2017 Fantasy Football Handcuffing 101: Protecting Investments

by Chris Wright
2017 Fantasy Football Handcuffing 101

Insurance. It is a necessary part of life. You pay into something now in order to be covered for problems down the road. It is used to protect assets like your car, your house, and your health. In Fantasy Football, those assets are your early round draft picks. Basically, you are selecting a player's backup to have on your team in the event that your stud goes down.

This is an age old strategy mostly used on running backs, due to the impracticality of cuffing other positions. With a few exceptions, the lion's share of the work usually goes to one running back with the others not getting enough to justify starting in your lineup. Unfortunately, the violent nature of football makes having those backups on your bench one of utmost importance.

Don't be the one in your league caught with your pants down, scrambling to add marginal players, when your starting running back goes down.

2017 Fantasy Football Handcuffing 101

An important pillar of Fantasy Football is opportunity. When it comes to handcuffing, potential opportunity is everything. You may be drafting a player that won't see the field, but their necessity on your bench cannot be undersold. A player's value can multiply into infinity if they are thrust into a starting role.
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Targeting the Right Handcuffs

Picking up the best handcuffs is not even all about the skill level of the backup player. Obviously, having a backup that is skilled is important, but if that player is unlikely to ever get that opportunity it will not matter. When we are looking at handcuffs, you want to look for these things in order:

  1. The propensity for the starting running back to miss time or lose their job
  2. How concretely is the backup set in his role
  3. The situation surrounding the backup; should he be thrust into action

Handcuffs to Target

Anytime you are taking a running back in the first two to three rounds, there is likely a viable handcuff to be had. If you own the starter for a team, the handcuff becomes all the more valuable, but you are not limited to just those handcuffs. Handcuffing other people's studs is a very good strategy, as you can have an extra starting running back appear on your bench in the event of an injury. If you end up not needing the player, you can trade him at an inflated price and improve your team that way.

These are some of my favorite handcuffs:

Players Filling in for Suspended Starters

Darren McFadden/Alfred Morris, Dallas Cowboys

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Best offensive line in football? Check. Team absolutely committed to the run? Check. Starter led the league in rushing but is suspended six games? Check. Backup ran for over a thousand yards for the same team just two seasons ago? Check.

Yeah, Darren McFadden is a valuable handcuff. Unfortunately, his ADP continues to rise (sometimes going as early as round five or six), making him a pricey handcuff. However, no one in his draft range is guaranteed six weeks of starter touches in such an amazing situation. He is also someone you can get as a trade piece to dangle in front of a Zeke Elliott owner who will be looking for production for the first month and a half.

Alfred Morris is also someone to keep an eye on. He is much cheaper than McFadden but has outperformed him in preseason thus far. Morris feels like the better between the tackles runner, but has been named as McFadden's backup until Zeke returns. If McFadden doesn't get it done, Morris could step in.

Jacquizz Rodgers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When Doug Martin was gone last season, Rodgers performed admirably. He was a top-15 running back in Martin's absence, and Tampa had no problem force feeding him the ball. Rodgers may have had even more value, as it seemed like the Bucs were ready to let Martin go. However, a strong preseason performance by the Muscle Hamster may have quieted that talk.

If you take a chance on Martin, Rodgers is the clear backup and should do just fine for the first three weeks.

Backups in Good Situations Behind Injury Risks

Jonathan Williams, Buffalo Bills

We saw in 2016 that the Bills' offense doesn't support two backs running the football, it needs two backs running the football. One human being cannot rush the ball as many times as the Bills would like to. Mike Gillislee was a factor last season even when LeSean McCoy was not hurt. When he was hurt he was force-fed the ball even more. Now, Jonathan Williams steps into backup Shady. He is one of the more valuable handcuffs going.

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

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There aren't many situations better for a running back than on the Pittsburgh Steelers. You are guaranteed to run the ball as well at catch it out of the backfield. Conner has already turned in a good preseason performance minus a couple of drops. Le'Veon Bell is coming off of a groin injury and is currently in a holdout. Should Bell holdout into the season, or come in rusty and suffer an injury, Conner is going to be the man in Pittsburgh.

Joe Williams, San Fransisco 49ers

Carlos Hyde has been no stranger to missing extended time in his career; twice, as well as three games last season. Kyle Shannahan proved that his system can support two running backs last season, so Joe Williams will probably see some snaps anyway. The 49ers have one of the hardest schedules for running backs per FantasyPros.com, so he may be someone you only want to take a flier on if you end up with Hyde.

Backups Who are Threatening to Take Over

Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers

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Jamaal Williams is my absolute favorite player in Fantasy Football this season. He is a beast, who is currently backing up a wide receiver masquerading as a running back. The Packers have said they are committed to Ty Montgomery, but did not show it with the carries last season. As his carries did go up, his game suffered. That plus coming into this season battling a soft tissue injury does not bode well. I think this running back situation will eventually transform to at least a timeshare, and possibly even a takeover by Williams in the early downs.

Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks

Thomas Rawls has fallen off of the face of the earth ever since the Eddie Lacy signing in Seattle. Rawls was plagued by injuries for most of 2016, and wasn't great in his short lived comeback. He was, however, healthy in the playoffs. Thomas Rawls looked like the Thomas Rawls that burst on to the scene in 2015. He has now had a healthy offseason and really only has Lacy to beat for the job. Rawls is the backup for now, but has proven he is a force when healthy.

2017 Fantasy Football Position Previews
QuarterbacksRunning BacksWide ReceiversTight Ends

For more F6P preseason coverage please visit our 2017 Draft Kit section.

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1 comment

Friday August 25, 2017 - Fantasy Football Links - FantasyRundown.com August 25, 2017 - 9:48 am

[…] names the running back handcuffs that should benefit from suspensions, injuries, and old […]


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