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Faceoff: Handcuffing Strategy

August 28th

Clayton Gray: Do you prefer your own handcuff or your opponent's late? What is the advantage in this strategy?

Chris Smith: It really depends on how durable the starting player is on your team or how much you like the backup of some other owner in your league. There are really so many variables here.

In a situation in which it looks like RB1a and RB1b, it makes sense to try and target both and if one goes down to injury you are golden. Especially if you can get both of them on the cheap. An example of this that could pay off this season is Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller of the Bills. Another must have handcuff this year is with Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. Both have value on their own and if either cannot play in any given week, the other is capable of a top-10 performance.

Other than the obvious handcuffs though, I tend to simply target players that I like. If I love Daniel Thomas in Miami and do not have Reggie Bush, that is not a problem and I will pick him up. Identify the players you love in most cases and you will be fine.

Andy Hicks: I have to agree with Chris. It depends on the player. If it's a highly productive player and there's a clear backup in place who also could be productive or has been proven in the past to be productive, then my own pick would get handcuffed. If there is a cluster or players that could step in, then taking a shot at the dark on one of them probably isn't going to be the best use of my draft pick. e.g. - If I'm drafting Aaron Rodgers, am I going to take Graham Harrell or BJ Coleman late? Probably not. If I'm drafting Maurice Jones-Drew though, then I look for Rashad Jennings at the right draft slot.

Similarly to Chris I won't take a handcuff to another player's roster for the sake of it, that player has to be worth taking in their own right eg Michael Bush may come onto my radar later in the draft and it wouldn't be to annoy the Matt Forte owner, it would be for my rosters benefit.

Sigmund Bloom: For the most part I would say handcuffing is foolish, except when the handcuff is cheap and the risk with the starter is high. Let's take the example of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Foster costs a first, and Tate an 8th/9th. Either Tate will be a waste of an 8th/9th because Foster stays healthy, or Foster will be a partial total bust of a first-round pick because of injuries. On the other hand, Mike Goodson is a wise handcuff to Darren McFadden. Goodson costs a 13th or later, and he has emerged as the primary backup to McFadden. McFadden is one of the least durable top backs in the league, so a selection of Goodson protects your first or second round investment.

Jeff Pasquino: This all depends on the depth of the waiver wire and free agency setup for the league. If this is a deeper league (like 12 teams, 20 roster spots) - something with 200+ players rostered - I want to secure my own handcuff because it will be doubly painful to lose my starter and not have his backup. That is to say, if he has a clear backup. If he doesn't I won't waste the pick and then I will just grab the depth RB with the best path to starting in front of him, which would likely be another team's backup. There are not 32 clear handcuffs around the league, but several workhorse RBs do have solid RBs behind them and they will be my targets late.

Maurile Tremblay: Handcuffing makes good sense. I won't reach down into a lower tier than the top RBs available just to grab a handcuff; but if the backup to one of my starters is part of the top tier on the board, I'll happily take him. Handcuffing is a cheap way to provide quality depth. To back up my ordinary fantasy starter up with another NFL starter is normally quite expensive. But handcuffing gives me an NFL starter for the price of an NFL backup. Granted, he's an NFL starter only when my ordinary starter is out -- but that's precisely when I need him.

Mark Wimer: This is my philosophy as well. In this era of concussion-sensitivity and also advanced medical imaging (MRI), teams are careful to preserve their key players against a possible playoff run - and they are more likely to have accurate information about injuries that require rest to heal (grade two MCL sprains, for example, or plantar fascia injuries in the foot). The days of "rubbing some dirt on it" or "toughing it out" are over, for the most part.

The advance of medical technology and heightened awareness of the dangers of repeat brain traumas have increased the likelihood that any given starter will be held out of multiple games during the course of a regular NFL season. If a handcuff can be had at reasonable cost (like the McFadden/Goodson example Bloom threw out earlier, or Randall Cobb to back up Greg Jennings/Jordy Nelson as another example), I'm going to pursue that course when available.