Arian Foster. Doug Martin. Steven Jackson. Darren McFadden. Those are a few of the big-name fantasy running backs who endured long-term injuries last season. As arguably the most-punished offensive skill position on the gridiron, you can almost guarantee that a few runners (at least) will be forced to miss time with assorted ailments again in 2014. That's why fantasy owners need insurance (fantasy insurance, that is) to protect their most valuable assets.
Here's a look at the backfield situations, including starters and handcuffs, for all 32 NFL teams.
Projected starter: 1. Andre Ellington
Backups: 2. Stepfan Taylor; 3. Jonathan Dwyer; 4. Jalen Parmele
2014 Outlook: Ellington is the projected starter for coach Bruce Arians, and he's a major sleeper/breakout candidate from a fantasy perspective. In fact, he could come off the board as soon as the third or fourth round. ... Taylor figures to compete with Dwyer for the second spot on the depth chart, which could also include short-yardage duties. The Stanford product has far more upside than Dwyer and would be the recommended handcuff for those owners who select Ellington.
Projected starter: 1. Steven Jackson
Backups: 2. Jacquizz Rodgers; 3. Devonta Freeman; 4. Antone Smith
2014 Outlook: Jackson missed several games last season due to injuries, and at 31 he's now seen as a risk in fantasy land. Still, he'll be worth a look in the middle rounds as a No. 3 fantasy runner. ... Rodgers has little value in standard formats, but he can be useful in PPR leagues. He's caught a combined 105 passes in the last two seasons. ... Should Jackson suffer another long-term ailment during the season, Freeman could end up becoming a potential waiver-wire jewel. He's worth stashing as a late-round flier if bench space is available.
Projected starter: 1. Bernard Pierce
Backups: 2. Justin Forsett; 3. Lorenzo Taliaferro; 4. Ray Rice (susp.)
2014 Outlook: Rice is coming off one of the worst statistical seasons of his career and has been suspended for the first two games of the 2014 campaign. He's more of a middle-round flex starter right now. ... Pierce, who is coming off a shoulder operation but should be back in time for camp, is a nice fit for the zone-blocking system of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and will open as the starter. He'll have middle- to late-round value in most drafts.
Projected starter: 1. C.J. Spiller
Backups: 2. Fred Jackson; 3. Bryce Brown; 4. Anthony Dixon
2014 Outlook: Spiller was one of the biggest busts in fantasy land last season, though he did deal with a high ankle sprain that hindered him at times. He's a risk-reward proposition in 2014 drafts and shouldn't be considered more than a borderline No. 2 or 3 runner. ... Jackson, who finished 10th in fantasy points among backs in 2014, is entering his age-33 season but will remain a big part of this RBBC. A repeat of his recent numbers is unlikely, so don't reach for him.
Projected starter: 1. DeAngelo Williams
Backups: 2. Jonathan Stewart; 3. Kenjon Barner; 4. Tyler Gaffney
2014 Outlook: Williams, 31, ranked 22nd in fantasy points last season while seeing more work in the absence of an injured Stewart. With a backfield committee likely in 2014, however, Williams is going to be a tough sell for owners as more than a fourth runner. The same holds true of Stewart, who is still young at 27 but has missed a combined 17 games over the last two seasons due to injuries. ... Mike Tolbert will see some short-yardage and goal-line looks, but his value is limited.
Projected starter: 1. Matt Forte
Backups: 2. Ka'Deem Carey; 3. Michael Ford; 4. Shaun Draughn
2014 Outlook: Forte is coming off one of the best statistical seasons of his career, finishing third in fantasy points among running backs. He'll continue to see a full workload in the offense of coach Marc Trestman, who will use Forte as both a runner and receiver. He'll be a top-five pick in most drafts. ... Carey, a rookie out of Arizona, looks like the favorite to open the season second on the depth chart behind Forte. He also looks like the preferred fantasy handcuff.
Projected starter: 1. Giovani Bernard
Backups: 2. Jeremy Hill; 3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis; 4. Cedric Peerman
2014 Outlook: The real jewel in Cincinnati's offense is Bernard, who enters his second pro season with a pile of upside in the offense of new OC Hue Jackson. He should see an increase in carries and is also a good bet to lead the team in backfield touches. The North Carolina product has high-end RB2 potential and could easily crack the top 10 among fantasy runners. ... Hill will compete with Green-Ellis for the No. 2 spot, but he has a ton more upside than the Law Firm in 2014.
Projected starter: 1. Ben Tate
Backups: 2. Terrance West; 3. Edwin Baker; 4. Chris Ogbonnaya
2014 Outlook: The Browns added Tate in the offseason on a two-year deal, which is structured to pay him more the more he's on the field. That should serve as motivation, as Tate hasn't been durable at the pro level. He does have RB2 upside, though, and will be drafted in one of the first five rounds. ... West appears to be the favored handcuff in fantasy land, and he'll have some sleeper appeal based on Tate's durability concerns. The rookie will be picked in all re-drafts.
Projected starter: 1. DeMarco Murray
Backups: 2. Lance Dunbar; 3. Joseph Randle; 4. Ryan Williams
2014 Outlook: Murray is coming off a career season with 1,121 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns as the top runner in Dallas. His role won't change in 2014, as Murray will be the backfield beast in what is a contract year. Barring injuries, which have been an issue in the past, he should retain first- or second-round value. ... Dunbar will have a bigger role in the offense in an effort to spell Murray, but he won't come off the board until the late rounds of deeper leagues.
Projected starter: 1. Montee Ball
Backups: 2. C.J. Anderson; 3. Ronnie Hillman; 4. Brennen Clay
2014 Outlook: Ball could be the single-biggest breakout candidate among fantasy running backs. Now the No. 1 runner in Denver, he'll see a notable increase in backfield touches and could push top-10 totals at his position. Don't be shocked to see him picked in the late first or early second round in some leagues. ... The second spot on the depth chart is up for grabs between Anderson and Hillman, with the winner of the battle worth a late-round pick. It's a situation to watch.
Projected starter: 1. Reggie Bush
Backups: 2. Joique Bell; 3. Theo Riddick; 4. Mikel Leshoure
2014 Outlook: Bush and Bell were the lone teammates to both finish in the top 17 in fantasy points during the 2013 campaign. While the coaching staff has turned over, the Lions will no doubt continue to use a backfield committee under the guidance of new head man Jim Caldwell. Bush is the more valuable of the two runners in all formats, but Bell has RB3 value and is more than a fantasy handcuff. In fact, he figures to be added in the middle rounds.
Green Bay Packers:
Projected starter: 1. Eddie Lacy
Backups: 2. James Starks; 3. DuJuan Harris; 4. Rajion Neal
2014 Outlook: The sixth-ranked running back in fantasy football as a rookie, Lacy proved to be a three-down workhorse who can produce even without Aaron Rodgers under center. The Alabama product will remain the backfield centerpiece for coach Mike McCarthy and is a surefire first-rounder in fantasy land. ... Starks, who looked good in limited time in 2014, is the favorite to finish second on the depth chart. He'll be a popular late-round handcuff for owners who select Lacy.
Projected starter: 1. Arian Foster
Backups: 2. Jonathan Grimes; 3. Alfred Blue
2014 Outlook: Foster missed most of last season with a bad back that required a surgical procedure to repair. He's been cleared to return and should be fine for the start of training camp, though he now comes with some risk. Consider Foster a top-12 overall selection. ... Grimes moved up the depth chart during the preseason and is the current favorite to be Foster's handcuff. Johnson and Brown have no serious value.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Projected starter: 1. Jamaal Charles
Backups: 2. Knile Davis; 3. Cyrus Gray; 4. De'Anthony Thomas
2014 Outlook: Charles, the top-scoring running back in fantasy football last season, is once again in line to see a massive workload for coach Andy Reid. He won't last beyond the third overall pick in most standard and PPR formats in 2014. ... Davis, who showed some flashes of potential late in his rookie campaign, will be the preferred handcuff for owners in deeper league who draft Charles. ... Gray and Thomas will battle for the third spot on the depth chart during camp.
Projected starter: 1. Lamar Miller
Backups: 2. Knowshon Moreno; 3. Daniel Thomas; 4. Mike Gillislee
2014 Outlook: Moreno, a top-five fantasy runner last season, was in line for the starting role until he showed up to camp overweight and has since undergone arthroscopic knee surgery. Now 2013 fantasy bust Lamar Miller will once again be tempting owners with his potential and opportunity. Neither is more than an RB3 at this point ... Thomas and Gillislee will be in the mix for the third backfield spot, but neither has re-draft appeal.
Projected starter: 1. Adrian Peterson
Backups: 2. Matt Asiata; 3. Jerick McKinnon; 4. Joe Banyard
2014 Outlook: Peterson will be one of the first three picks in most fantasy drafts. Despite a decline in production last season (compared to 2013), he's an elite runner with the potential to thrive in the stat sheets under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. ... Asiata looks like the favorite to open camp second on the depth chart, but he'll have little value unless A.D. is injured. ... McKinnon, a very versatile rookie, could see time on passing downs but isn't a serious re-draft option.
New England Patriots:
Projected starter: 1. Shane Vereen
Backups: 2. Stevan Ridley; 3. Brandon Bolden; 4. James White
2014 Outlook: The Patriots backfield can be impossible to predict, but it's likely that Vereen and Ridley will provide their 1-2 punch. Vereen has RB2/3 value in standard leagues with added appeal in PPR formats, so look for him as a middle-round sleeper. ... Ridley, a disappointment last season, could turn into a draft bargain in the absence of LeGarrette Blount. He's well worth a look in the middle to late rounds as a No. 4 runner who could become a viable flex starter.
New Orleans Saints:
Projected starter: 1. Mark Ingram
Backups: 2. Khiry Robinson; 3. Pierre Thomas; 4. Travaris Cadet
2014 Outlook: The departure of Darren Sproles likely means more opportunities for Thomas, who could be as much as a No. 2 fantasy runner in PPR formats. He hauled in an impressive 77 catches in 2013. ... Ingram has been a disappointment at the pro level, but has been a stud in the preseason. Ingram seems to have surpassed Robinson (an offseason sleeper) as the top rushing option. Both are worth a flier very late, as the Saints backfield is far from settled.
New York Giants:
Projected starter: 1. Rashad Jennings
Backups: 2. Andre Williams; 3. Peyton Hillis; 4. Kendall Gaskins
2014 Outlook: The Giants added Jennings, an underrated and versatile veteran, to be their top running back in 2014. Despite starting just a handful of games for the Raiders last season, he still put up top-25 fantasy totals among running backs. He'll have RB2 draft value. ... Williams has flashed in the preseaso and should slot in nicely as the change of pace back. He's worth a late-round flier. ... Hills and Gaskins are competing for a roster spot.
New York Jets:
Projected starter: 1. Chris Johnson
Backups: 2. Chris Ivory; 3. Bilal Powell; 4. Daryl Richardson
2014 Outlook: Johnson figures to be a focal point of the Jets running game in 2014, but he's unlikely to regain elite fantasy status in his age-29 season. In fact, CJ2K will be better served as a flex starter for most owners in standard leagues. ... Ivory will see some work to spell Johnson and could be used near the goal-line, but his overall stock has fallen to that of a late-rounder. ... Powell, a good pass-catching runner, is now all but undraftable in most formats.
Projected starter: 1. Maurice Jones-Drew
Backups: 2. Darren McFadden; 3. Kory Sheets; 4. Latavius Murray
2014 Outlook: The battle for the top backfield spot in Oakland is one to watch, though McFadden's proneness to injuries makes him less attractive than Jones-Drew in fantasy land. In fact, MJD is more of a flex option while McFadden should be seen as an RB4. If both runners are at 100 percent, however, we're looking at a potentially confusing and frustrating RBBC for owners. ... The addition of "Pocket Hercules" makes former deep sleeper Murray all but undraftable.
Projected starter: 1. LeSean McCoy
Backups: 2. Darren Sproles; 3. Chris Polk; 4. Matthew Tucker
2014 Outlook: McCoy, a top-two fantasy runner based on points in two of the last three seasons, will remain one of the top three backs picked in fantasy drafts. Entering his age-26 campaign, he's in the prime of his career. ... With Bryce Brown now in Buffalo and DeSean Jackson in Washington, Sproles figures to see a big role, especially in the passing game. He'll remain an RB3 in standard leagues and a better No. 2 runner in leagues that reward points for catches.
Projected starter: 1. Le'Veon Bell
Backups: 2. LeGarrette Blount; 3. Dri Archer; 4. Alvester Alexander
2014 Outlook: Bell showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie and has breakout potential in his second pro season. A versatile runner, he figures to be picked no later than the second round in both standard and PPR leagues, although his recent off-field issues with Blount could be troubling. ... The Steelers added Blount to the mix, making him the preferred handcuff for owners who land Bell. The veteran will also no doubt see some short-yardage and goal-line work, but not enough to dent Bell's value. ... Archer is the favorite for the No. 3 spot.
San Diego Chargers:
Projected starter: 1. Ryan Mathews
Backups: 2. Danny Woodhead; 3. Donald Brown; 4. Marion Grice
2014 Outlook: Mathews and Woodhead both finished among the top-20 fantasy running backs last season, and both are entering contract years for 2014. Mathews will be the first San Diego runner off the board in drafts, likely as a No. 2, while Woodhead will be more of a borderline RB3/4 with more value in PPR formats. ... Brown was signed away from the Colts in the offseason, but he doesn't figure to see a huge role with two strong backs ahead of him on the depth chart.
San Francisco 49ers:
Projected starter: 1. Frank Gore
Backups: 2. Carlos Hyde; 3. LaMichael James; 4. Marcus Lattimore
2014 Outlook: Gore, entering the final year of his contract, will be a potential bust candidate entering his age-31 season. He's better suited to being drafted as a high-end flex starter, especially after the addition of Hyde in the NFL draft. ... Kendall Hunter is out for the season with a torn ACL, which opens to door for Hyde to get extensive work early on, especially since Lattimore started training camp on the PUP. This is a situation to watch, especially for owners in dynasty leagues looking for Gore's replacement.
Projected starter: 1. Marshawn Lynch
Backups: 2. Christine Michael; 3. Robert Turbin; 4. Spencer Ware
2014 Outlook: Lynch will remain the centerpiece of the Seahawks offense in 2014, so he'll continue to warrant a first-round pick. The Cal product has finished as one of the 10-best fantasy backs in the league in each of the last three seasons. ... Michael has received rave reviews in the offseason. however, Turbin remains ahead of him on the depth chart and has produced in the preseason. The loser of this backup battle will have no real value in 2014 fantasy drafts.
St. Louis Rams:
Projected starter: 1. Zac Stacy
Backups: 2. Benny Cunningham; 3. Tre Mason; 4. Isaiah Pead
2014 Outlook: Stacy was a major waiver-wire add as a rookie, posting strong totals despite starting only 12 games. Whether he can retain such a big workload is a question mark, though, so don't draft him as more than a No. 2 runner. ... Cunningham figures to see a lot of competition for the second spot on the depth chart from Mason, a talented rookie out of Auburn who excels as a runner but needs help in pass protection. He'll be worth a late-round look in re-drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Projected starter: 1. Doug Martin
Backups: 2. Bobby Rainey; 3. Mike James; 4. Jeff Demps
2014 Outlook: One of the biggest questions in fantasy football surrounds Martin, who thrived as a rookie but looked pedestrian in 2013 before going down with a bum shoulder. He'll be off the board no later than the third round in most leagues, serving best as a No. 2 running back. ... James, who is coming off an injured knee, will battle Rainey for the second spot on the depth chart. The eventual winner will have late-round handcuff value in deeper fantasy leagues.
Projected starter: 1. Shonn Greene
Backups: 2. Bishop Sankey; 3. Dexter McCluster; 4. Jackie Battle
2014 Outlook: The release of CJ2K leaves the top spot on the Titans depth chart open for the taking. Sankey, a second-rounder out of Washington, was the favorite to earn the starting role but a lackluster preseason has paved the way for Greene. ... Greene figures to be the No. 2 back, but he's coming off a second knee surgery and is past his prime at 29. He and Sankey are RB4s at best until this committee clears up ... McCluster, a former wideout, is a PPR sleeper under coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Projected starter: 1. Alfred Morris
Backups: 2. Roy Helu; 3. Lache Seastrunk; 4. Evan Royster
2014 Outlook: Morris remains the unquestioned top runner in Washington, but he saw a dip in production last season and has lost a bit of his luster in fantasy land. Still, the young back out of Florida Atlantic remains a viable RB2 in drafts. His lack of catches hurts his value in PPR formats. ... Helu will be second on the depth chart and could have PPR value in deeper leagues. He's hauled in 30-plus passes in two of his first three seasons at the NFL level.