Handcuffed hands


Which RB handcuffs did their job and which ones were a waste of a roster spot?  A look at the results of the handcuff strategy for 2013



A popular strategy is to draft the backup RB’s of the RB’s you have selected earlier in the draft.  The thinking is if one of your valuable RB’s gets injured then his NFL team will start the backup.  You can simply bench your injured starting RB and promote that RB’s backup.  It’s like an insurance policy and is generally accepted as a smart strategy.  I’ve never been a believer in the RB handcuffing strategy, and hopefully this article will help convince you not to be either.


In our 2013-14 DobberFootball Fantasy Guide, I broke down the 2012-13 RB’s with a first round ADP, and the results were pretty conclusive:


There were seven first round RB’s selected

-3 played every game, so the handcuff was of no use

-2 were injured and the handcuff did not produce near enough fantasy points to be considered an adequate replacement

-1 was injured for a single game and the handcuff did well but had a fairly high ADP therefore not necessarily drafted as a handcuff

-1 was injured for six games and the handcuff performed very well


So how did the handcuff strategy work out in 2013-14?  Let’s have a look.



Toby Gerhart(Adrian Peterson)

ADP: 251, RB69


Adrian Peterson only missed one game.  Unfortunately Gerhart was also injured, therefore unable to fulfill his handcuff duties.  When Peterson was in the lineup Gerhart only exceeded 10 fantasy points once, in the game Peterson left at halftime, and exceeded 5 points four times.  He was the 69th RB selected, so was drafted as a handcuff only.


Handcuff Grade: 0 for 1 = F



Mike James(Doug Martin)

ADP: 326, RB84


Martin played in the first six games before going on IR.  James stepped in to fulfill his handcuff duties only to be felled after three games.  His fantasy numbers in the three games he started were 6, 17, and 4.  What appears to be one good handcuff game out of three is actually one out of nine since Martin needed a handcuff for all nine games he missed.  With Martin in the lineup James’ highest fantasy week was 5 points and that was the game in which Martin left in the third quarter with his injury.  As the 84th RB selected James was clearly only drafted as a handcuff.


Handcuff Grade: 1 for 9 = F



Ben Tate(Arian Foster)

ADP: 95, RB36


Fantasy GM’s didn’t learn their lesson after Tate wasn’t needed as a handcuff last year.  This year Foster played half the season before going on IR.  Enter Tate in the handcuff role who proceeded to put up fantasy numbers of 6, 12, 3, 28, 6 and 9 before missing week 15 with an injury.  Tate was dealing with a rib injury himself during his handcuff duties so putting up the numbers he did is admirable.  But from a purely fantasy perspective he had two good weeks and one OK week over the seven weeks he was needed.  When Foster played, Tate managed 10 points once and over 5 points five times, which includes week 7 when Foster left in the first quarter, and week 8 when Foster was active but left after the first offensive series.  That is far too little production for the 36th RB selected.


Handcuff Grade: 2.5 for 7 = C- (I’ll give Tate a half mark for getting 9 points but generally to cover for a first round RB as a fantasy owner I expect a minimum 10 points per game)



Knile Davis(Jamaal Charles)

ADP: 238, RB64


Charles led all running backs in fantasy points (Non-PPR) through week 16, not missing a game in the process.  Davis’ handcuff services were not required.  Davis managed to hit 10 fantasy points twice, in weeks 14 and 15.


Handcuff Grade: 0 for 0 = F



Fred Jackson(CJ Spiller)

ADP: 128, RB41


Spiller officially started 9 games but in reality it was a committee approach at running back in Buffalo.  Spiller missed one game and Jackson put up 11 points in his lone handcuff assignment. Overall Jackson had 11 more carries than Spiller.  Their yardage gained was almost even, but Jackson got 8 TD’s to Spiller’s 2.  Not only was Jackson successful as a handcuff but performed very well overall relative to his ADP.


Handcuff Grade: 1 for 1 = A



Christine Michael(Marshawn Lynch)

ADP: 177, RB56


Lynch started every game, and played well.  Not only was Michael not needed for handcuff duties he wasn’t even the number two man, Robert Turbin was.  Michael was only active in 3 games, managing 4 points in his best game.


Handcuff Grade: 0 for 0: F



Bernard Pierce(Ray Rice)

ADP: 122, RB40


Another returnee after not being required as a handcuff in 2012-13.  This year Pierce was drafted much higher than last, so despite him not being a valuable handcuff last year he was in much higher demand on fantasy draft day.  This season Rice played poorly all year, but started all but one game.  Pierce’s fantasy output in the handcuff role? 13 points.  A job well done, but it was only a one game job.  Overall Pierce cleared 10 points twice, the game Rice missed and the game in which Rice was injured.  Otherwise the most he managed was 6 points.  Not good enough for the 40th RB taken.


Handcuff Grade: 1 for 1 = A



Willis McGahee(Trent Richardson)

ADP: 308, RB81


This one’s a little strange since Richardson was traded mid-season.  But on fantasy draft day he was starting for the Browns and McGahee was his backup.  So those GM’s employing the handcuff strategy would have McGahee on their roster.  Richardson played all 15 weeks, so a handcuff was not required.  As a standalone RB McGahee cleared 10 points twice in his 12 games played. 


Handcuff Grade: 0 for 0 = F



Bryce Brown(LeSean McCoy)

ADP: 108, RB37


McCoy played, and played very well, in all fifteen games.  No handcuff needed.  Brown managed to hit 6 fantasy points twice in the first 14 games he played until busting out for 18 points in week 15.  So other than one game he had no fantasy value as a RB.  GM’s were not starting Brown on fantasy championship weekend unless they were completely out of options since Brown had done nothing up to that point.


Handcuff Grade: 0 for 0 = F



Roy Helu(Alfred Morris)

ADP: 185, RB59


Morris started all fifteen games, so no handcuff was needed.  Helu had two big weeks where he put up 14 and 23 fantasy points.  Otherwise he managed one game with 8 points and the other 12 were 5 or less.


Handcuff Grade: 0 for 0 = F



Out of 10 first round RB’s selected:


-5 played every game so their handcuffs were not needed.  Out of those 5 none held much if any fantasy value playing with the starters.


-3 missed a single game, in two cases the handcuff did their job and got at least 10 fantasy points.  The third was also injured so of no use as a handcuff.  In each case the handcuff RB provided very little fantasy value playing with the starters the other 14 games.


-2 missed multiple games and in both cases their handcuffs weren’t up to the task of filling in for more than a game or two.


Just two out of the ten first round RB handcuffs provided fantasy value to the teams who went with the strategy.  The eight owners who had handcuffs that were of no use wasted a draft pick – even if it was their last one – and wasted a spot on their bench during the season.  Even in the two cases where the handcuff was successful it was only for one game.  The rest of the time the handcuff was just taking up a bench spot.


So the results of the handcuff strategy were a little bit better than 2013-13, but still I think it’s clear that more often than not, handcuffing your RB is a waste of time.  Use your late round picks on players who have huge sleeper appeal or those who you think are poised for a breakout year.


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