfair. They may not be the starter at this particular point in time, but if given more playing time, they’d provide valuable production for their real football teams, and your fake ones.

For the most part, you’re going to want to target these players in the later rounds. The upside of these players if the starter goes down is tremendous, and can be well worth the minimally risky investment. It’s much easier to just stash a player than it is to play the waiver wire. The problem with handcuffing is that it does cost a roster spot, which means that you’ll have to play it smart when deciding who to select. That’s where this article comes into play.

1. Joique Bell

Bell is a prime example of why a depth chart can be misleading. While teammate Reggie Bush is currently listed as the starter, there’s no reason to doubt that Bell will receive a similar workload to Bush in 2014, and potentially provide more draft day value.

Last season Bell was one of five running backs that started fewer than eight games and gained 1,000+ total yards from scrimmage. He proved to be reliable from in close (seven of his eight touchdowns came from within two yards), and has also been one of the league’s best pass-catching running backs. Since 2012, he’s caught 105 passes, which ranks seventh among all running backs, and has over 1,000 yards receiving during that time span.

Bell’s one of the few guys on this list who can provide value even if the starter is healthy, but will become an absolute monster if Bush misses any time. While it’s a small sample size, Bell averaged 20.75 fantasy points per game with 22 carries per game in the two games that Bush missed. Joique Bell’s RB22 rank via fantasypros.com and an ADP of 69.0 is nothing to sneeze at, but I’d take him in the late 6th round over Bush’s late 3rd round ADP everyday of the week.

Carlos Hyde

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

2. Carlos Hyde

Hyde has really opened the eyes of football fans this preseason with an impressive showing in his first three games. He’s totaled 88 rushing yards on 15 carries (5.87 YPC) and with the loss of Kendall Hunter and the uncertainty surrounding Marcus Lattimore, he’s firmly secured the number two spot behind Frank Gore.

I did a write-up on Hyde earlier in the year, and basically I concluded he’s a younger version of Gore. He’s decisive hitting the hole, picks up yards after contact and has impressive short field burst. He doesn’t have breakaway speed that other running backs have, but as Gore has shown in his eight year career, you don’t need that to be elite.

Hyde seems to be set up perfectly to make an immediate impact for your fantasy teams in 2014. He’s playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, and the 49ers have shown that they aren’t afraid to run the ball. They’ve been in the top five in team rushing attempts since Jim Harbaugh took over, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change.

His ADP has vaulted an entire two rounds into the late 8th in redraft leagues, but with his upside, it’s well worth the investment.

Terrance West

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

3. Terrence West

It’s not often you’ll see a team draft a running back in the NFL Draft just months after investing a significant amount of money in a free agent. The Browns however, did just that by drafting West with a third round pick despite signing Ben Tate a few months earlier.

West, who went to a small D1 college, averaged an incredible 6.1 yards per carry last year and has qualities of a workhorse back. He has the size to be successful at the goal line, and has the hands that may allow him to see the field early in the season, even if Tate is healthy.

The best case scenario for owners who drafted West is if, or based off of Tate’s injury history, when the former Texan gets hurt. He’s missed 24 games in his young four year career in Houston, and has constantly battled various ailments. Head coach Mike Pettine has made it clear that the run game will be a high priority for the Browns this season, and they are going to need it with Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer seemingly fighting to give the other the starting job. I’m guessing that Tate’s going to miss some games this year, which makes West a must-own handcuff.

LeGarrette Blount

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

4. LeGarrette Blount

If I’m low on Le’Veon Bell this year, it should come as no surprise how much I like Blount. While the recent news of both Bell and Blount’s arrests for driving under the influence of marijuana certainly isn’t good news for either player’s fantasy outlook, but at the moment it doesn’t seem like either player will be facing disciplinary action from the NFL.

There are a few reasons why I really dislike Bell this year. For starters, he averaged 3.5 yards per carry his rookie season, which was worse than Trent Richardson his rookie year. In addition, his fantasy value in the games that he played in was buoyed by his seven touchdowns from within five yards.

Enter Blount, who averaged 5.2 yards per carry as he stole job away from Stevan Ridley. He also posted 2.7 yards after contact, which was among the tops in the NFL. It’s not unreasonable to project that Blount is going to be worked into the running game a lot more than people think, and that his number will get called upon at times near the goal line.

Blount showed that he’s able handle a full workload, and if Bell starts the season slow, you’re going to wish that you had the Punching Duck stashed on your roster.

James Starks

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

5. James Starks

When you look at Starks’ numbers from last year, you come away a little impressed. Not only did he average 5.5 yards per carry on 89 carries last season, but he also posted an impressive 3.0 yards after contact, both of which were higher averages than the reigning rookie of the year Eddie Lacy’s.

While many fantasy owners still have the bitter taste of drafting Starks in the early rounds back in 2011 and 2012, better days are ahead for the 5th year back. I don’t think he has much value with Lacy healthy, but were he to miss any time, Starks is sitting in the driver’s seat of one of the league’s highest scoring offenses.

Honorable mentions:

6. Bernard Pierce
7. Donald Brown
8. Ahmad Bradshaw
9. Lance Dunbar
10. Roy Helu
11. Jeremy Hill
12. Christine Michael
13. DeVonta Freeman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>