Why Handcuffing is the way to go in Fantasy Football
By Jack Concannon
If you buy an expensive car its goes without saying that you get insurance to back it up. That insurance allows you to sleep at night knowing that if anything happens to your car you can get a car of similar value at no extra cost to you. In the world of fantasy, running backs are just like these cars. The good ones are extremely costly and you have to do whatever you can to protect them. You wouldn’t drive around in an uninsured Ferrari would you? Of course not. So why would you draft Demarco Murray without drafting Lance Dunbar for your bench?
Okay so that analogy was a little dramatic but getting “insurance” for your top running backs by handcuffing them to their backups should be a no-brainer for fantasy owners especially if you get an injury-prone running back like Reggie Bush or the previously discussed Demarco Murray.
With all of this being said you don’t need to handcuff all of your running backs to their respective back-ups. It is more necessary for some running backs than others. These seven running backs are players you must draft as handcuffs if you draft the starters on their respective teams.
Andre Brown to Arian Foster Houston Texans
Andre Brown was great last year when the Giants gave him the ball and now he heads out to Houston to backup the injury prone Arian Foster. Ben Tate carved out a solid couple of years in Houston working out of this role and Andre Brown will likely thrive if he does get the chance to get on the field. Foster has only played a full sixteen games once in the last three years. Brown will be ready to slide right into your lineup in the event of Foster’s injury and give you solid production.
Ka’Deem Carey to Matt Forte Chicago Bears
People seem to have forgotten how injury prone Matt Forte has been during his career. 2013 was Forte’s first full season since 2010 and this year the Bears drafted Ka’Deem Carey who reminds many scouts of former Bears running back Michael Bush. Bush often vultured touchdowns away from Forte and played extremely well in Forte’s absence whenever he was injured. Carey will probably fill a similar same role with the Bears this year that Bush did three years ago making Carey a must draft if you get Forte and could even give him some value as a flex play in deep leagues when Forte is healthy due to his likely role as the Bears’ goal line specialist.
Terrance West to Ben Tate Cleveland Browns
Ben Tate was nothing more than Arian Foster’s handcuff in Houston for years and now in Cleveland he is going to be the starter. Tate proved himself to be a solid running back in Houston but he also proved himself to be injury prone. The Browns used their third round pick in the 2014 draft to take Terrance West and he figures to be the backup to Tate this year. If you put yourself into a situation where you are relying on Ben Tate for points definitely get West as well and insure yourself against what is just about the inevitable occurrence that is Ben Tate missing time with an injury.
Ronnie Hillman to Montee Ball Denver Broncos
Montee Ball is all set to take over the starting role in Denver and he was durable all throughout his college career but no one really knows whether or not he still has the fumbling problems he had at the beginning of last year. In the event that Ball fumbles too much or blocks poorly or gets hurt or anything like that you will need his backup in order to keep getting points. Handcuffing someone to the relatively unproven Ball is crucial, but who should the handcuff be?
This backup running back situation is less clear cut than others although I believe it will be Ronnie Hillman who gets the first crack at the job if Ball does struggle or get hurt so make sure to scoop him up late in your drafts if you get Ball. CJ Anderson could also get a look at the job so keep an eye on him the first few weeks if you are a Ball owner. If Anderson emerges as the #2 back in Denver make the trade or waiver pickup neccesary to get him on your squad but until that happens keep Hillman as your handcuff to Ball.
Mason is another important handcuff because Zac Stacy is young and relatively unproven. If he gets hurt or has a sophomore slump Mason will be the guy getting the carries. With that being said I don’t believe this is going to be a situation where Stacy and Mason split carries so don’t start thinking the Rams are going to be like the Lions or the Chargers and have several fantasy relevant running backs playing at once. Mason will only have value if Stacy struggles or gets hurt but these scenarios could easily play out and that makes Mason a must draft if you get Stacy.
Lance Dubar to Demarco Murray Dallas Cowboys
Getting Lance Dunbar is mandatory if you get Demarco Murray. These have all been important handcuffs but this one is the most important. Demarco Murray is a star when he’s healthy but he’s one of the most injury prone players in football. Last year was the healthiest of his career and he missed two games. Getting his handcuff is crucial and Lance Dunbar is likely to be the #2 back in Dallas. Joseph Randle will also compete for the role although his 3 yards per carry last year will likely earn him the third spot on the depth chart.
Bernard Pierce to Ray Rice Baltimore Ravens
Ray Rice is coming off of the worst season of his career by far and he is likely going to be on a short leash next year. If Rice struggles again Bernard Pierce sould start to see touches regularly and running backs who get regular touches are a hot commodity in fantasy football. The possibility of Ray Rice’s suspension over personal conduct violations he earned over the offseason make this handcuff even more crucial as Pierce may be the leading back in Baltimore for the first few weeks of the season. Ray Rice is such a question mark at this point no one really knows what his availability and production are going to be next season and Bernard Pierce could reap the benefits of Rice’s unpredictability. You are best off avoiding Rice in your drafts this year but if you do end up with him make sure to snag Pierce as well.
I am only going to discuss those seven players because of their critical importance but those aren’t the only handcuffs that you should be considering. Here are twelve more handcuff options that are less important but still good ideas if you want to play it safe and insure yourself that an unfortunate injury won’t destroy your quest for a fantasy championship.
Starter Handcuff Team
Adrian Peterson Jerick McKinnon Vikings
Jamaal Charles Knile Davis Chiefs
LeSean McCoy Chris Polk Eagles
Marshawn Lynch Christine Michael Seahawks
Eddie Lacy James Starks Packers
Giovani Bernard Jeremy Hill Bengals
Frank Gore Carlos Hyde 49ers
Alfred Morris Roy Helu Redskins
Le’Veon Bell LeGarrette Blount Steelers
Bishop Sankey Shonn Greene Titans
Toby Gerhart Jordan Todman Jaguars
Rashad Jennings David Wilson Giants
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