We’ve reached the third installment of my preseason handcuff reports. If you missed them you can check them out here: Baby, I’m more than just a handcuff  +  Why do we Handcuff?

We are in the thick of redraft season and the “dress rehearsal” pre-season games are this week. This means we are only 2 preseason weeks away from regular season football. Can we get a “hell yeah?”

{Editor’s Note: Hell yeah!}

There are already a number of clear handcuff situations that need to be addressed heading into your draft day. Let’s jump right in, starting with the highest priority handcuffs…

ADP numbers in parentheses are from fantasypros.com consensus data, compiled from all of the top fantasy sites. 

LAC Austin Ekeler (73 OVR / R32) + Justin Jackson ( 162 OVR / RB54)

Melvin Gordon is prepared to sit out for the season, if the Chargers are unable to present a contract he deems worthy. Per multiple reports, both sides are still millions of dollars apart which has caused Gordons draft stock to plummet. I’ve seen him fall into the 3rd and 4th round, which is amazing value for a running back that was a top 5 RB draft pick before the holdout began. If you invest an early round pick on Gordon, it is critical that you grab at least one of these handcuffs. I broke down the usage of both backs last season with and without Gordon in the lineup, in my AFC West Fantasy Preview. Ekeler is a premium/scheme based handcuff that I’m targeting regardless of Gordons status, he provides value with and without Gordon in the lineup. Justin Jackson looks to be the traditional handcuff in this backfield, he’ll most likely serve as the early down back if Gordon were to holdout during the season. Currently, Rudy has Ekeler projected to finish the season as RB33 and Jackson to finish RB59. With Gordons contract situation at a standstill, I have drafted both Ekeler and Jackson without owning any shares of Gordon. They present great trade value if Gordon continues to hold out and starting RB upside in the middle-to-later rounds. Jackson is the cheaper buy but holds the least amount of value if Gordon were to return, going in the middle of the 13th round. Melvin does carry an injury history too, Gordon owners will want to grab his handcuffs if he were to return, and other owners drop Ekeler/Jackson to waivers. 

DAL Tony Pollard (170 OVR / RB56)

Ezekiel Elliott is the other top running back currently involved in a contract holdout. Everyone in the industry seems confident that these two sides will be able to come together before the seasons starts, which has Elliots ADP still in the first round, 4th OVR / RB4. If you invest a first round pick, you need to protect that investment by grabbing Pollard. Luckily for those that draft Elliot, Pollard is practically free going in the early 14th round. It is worth taking Pollard a round earlier to ensure you get your handcuff, many are taking a flyer on Pollard without owning shares of Zeke. In last weekends preseason bout against the Rams, Pollard showcased that he is prepared to take on starting duties. He averaged an impressive 8.4 yards per carry and found pay-dirt. He also held the majority of starting snaps with Dak Prescott on the field. If you missed it, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones even threw shade towards Zeke after Tonys performance. I still laugh every time I watch this one…

MIA Kalen Ballage ( 114 OVR / RB45 )

After the contract ‘cuffs, I believe Ballage is the most valuable handcuff. Shoot, at this point he is considered more than a handcuff. Kenyan Drake is sporting a walking boot because of a right foot injury. Head Coach Brian Flores “hopes” Drake is back by the season opener. Before Drake’s injury, reports out of MIA camp had Ballage stealing first teams reps already and rumors that he could overtake Drake as the RB1 in this backfield. The boot just boost Ballage’s value even more. Unfortunately for those of us that have been able to get Ballage in the ‘teen rounds, now have to pay a 7-9th round pick to secure him. At the same time Drake’s stock continues to tank, currently going 68th OVR. If Drake continues to be sidelined we might even see Ballage’s price surpass Drake. This would create tremendous value for Drake and I would be interested if he fell closer to the 10th round. I liked Ballage before the Drake injury, and now he is a handcuff that needs to be owned on draft day. Not to mention, Flores hails from New England where they are notorious for utilizing multiple backs, creating value for both Drake and Ballage in this offense. Here’s a nice Ballage CHV…

MIN Alexander Mattison (167 OVR / RB 56)

Dalvin Cook’s stock rise this season is due to a couple of reasons, a new offensive coordinator that is expected to run the ball and Cook entering the season presumably 100% healthy.  I’ve seen Cook sneak into the first round of some drafts this past week. If you’re going to invest a 1st or 2nd round pick on a guy that has yet to play a full NFL season then you need to draft his handcuff. Alexander Mattison has looked good this offseason and is poised to hold the #2 spot in this offense. Not only does Mattison fall into the injury handcuff bucket but he can fall into a scheme based/premium handcuff situation, in a potential run first offense under new OC, Kevin Stefanski. If the Vikings want to make sure Cook can last all season, then it is in their best interest to offload carries to their stud rookie back. Latavius Murray had plenty of play last season when Cook returned form injury. Murray is now down south in the big easy, paving the way for Mattison to find the field. He provides great value at his current price, at the end of the 13th round. Just here for the CHVs? Here you go…

LAR Malcolm Brown (248 OVR / RB67)   + Darrell Henderson ( 90 OVR / RB37)

One of the biggest handcuff discrepancies this draft season comes out of LA. We have a guy that is a rookie, unproven, ineffective so far this preseason, his role still in question, but he is getting drafted ahead of starting running backs and backups that have clear fantasy relevant roles. Word on the street is Gurley is good to go for the season, yes he has an arthritic knee which will probably rear its head towards the end of the season, but the Rams are expecting him to be a full go. The Rams are more likely to reduce his overall touches/snaps over the course of the season, but he will still serve as the unquestioned #1 in this backfield. Darrel Henderson, if he’s able to get on the field, will be in a limited role as a change of pace back/pass catching back in an offense with a lot of pass catchers on the field. Malcolm Brown is actually the traditional handcuff in this situation and is going undrafted at his current ADP. People are starving for a rookie running back and are forcing the situation with Darrell Henderson. Stay clear of him at this current ADP. If you can get him in the ‘teen rounds then, sure, take a flier on him, but having to draft him in the 7th round is non-sense. You are expecting a third string back to finish as a RB3, get outta here! Yes, Gurley has a known knee issue and you need to secure a handcuff if you decide to draft him. Brown is the guy to own as the early down and goaline replacement if Gurley misses time. Unless Henderson turns things around these next two preseason games, I’m going to plant my flag that Henderson will be a huge bust at his current ADP. Don’t do it!

SEA Rashaad Penny (82 OVR / RB34)

Chris Carson has been a value pick all draft season, even with his ADP creeping in the 4th round. Everything out of Seahawks camp points to Carson as the lead dog in this backfield. Carson out snapped Penny 15 to 4 when Russell Wilson and the starting offense were on the field in their most recent pre-season game. Thats nearly an 80-20 split. Two of Pennys snaps came when Carson was forced to leave the game because his shoe fell off. The snap count could have easily been 17 to 2. Penny received a lot of hype over the offseason around potentially taking over this backfield, but that just isn’t the case. Seahawks coaching staff talk about giving Carson more opportunities in the passing game, as well. Even if Penny gains more opportunities on the field because of snaps vacated from Mike Davis and Seattle running the ball A LOT, he looks like he will be playing second fiddle. Penny enters the handcuff conversation as a potential “premium/scheme based handcuff” if Seattle actually uses him like a James White in NE. Currently, I believe he falls in the traditional handcuff bucket. Chris Carson has a history of being banged up, missing multiple games his first two season in Seattle. There is value in drafting Penny as a handcuff to Carson and for the potential upside if the Seahawks get this backfield closer to a 60-40 split over the course of the season. You do have to pay a pretty…Penny, to do so. His ADP sits in the middle of the 6th and depending on your draft position you may have to grab him in the 5th to secure him on your roster. Yes, its a premium buy but we are getting a discount on Carson who finished 2018 as RB15. I’m buying both backs in an offense with the highest rushing rate from 2018. 

NE Damien Harris (148 OVR / RB52)

Damien Harris is a traditional handcuff to Sony Michel, with James White in the premium/scheme based handcuff category. Harris looks good this preseason, averaging 5.7 yards per carry against Tennessee in preseason action and going 80 yards on 14 carries, with 4 catches for 23 yards. Michel enters the season with long term concerns about his knee, but he is expected to be a full go to start the season. I’m protecting that investment by grabbing Harris in the 12th round. Harris is a handcuff that needs to be drafted on draft day. James White has stand along value in this offense and we’ve seen what he his is capable of doing if Michel were to miss time. 

NO Latavius Murray (100 OVR / RB36)

I have multiple articles covering Murray, most recently as of last week in my Baby, I’m More Than Just a Handcuff article, and in my NFC South Fantasy preview. Not much more to add. We can’t expect an identical opportunity share for Latavius Murray as Mark Ingram had in this offense. I believe Kamara will absorb some of those snaps too, but Murray has stand alone value in one of the top offenses in the league. New Orleans ranked 4th in highest rushing rate last season. A bonus handcuff sleeper for Kamara owners that don’t want to spend an 8th round pick on Murray, Devine Ozigbo. He is not a priority handcuff add right now, because most leagues benches aren’t deep enough to support drafting him. Any sign of Murray or Kamara getting banged up over the season then Ozigbo will be a hot waiver wire add. 


BAL Justice Hill (171 OVR / RB57)

Yes, Baltimore likes to run the ball but they haven’t supported a true “bell cow” back since Ray Rice. I think people forget that the Ravens have sported a headache RBBC over the past few seasons. It is difficult to rely on week-to-week production from a single back in this backfield and now you have to contend with Lamar Jackson, Mike Vick 2.0, stealing rushes. If you want cheap action into this backfield, Justice Hill is the way to go. His ADP continues to rise as national media continues to shine on him, but you can still get him cheap in the 14th round. Just watching his preseason film, you can see the juice in his legs and why everyone is getting excited about him. He’s definitely presenting his case to the coaching staff on why he should be on the field. Mark Ingram will still get his share of snaps. BAL invested money to bring him in from New Orleans and Gus Edwards will get his work too. I view Gus as the traditional handcuff to Mark Ingram. Hill has potential to fit as a premium/scheme based handcuff that needs to be drafted in all formats. 

BUF Devin Singletary (132 OVR / RB50)

Do we really trust the dinosaur, Frank Gore, and soon to be one LeSean McCoy to make it the whole 16 games for the Buffalo Bills? Plenty of roomers surrounding McCoy getting shipped out, but I can’t decipher if that’s just fantasy-twitter-world wishing this into existence. Regardless, Devin Singletary has looked spry this camp and is receiving a lot of hype from beat reporters in BUF. It is tough to project Singletary with enough snaps to be fantasy relevant while fighting both McCoy and Gore for time on the field. If he is able to make his way via a trade to McCoy or injury to either back, Devin presents a lot of upside at his current ADP in the 11th round. 

Good luck in your drafts, leave your comments and questions below. 


As always, you can find me on twitter






  1. Nick says:

    Hi Nic, it’s Nick ^^

    Here is my 1st draft :

    QB : Mayfield
    RB : Josh Jacobs / Aaron Jones
    WR : DVAdams/JujuSmith/ Dédé Westbrook
    TE : Engram
    FLEX : T.Cohen/ Courtland Sutton / Jaylen Samuels
    K: Lutz
    DEF : New Orleans
    +Bench / bye weeks: RB Duke Johnson – QB Wentz – TE NJoku – K Boswell – DEF PHI

    + 2 end-of-draft sleepers :
    RB: Justin Jackson LAC / WR Keesean Johnson ARI

    MB is happy with it , me too ^^

    C.Sutton and J.Samuels are considered “BUSTS”
    So i’m trying to trade for breakouts : Miles Sanders/Geronimo or Chris Carson/Sanu

    Last 2 sleepers can be replaced by other sleepers / handcuff players on the list after

    RBs : Malcolm Brown LAR / Justice HILL BAL / T.Pollard DAL / Mattison(Min)
    WRs : Albert Wilson MIA /David Moore (NR) SEA / Jalen Hurd (78) SF / Jakobi Meyers(NR) NE
    TE : Gesiki / Swaim JAX

    all of those have uspides ,,, or are trending up
    pick 2 or 3 , even 4 (i can drop Boswell / PHI if you say so)

    Your mate Jay says M.Brown but
    RB Pollard and Hill are getting some hype …
    WR Jakoby Meyers in NE as well, maybe Hurd
    AND now ,, THE CHACK , to backup Westbrook …

    Malcom Brown for Boswell K if it’s OK ? ASAP

    i’d like a WR to complete the team… who but over who?
    Keesean? is getting hyped TODAY !!

    • Nic Romero

      Nic Romero says:

      Sounds like you are getting decent advice from the rest of the boys…mines usually better…ha. i agree, there is no reason to roster a 2nd kicker, nor a second defense. those are two easy drops right there. I’m going Mattison and Hill for now. I would almost say Pollard but the recent news of what the Cowboys offered Zeke, leads me to believe they have to be somewhat close if it was “2nd highest RB in the league” kind of money.

      I’m really only interested in Brown if you owned Gurley because I dont think Brown has much value with Gurley “healthy.” if Gurley looks to break down early then go after him if it’s not too late, but we won’t know until a couple of games in.

      you’re three starting WRs are legit. if you feel the NEED to add another WR, i’m going David Moore for now (DK metcalf injured). Moore should be the #1 outside receiver in SEA.. a lot of moving pieces with NE and we can’t get too caught up in the preseason performance of Meyers, but he is an interesting watch list add.

      • Nic Romero

        Nic Romero says:

        A lot of folks are taking stabs at Albert Wilson in MIA, i guess someone has to catch the ball but rostering a MIA receiver doesn’t excite me.

    • Nic Romero

      Nic Romero says:

      Looks like D. Moore suffered a major shoulder injury so out on him now. A.Wilson if you’re set on adding a WR.

  2. Charles Stevens says:

    I find it interesting that you included Carson/Penny in this article but not Coleman/Breida. I would think it’s roughly the same situation. Kyle Shanahan can scheme RB success. He’s proven it time and time again. Look at these numbers from last year:

    Matt Breida 814 yards 5.3 ypc
    Raheem Mostert 261 yards 7.7 ypc
    Jeff Wilson Jr. 266 yards 4.0 ypc

    The dude literally schemed two bums into looking like quality NFL RBs with Nick Mullins at QB.

    So this year, Jimmy G is back and Tevin Coleman looks like the lead dog. Coleman had massive success in Shanahan’s system while in Atlanta. But Breida is only one injury away from stepping in again and doing exactly what he did last year(maybe better with Jimmy G instead of Mullins). And he should still get some work. This situation looks exactly like Carson/Penny to me.

    So why leave it out of your article?



    • Nic Romero

      Nic Romero says:

      Hi Chuck, thank you for the comment and the feedback. This is the 3rd installment of my handcuff articles. If you click the link in my opening line at the top of my article for the “Baby, i’m more than just a handcuff” article, i talk specifically about Matt Breida/SF backfield. I talk about similar points you just highlighted here. Also, I think Coleman/Breida could turn out to be 1a & 1b type situation with a more even snap share than Carson/Penny. I do not view SEA as an even split, given my points outlined above. I think Carson is the clear 1. SF could be closer to 60/40-50/50 split AND i think at best, SEA is closer to 70/30. I like both backfields though! good luck this season and thanks again.

  3. Slimbo says:

    hey boss, taking over a team in a dynasty league..which tem would u pick?

    #1 pick at draft
    Jay Ajayi
    Odell Beckham Jr.
    Sam Darnold
    Evan Engram
    Josh Gordon
    Frank Gore
    T.Y. Hilton
    Austin Hooper
    Kerryon Johnson
    LeSean McCoy
    Jordy Nelson
    Greg Olsen
    Jordan Reed
    Jalen Richard
    Matthew Stafford
    Golden Tate
    James White

    #2 pick at draft
    Peyton Barber
    Alfred Blue
    Kirk Cousins
    Ezekiel Elliott
    Adam Humphries
    Marvin Jones Jr
    George Kittle
    Eli Manning
    Donte Moncrief
    Aaron Rodgers
    Wendell Smallwood
    Willie Snead IV
    Kenny Stills
    Adam Thielen
    Ben Watson

    #3 pick at draft
    Le’Veon Bell
    Cameron Brate
    Trey Burton
    Tevin Coleman
    Gus Edwards
    Austin Ekeler
    Devonta Freeman
    Royce Freemam
    Marquise Goodwin
    DeAndre Hopkins
    Zay Jones
    Elijah McGuire
    Anthony Miller
    Tim Patrick
    Matt Ryan
    Michael Thomas
    Tyrell Williams
    Jameis Winston

    #11 pick at draft
    Todd Gurley II
    Andrew Luck
    Travis Kelce
    Robby Anderson
    Doug Baldwin
    Dalvin Cook
    Mike Davis
    Robert Foster
    Will Fuller V
    Derrick Henry
    Alshon Jeffery
    Duke Johnson Jr
    Jarvis Landry
    Tyler Lockett
    Isaiah McKenzie
    Dak Prescott
    Zach Zenner

    #12 pick at draft
    Josh Adams
    Keenan Allen
    C.J. Anderson
    Tom Brady
    Antonio Brown
    Randall Cobb
    Jack Doyle
    Chris Godwin
    Jared Goff
    DaeSean Hamilton
    Chris Herndon
    Jordan Howard
    Kareem Hunt
    Christian Kirk
    Dion Lewis
    Patrick Mahomes
    Kyle Rudolph
    Taywan Taylor

    • Nic Romero

      Nic Romero says:

      Whats up bro, thanks for the comment. a lot to choose from and dissect. I’ll try to keep it brief.

      Def not team 2. It’s between team 1, 3, and 5. 4 has some interesting pieces but for long term it’s between 1, 3, 5

      I think when you weigh in the draft pick you get, I’m leaning towards 3.

      Team 5 has the better QBs, but you can always find value with QBs. If it’s a two QB league then maybe i would consider #5 more. I’m going roster #3, DHop and MThomas combo is deadly, fairly deep at serviceable starting RBs that can impact this year. MRyan and Jameis both have a shot at being in the top 12 at the position this year. Final answer, 3.

      where were you leaning?

      • slimbo says:

        was in the same boat with 3, team 5 is weak but i was thinking about mahomes but not at with whats behind him


        • Nic Romero

          Nic Romero says:


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