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If you missed my article last week, I broke down the difference between a traditional handcuff and a scheme based/premium handcuff. Also, I highlighted a few premium handcuffs that you should consider on draft day. If you missed it, check it out here.. Baby, I’m more than just a handcuff. Today our focus moves towards traditional handcuffs. 

Why handcuffing?

  • Insurance on early round investment
  • Injury history/concerns 
  • Starting job in question/Competition
  • Contract dispute/Hold-Out

If your starting running back falls in to these four buckets, you need to know the price of your handcuff on draft day. You are not only buying the talent of the starter you draft, but also the coaching scheme and offensive philosophy of that particular team. Unfortunately, Our benches are not infinite and you can’t draft every handcuff. A good rule of thumb- You want to consider handcuffing, if you invest an early draft pick (rounds 1-5) OR draft a RB that has known injury concerns heading into the season.

A few examples from last season where handcuffs broke loose… 

  • Nick Chubb
    • Carlos Hyde started the season as the unquestioned lead dog but had efficiency concerns early. It wasn’t until Chubb’s week 4 explosion, 3 carries for over 100yards, that he earned more carries from the coaching staff. Eventually the Browns saw enough and shipped Hyde off to Jacksonville, paving the way for Chubb as the bell cow in CLE.
  • James Conner
    • Le’Veon Bell was in the heart of a holdout during draft season last year and many were still spending a first round pick on him. If they were smart, they drafted James Conner as Bells handcuff to hedge their bet on Le’Veon resolving his contract issues. We all know how this ended. Conner finished 2018 as RB7 and Bell never played a single snap. We have two new contract situations facing us this draft season.
  • Austin Ekeler
    • Ekeler falls into my scheme based/premium handcuff bucket that I wrote about last week.  He does crossover into the traditional handcuff bucket as well. Ekeler’s provided value all season because of the scheme and coaching philosophy. His value increased even more when Gordon missed multiple games towards the end of the season. Gordon still carries injury concerns and is in the middle of a hold out that is a threat to his availability to begin the season. 
  • Damien Williams
    • The situation with Kareem Hunt was unforeseen as he was released mid-season due to off-field issues, but Damien became the handcuff to own after Spencer Ware was moved in to starting duties following Hunts release. Quickly, Ware was sidelined with hamstring and shoulder injuries. The rest is history and now Damien Williams enters 2019 as the starting back in the high powered KC offense. 
  • James White/Sony Michel
    • The starting job in NE was murky to say the least to begin 2018. Jeremy Hill was the starter to begin the season, followed by Rex Burkhead. The Patriots invested a 1st round draft pick on former Georgia RB, Sony Michel, which should have been a hint for anyone investing in this backfield. Jeremy Hill tore his ACL in the first game of the season, Burkhead battled a variety of injuries and need up on the injured reserve list. This paved the way for the 1st rounder, Michel, to take over and for scheme based/premium handcuff James White to dominate in PPR formats. 

If you followed me last season, we were ahead on Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny, and even a few receiver handcuffs over the course of the season. Below is a list of handcuffs that should be considered on draft day…

Starter Traditional Handcuff Scheme Based/Premium Handcuff
Melvin Gordon  Justin Jackson Austin Ekeler
Ezekiel Elliott  Tony Pollard/Alred Morris Tony Pollard
LeVeon Bell Ty Montgomery Ty Montgomery
Alvin Kamara Latavius Murray Latavius Murray
James Conner Benny Snell Jr. Jaylen Samuels
Chris Carson  Rashaad Penny Rashaad Penny
Tevin Coleman Jerick Mckinnon Matt Breida
Mark Ingram  Gus Edwards Justice Hill
Joe Mixon Giovani Bernard Giovani Bernard
Sony Michel Damien Harris James White
Todd Gurley (injury history) Malcolm Brown Darrell Henderson
Davin Cook Alexander Mattison Alexander Mattison
Nick Chubb Kareem Hunt Kareem Hunt
Damien Williams Carlos Hyde Darwin Thompson
Kerryon Johnson CJ Anderson  
Devonta Freeman Ito Smith/Brian Hill  
Lamar Miller   Duke Johnson Jr.
Aaron Jones Dexter Williams Jamaal Williams
Josh Jacobs Doug Martin Jalen Richard
Kenyan Drake Kalen Ballage Kalen Ballage
LeSean McCoy Frank Gore/Devin Singletary Devin Singletary
Phillip Lindsay Royce Freeman  
David Johnson Chase Edmonds  
David Montgomery Mike Davis Tarik Cohen
Marlon Mack Jordan Wilkins Nyheim Hines

A savvy move, while building bench depth, is to play defense by drafting your league-mates handcuff. The handcuffs that are worth doing this with are usually high-upside guys, rookies, 2nd-3rd year guys that have a shot of overtaking the #1 spot, or guys playing behind an injury prone starter. 

Handcuff situations are dynamic and fluid, players status’ will change over the course of pre-season and the regular season. Make sure to follow along. Every week, I will cover any major/minor injury concerns and any potential breakout handcuffs that should be added before it’s too late. This week, my next article will cover backfield situations that already have injury concerns or shaky starting jobs. Stay tuned!

  1. Bax says:
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    Which handcuffs are you highest on from this list?

    • Nic Romero

      Nic Romero says:
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      Bax, thanks for the comment.

      It depends on who you draft early, but the big ones are the backs that are in the middle of hold outs, Ekeler/JJ and Tony Pollard. LAC handcuff are more expensive but I’ve been grabbing both even without owning Gordon with how that situations is looking at the moment. I’ve been grabbing Penny wherever I get Carson. I think Carson is the lead dog in that backfield, but he has a history of getting banged up here and there. Grabbing Penny is smart, but one of the more expensive handcuffs but at least you know you are locking up both backs in one of the highest rushing offenses. Damien Harris for Michel owners is a good one too with Michels problematic knee, you can still get Harris at a reasonable price. If you draft Gurley, locking up Brown is a free handcuff at Malcolms current ADP.

      my article that will be released in a couple of days, I break down key handcuff situations that are high priority handcuffs right now, given the current state of the backfield… injury and contract concerns, high priority premium handcuffs and potential unseating of the starting job/youth movement. keep your eyes peeled. thanks again.

  2. IV says:
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    Thanks for putting all the running backs and handcuffs into an easy to use table! Will definitely have this open in an excel sheet during my drafts.

    • Nic Romero

      Nic Romero says:
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      thanks for the feedback, IV. my article coming out tomorrow highlights the high priority handcuffs that you need to consider drafting on draft day. make sure to check it out.

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