Look Ma! No Handcuffs – Exploring a Fantasy Football FallacyBy Brian on August 07, 2012
I want to dive into a topic you hear a lot about in fantasy circles, and that topic is handcuffing. You’ll hear it a lot leading up to draft day. “You have to draft this running backs handcuff,” or “if you take player A early in the draft be sure to handcuff him later.” Basically, handcuffing is taking the backup running back (or other position) to your early round draft pick in order to protect your fantasy team. I’m here to tell you that handcuffing doesn’t always protect you, but most times it handcuffs you. Yes, the pun was intended.
Now, I’m not saying that you should never consider handcuffing your star players. For instance, I think a guy like Ben Tate or Michael Bush can be extremely valuable if you take Arian Foster or Matt Forte with an early pick. I think both of those players are starting caliber running backs that proved their worth last year. But, think about it for a minute. For every Tate, Bush or Spiller there is a Rashad Jennings, Dion Lewis, Justin Forsett, Javon Ringer, Ronnie Brown, and so on. Are those the names of players that are going to win you a championship? My answer is no and I’m going to dive into some of the reasons that handcuffing isn’t always the greatest idea come draft day.
What if your star player doesn’t get injured? Obviously this is what every fantasy owner hopes for. What if LeSean McCoy plays 16 games and is the stud you drafted him to be? If that’s the case, then all Dion Lewis is doing is collecting dust on your bench. And if McCoy does happen to go down, is Lewis going to step in and give you the type of production McCoy did? I doubt it.
Handcuffs really limit your flexibility. In essence, they handcuff you as a fantasy owner. They provide absolutely zero trade value and zero bye week value. You also have to decide when to burn a draft pick and select your handcuff. If it’s a guy like Ben Tate you need to obtain you may have to burn a pretty early pick to get him. Is Ben Tate worth burning an eighth round draft pick on when you could be selecting a number two or three wide receiver instead? That’s a gamble owners will have to decide to take or not take on draft day.
Most star running backs don’t have a clear cut backup. Do you draft Taiwan Jones or Mike Goodson to handcuff your McFadden pick? Do you take Robert Turbin, Leon Washington or Justin Forsett to handcuff Marshawn Lynch? In other words, even if you draft a handcuff you may end up with a running back that falls into the dreaded running back by committee situation.
My solution is simple. Instead of worrying about where to draft Bernard Pierce to handcuff your Ray Rice pick, target a guy like Mark Ingram or Daniel Thomas in the middle to late rounds. These guys will get anywhere from 150 to 200 touches on the year regardless of whether or not a player gets injured. Try to grab a few of these types of guys in the middle to late rounds. These guys will not only give you value if you were to lose one of your stud backs they will also give you a couple things handcuffs cannot, trade value and bye week value throughout the season. Now, if you really want to grab a handcuff try the sneaky route of grabbing a fellow owner’s handcuff. You can dangle the player in trade offers and see the other owner bites, and if not you won’t feel bad about dropping the guy later in the season for a waiver wire player if you need one.
Again, don’t think it’s never appropriate to draft a handcuff. All I’m saying is don’t feel obligated in order to protect your team. Try to build the best all around team you can on draft day. Draft your studs and play them with confidence. Don’t stand by and wait for an injury, but if you are to experience a stud going down you won’t have to worry. Not because you’re great at handcuffing, but because you are great at drafting a championship caliber fantasy team.