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Making sense of potential fantasy RB handcuffs

The running back handcuff has become a way of life in fantasy football. With so many teams using committee systems combined with the unfortunate reality of injuries during a 16-game season, it's incumbent upon fantasy enthusiasts to add a little insurance to protect their running back position. And training camp is when we figure out the best handcuff options.

Oakland offers perhaps the most intrigue on that front. The team has a pair of veteran backs in Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden, both of whom will see carries this season according to head coach Dennis Allen. Most observers take that as a given. The question is which back will take the lead role? The early answer is that McFadden will remain as the starter, but it wouldn't be surprising to see MJD snag the role with a strong camp. The chances of drafting both runners to your fantasy roster are slim, which is why you should keep Latavius Murray's name in your back pocket.

The starter's role in Denver is more well-defined, with Montee Ball set to top the depth chart. But in the battle to be Ball's understudy it looks like Ronnie Hillman, not C.J. Anderson, is the early leader. That comes as a surprise after Hillman's precipitous drop on Denver's depth chart last season -- going from the presumptive starter in the preseason to eventually being listed as inactive midway through the year. Both backs have immense talent. It's all about which one gets the opportunity.

Moving over to New York where things unfortunately aren't looking good for David Wilson. The Giants did their best to amass running back depth as a precaution and that depth is about to get a workout. Rashad Jennings is set to be Big Blue's workhorse, but things are quite unsettled behind him. Veteran Peyton Hillis is reportedly seeing some first team reps as the de facto No. 2 back, but in an interesting plot twist, it's rookie Andre Williams who is earning a lot of the goal line work. Consider this your first vulture alert of the season.

Things are even murkier in the Tampa Bay backfield where head coach Lovie Smith reiterated his stance that the team will use multiple running backs. Jeff Tedford's history as a college coach would suggest otherwise, but there's a chance that the Bucs could truly be a committee situation. That could present a nightmare for defensive coordinators scheming to stop Tampa's ground game. It could be equally frightening for fantasy owners looking for one (or two) Buccaneers rushers to bank on.

Quick outs


» We've become accustomed to running backs-by-committee, but the idea of wide receiver-by-committee is a fairly new one. However, that's what Browns coach Mike Pettine is suggesting could happen with his team. The list of Cleveland wideouts not named Josh Gordon isn't a fearsome one. There could be a playmaker amongst a group that includes Travis Benjamin, Charles Johnson and oft-injured veteran Miles Austin, but none of them are likely to provide Gordon's level of production. It could be awhile before any Browns widedouts come off the board.

» Last season, Eli Manning had the unfortunate penchant to throw the ball to the wrong team. But for a stretch of 2013, when he did connect with one of his teammates in the end zone, it tended to be Rueben Randle. Between Weeks 6 and 11, Manning threw just six touchdown passes -- all to Randle. That trend seems set to continue in 2014 with reports that Randle is saw a lot of red-zone looks on Thursday. Randle is likely to be New York's No. 2 target this year behind Victor Cruz and if you believe in the trend of breakout third-year receivers, well...

» Patriots receiver Danny Amendola is hoping for bigger things this season, telling the Boston Globe that his "learning curve is much less" in his second season with the team. That's encouraging, but what would be even more encouraging would be some assurance that he could stay healthy for a full season. Amendola has missed 24 games over the past three seasons with a litany of injuries. As fellow NFL.com writer Elliot Harrison is fond of saying, sometimes a player's best ability is his availability.

» A couple of seasons ago, Washington was struggling with a dearth of quality pass-catchers. Now they might have too many. Andre Roberts admitted that "there's never enough balls to go around for a receiver," but that it was a group full of playmakers. There's no doubt with between Roberts, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson this group is sure to cause matchup problems. Add in Jordan Reed, Alfred Morris and possibly Roy Helu and there are going to be plenty of mouths for Robert Griffin III to feed. That's good news for the quarterback but potentially bad for fantasy owners. It might not be as dire as Cleveland's receiver committee situation, but with that many pass-catchers, some -- if not all -- are likely to see their usual totals take a hit.

» I've spent plenty of time lamenting tight end depth, so the news that Eagles tight end Zach Ertz could have a bigger role in Philadelphia's offense is more than welcomed. But much like their division rivals in Washington, the Eagles have lots of playmakers and seemingly not enough opportunity. If Chip Kelly can find a way to keep all of his skill players happy and still work Ertz into the mix, it will be something to see.

» The early returns on Julio Jones have been nothing but positive and the receiver's footwear could be partially to thank. Jones is wearing a cleat made specially for him by Under Armour to help with his comeback from last season's foot surgery. With his ability and potential to be a top five fantasy receiver this season, we're in favor of anything that helps his rehab.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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