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PF Daily: Fantasy Football Tutorial Series: Advanced

Handcuffing: When it works

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The phrase handcuffing sounds like something that may be more along the lines of 'fantasy' than fantasy football. No it really doesn't have anything to do with handcuffs and two bed posts. Instead the phrase handcuffing is referring to securing the real life backup to a player you selected for your fantasy roster. There are times when this is a wise move and others when it makes little to no sense. Let's look at some of those possibilities now.


1. Starter has history of durability issues and backup clearly defined: If you draft a player who is capable of great fantasy numbers and in a wonderful system but he has durability concerns, taking his real life backup could be a power move. There are two things here that must happen in order to make this work. The first is the backup player much be clearly defined as such in that role and he must be talented enough to step in and at least come close to the stats the starter puts up. If he is clearly less talented or if a few players are all competing for the touches, then handcuffing makes little to no sense.

Example of this as follows:

a) Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray, Eagles: Prior to last season, Murray missed eleven games over three seasons. The Eagles offensive line is not nearly as good as the Cowboys line was and Murray will take more punishment. Mathews is a capable back who would fill in nicely if called upon. Good mid round handcuff.

b) Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, Redskins: Both are young, capable quarterbacks and both can be picked up in value spots this year. Griffin III has durability questions and Cousins has had to fill in a ton in last couple of seasons. Having both would guaranteerantee nice production from a passing attack that should be stronger than last year.

2. Great system, good situation, battle for playing time: In this case it is the situation itself that is appealing to the owner. However the starting position is up for grabs and you do not know which player will emerge. If there are only two players competing for this job, it can make sense to target both players if you can get them for value. Both have the talent and ability to put up stats within this offence, then both have the upside to warrant a selection here. If there are more than two players fighting for playing time here or the situation is not that appealing with limited upside then this would not be the ideal spot to target a 'handcuffing'.

Example of this scenario below:

a) Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles. Every quarterback whom coach Chip Kelly has inserted into this system has had success. Both Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez are capable of putting up numbers in this offence.

b) C.J. Anderson and Montee Ball, Denver Broncos. Anderson looks like the starter here going into camp but Ball is a talented, explosive back who can win the job if he impressed the new coaching staff led by Gary Kubiak. If you can draft Anderson and get Ball later for value, this would be a good option to secure Broncos fantasy points.

3. Great system, experienced or promising backup quarterback: In deeper rosters, it can certainly make sense to use a third roster spot on your team for the backup quarterback to your starter. If you have a quarterback with a good backup quarterback or promising quarterback in behind him, a late round pick can be a shrewd move. You would only want to burn a pick within the last 15% of your draft though or otherwise you are hurting your depth in other spots. The good news is backup quarterbacks are rarely targeted in standard fantasy leagues so he should come cheap. Examples of good handcuffs below:

a). Brandon Weeden for Tony Romo in Dallas: Weeden is talented and the Cowboys situation is a great one. If you have Romo on roster, Weeden added late secures the Cowboys passing stats if injuries hit.

b) Matt Moore for Ryan Tannehill in Miami: Matt Moore has lots of experience and the Dolphins have the look of a pretty solid offensive attack.


1. Poor talent in behind starter

2. Poor offensive system and/or skilled position talent

3. Backup not clearly defined.


Handcuffing can work great if the backup / second player can be picked up for value. Do not overspend to get a handcuff. The reward is getting the backup at value. When used accordingly, this can help to secure points in fantasy football. Would you want a handcuff in a situation like the Browns or Jets? Likely not but if you can get a handcuff in an explosive offense then it makes a ton of sense to do so.