2023 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs

by Daniel Johnson
2022 Fantasy Football Targets and Touches Trends Through Week 8

Let's talk insurance, shall we? In today's NFL, sometimes it feels like running back can be an even more frustrating position than tight end. You've got all your committees, your touchdown vultures, your teams that refuse to do anything but pass in the red zone. Having drafted a good running back likely means you're also going to be interested in our list of 2023 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs.

Now, there are plenty of drafters out there who advocate drafting for ceiling, not for insurance. Their logic is along the lines of: by drafting a running back and his handcuff, you're effectively using two draft slots on one potential starter. And they're not wrong.

You're better off, in that case, stealing someone else's handcuff from them in the later rounds of the draft. That way, instead of essentially drafting two-slots-one-player, you're simply stashing a guy on your bench whose value is through the roof for another member in your league.

But, alas. There are so many of us who are conservative drafters, and who simply want to occupy our bench with as much fortification as possible for the glimmering starters we're rolling out each and every week.

I've got five names worth targeting in the later rounds in your redraft leagues. Let's get to them.

2023 Fantasy Football Must-Own Handcuffs

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Rashaad Penny, Philadelphia Eagles

There are folks out there who'll call me crazy for putting Penny on this list, because they're still not certain D'Andre Swift will be the top dog in Philadelphia. Well—I am. And it may be a 1A/1B situation, but Penny is still the 1B here.

It's difficult to evaluate either of these running backs of starting-caliber quality without simply making a gut call; both have been injured so often throughout their respective careers that you have to wonder if either of them will see more than ten touches per game.

But what we've been hearing out of camp is that Swift has impressed the most of any Eagles back, has been incredibly active in the passing game, and feels as healthy as he's ever been. He's unequivocally going to separate himself as the most productive per-touch back in the Philadelphia offense when he's out there.

Penny, too, is wildly productive with the ball in his hands. He's got a whopping 5.7 YPC across his career. But his injuries have been more major, with two of them having been season-ending.

So, I guess the catch here is: this might be the one combo to either avoid drafting altogether, or ensure you're drafting both. I'm rooting for Swift (my RB18) to have his first full-season campaign in Philadelphia be one full of fireworks. Make sure you've got Penny on your bench, just in case Swift sputters out before he can show us some real pyrotechnics.

Jaylen Warren, Pittsburgh Steelers

Rumblings out of the Steelers camp is that there may be a legit time-split between Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren not dissimilar to 2022's split between Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard in Dallas.

Last year, Warren looked good when he was out there. He passed the eye test in game situations for Fantasy managers the same way he passed the eye test in training camp last year, when he leapfrogged Anthony McFarland and Benny Snell.

It's possible Harris was injured all last year with that mysterious Lisfranc injury he suffered in preseason. That might account for why Warren accounted for 28 catches and 379 total rushing yards on the season.

The Steelers are an offense on the rise, and Matt Canada's offense loves to focus on the run. Warren easily becomes an RB2 with upside if Harris goes down, and might carry standalone value if there's any credence to the chatter out of training camp this year.

Antonio Gibson, Washington Commanders

We all know that Antonio Gibson is a better, pure pass-catcher than J.D. McKissic. We know that Eric Bienemy is the new OC sheriff in town, and it might bode very well for Gibson.

I can't figure out if Gibson is post-hype, or something much more severe than that. His usage in the Commanders offense sometimes last year—particularly toward the beginning—was infuriating at worst, enigmatic at best. And yet he still finished with 46 receptions for 353 yards on the season.

It feels like there's a larger contingent of people who think Gibson might not just be a handcuff, but the best backfield option in Washington than the contingent of people who believe Gibson's best days are behind him. He is, after all, only in his fourth year in the NFL. We don't really know if Brian Robinson has totally supplanted him as the starter. A new offensive coordinator could change everything.

There are people saying they think Gibson might have a top-ten RB finish in him this year. I think that's a little much. But I do believe he has standalone value. And, should Robinson get whatsoever injured and miss time, Gibson is a surefire RB2.

Tank Bigsby, Jacksonville Jaguars

Bigsby was an absolute standout at Auburn who comes into a Jaguars team which, last year, saw Travis Etienne cash in on just 20% of his attempts inside the five yard line. That was damn near the bottom of all qualifying running backs.

No—I do not think  the presence of Tank Bigsby portends the end of ETN SZN, despite where the Jags drafted him. Where it will hurt Etienne most is in short yardage and goal-line carries.

Which means Bigsby is in line to become a classic TD-vulture, someone with bye-week fill-in value. Bigsby isn't higher on this list simply because I think Doug Pederson liked too much of what he saw out of JaMycal Hasty last year. Hasty will continue to remain a factor.

Bigsby would likely clock in as a low-end RB2/high-end RB3 should Etienne miss any time.

Tyler Allgeier, Atlanta Falcons

Allgeier ripped off four straight games toward the end of the 2022 season with the following Fantasy points: 22.6, 15.7, 16.5, 13.5. Arthur Smith found something in Allgeier—who, when he was at BYU, was an absolute freight train—and unlocked him a bit as the season wound down last year. He set the franchise rookie record for rushing yards at 1,035.

Obviously, the advent of Bijan Robinson squashed any hopes for a full-on Allgeier breakout this year. But the Falcons might be the most run-heavy offense in the league this year, and I think Allgeier carries standalone RB3 value.

Desmond Ridder is definitely a question mark and potential hit to Allgeier's value, as his mobility (combined with Bijan's new place atop the depth chart) could factor into high-value running situations for Atlanta. We just need to hope this offense looks a little more efficient than it did with Mariota at the helm in 2022.

Allgeier might be the best handcuff in all of Fantasy. Don't hesitate to reach a bit for him.

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