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Handcuff hierarchy

Brad Evans
Yahoo Sports

Preventative measures are commonplace throughout the NFL.

Protective equipment, pre-game calisthenics and dedicated Patron repudiation are just a few examples of how the league and some of its beluga whale-resembling players attempt to avert injuries/future coronaries.

Similar tactics are also regularly instituted in virtual pigskin drafts.

Host a fantasy event for a few drunkards in your newly finished basement without rolls of plastic sheeting and permanent carpet stains are unavoidable.

Though preparation for drunken mishaps is of considerable importance, nothing is more critical than carrying a pair of handcuffs on draft night. Fastening/hog-tying/super-gluing your prized No. 1 back to his backup is an insurance policy many owners are willing to pay a premium for. To some, owning a historically brittle back without a safety net is a perilous game laced with potentially painful consequences.

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Draft Brian Westbrook(notes) this season and electric rookie LeSean McCoy(notes) better be attached at the hip
(US Presswire)
Brian Westbrook owners who don't invest a middle-round pick in rookie LeSean McCoy this season are essentially playing Russian roulette.

In recent years, the two-time Pro Bowl selection has been one of fantasy's most lethal contributors. Among rushers he's finished in the top three in fantasy points per game in standard scoring leagues in three consecutive seasons. Averaging 64 receptions per year over that same span, he's also been godlike in PPR formats.

But for arguably the most versatile back in the game, it will be extremely difficult to stiff arm Father Time in '09.

Westbrook turns 30 before Week 1. It's extremely rare for backs in the twilight of their careers to post a banner campaign. Flipping through the NFL annals, only 14 plowshares aged 30 or older have surpassed 1,200 yards rushing in a season. Examples of rapid deterioration among elite advanced-aged rushers are countless – Marshall Faulk(notes), Shaun Alexander(notes) and Edgerrin James(notes) are just a few recent examples. Considering the Eagles' tugboat has never played a full 16-game slate, drafting him in Round 1 is unquestionably an enhanced risk.

Enter McCoy.

Idolizing Donovan McNabb(notes) as a teenager growing up in nearby Harrisburg, Pa., the second round pick from Pitt is ecstatic to be wearing the colors of his beloved team. The Philadelphia coaching staff is equally giddy about the youngster's skills package.

Despite his "Shady" nickname, there is nothing dark or ominous about McCoy's prospects. Equipped with hawkeyed vision, tacky hands, a powerful initial burst and high football IQ, he has a skill set that meshes perfectly with Andy Reid's West Coast system. Throw in Philly's rock solid offensive line and terrific passing attack, and his fantasy potential is massive. Frankly, based on his 107.0 ADP, he could be the biggest steal of your draft.

Though Eagles camp opened less than a week ago, team insiders and coaches have already raved about the kid's striking abilities. Per offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg:

"He's a pretty sharp guy. Now we ask the running back position to do an awful lot. He's still working through some things, but he's really a bright young man. I do think that by, let's say the middle of training camp, he should be pretty comfortable. It appears that, that is the way it's going."

Pass-blocking will be McCoy's primary obstacle. If he can develop quickly in that department, he will undoubtedly increase his chances to earn an impact-worthy workload. Because of his physical talents, intelligence and general malleability, he possesses the qualities to emerge an RB2 producer at some point this season.

However, with Westbrook's recovery reportedly ahead of schedule, it appears McCoy will be limited to 8-12 touches per contest initially. Still, Westbrook's graybeard age and injury-tainted past are fateful characteristics. Odds are favorable McCoy will be thrust into a starting role at some point this season. For that reason alone, owners willing to invest valuable coin into the Eagles backfield better not forget the shackles on draft night.

Fearless Forecast: 163 rushing attempts, 733 rushing yards, 38 receptions, 300 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns

Whether you step into a room physically or virtually this season, review and follow these three simple rules to handcuffing:

1. Only handcuff top-20 backs.

2. Don't be scared to reach a round early for a handcuff. Bring a list of ADP values to your draft to gauge when it's appropriate to break out the irons.

3. Turnabout is fair play in handcuffing. If someone steals your guy, return the favor by snatching his later on. Having plenty of bargaining chips and additional depth at fantasy's most crucial position is always crucial.

Excluding most tugboats involved in clear-cut platoons or muddied backfields – Chris Wells(notes)/Tim Hightower, Ray Rice(notes)/Willis McGahee/Le'Ron McClain(notes), DeAngelo Williams(notes)/Jonathan Stewart, Sammy Morris(notes)/Laurence Maroney/Fred Taylor(notes)/Kevin Faulk, Willie Parker(notes)/Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson/LenDale White and Marshawn Lynch/Fred Jackson – here are this season's top 25 RB handcuffs.

Handcuff Hierarchy
RK Player TM ADP 12RD Odds Outlook
1 LeSean McCoy Phi 107.0 8.9 3:2 The real Slim Shady is about to stand up. Averaged 4.8 ypc and 127.9 total ypg in sophomore season at Pitt last year – don't be a Hatfield.
2 Donald Brown(notes) Ind 84.7 7.1 2:1 Just signed versatile rookie will push fragile Joseph Addai(notes) for carries, though the exact number is unknown. Anticipate a minimum of 10-12 carries initially.
3 Felix Jones(notes) Dal 80.4 6.7 3:1 Otherworldly 8.9 ypc on 30 carries last season glimpse into mammoth upside. Expected expanded role, especially in passing game, could vault him into RB2/3 category by midseason, assuming he fends off Tashard Choice(notes) and avoids injuries.
4 Shonn Greene(notes) NYJ 164.7 13.7 5:1 Former Iowa back heir apparent to ancient Thomas Jones(notes). Per Rex Ryan, could be immediately used as a fourth quarter closer. Value will be in-game dependent, but could prove deadly against soft opponents.
5 Darren Sproles(notes) SD 89.5 7.5 8:1 Pocket rocket's spectacular Week 17 (14-115, 2-17, 2 TDs) shows promise, but diminutive stature still a concern. Rookie Gartrell Johnson(notes) could emerge as true handcuff with strong preseason.
6 Jerious Norwood(notes) Atl 164.1 13.7 12:1 If the 370 carries curse strikes down Michael Turner(notes), the Mississippi Missile will be ready for launch. Excellent hands and lightning-quick wheels underappreciated. He's averaged 5.8 ypc on 297 career carries.
7 James Davis Cle 209.3 17.4 12:1 With Geritol Jamal on precipice of 30-threshold, the rookie is in a prime position to become fantasy viable. Browns' new-look, one-cut-and-go scheme an ideal fit for his skill set. Plus, he's already turning heads.
8 T.J. Duckett(notes) Sea 203.4 16.9 15:1 Thunder Jelly primed for vulture role in Seattle's healthy, likely improved offense. If the cards fall right, he could be a miniature Lendale of sorts this season – 8-10 TDs not unfathomable.
9 Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) NYG 143.0 11.9 18:1 Brandon Jacobs'(notes) susceptibility to plaguing setbacks increases speedy Bradshaw's starting possibility. Andre Brown(notes) will also be involved, but dynamite career 6.1 ypc salivating.
10 Chester Taylor(notes) Min 122.1 10.2 25:1 Adrian Peterson's vulnerability to nicks and scrapes labels the Minnesota Moses a marquee crutch, especially in PPR formats. Barring an injury to the Purple Jesus, anticipate another 150-170 touches.
11 Michael Bush(notes) Oak 188.4 15.7 25:1 Touches in Raiders' three-pronged attack likely to grow. His all-around qualities and minimal wear are pluses over Justin Fargas(notes). Averaged 4.4 ypc in '08.
12 Correll Buckhalter(notes) Den 151.5 12.6 30:1 Currently splitting first team carries with LaMont Jordan(notes). If Knowshon Moreno's(notes) holdout extends deep into the exhibition season, Buck could wrest away double-digit touches early on.
13 Glen Coffee(notes) SF 208.3 17.4 50:1 Sweet-smelling aroma emanating from rookie already in camp. Frank Gore's(notes) expected increased workload spikes chances for injury. Juicy late-draft option.
14 Earnest Graham(notes) TB 107.6 8.9 50:1 Return of Cadillac Williams complicates projected role, but Bucs will be a very physical squad on the ground despite the effeminate throwback pastels. Veteran could emerge as goal-line option, but mid-round ADP proves he's overvalued.
15 Rashad Jennings(notes) Jac NA 26+ 60:1 Tank-like Liberty product expected to battle with Greg Jones(notes) and Chauncey Washington(notes) for backup job. Bruising inside running style could poach a handful of goal-line touches.
16 Ricky Williams(notes) Mia 125.6 10.5 75:1 Quirky future massage therapist/holistic medicine purveyor in tremendous shape. But unless the injury imp strikes Ronnie Brown(notes), 160-180 touches likely.
17 Kevin Jones(notes) Chi 208.7 17.4 80:1 Ron Turner's desire to reduce Matt Forte's workload, particularly through the air, benefits the former 1,000-yard rusher. Roughly 8-12 touches per contest probable.
18 Jamaal Charles(notes) KC 170.3 14.2 80:1 Larry Johnson's(notes) behavioral concerns/limited tread, gives the former Texas standout fair odds of becoming an impact player. Impressive 5.3 ypc, 27 receptions last season.
19 Brandon Jackson(notes) GB 208.6 17.4 100:1 Brick Cheese has always been a favorite of Mike McCarthy, but Ryan Grant(notes) continues to block opportunity. Packers beat writers are astonished by his calves.
20 Ladell Betts(notes) Was 204.4 17.0 100:1 Remarkable toughness and durability of Clinton Portis(notes) has kept Betts in shadows. But the depth-chart topper's 742 total touches over past two years a possible precursor to injury. Don't forget Betts' magical '06 late-season run.
21 Brian Leonard(notes) Cin NA 26+ 250:1 Locked in a stiff competition with Kenny Watson(notes) and DeDe Dorsey(notes) for secondary duties behind Cedric Benson(notes). Versatility and tenacious demeanor should prevail.
22 Mike Bell(notes) NO NA 26+ 250:1 Former Lucifer Shanahan man-crush, currently battling dark-horse Lynell Hamilton(notes) for No. 3 spot behind Pierre Thomas(notes) and Reggie Bush(notes). Winner could steal away occasional goal-line touches.
23 Maurice Morris(notes) Det 209.8 17.5 350:1 Unchallenged No. 2 behind Kevin Smith(notes) for the Hello Kitties, Morris will spell the incumbent sporadically. Accumulated a commendable 77.8 rypg in five starts with Seattle last season.
24 Chris Brown Hou NA 26+ 500:1 Definition of "injury prone," Brown, who has played more than 12 games in season just once, will complement Steve Slaton(notes) in some short-yardage situations.
25 Antonio Pittman(notes) StL NA 26+ 500:1 Exchanging blows with Kenneth Darby(notes) for No. 2 rights behind Steven Jackson. Compiled a forgettable 61 typg, 3.5 ypc in five starts a year ago.

ADP = Courtesy of MockDraftCentral
12RD = Average round drafted in a 12-team league set-up
Odds = Chances a player will start at least one game in '09

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