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To HANDCUFF or NOT TO HANDCUFF - 2020 Fantasy Football

Without fail, every year one of the most heated debates in Fantasy Football is whether we should handcuff our Top RB's or not. You'll likely hear plenty of pros and cons with the majority of the Fantasy world telling you that Handcuffing is a "waste". But we here at ADP like to examine both sides of the argument and that's why today we will go over this strategy and ultimately give you our take on the matter for the 2020 Fantasy Football season!

Now maybe you're new to Fantasy Football and are wondering what in the hell is handcuffing to begin with? Well no worries, it's actually a pretty simple idea! In essence when you "handcuff" you are drafting the backup of a premiere starting RB that's on your team so that in case of injury you can safely plug in the "next man up" and theoretically be fine for however long your initial RB is out for. A couple of quick notes before we move on though: Not every starting RB has a viable handcuff (that is to say there might be a big drop-off in talent and the production you get from the backup might not be all that great) and when you do "handcuff" this is done in later rounds because you are after all drafting a backup. Great, now with that out of the way let's look at the main pros and cons for this strategy along with some examples!


Below are the most common cons you will hear from those that oppose handcuffing:

  • When you draft a handcuff you are essentially limiting your bench size by 1 and this somewhat limits you during the waiver wire pickup period

  • Depending on the value of the handcuff the cost associated with drafting him might be too high and you could instead get another quality player

  • There is 0% guarantee that your handcuff will even be utilized as you are essentially betting on an injury occurring and even if so the playing time might be really short


Below are the most common pros you will hear from those that support handcuffing:

  • Having your respective handcuff guarantees you won't have to scour the waiver wire and panic if your top RB gets hurt

  • By handcuffing you greatly lessen the impact of a premium RB injury and your weekly scoring won't take as huge of a hit as if you just tried to replace that production through waivers

  • Most handcuffs can be had in the double digit rounds so the cost isn't that big of a concern

Our Take

After taking the above points into account and looking at examples from last year we actually have a very STRONG opinion when it comes to handcuffing. And that opinion without any doubt is that YOU SHOULD handcuff! But let's take a deeper look into why because maybe you still thinks the cons outweigh the pros.

First and foremost let's establish that there are only SEVERAL RB's every year with viable backups that are worth handcuffing. For example heading into 2020 there are about 5 upper echelon handcuffs worth investing in, they include:

Alexander Mattison (Vikings) - 10th Round ADP

Tony Pollard (Cowboys) - 11th Round ADP

Latavius Murray (Saints) - 10th Round ADP

Kareem Hunt (Browns) - 7th Round ADP

Chase Edmonds (Cardinals) - 15th Round ADP

And in reality the chances are you will NOT draft more than one handcuff because you likely won't be able to draft more than one of the premiere RB 1's that the handcuffs are associated with. This essentially means that you are "limiting" your bench by literally the most minimal amount of a SINGLE spot. And when you think about it considering how many moves we usually make during the season and the INCREDIBLY SMALL retention rate of the late round picks we usually draft, 1 bench spot acting as the ULTIMATE insurance policy is 100% worth it!

Now yes, there is no guarantee that this handcuff will even see a viable opportunity for the entire year, BUT if you can even get to use your drafted backup ONCE then that is a BIG DEAL! The reason we say that is because how many times have you found yourself in the situation of BARELY missing out on the playoffs but would have gotten in if you had just one more win? Well, imagine if that one loss was due to your top RB being hurt, however by having his backup this becomes a completely different situation!

As far as the concern that drafting your handcuff might be very costly we have to examine ADP's which honestly change every year. But if we take the above listed RB's as an example you see that the majority of those guys have ADP's in the double digit rounds (Note ADP's per FantasyPros, 1/2 PPR Scoring, and 12-Team Leagues). And if we think about the typical strategy in the double digit rounds of Fantasy Drafts it is to target players with high ceilings. Well guess what, if an injury occurs all of the above listed players immediately become Top 10 RB's! That's the definition of a high ceiling.

If you're still not convinced let's take a look back at 2019 and look how IMPORTANT handcuffs actually were as is the case EVERY SINGLE YEAR! The poster child of a successful handcuff last year had to be Austin Ekeler who finished the year as a Top 10 RB! Now sure, the situation with Ekeler was different as he got playing time because Melvin Gordon was holding out, but the reality is that this is becoming the new norm and even happened in 2018 with James Conner during the year-long Le'Veon Bell holdout, and will likely continue to happen more and more often going forward. But maybe you're not satisfied with this so let's look at an actual injury related handcuff situation with Latavius Murray and Alvin Kamara. In the two weeks that Kamara didn't play (Weeks 7 & 8), Murray had over 100 combined yards and 2 TD's! Folks those are Kamara like numbers and in fact week-winning type of numbers!

With all of these points taken into consideration we again advise you, go ahead and insure yourself for the upcoming fantasy season. You never know what will happen with injuries, holdouts, or suspensions. Lessen the risk that might be associated with your top RB selection by having that viable handcuff and you'll thank us going forward!

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