We all know that there are several reasons to want to protect yourself when you draft a running back by drafting their “handcuff”. Maybe it’s risk of injuries. Or maybe it’s fear of inability. Whatever the reason, let’s take a look at the current top five handcuffs for the coming season.
1. Rashard Jennings – Jacksonville Jaguars
By now you have probably read this in about a dozen other places, and hopefully it has hammered the point home. Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the elite running backs in the game, but a surgically repaired knee certainly gives you reason to be skeptical. Throw in the fact that he has had a heavy workload in recent years (808 carries over the past three seasons, eighth most in the league) and there are plenty of reasons to be concerned.
Jennings showed what he was capable of last season, rushing for 459 yards and 4 TD on just 84 carries. Throw in 26 catches for 223 yards and it is easy to imagine the Jaguars utilizing him more in 2011, even if Jones-Drew remained healthy. If he should go down, Jennings clearly is prepared to step in and produce. If you draft Jones-Drew, you almost need to protect yourself by grabbing Jennings as well.
2. Toby Gerhart – Minnesota Vikings
There’s only one player who has carried the ball at least 280 times each of the past three seasons and that is Adrian Peterson. Football is an incredibly physical sport and, sooner or later, that type of wear and tear is going to have an impact. That’s not to say that it is a forgone conclusion that Peterson goes down due to injury, but it also isn’t out of the realm of possibility and that is something that cannot be discounted.
The Vikings may be prepared to move forward with Chris Ponder as their starting quarterback, barring importing someone else in via free agency. If that was the case, you would have to believe that they are going to come to the table with a run heavy attack.
Enter 2010 second round draft pick Toby Gerhart. In his rookie campaign he got 81 rushes for 322 yards and 1 TD (as well as 21 receptions for 167 yards). The team should look to continue to develop him, meaning more carries and more responsibility. Should an issue develop with Peterson, he’ll be primed to step in and roll with it.