The noob guide to the ‘handcuff’

You probably know what a handcuff is in real life. Hopefully you have never been in a pair. In Fantasy Football the term is used to indicate they are a backup to your starter. These players usually only have value for running backs who are in a solid offensive system. There is debate on how much value you should place on them. I like them for two reasons: to protect the value of a high round pick and to keep the backup away from falling into the hands of your opponents.

Not every Running Back is worthy of having a “handcuff”. In some situations, having multiple backs on the same team can be useful. These situations are called Running Back by committee (RBBC for short). It mostly depends on how big your league is and how much room on your roster you have.

LaSean McCoy, Eagles- Darren Sproles. Sproles comes over from the Saints where he was a pretty big part of the passing attack. Sproles could also see a few touches as he spells McCoy from time to time. Sproles might be drafted by an overzealous owner, so be prepared to take him sooner than later.

Jamaal Charles, Chiefs- Knile Davis. The Chiefs are not looking so hot this preseason. Last year, Knile Davis looked good in week 17 and in their first round playoff loss. He did break his leg. You probably won’t have to draft Davis high unless you are in a 12+ team league.

Adrian Pererson, Vikings- Matt Asiata. For the last 3-4 years, Toby Gerhart was the known handcuff to Peterson. This year Gerhart is trying to be the #1 back in Jacksonville. Asiata has kind of been anointed the #2 spot. Keep an eye on this situation as it could change. RB Joe Banyard has put up some good numbers in preseason. Rookie Jerick McKinnon probably needs a year of experience.

Matt Forte, Bears- Shaun Draughn. Michael Bush is no longer in Chicago. As a Bears fan, I still have no idea where Draughn came from. Draughn seemed to handle pass protection good and no other RB could take the #2 spot from him. I wouldn’t expect you would need to grab Draughn anywhere before round 10, depending on the depth of your league.

Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks- Robert Turbin. Christine Michael is another RB to watch out for. Both Turbin and Michael could get playing time throughout the season to keep Lynch fresh. For now, Turbin is the handcuff, but this is a situation you will want to monitor all season long.

Eddie Lacy, Pakers- James Starks. If Starks could ever stay healthy, Lacy might not have been a Packer. That said, he has his moments and is the #2 back. Plan on taking him around 8-10 though, he is a familiar name and can be “poached”.

Alfred Morris, Redskins- Roy Helu. Helu is actually a RBBC option. Especially in deeper leagues. Depending on their matchup, he might be a decent flex* start at times. You might have to grab Helu a little earlier because of this.

After the first 7 RBs, there really isn’t a strong need for handcuffs. There are a few RBBC you might consider playing at any given time.

Frank Gore, 49ers- Carlos Hyde. Frank Gore is probably not a back you will be taking in the first 2 rounds, but his backup, rookie Carlos Hyde is a younger, faster version of him. If you happen to get Gore in rounds 3-4, follow up with Hyde a round or two later. Hyde will probably get a few carries to take some of the load off of Gore and keep him fresh.

Saints- This is the definition of Running Back by committee. The #1 back is Pierre Thomas, but Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson will get their carries as well.

*a flex spot is usually a RB or WR. Some leagues have as many as 3 flex spots to start at any given time.

St. Louis- Zach Stacy is the clear #1 back, but Benny Cunningham and Rookie Trey Mason could steal some carries. Stacy has not carried the load for an entire season yet, so taking Cunningham is a good move as a handcuff or RBBC option.

Giovani Bernard, Bengals- Jeremy Hill. Bernard split time last year with Benjarvis Green-Ellis and both were pretty effective. They went out and drafted Jeremy Hill which is a younger version of Green-Ellis. If you get Bernard, feel free to go out and grab Hill early. He is a handcuff and a RBBC option.

Bills- CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson have been RBBC for the last few years. Both of them take turns being injured/ineffective at times. Buffalo’s offense has looked bad this preseason so you might not want to have either of these guys high on your list. 2nd year QB EJ Manual seems to be regressing.

Denver- Montee Ball will be overdrafted (taken way too early) and has yet to prove he can be the #1 RB. Personally, I think Ronnie Hillman is the better back (and will be ‘that guy’ who poaches him). They both can end up with playing time if Ball flounders or gets injured.

Reggie Bush, Lions- Joique Bell. Bell is more towards a RBBC as he will be the “short yardage” back and will spell Bush throughout the season. He can also spot start for Bush when he gets nicked up, which is bound to happen.

Patriots- Another team that runs a strict RBBC. Shane Vereen was the early favorite last year until he broke his wrist. He came back to take touches from often-fumbling RB Stevan Ridley. Both backs are capable of production, but both have their concerns as well.

San Diego- Ryan Mathews teetered on the edge of becoming a legitimate #1 RB last year. However, undersized scat back and Patriot refugee, Danny Woodhead stole a bunch of touches from him. Woodhead was actually the more productive back at times in 2013. In 2014, I would consider both of them valuable in San Diegos reborn offense. Mathews will still go before Woodhead, probably in the 4-6 round range in a 10-team league.

*a flex spot is usually a RB or WR. Some leagues have as many as 3 flex spots to start at any given time.


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