2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Handcuff Rankings

Phil Gentile@@iHateJJRedickContributor IAugust 16, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 10:  Running back Peyton Hillis #40 of the Kansas City Chiefs rushes past free safety Kerry Rhodes #25 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half on August 10, 2012 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)
Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Fantasy owners are always looking for those diamonds in the rough toward the end of their draft. Sometimes you find a player that helps you win your league, so prepping for this part of your draft is very important.

Here are some of the backup running backs that could deliver fantasy production at some point this season. These rankings are based on not only talent, but also current draft value and their probability of getting on the field enough in 2012 to make a fantasy impact.

1. Ben Tate, Houston Texans

Run first offense and he's shown that he can shine when given the opportunity.

2. Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons have rode Michael Turner for several years but he's starting to show signs of decline. Turner averaged 56 yards per game between Weeks 12-16. Look for them to get Rodgers involved in the passing game as well.

3. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

I'm a huge Fred Jackson fan, but he's 31 and coming off an injury. Spiller, on the other hand, is explosive and can be a fantasy contributor with only 10-15 touches a game. With even more, he's a top ten fantasy running back.

4. Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs

Jamaal Charles is supposedly recovered from a torn ACL back in September, but who knows if he will have the burst he used to possess. If anything Hillis will get 200 carries and goal line duties in an offense that will lean on the running game early and often.

5. LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I've been driving the Doug Martin bandwagon all offseason. He's been getting rave reviews so far during training camp. Still, I don't think the Bucs totally forget about Blount. He was undrafted so the team has no serious long term plans for him. Why wouldn't they just ride him like a rented mule?

6. Michael Bush, Chicago Bears

Matt Forte had never missed an NFL game before last year so Michael Bush isn't guaranteed anything, but he'll likely get all the goal line work and help keep Forte fresh for the end of the season.

7. Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints

The backfield in The Big Easy is slightly crowded, but with his skills catching the ball out of the backfield I can easily see PT Cruiser reaching 1,000 total yards even with all the mouths to feed.

8. Robert Turbin, Seattle Seahawks

The question is when, not if, Marshawn Lynch is suspended in my opinion. When he does look for the rookie out of Utah State to make the most of his opportunity, he has the size and skills to be a feature back in this league.

9. Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers

Did you know Mike Tolbert finished 2011 with the fourth most catches for running backs? He's currently buried behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but if you draft one I would make sure Tolbert is on your radar.

10. Isaiah Pead, St. Louis Rams

The rookie out of Cincinnati has blazing speed but I don't think he's ready to be a feature back. Surprisingly, Steven Jackson has only missed two games over the last three seasons so he's more durable than people think.

11. Taiwan Jones, Oakland Raiders

Let's face it...Darren McFadden is not the picture of health. With Michael Bush out of the picture, someone has to replace his production. Enter Jones, who is elusive with home run potential. Five to 10 touches might make him startable in deeper leagues.

12. Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions

Jahvid Best is one big hit away from retiring and Mikel Leshoure might be suspended for his offseason arrests. The opportunity for playing time is there. If he could only stay healthy. Look for him to have a big Week One.

13. Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals

If you've ever owned Beanie Wells on a fantasy team you will agree that he is more disappointing than craving Chick-Fil-A on a Sunday. Williams didn't play in the HOF game, but hopefully he'll be ready for the regular season. He could easily steal the starting gig in the desert.

14. Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings

Not very talented but the opportunity for carries will be there with AP coming back from his injury. Could be a RB2 for the first couple weeks of the season if Peterson doesn't play right away.

15. Tim Hightower, Washington Redskins

Maybe it's because I'm a fan of the Police Academy movies because I love Hightower. He's a better blocker than Helu and has above average hands. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan hates fantasy owners, though, so be careful.

16. Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos

The offseason buzz on Hillman has been crazy. He's a bit undersized, but with the success of Darren Sproles in New Orleans I can see the Broncos using Hillman in a similar role. I like the comparison to Jamaal Charles a bit more.

17. Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars

The longer MJD's holdout lasts, the more likely we are to see Jennings get extra work during the regular season.

18. Montario Hardesty, Cleveland Browns

After his second knee surgery in the last six months, rookie Trent Richardson may miss the first couple weeks of the season. Hardesty has been injury prone himself but he's healthy now and could surprise early.

19. Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers

For some reason the 49ers have FIVE running backs, but I like Hunter's skill set the best.

20. Dion Lewis, Philadelphia Eagles

When he's not pulling fire alarms at hotels he's actually a good handcuff option to Shady McCoy.

21. Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers

There's a chance Mendenhall won't play at all in 2012. Isaac Redman will likely be the starter in Pittsburgh but the team will have no choice in giving Dwyer a shot if the running game struggles.

22. Jamie Harper, Tennessee Titans

We saw last season that Javon Ringer and his 3.1 YPC were not the answer. Hopefully Harper can do better if CJ2K gets hurt.

23. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots

Don't count on any Patriots back for consistent production this season, but Vereen is worth a look if Ridley struggles.

24. Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins

Raise your hand if you're confident that Reggie Bush can stay healthy for an entire season. Didn't think so. He started 2011 with two 100+ total yards performances so proved he can do it.

25. Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals

The Law Firm has never fumbled in the NFL and he's now the starter in Cincy, but Scott has shown flashes of his potential in the past. Unfortunately, he's never really been given a shot at the starting gig.

26. Phillip Tanner, Dallas Cowboys

Felix Jones has burnt us too many times. I think if DeMarco Murray is out for an extended period Tanner will get the start and Jones will remain in the third down role that he's better suited for.

27. LaMichael James, San Francisco 49ers

If the 49ers use him correctly, he's Darren Sproles 2.0.

28. Ronnie Brown, San Diego Chargers

If injuries hadn't taken their toll on the former Auburn standout he would have been one of the best backs in the league. With the injury to Ryan Mathews he has a chance to make a fantasy impact early.

29. Bilal Powell, New York Jets

Has Shonn Greene done ANYTHING to deserve a majority of the carries in New York? Look for Gang Green to give Powell an opportunity at some point this season.

30. Evan Royster, Washington Redskins

He looked good in the team's first preseason game, making some nice cuts, and with Shanahan, anything is possible.

Just missed the cut: Knowshon Moreno, Bernard Pierce, Jason Snelling, Joe McKnight, Anthony Dixon, Chris Ivory, Danny Woodhead, Delone Carter, Alex Green, Mike Goodson and Felix Jones

Phil Gentile covers the Baltimore Ravens for Bleacher Report but his true passion is fantasy football. Follow him on Twitter at @iHateJJRedick


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