Handcuff (n.) - Shackle that consists of a metal loop that can be locked around the wrist; usually used in pairs.
Fantasy Football Handcuff (n.) - The backup of a major Fantasy Football performer, and a player that could make you look like a fantasy football genius.
The Fantasy Football Handcuff is a well known Fantasy Football draft strategy that has been in use for a long time. The rationale for drafting a “Handcuff” is that in case of injury to your starter, you have the player at that position that will take over his good situation.
For example, the “Handcuff” for Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville is Rashad Jennings. Jennings is drafted on average in the middle of the 12th round, which means that you would be passing up a defense like Dallas, a starting tight end like Heath Miller or a starting quarterback like Matt Cassel. If you have filled those positions and are confident with the selections, Jennings is a great fantasy football sleeper. In the case that Jones-Drew really does have knee issues and breaks down, you will then have a starting running back with no real backup as a 12th round draft choice.
You should now have a good understanding of what a Fantasy Football Handcuff player is and the reasoning to draft said player. Don’t get a “Handcuff” and a back-by-committee situation confused, however. The “Handcuff” won’t garner you any real production unless there is an injury, where as the back-by-committee situation is where two or three running backs on one team should have similar statistics as they share carries.
To help clear everything up for the Owners out there, here is a list of quality “Handcuffs,” and teams with a back-by-committee with a player worth picking up.
Handcuffs Squads: Who’s the Next Best Bet
Baltimore Ravens - Willis McGahee
McGahee is allegedly on the trading block, but for now is backing up Ray Rice in Baltimore. Rice not only led his team in receptions, but ended the season in the top-10 in rushing yards and led all running backs in receiving yards. (Think you’ve got what it takes to play Ray Rice? Prove it.) McGahee still gets some carries every game but not enough to say that he shares carries. In the case that Rice took too many carries and receptions in ’09 and breaks down, McGahee could be a great pickup.
Jacksonville Jaguars - Rashad Jennings
Jennings may have only ran the ball 40 times in 2009, but he did average 5.2 yards per carry. Jennings is similar to Maurice Jones-Drew in that he is a tough nosed runner with good north-south speed. Where he differs is his elusiveness and agility. The best reason to draft Jennings isn’t his own ability though, it’s in the case that Jones-Drew’s knee cant hold up the entire season. Considering they have similar running styles, the Jaguars won’t have to change things up too drastically if MJD does go down.
Kansas City Chiefs - Thomas Jones
There was some concern from Jamaal Charles’ owners whether or not Charles would lose some carries. Head coach Todd Haley has sworn up and down that he will play the best running back, which has undoubtedly been Charles so far through the preseason. If Charles doesn’t live up to his ‘09 numbers, Haley will have no problem going with Thomas Jones. If you own Charles, I wouldn’t suggest trying to draft Jones, not in the 8th round anyway (that pick should be focused on a solid receiving target or a steady defense).
New York Jets - LaDainian Tomlinson
It’s shocking that LT would be a backup, and that he would ever be considered a “Handcuff” but all good things have to end at some point. LT will be backing up Shonn Greene who was explosive near the end of the season. LT will be mostly used as a receiver out of the backfield, but in the case the Jets can’t live up to their trash talking coach and city’s expectations there could always be some changes.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Mewelde Moore
Rashard Mendenhall is the last of a dying breed: an every down back. Moore has been the third down back during his stint in the Steel City but the Steelers are hoping that Mendenhall can turn in to the every down back. Mendenhall has had issues holding on the ball in the past, and missed the majority of his rookie season with a broken shoulder. Moore is a capable backup that has shined in his stints as the starter.
Tennessee Titans - Javon Ringer
Chris Johnson might be the most explosive and dynamic playmakers in the league. He will also have a large X on his chest, put there by every defense he will be facing in 2010. LenDale White was the goal line and short yardage man when in a tandem with Johnson during his career. Last year White wasn’t used very often and CJ eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark. What kind of toll will that have on Johnson? Will he Ringer assume goal line carries and be the TD vulture that White once was? The Answer: Perhaps.
Atlanta Falcons - Jason Snelling
You were probably expecting Jerious Norwood here, but Snelling proved he could be counted on last season when starter Michael Turner was injured. Snelling is much more similar to Turner, and if Norwood can stay healthy they will likely want him to stay as a third down back as a receiver.
Chicago Bears - Chester Taylor
Taylor will forever go down as a career “Handcuff.” Even when he was last expected to be a starter he was unseated by then rookie Adrian Peterson. Now Taylor is backing up Matt Forte in Chicago, and could be in a good situation as he has always been known for his receiving abilities out of the backfield, which is good in a Mike Martz offense. If Forte can’t bounce back from his injury and the Bears become pass happy, Taylor could have a strong 2010 season.
Minnesota Vikings - Albert Young
The Vikings drafted Stanford workhorse Toby Gerhart in the second round, but he has been unseated by 2008 undrafted rookie Albert Young. Young is a bruiser that also shows flashes of good speed. He hasn’t shown great hands, so Peterson will likely stay in on third downs, but if he should fall to injury, young is the first in line.
San Francisco 49ers - Brian Westbrook/Anthony Dixon
The backup running back for the Niners isn’t clear just yet with the recent acquisition of Brian Westbrook. Westbrook has a history of concussions, which is a big deal in today’s NFL. Anthony Dixon has really impressed in the preseason and has earned himself a roster spot thanks to the baffling retirement of Glen Coffee. Starter Frank Gore has a long history of missing time due to injury so the Niners are a popular team to choose a handcuff every year.
Backs-By-Committee: Not to be Confused, but to be Considered
Buffalo Bills - C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson
Spiller has looked explosive so far this preseason, and Lynch and Jackson have been banged up which means Spiller could end up starting, but this situation is certainly going to be a committee. Spiller could end up taking the bulk of the carries, which will hurt his stock, but don’t count out Fred Jackson.
Miami Dolphins - Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams
You really can’t go wrong with either of these backs. There have been trade rumors circling both backs which would automatically make the other a top-10 back, but until that happens they’ll both be very good RB2’s on any team. Brown is crucial to the Fins’ wildcat formations, and Williams has more upside to his game.
Oakland Raiders - Michael Bush, Darren McFadden
Time is running out on Run DMC but the Raiders have a lot invested in him and won’t let him fizzle out like Jamarcus did, and McFadden has way more potential than Russell ever did. Bush is going to be a touchdown vulture in the redzone though, so this round goes to Bush.
Carolina Panthers - DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart
These two are like the Dolphin’s tandem ... only a lotttt better. Both of these two are gone before the second round is over, and for good reason.
Dallas Cowboys - Marion Barber, Felix Jones
Marion Barber was at his best when he was backing up Julius Jones in Big D, and there is thought that he will back up Felix Jones this season. We all heard those rumors at the end of last season and it didn’t really help him out all that much. Jones was hampered by turf toe earlier in his career but will be getting the starting spot this season. Barber will likely steal the touchdowns like he did earlier in his career, and Jones should rack up a ton of yards, but could score his fair share of touchdowns with his break away speed.
New York Giants - Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw
It used to be a three back tandem, and now were down to two in New York. Jacobs has been the top back in Big Blue for a few years now, but Bradshaw could be a huge breakout candidate. The Giants front office allegedly is leaning towards Bradshaw as the starter, and with good reason. His speed has shined so far in the preseason, and Jacobs has missed time in both of the last two games.