Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

The Running Back Handcuff Hedge - Who To Handcuff


This article was updated on 9/4 to account for the Jerick McKinnon and D'Onta Foreman injury updates.

We have learned over time that the running back position is without question the most volatile in fantasy football. This understanding is based upon the percentage of injuries versus the other skilled positions, NFL teams increasingly using split back committees creating opportunity share doubt, and also takes into account weekly fantasy scoring consistency. Along with this natural order of chaos, the general fantasy football playing public often assumes that handcuffing work horses with the next man up, on their primary back's own team depth chart, is the only viable strategy on draft day.

While the traditional (and extremely antiquated) handcuffing strategy can work in some unique situations around the NFL (detailed below), it is highly unreliable in most due to various factors such as the inexperience or ineptitude of the RB2 on most NFL teams depth charts. Unfortunately, the traditional handcuffing strategy has become a lazy form of oversimplified analysis by too many drafters, and analysts doling out fantasy advice to their unsuspecting patrons. We at RotoBaller are setting out to change that mindset, and rebrand the definition of what a running back handcuff could truly be for your fantasy football team!

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!

 

Redefining The Running Back "Handcuff"

By analyzing the current fantasy football preseason drafting trends via average ADP, and comparing them to the RotoBaller staff rankings in an attempt to unearth dark horse running back production upside, we can make some compelling cases to dispel the traditional handcuff strategy in favor of the tried and true "handcuff hedge" theory.

You no longer should have to look for a backup to your stud running back from the same NFL team when there are so many better upside options elsewhere around the league, that will be arguably be more productive in case of emergency, but will also have standalone value week to week on your fantasy football roster.

Like I did in the 2017 preseason, this article will once again break down the tiers of handcuff hedges based on the severity of player valuations, and the need to employ the strategy in each unique NFL team's running back situation. The first block will only include the instances where we advocate the traditional handcuffing strategy, where in some cases the average ADP delta is less than 50 draft slots, while tiers 1-3 will highlight the best uses of handcuff hedging.

The main factor to take into account is that we are trying to achieve the best possible draft capital value for our handcuff hedges (defined as an average ADP delta of 50 or more slots), while only recommending "handcuff hedges" that have some level of stand-alone roles as projected secondary, or pass catching, backs in their team's offense. This exercise is based around point per reception (PPR) scoring formats and the theory is best applied to those league types. It is also important to mention that we are not taking potential future injuries into account; since we cannot predict the future, we project production and viability for a 16 game sample size.

Remember that all of the "ideal handcuff hedge" running backs below were chosen because they will have a projected stand alone role in their team's offense, as a 3rd down pass-catching back or goal line specialist, at the very minimum. This also means they should have at the very least flex running back appeal every week, and will not be a rotting carcass waiting to be shipped back to the waiver wire after 2 weeks of action.

 

Running Backs That Can Be Traditionally Handcuffed

Primary Running Back Traditional Handcuff Average ADP Delta (Difference)
Alvin Kamara Mark Ingram 48*
Dalvin Cook Latavius Murray 133.8
Matt Breida * Alfred Morris * N/A *updated 9/4/18
Christian McCaffrey C.J. Anderson 100.4
Joe Mixon Giovani Bernard 112.4
Devonta Freeman Tevin Coleman  52.6
Jordan Howard Tarik Cohen  56
Kareem Hunt Spencer Ware 193.1

 

Tier 1 Running Back Handcuff Hedges

Primary Running Back Ideal Handcuff Hedge Average ADP Delta (Difference)
Todd Gurley Lamar Miller  50.4
Le'Veon Bell Mark Ingram  52.2
Ezekiel Elliott Dion Lewis  55.2
David Johnson Ronald Jones II  58
Saquon Barkley Rashaad Penny  61
Melvin Gordon Marshawn Lynch  57.4
Leonard Fournette Tevin Coleman  60.8
LeSean McCoy Duke Johnson 60

 

Tier 2 Running Back Handcuff Hedges

Primary Running Back Ideal Handcuff Hedge Average ADP Delta (Difference)
Kenyan Drake Isaiah Crowell 50
Derrick Henry Marlon Mack 52.2
Alex Collins Jamaal Williams 52
Jay Ajayi Chris Carson 60.2
Royce Freeman Aaron Jones 64.8
Lamar Miller Nick Chubb 62.6

 

Tier 3 Running Back Handcuff Hedges

Primary Running Back Ideal Handcuff Hedge Average ADP Delta (Difference)
Mark Ingram Ty Montgomery 62.8
Dion Lewis James White 65.8
Ronald Jones II Corey Clement 71.7
Rashaad Penny Giovani Bernard 68.2
Marshawn Lynch Peyton Barber 48.7*
Rex Burkhead Matt Breida 77
Chris Thompson Devontae Booker 82.7

* An allowance was made for both Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram (in the traditional handcuff tier), and  Marshawn Lynch/Peyton Barber (in the third tier of handcuff hedges), who came within ~2 ADP slots of the required average ADP delta of 50 or more slots

Even though there are inherently many deeply rooted personal biases regarding the running backs I will personally target heavily, and those that should I'll be avoiding at all costs during my own fantasy football drafts, it was still important to get just about every projected starter minus a few of the following detailed exceptions:

  • I had to cherry pick since there are still many question marks about in-season opportunity shares with players like Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson, who independently do not need a handcuff since they are already late round value picks. I also cannot guarantee you which of the three Browns running backs will be the true starter, so it's futile to play that guessing game. That trio of running backs unfortunately eliminates Nick Chubb from usefulness to this drafting strategy, while the only guaranteed thing that remains in Cleveland's stable is Duke Johnson's pass catching role both out of the backfield and slot receiver.
  • Isaiah Crowell is the alleged starter by name for the New York Jets as I write this article on August 21st, but I can almost guarantee that the veteran pass catching specialist, Bilal Powell, will end up outscoring Crowell in PPR formats in 2018 (assuming equal games played). Powell is a tremendous handcuff hedge candidate for literally any starting running back in the top 3 tiers, but his ADP is so depressed at 163.2 that he can't even crack the ideal handcuff hedge list through RB29!
  • Tarik Cohen has tremendous standalone upside in PPR formats at his ADP of 81.4, but I simply do not think he can be a true workhorse, filling in on the ground, if something were to happen to Jordan Howard. That being said, he is still the only true traditional handcuff option in PPR formats simply because even a marginal increase of 5-7 touches per game would raise him above flex appeal value. Once you hit that projectable RB2 level, you definitely qualify as an ideal handcuff hedge.

It obviously goes without saying that some of these players may not pan out as viable fantasy football contributors this year, as it happens every season, but this entire article is based on the actual player valuations that the masses have assigned to these running backs based on current average ADP.

While it was tempting to use rookies with upward mobility such as Sony Michel, Kerryon Johnson, Nyheim Hines and Kalen Ballage in this article, the reality is that as of the start of Week 3 in the NFL preseason, none are close to having a guaranteed role in their team's offense (although I personally do love the upside of Kerryon Johnson if Riddick or Blount get injured).

 

Honorable Mention Handcuff

D'Onta Foreman (HOU) *

* D'Onta Foreman has officially been placed on the PUP list and will miss the first 6 games of the 2018 season - updated 9/4/18  

Unquestionably the most talented back on the Texans, Foreman proved he was poised to be the lead dog in town until he unceremoniously ruptured his achilles tendon in Week 11 of the 2017 season. Although he is still questionable for Week 1 and is at risk of landing on the IR/PUP, if you are drafting this weekend (or until his health status is updated), D'onta Foreman is definitely worth a last round flyer in almost any format; especially best ball leagues. His current ADP in PPR leagues is 157.3 (RB59); the true definition of a dark horse, post-hype, fantasy football snoozer!

 

More Late-Round, Upside Plays

Some of my favorites, in no specific order:

 

Fantasy Fool's Gold Handcuff

Adrian Peterson (WAS) - Before AP signed a one year deal to run into the backs of the Redskins offensive linemen, show off his tight hips, fading breakaway speed, and injury prone 33.4 year old body, I wasn't really sure who was going to get the honor of "Mr. Do Not Draft in 2018". Last year was Jonathan Williams who was receiving unwarranted standard handcuff hype during the 2017 draft season, and boy oh boy did I get that must-avoid, fantasy fool's gold, super tout correct! Keep in mind that the former first round pick in fantasy hasn't had a productive season in the NFL since 2015, and only averaged a paltry 3.4 yards per carry behind an offensive line that was rated third in run blocking efficiency.

I'm sorry to cut this analysis short since I don't have all day (get it?), but I have already put this issue to bed a long time ago, via microphone, on RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio - live weekday mornings from 6-7 AM ET, and on-demand using the SiriusXM App. So instead of giving you the Cliff's Notes in this paragraph, I will provide you with a landslide of entertaining twitter commentary on the issue:

If you have any further questions about the "handcuff hedge" theory after reading this article, or anything relating to fantasy football, feel free to hit me up on twitter @RealTalkRaph or book a premium expert chat session at anytime. Our goal at RotoBaller.com is to help you get an edge on the competition, and increase your opportunity to win playing fantasy football in 2018.

More Draft Prep and Analysis




More Recent Articles

 

Platoon Watch: Part-Time Infielders Worth Rostering

It seems that platooning in major league baseball has become increasingly popular every year. This strategy benefits teams by protecting aging veterans from injury and by getting the most advantageous lineup versus a specifically-handed pitcher. While platooning is smart for major league clubs, it gives us fantasy managers headaches when our player rides the pine... Read More


Bases Loaded Podcast: Happy TGFBI Day! - TGFBI Strategy & Day 1 ADP Data

Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) isjoined by Sp Streamer and Zach Braff and they discuss all things happening in their TGFBI drafts. Subscribe to the Bases Loaded podcast, part of RotoBaller Radio's Podcast Network. Like and Subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be... Read More


2020 Outfield Rankings - H2H Points Leagues

We've been breaking down rankings for points leagues over the last couple of weeks in order to prepare fantasy owners for draft day. To check out previous analysis articles by position, click the following links: first base, second base, third base, shortstop, catcher, starting pitcher, relief pitcher. Outfield is obviously the deepest of all positions... Read More


ADP Cost Analysis - Luis Robert vs Kyle Tucker

With spring training games officially underway, excitement around the fantasy baseball season simultaneously hits a new peak. As batting orders begin to map out and pitching rotations start to take shape, a lot of movement happens on ADP lists. Prospects tend to gain the most helium around this time of year because we have a... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Josh Lindblom

Josh Lindblom began his professional baseball career at 21-years-old in the Dodgers’ minor league system more than a decade ago, but the pitcher was never able to gain a foothold in the major leagues. Over his career so far, Lindblom has thrown 147 major league innings to go along with 497.1 minor league innings, owning... Read More


Four More Sleeper Prospects for 2020 Redraft Leagues

MLB Spring Training is here. The sights and sounds of baseball are everywhere. That also means fantasy baseball season is just around the corner. And with that comes hundreds of minor league players with dreams of breaking into the major leagues during the coming season. Many will. But others will not. Last week, we took... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – Jo Adell

The most coveted type of player in fantasy baseball is the batter who can hit home runs, steal bases and hit for contact. Stolen bases are harder to find, as more big-league teams are opting to take a cautious approach to baserunning. Additionally, batting average has declined because hitters are striking out more often, as... Read More


ADP Cost Analysis - Gleyber Torres vs. Corey Seager

Fantasy baseball players acquire draft position through osmosis. The more drafts that take place, the larger sample we gain of how owners of all experience levels feel about someone. Granted, inexperienced players often rely on rankings from experts, which goes to form ADP into something resembling common rankings, but the outcome is unimpeachable, collected data... Read More


ADP Cost Analysis – Aaron Nola vs Lance Lynn

With fantasy baseball draft season in full swing, those of us who partake in this joyous game are now looking through as much draft data as possible in a bid to find players we love who have lower average draft positions (ADP) than we believe they should. All this to eke out as much draft... Read More


2020 Regression Candidates: Breakout Outfielders

Every season in MLB you can count on the fact that you will have breakout performances from players. Sometimes these breakout performances can be seen coming a mile away and sometimes they catch you entirely by surprise. Regardless of which type of breakout we see, you will almost always have to pay up for that... Read More


Bases Loaded Podcast - Quality Start Episode 1

Mike Kurland (@Mike_Kurland) and Matt Williams (@MattWi77iams) of the Turn Two Podcast come together for a new co-pod series called "Quality Start". This will be a joint effort and episodes will be found on Bases Loaded as well as the Turn Two Podcast. We are joined by Jorge Montanez (@Roto_Nino) as well for this one.... Read More


2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers - Adrian Houser

In life, there seem to be two kinds of people, the flashy and the boring. “Flashy” people like high-end materialistic things such as nice clothing or an expensive car. "Boring” people prefer the simpler things in life like spending time with their loved ones. This seems to be true when it comes to fantasy baseball,... Read More


Taking Out the Trash: Pitchers Who Should Junk Their Worst Pitch

Pitch mix changes can make or break a player’s season. That obviously goes for fantasy value as well as real-life. We've already seen how throwing an effective pitch more often could make a huge improvement a la Patrick Corbin. Sometimes pitchers just need to eliminate a pitch to see their numbers improve. Consider the following: Mitch... Read More


ADP Showdown – Trevor Story vs. Trea Turner

Pitchers and catchers have officially reported and position player workouts are getting underway, which means baseball season is officially upon us! Maybe you haven’t started prepping for your drafts, but fortunately for you, there have already been plenty of drafts, which means that fantasy players out there have already started dealing with tough draft position... Read More


Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball: Pitcher Statcast

Statcast metrics such as Barrels and Brls/BBE are great ways to evaluate a batter's performance, so it is only natural to assume that the metrics would be predictive for pitchers as well. As much as batters want to hit a Barrel every time, pitchers want to avoid them at all costs. Yet there is evidence... Read More


More Recent Articles

 

XFL Week 3 - Target Risers and Fallers

I'm afraid some folks out there won't like this because they never wanted the XFL to establish itself, but we're already at a point when we can't count the number of games players with the fingers of our hands! That's right, it's been three weeks and 12 games already. With three weeks already in the... Read More


Biggest Surprises of 2019 - Quarterback

The quarterback position in fantasy football is always one that either gets seriously overvalued, or seriously underrated. We all saw just how much of a difference maker someone like Lamar Jackson could be this year, or Patrick Mahomes last year. This year, we saw Mahomes get drafted extremely early, and while he was still good,... Read More


What Went Wrong with Odell Beckham Jr?

"What Went Wrong?" is a Rotoballer offseason series exploring fantasy players who underperformed their ADP. We'll explain why they fell below expectations and try to determine what it means for their value going forward. Finally free from the decrepit arm of Eli Manning and away from the torturous New York media, Odell Beckham Jr was... Read More


NFL Draft Combine Preview: Running Backs

What always seems to be the highlight for fantasy owners as preparations begin before the NFL Draft is the running back position. Owners clamor to get their hands on the new blood in the league as it has recently shown that it can pay off big time. We've seen the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Christian... Read More


RB Opportunity Share and Impact (AFC East & North): 2019 Review

We wrap up with our coverage of each of the eight NFL divisions, discussing the teams that are part of them and the running backs that were part of those teams in 2019. To present those teams and players I use a set of easy-to-read charts: treemaps. The graphics will hold all of the players... Read More


Dynasty Price Check - Adam Thielen

Many of you have already begun planning and building your 2020 rosters. This includes best ball owners who have assembled teams in that popular format. A number of owners in redraft leagues are inspecting the early rankings, while those of you who are involved in dynasty leagues have continued your process of relentless roster evaluation. As... Read More


XFL DFS Lineup Picks For Week 3: The Checkdown

Check out this week's XFL fantasy football preview including game breakdowns, player analysis, DFS lineup picks and more for week three of the 2020 XFL season. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune... Read More


D.J. Chark - Dynasty Price Check

Are you ready for some football? If you are in a dynasty fantasy football league, you most certainly are! The time between the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft is a prime opportunity for hardcore owners to evaluate their current team and prepare for their upcoming rookie drafts. We've already looked at young players like Courtland... Read More


RB Opportunity Share and Impact (NFC South & West): 2019 Review

We roll on with coverage of each of the eight NFL divisions, discussing the teams that are part of them and the running backs that were part of those teams in 2019. To present those teams and players I use a set of easy-to-read charts: treemaps. The graphics will hold all of the players of... Read More


Biggest ADP Surprises: Early Fantasy Football Mock Draft

RotoBaller fantasy football analysts Pierre Camus and Chris Mangano review the draft board from RotoBaller's 2020 Way Too Early Mock fantasy football draft. They look at early ADP, reaches, values, and surprises throughout the first 10 rounds. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us... Read More


XFL Week 2 - Quarterback Risers and Fallers

We previously looked at target and opportunity risers and fallers, based on the first two weeks of XFL data. Now, it's time to evaluate the quarterbacks, for better or worse. There are few known commodities, even among seasoned NFL fans, at the quarterback position in this league. Relative unknowns like Phillip Walker and Jordan Ta'amu... Read More


XFL Week 2 - Opportunity Risers and Fallers

We previously looked at target risers and fallers based on the first two weeks of XFL data. The XFL has made it past Week 2 and now we have eight games of data to analyze. No small feat, as nobody knew where this league was going just a few weeks ago. But here we are,... Read More