We made it! We finally made it, it’s the heart of draft season and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. If you’re like me, you’ve been consuming every bit of FF content since the NFL Draft, and have participated in countless mock drafts. Shhh…don’t tell my girlfriend how many mock drafts I’ve completed. By now, you’ve tinkered around with different draft strategies and hopefully you landed on one that will lead you to the promise land. Before it’s too late, I want to make sure you are not forgetting a critical component that can set you up for a slam dunk on draft day– the handcuff.
As a new writer for Razzball.com my main focus will be providing you with a weekly RB handcuff report. I look forward to interacting with you all as the season progresses. Let me know if there is a topic or player you would like me to comment on. Today, we will focus on how handcuffs can impact your overall draft day strategy and give you a couple of the top RB handcuffs. Are you ready? Let’s do this!
Depending on your draft position handcuffing strategies can differ drastically. If you are lucky enough to get a top 5 pick or have a tier-1 elite level RB/WR fall to you listen up!
Picking at the top of the draft allows you to grab one of the ‘big-4’ running backs—true set it and forget it players. Antonio Brown falls in this category since he is consistently going in the top 5 of drafts and won’t be leaving your WR1 spot barring injury. Before highlighting specific handcuffs let me give you a different perspective on how you can approach your draft from this position keeping in mind you will be drafting your top tier players’ handcuff at the end of the draft.
If you draft Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliot, or David Johnson there is no question who you are locking in your RB1 spot every week. Why waste your time filling up your bench with multiple RB3/4+ that best case scenario finish as a RB2, if you’re lucky. Yes, please grab a solid RB2 in rounds 2-3, and a flier on one or two late round RBs that can potentially be a flex or RB2/3. Why waste draft capital and bench spots on multiple running backs that no-one in their right mind would start over any of the elite RBs or WRs. This is the luxury of having a top pick, you can sit here and smash away at other positions.
What I’ve experienced drafting in this top range is by the time it comes back to you for round 2 and 3 there are no sure-fire WR1’s. Only a couple of solid RB2’s (Jordan Howard, Joe Mixon, Kenyan Drake, Alex Collins, Jay Ajayi), low-end WR1’s and WR2’s with questionable WR1 upside. Grab your RB2 in this spot and then hit WR’s heavy. This is your time to build up WR trade capital for the season. Maybe pick a TE if you want a top tier TE. The reason you are comfortable with this strategy is because you are going to select your handcuff in the last couple of rounds. They are essentially free and are even going undrafted.
I know you’re asking– why would I put this much stock in an unproven player? SCHEME!!! The reason your elite level running back is going at the top of your drafts are not only because of elite talent but due to the system they are in. I could argue scheme is just as important as the running backs skill-set. Let me remind you of two situations where this reveals itself.
- 2016 Todd Gurley under Jeff Fisher (885yds, 3.2ypc, 6 TDs) RB19 versus 2017 Todd Gurley under Sean McVay (1,305yds, 4.7 ypc, 13TDs) RB1
- 2015 Deangelo Williams delivered while Le’veon Bell sat out two games due to suspension and missed the end of the season with a torn MCL. Williams delivered a 907yds, 4.5 ypc, 11TD stat-line after starting 10 games and finished RB4 on the season.
With your top pick you are buying in to the scheme and coaching tendency just as much as you are the name that sits atop draft boards. Same theory can be applied if you are drafting elite WRs. Coaching and scheme should give you the confidence in your handcuff.
Here is an example, someone in a league of mine, of how not to execute this strategy and gave me the burn to write this piece!
- RB1: Zeke (round 1)
- WR1: Mike Evans (round 2)
- RB2: Ajayi (round 3)
- Not a bad start but then it all fell apart. He drafted 7 additional RBs and only 4 additional WR’s and it’s a 2RB 3WR 1Flex Full-point PPR league. He was smart and picked Rod Smith, Zeke’s handcuff, but he has no depth at WR. He only has 1 to 2 bench WRs depending on how he plays his flex. He is putting a lot of pressure on his WRs hitting and avoiding injury.
My idea of proper roster construction in this format would be 4-5 RBs including your handcuff. Then building your WRs, TEs and even two QBs. Even if you miss on your 3rd or 4th RB you have given yourself a higher chance on hitting WRs which you can leverage for a trade during the season.
Here is a breakdown of handcuffs you should target for RBs that I see consistently going in the 1st round
* The only player I do not feel overly confident in with this strategy would be David Johnson because of the new coaching staff and sub par O-line. You could argue the same for Barkley but I’m not concerned because of what we witnessed in Minnesota with Pat Schumur and his use of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray.
** If you are selecting Alvin Kamara as your RB1, you will have to grab Ingram in the middle rounds since he is a proven commodity and finished as an RB1 last season. I am not high on drafting Kamara as my RB1 over the elite WR1 talent that is available at his current ADP of 1.06 in PPR. He will provide tremendous value the first couple of weeks but when Ingram returns it will be hard for Kamara to sustain his projections. Sean Payton has been quoted saying it would not be wise to overuse Kamara. Mark Ingram has looked good so far averaging 4.2 ypc on 14 carries this pre-season. Buyer beware.
Sean Payton on his RBs while Ingram is out: "The mistake would be that Alvin gets 15 more carries. That's not the direction we would expect to go. I don't think that's wise."
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) May 14, 2018
This strategy is for re-draft season long leagues and in my opinion can be applied to the top 10-12 RBs. If you are drafting in best ball or keeper/dynasty leagues you will want to take a different approach. Selecting handcuffs in these formats are still important as you want to hedge your bets on top picks.
To Handcuff, or not to handcuff…? Yes–yes is the answer to our question! Do you truly think that Ty Montgomery/Aaron Jones/Jamaal Williams will win you your league? Or anyone in the Jets or Lions backfield? Don’t do it, don’t waste your precious picks. Some say running-back-by-committee is the death of the handcuff but while we still have bell cow backs my handcuffs will be more than an item I pick up at the local novelty store!
I look forward to seeing your comments and questions. I’ll continue to highlight more handcuff options in future pieces. You can follow me on Twitter.
All stats and historical data are from FFToday