The Fantasy Fool: Is your backup plan in place?

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Vick Ballard blew out his knee in practice last week. Ray Rice left Sunday's game with a hip flexor. Reggie Bush tweaked his knee, returned, then aggravated it again.

Eddie Lacy was knocked out after his only carry with a concussion. Maurice Jones-Drew missed most of the second half of Sunday's loss with an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Steven Jackson was sidelined during the grudge match against his former team after hurting his thigh.

Get the picture?

There's no secret that running backs absorb a tremendous amount of punishment. It's a testament to their athleticism that more don't emerge from games looking like a Nick Nolte mug shot.

That's why we preach all preseason about "handcuffing" your top RBs with their backups. It's bad enough if you have to play a week or more without Ray Rice in your lineup; but if you've hedged your bets with Bernard Pierce, the drop-off shouldn't be too steep.

Similarly, those who've heeded our advice and locked in Joique Bell behind Bush won't sweat it too much if their starter misses a game or two.

But sometimes backups aren't enough. It's overall running back depth that matters more. Case in point: If Jones-Drew is sidelined for any amount of time, how comfortable would you be starting Justin Forsett, or Jordan Todman, in his place? Exactly.

Jacquizz Rodgers has made a comfortable living as a change-of-pace back, but he's clearly no workhorse. He gained just 17 yards on 11 carries Sunday in Jackson's absence.

Fantasy owners that overloaded on RBs during their drafts may have sacrificed in other areas, but they are presumably in a stronger position today. If they took a hit to their lineup, they can plug in a solid proxy. If they emerged from Week 2 unscathed, they hold the upper hand in trade talks.

The NFL is a violent sport, and in spite of the league's efforts to tamp down the most dangerous collisions, injuries are inevitable. And no position is more vulnerable than running back.

Scan your waiver wire today. If Pierce, James Starks, Marcel Reece, Michael Bush, Toby Gerhart, Knile Davis, Kendall Hunter, Robert Turbin or Roy Helu is available, consider taking out an insurance plan.

FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS

To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch 'em while you can

James Starks, RB, Packers. It's too early to tell how much time Eddie Lacy will miss, if any, due to his concussion. Starks totaled 168 combined yards with a TD after Lacy went down, so he's worth a provisional pickup. He's shown flashes in the past, but Green Bay clearly didn't see him as a long-term solution when they drafted Lacy and made Starks available for trade. But a starting RB is a starting RB.

Eddie Royal, WR, Chargers. Royal hasn't been fantasy-relevant since 2008 when he finished his rookie season as a Top 20 receiver for the Broncos. Nobody took his two-touchdown performance in Week 1 seriously, which is why he's still available in nearly 90 percent of all leagues. Now with 5 TDs after two games, we can't ignore him any longer.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans. I sang the rookie's praises all preseason, and he just showed you why. With seven catches for 117 yards and the winning overtime score against the Titans, Hopkins flashed his lofty potential. If he is still available in your league (and he is in about a third of them), scoop him up fast.

Don't be fooled

Justin Forsett and Jordan Todman, RBs, Jaguars. It was becoming painfully clear that Jones-Drew was headed toward bust status even before he sprained his ankle. Don't double-down on this punchless backfield by wasting a roster spot on Forsett, who's listed as the No. 2 RB on Jacksonville's depth chart. Or on Todman, the rookie sixth-round pick that tallied a whopping seven yards on five carries Sunday.

Randy Bullock, K, Texans. He hit the game-winner last weekend to compensate for his earlier miss. He had a chance to do it again Sunday, but whiffed on his third field goal attempt of the game instead. If Bullock is your kicker, it's time to search for a replacement. Just as the Texans are surely doing.

Ladd Biro was named Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for two consecutive years (2010, 2011). Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog, on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).

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