Fantasy Football

2018 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs

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Giving a spot on your bench for a handcuff is tough insurance. If the team your RB1 plays for has a good next man up, there is little to do except make room on your bench for an extra spot. You can live on the edge if you want, but if your centerpiece running back goes on IR, you’ll join a race to the waiver wire. This is a scenario you can and should avoid.

This is why a handcuff makes sense if he holds enough potential to produce somewhere close to the range of the primary running back.

Keep in mind also those short-term injuries. The NFL has very strict rules on concussions and if your RB1 goes into the protocol, you really need that handcuff for the uncertain timelines these often entail.

Not all teams have good backups. Granted, volume counts for something and factors into it, but often an injury to a primary back introduces a timeshare in certain backfields. Getting an understanding of which teams install a straight-up plug and play handcuff, and which do not, is part of the experience you develop in fantasy football.

2018 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs

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Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

To think of another season, or large portion of, without David Johnson seems like a Shakespearean tragedy. In 2017, he had no sound handcuff and we saw a rollout of several running backs trying to effectively fill the role. None did. Not even Adrian Peterson really.

This season, there is a decent handcuff in Arizona. Chase Edmonds, taken in the 4th round by the Cards, looks every bit the guy we wanted last season to cover Johnson. He’s a smaller version of your typical three-down back, but the Cardinals seem fully confident already in his ability.

There is little value for Edmonds in fantasy on his own, therefore he is an easier handcuff to secure than non-principal running backs who do have an independent fantasy value, e.g. Tarik Cohen or Tevin Coleman. We’ll know more in preseason what Edmonds brings to the NFL, but as of now we have to consider him a handcuff must-own.

Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

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We have a fantasy dilemma growing with the Seattle backfield. Media insiders covering the Seahawks project Carson as the starter to open 2018. Carson had a great minicamp and OTAs coming off his Week 4 ankle injury in 2017. The Seahawks hedged during the draft by picking up Rashaad Penny at 27th. So, where are we at with this?

It is clear the Seahawks want to get back in the business of a ground attack in 2018. Concerns about the offensive line persist for opening lanes to allow a ground game to effectively flourish. It is fair then to presume that a running back who excels in pass protection would gain an advantage in securing a higher snap count. Higher snap count equals higher touches.

Penny showed early promise in the area of pass blocking in the OTAs. The real eye test during preseason should bear out where things stand. As of now, it looks very good.

Here’s the problem. Chris Carson is riding on a wave of good reports too as I mentioned at the top. This makes Penny difficult to handcuff to Carson without a reach. But then, who is actually the handcuff to who? That’s the dilemma if we put all the hype and off-season stuff in a big pot and mix it all up.

Preseason may provide some answers, but I’d prefer not to duck under “wait and see” cover. I think we have to just look at it as best we can from a practical standpoint. We are drafting Penny as an RB2. Whether you take the view of him as high-end, middle or low, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the current status of limited upside for RB1 potential.

This puts Chris Carson essentially among the 2018 Fantasy Football must-own handcuffs for an RB2. Again, you may have to reach because Carson is steadily gaining value in his own right. By the end of August our view may change. Therefore, my advice is to keep close watch on this situation.

John Kelly, LA Rams

If you are the beneficiary of the top pick in your redraft league, congratulations. Todd Gurley is the best and most fantasy worthy player of 2018. Everyone wants a player like him on their team.

Gurley has a strong handcuff  in John Kelly that likely falls easily to you in a later round. Of all the 2018 Fantasy Football must-own handcuffs, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of securing Kelly.

As I said in the introduction, not every injury ends up with the guy going on IR. Often, the player can shake off minor sprains and so forth over one or two weeks. Therefore, try not to think of handcuffs as just shipwright insurance for ultimate catastrophe.

I doubt you needed further convincing on that. You will draft John Kelly as a handcuff. The question remains is what he brings to the table if needed.

This is yet again another preseason eyetest prospect to see if his tackle breaking ability translates well in the NFL. The good news is that we’ll see plenty of him during the preseason with Gurley getting in just one offensive series or so per game.

Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs

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I guess Spencer Ware looks like the smartphone you bought in 2015 in comparison to Kareem Hunt nowadays. Let’s not forget though how good a running back Spencer Ware actually is.

He belongs among the must-own handcuffs because of the upside he brings. Yes, there are a lot of changes since he last played and we desperately need an update on those old 2016 statistics. I get all that.

Yet, we can still roughly get a sense of what Spencer Ware can do. He’s only 26 years of age and even though his 1300+ all-purpose yardage is nearly two years ago, it is safe to presume his status as a strong handcuff.


Even if you choose to downgrade Ware somewhat, you have to downgrade him from low RB1 or high RB2 status to a level that remains very high in the overall picture of NFL running backs. Try this mental exercise. Where would you draft Ware if Kareem Hunt did not exist? I could take Ware ahead of Kenyan Drake or Alex Collins easily.


Visit the F6P Fantasy Football Draft Kit Page for more advice to prepare for the 2018 season.

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About Richard Savill

Richard is an NFL Fantasy Football Writer and Editor of Fantasy Six Pack. Host of The Fantasy Edge Podcast. FantasyPros Contributor. Member of the FSWA. Richard is known for his "outside the box" insight into NFL fantasy football. Winner of the 16-Team 2015 FSWA challenge.

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