It is said that the vice president is just a heartbeat away from
assuming the duties of the President. The NFL equivalent is the
backup. He’s just one hard hit, or rolled ankle away, from being
a starter. It’s the reason fantasy owners must learn to handcuff
at important positions.
But just as there is variety in life, so too, there are good backups
and bad backups.
Because a player gets an opportunity to play doesn’t necessarily
mean he will succeed for his team, or fantasy owners. Some backups
are in training to someday take over the starting role while others
are just collecting a check until retirement.
Knowing the difference could win you a championship.
Just look at the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback situation in
Vick was the opening day starting quarterback. Early in the
season, however, he was injured and backup Nick
Foles replaced him in the lineup. Foles was ready to play
and went on to a historical season throwing for 27 touchdowns
against just two interception in 10 starts. Fantasy owners who
handcuffed Foles didn’t lose a beat when Vick went down.
That same season, Josh
McCown replaced Jay
Cutler in Chicago and went 3-2 in five starts, throwing 11
touchdowns against one interception and earning a 300-yard passing
bonus three times.
On the other hand, when fantasy superstar Aaron
Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in Week 8 against the
Bears later that year, neither Seneca
Wallace (16-for-24 for 139, 0 TDs, 1 INT) nor Scott Tolzien
(55-for-90 for 717 yards, 1 TD, 5 INTs) were fantasy-worthy replacements.
The situation isn’t exclusive to quarterbacks.
Last season when Le’Veon Bell was suspended for the first two
games of the season, backup DeAngelo
Williams produced huge fantasy points for his owners with
a 127-yard, 1 TD opener and a three-touchdown second game.
That, of course, was a planned absence. What wasn’t planned was
the injury to Cardinals starter Andre
Ellington (PCL). First, Chris
Johnson took over and played well until he broke his leg,
Johnson grabbed the football and the rest was fantasy history.
So who will be ready to take over the reins this season?
Let’s look at three quality backups at quarterback, running back
He’s never thrown a regular season pass, but he’d be coming into
a very good situation with great receivers and excellent coaches.
Just as Rodgers sat and watched a great quarterback in Brett Favre,
so too is Hundley watching a great one, and we assume (hope),
learning how it’s done. Hundley posted excellent numbers at UCLA
(9,966 yards passing, 75 TDs, 25 INTs) and he was 45-for-65 for
630 yards, 7 TDs and 1 INT in the 2015 preseason. He’s a must
handcuff for Rodgers owners.
Sure, there are a lot of issues with 49ers’ backup Colin Kaepernick
(multiple surgeries, head case), but no one can argue that, when
healthy, he has the perfect physical tools for a Chip Kelly offense.
He was Marcus
Mariota at the University of Nevada before Marcus showed up
at Oregon, and in the two years when he took over for Alex
Smith in San Francisco from 2012 through 2013 he was an undeniable
force. If, and it’s a big if, Kelly can right this ship, it’s
possible he could be good once again when Blaine
Gabbert inevitably fails.
He’s a veteran with little long-term value, but if Carson
Palmer is injured for any length of time in 2016 Stanton has already
proven he can get the job done. In 2014 he replaced Palmer for
eight starts and went 5-3 with a decent 78.7 QB Rating. With the
improved skill position talent on this team in 2016, I’d
expect him to be even better.
Talent and offensive scheme make Karlos
Williams one of the key handcuffs for fantasy owners.
As a rookie he rushed for 100 yards on two occasions … and
didn’t start either game! Williams averaged an elite 5.6
ypc last season and scored nine times while backing up four-time
Pro Bowler LeSean McCoy. Should anything happen to McCoy, who
has started all 16 games in a season just twice in his seven-year
career, Williams should be able to step right in and play at a
The 11-year veteran was a fantasy stud when called upon by the
Steelers last season. He totaled 40 fantasy points in the first
two games of the season (Bell suspension) and then averaged 19.3
FPts/G from Week 9 through the fantasy championship week (Bell
injury). As scary as the Pittsburgh passing game is for defensive
coordinators, Williams will have continued success this season
A fifth-round selection out of Texas Tech, DeAndre Williams may
get a chance to show his stuff early in his career. The Raiders
weren’t particularly happy with Latavius Murray’s
production last season and would likely turn to the rookie if
the trend continues in 2016. Although Oakland has Roy Helu (138
receptions over five seasons) on the depth chart, Washington is
also adept at pass receiving (124 receptions) along with running
the football (3,411 rushing yards in four college seasons).
Roberts beat out Rod Streater for the No. 3 wideout spot in 2015
and finished the season with 32 receptions for 480 yards and five
scores. Not bad for the guy considering the top two receivers,
Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, saw a combined 276 targets
to his 55. If the 28-year-old Crabtree falters or slows, Roberts
would be in line to catch a lot more passes from up-and-coming
Derek Carr. I’d like to have Roberts stashed on my bench
if that happens.
A year-long suspension of wideout Martavis Bryant (50-765-6) moves
Markus Wheaton into the starting lineup and shifts second-year
receiver Sammie Coates into the backup role. Coates caught all
of one pass last season, but at a minimum becomes the Steelers’
third receiver in three-wide sets. He’s an athletic freak
of nature, who seems ready to take a jump forward after a good
off-season, and could become a favorite target for Ben Roethlisberger
if he gets an opportunity.
The Jaguars have an elite pair of wide receivers in Allen Robinson
and Allen Hurns so Lee isn’t likely to earn a starting role
any time soon, but if one of the starters goes down to injury
Lee could be a viable fantasy option. Both “Allens”
saw 100-plus targets and caught more than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns
a season ago because the Jacksonville offense thinks “must
score” to keep up with the opposition who racked up 448
points a season ago (28.0 ppg). Behind Blake Bortles, that wide
open offensive strategy figures to continue until the Jags “newly
improved” defense proves they can hold their own. Lee could
become a good “next man up” if needed. Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.