"Handcuffing" your top fantasy runners makes sense

Running backs will continue to litter the first and second rounds of fantasy drafts, but the position isn't as valuable as it's been in the past. In a time when backfield committees are more prominent than ever, it's become more difficult to gauge who will see carries on a week-to-week basis. As a result, it's more important than ever to know which runners are slated to start, who'll see the lion's share of the carries, and who will serve fantasy owners best as potential handcuffs (insuring your top runners). Here's our look at the backfield situations for all 32 teams.

1. Adrian Peterson  Toby Gerhart, Vikings: Peterson is clearly the bell cow in Minnesota, so Gerhart won't have much value outside of being a strict late-round handcuff. He rushed for 322 yards and one touchdown as a rookie.

2. Arian Foster  Derrick Ward, Texans: No, Foster's handcuff isn't Ben Tate (at least not at this point). Instead, Ward is the back to target in the late rounds of deeper leagues if you draft last year's breakout fantasy football superstar.

3. Ray Rice  Ricky Williams, Ravens: If you're worried that Williams will take goal-line work from Rice, don't be -- OC Cam Cameron made it clear that Rice will retain that role. Williams is a pure handcuff in the majority of fantasy drafts.

4. Jamaal Charles  Thomas Jones, Chiefs: Jones was the team leader in carries last season (no, that's not a misprint), but that won't be the case in 2011. Charles, a top-five pick in all fantasy drafts, is the clear Chiefs runner to target.

5. Chris Johnson  Javon Ringer, Titans: If you draft CJ2K in the first round, you must take Ringer as insurance this season. With no end to Johnson's current contractual holdout in sight, Ringer could have flex starter value in Week 1.

6. LeSean McCoy  Ronnie Brown, Eagles: Brown isn't expected to put a huge dent into McCoy's workload, so he won't have a lot of individual value. Like Williams in Baltimore, he is a solid handcuff and worth a late rounder.

7. Rashard Mendenhall  Isaac Redman, Steelers: A fantasy star last season, Mendenhall has been a durable option for owners since 2009. Should he fall prey to injuries, however, Redman would have a ton of value in all formats.

8. Darren McFadden  Michael Bush, Raiders: It might be tough to handcuff McFadden with Bush, who has more value than the the run-of-the-mill backup. But if you draft Run DMC, you need to attempt to secure Bush at some point.

9. Maurice Jones-Drew  Deji Karim, Jaguars: When you consider that Jones-Drew is coming off knee surgery, it could be argued that Karim is one of the most valuable fantasy handcuffs. He'll have late-round appeal.

10. Frank Gore  Kendall Hunter, 49ers: Gore is back from hip surgery and in great condition, but we all know how injury-prone he has been in recent years. If you land him in a deeper league, targeting Hunter makes a lot of sense.

11. Michael Turner  Jason Snelling, Falcons: Snelling, a versatile runner who caught 44 passes in 2010, is back with the Falcons and has late-round value for owners who land Turner. Jacquizz Rodgers is also worth watching.

12. Matt Forte  Marion Barber, Bears: Forte won't lose a lot of touches to Barber, so don't expect a backfield committee to develop. While MB3 could see some goal-line work in the offense, he's still mostly insurance for Forte.

13. Steven Jackson  Cadillac Williams, Rams: For the first time in what seems like forever, Jackson has a recognizable runner behind him on the depth chart. But unless you're in a deep league, the Cadillac's value is limited.

14. Peyton Hillis  Montario Hardesty, Browns: Montario Hardesty (knee) is back on the practice field, but Jackson is the current favorite to open behind Hillis. If you believe in the Madden curse, you better land Hardesty as insurance.

15. Ahmad Bradshaw  Brandon Jacobs, Giants: This will be less of a starter-handcuff situation and closer to a committee, though Bradshaw will see more touches. Still, Jacobs is a nice handcuff if you can land him in drafts.

16. LeGarrette Blount  Earnest Graham, Buccaneers: The Cadillac drove to St. Louis, leaving one-time fantasy sleeper Graham to back up Blount. If anything, this is great news for the Oregon product -- he'll see a huge workload.

17. Felix Jones  Tashard Choice, Cowboys: With Barber in Chicago, Jones is the clear cut starter for coach Jason Garrett. The battle to watch is between Choice and Demarco Murray -- the eventual winner will have late-round appeal.

18. Jahvid Best  Maurice Morris, Lions: The team listed Morris second behind Best, but Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell are in the mix for that spot. Regardless, the eventual winner will only be worth a handcuff look in deep drafts.

19. Shonn Greene  LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets: It could be tough to handcuff Greene, even with Tomlinson's stock now at it's lowest point ever. But if you're able, grabbing L.T. as insurance for Greene in drafts makes a lot of sense.

20. Knowshon Moreno  Willis McGahee, Broncos: Moreno is entrenched as the starter, but he will lose some work to McGahee. Don't be fooled into thinking this will be an even committee, however. McGahee's value is as a handcuff.

21. DeAngelo Williams  Jonathan Stewart, Panthers: Good luck trying to make this situation work, at least from a handcuff perspective. Based on the talents of both runners, it will be close to impossible to land Williams and Stewart.

22. Beanie Wells  LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals: Coach Ken Whisenhunt will allow Wells every chance to be his bell cow, so he is the back to target in drafts. Stephens-Howling isn't a great handcuff if you land Wells, though.

23. Tim Hightower  Ryan Torain, Redskins: Hightower is now the top option in the Redskins backfield, but a committee that also includes Ryan Torain and Roy Helu is very possible. This isn't a great handcuff situation.

24. Mark Ingram  Pierre Thomas, Saints: The Saints backfield is still up in the air, but I think Ingram leads this unit in touches. If the rookie out of Alabama goes down with an injury, however, Thomas is the likely replacement.

25. Reggie Bush  Daniel Thomas, Dolphins: The Dolphins list Bush atop their current depth chart, but he's a risk-reward selection due to injuries. The rookie of out Kansas State is talented, but he's struggled in the preseason.

26. Ryan Grant  James Starks, Packers: Despite Starks' contributions last season, Grant is still the top man in the Packers backfield. Though he will lose at least some work to Starks, I still see Grant as a viable No. 2 option.

27. Cedric Benson  Bernard Scott, Bengals: Benson is a nice fit for the offense of new OC Jay Gruden, and he'll be the top runner for the team in 2011. If you're in a deep league, though, grabbing Scott late is a nice option.

28. Ryan Mathews  Mike Tolbert, Chargers: Tolbert, not Mathews, started the Chargers' first preseason game of the year. Regardless of the rotation, this is going to be a backfield committee and a potential headache for owners.

29. Joseph Addai  Donald Brown, Colts: Addai has had more than his share of injury woes in recent seasons, but he'll remain the top option in the Colts backfield in 2011. If you draft him, though, Brown is worth a late-round look.

30. Fred Jackson  C.J. Spiller, Bills: Despite Spiller's high selection in last year's draft, Jackson remains the favorite to lead the Bills in backfield touches. Spiller is less of a handcuff and more of a deep sleeper, however.

31. BenJarvus Green-Ellis  Danny Woodhead, Patriots: The Patriots backfield could be major headache for owners, as Green-Ellis, Woodhead, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are all in the mix. It's a situation to avoid if possible.

32. Marshawn Lynch  Justin Forsett, Seahawks: Lynch is likely to see most of the carries in Seattle, but he's not valuable enough to be worth handcuffing outside of deep leagues. In that case, Forsett is the runner to target.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com or tweet it at Michael_Fabiano!