Fantasy football rankings 2013: Handcuff running backs

USA TODAY Sports

Which fantasy handcuffs should you target this year? We take a look at five backups with the best chance to contribute in 2013.

Running back is the most important position in fantasy football, but it's also the most volatile. A single injury to one of your best players can torpedo your entire season if you don't plan ahead. That's the idea behind the "handcuff strategy", wherein you draft a backup in the late rounds as insurance for your starters

There are a lot of factors that go into projecting the top handcuffs, like playing time, offensive styles and just plain luck. With that in mind, here are five guys who have the best chance to step in and produce should the starter go down.

Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens

Pierce came on down the stretch as the Ravens tried to ease Ray Rice's workload. He finished his rookie year with 532 yards on 108 carries and one touchdown. Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell is expected to give him more playing time in his first full season with the team. A pure power runner to complement the speedy Rice, the Ravens could have the top running back duo in football.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans

Tate's 2012 season was a wash, missing five games with injuries and getting just 279 yards on 65 carries, but Arian Foster's workload is a major concern and the Texans are expected to rotate the two backs more. Tate has been healthy in preseason and should regain his RB2 value after rushing for 942 yards in 2011.

Christine Michael, Seattle Seahawks

The second-round rookie has been the star of training camp and seems to have passed up Robert Turbin on the depth chart. Michael is talented enough to start in Week 1 and the Seahawks' running game may not miss a beat if Marshawn Lynch goes down.

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins

Helu is back from an Achilles injury and had no problem beating out Evan Royster for the No. 2 job. He had a dominant preseason and will be replacing Alfred Morris on passing downs. Helu might be worth starting as a flex player in PPR leagues.

Kendall Hunter, San Francisco 49ers

Hunter was a fine fill-in for Frank Gore last year before an Achilles injury ended his season, getting 371 yards, two touchdowns and 5.2 yards per carry in 11 games. The 49ers have a stacked depth chart at running back, so look for Hunter to see plenty of snaps as the team tries to ease up on Gore's 30-year-old legs.

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