Running Backs: Handcuff Hierarchy

Much is made in the world of fantasy football about the need to “handcuff” players on your squad. A lot of owners feel the need to have that kind of “security blanket” player on their bench who can step into the shoes of their studs and play the role admirably, accumulating similar points. Consider those guys stunt doubles for your studs, if you will. Some back-ups will enter your draft as no more than handcuffs, but will could emerge over the season as every week starters. Regardless, with more and more NFL teams going the route of RBBC (Running Back By Committee, for those who live in a cave), it is helpful to draft solid back-ups for depth.

Bear in mind of course that Jonathan Stewart and Marion Barbers of the world will all get snatched up before the owners of Deangleo Williams and Felix Jones can scoop them up as back-ups.

Conversely, when you draft a Jason Snelling, Glen Coffee, or Willis McGahee too early as safety nets for your prized 1st round picks of Turner, Gore, and Rice, there is a certain amount of fear you let take over your draft. That is not to say those guys aren’t logical choices to take in the middle-late rounds of your draft. What I’m trying to say is, don’t let fear make you reach for those guys in the early rounds ahead of better players.

Taking a look at the ADP of some of these handcuffs (courtesy of the great job they do at, in a standard-scoring, 12-team league, you should be able to protect your early pick of Frank Gore and get Glen Coffee in round 14 (176th overall). Coffee went as high as the 10th round, so if you drafted Gore and you really want to protect him, it wouldn’t be crazy to draft him somewhere between rounds 11-14. To reach for Coffee earlier than the 10th round would be foolhardy if you’re passing on players like Darren Sproles, Chester Taylor, or Lawrence Maroney (he may not be great, but he’s a starter) all of whom I like more.
Then, there are back-up running backs that aren’t even worth drafting. I wouldn’t draft Kenneth Darby, who is behind S-Jax, for example.

Therefore, in drafting a handcuff, look at the following criteria:
1-Player Ability (Is the ‘cuff a #2 with high-upside to be a starting #2 or #3?)

2-Likelihood of Injury to Stud (Is the stud prone to injuries?)

3-Depth @ that Position on Team (Are there other players in the mix who might supplant your ‘cuff as the back-up?)

4.-How good is the offense? Are they a passing or a rushing team?

Given those criteria, here are my Tiers for Running Back Handcuffs for 2010 and their ADP (According to a standard-scoring, 12-team league. You can judge on your own how it fluctuates for your teams scoring structure):

Tier 1: Handcuffs Who Could Play Like #1’s
Reggie Bush NO (81st)
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG (83rd)
Fred Jackson BUF (89th) (In some drafts Jackson goes before Spiller. Take your pick)
Michael Bush OAK (97th)
Montario Hardesty CLE (101st)

Tier 2: Handcuffs With a Ton of Upside
Steve Slaton HOU (102nd)
Donald Brown IND (107th)
Darren Sproles SD (117th)
Chester Taylor (122nd)

Tier 3: Worth Drafting in Middle-Late Rounds
Tim Hightower ARI (125th)
Willis McGahee BAL (135th)
Kevin Smith DET (140th)
Leon Washington NYJ (149th)
Arian Foster HOU (151st)

Tier 4: Worth Drafting in Later Rounds as Back-Ups
Toby Gerhart MIN (161st)
Larry Johnson WAS (163rd)
Tashard Choice DAL (170th)
Javon Ringer TEN (NO ADP)

Tier 5: Only Draft if You Have the #1 or as a Flier
Glen Coffee SF (176th)
Jason Snelling ATL (NO ADP)
Mike Bell PHI (179th)
Jonathan Dwyer PITT (187th)
Correll Buckhalter DEN (188th)
Derrick Ward TB (196th)
Bernard Scott CIN (197th)
Rashad Jennings JAX (NO ADP)

I think Bradshaw supplants Jacobs as #1 and I feel like the same could happen for Donald Brown this year, but we’ll see. In the case of someone like Michael Bush, I like him more than McFadden at this point. Fred Jackson did a great job last year, so we’ll see if how much he loses to Spiller who is billed as #1, but is a rookie. The same can be said for the Harrison/Hardesty situation. I think Forte to bounce back this year, but I think Chester Taylor could be a good option in CHI-town.
Sproles is worth drafting in case Ryan Matthews has growing pains or gets hurt. Plus, he’ll be good in PPR methinks. Hightower is only worth drafting in PPR leagues or if you have Wells and not much else in depth.
Keep in mind that these rankings fluctuate depending on your league and scoring structure. In a Dynasty/Keeper league, guys like I will be coming back with a similar article involving wide receiver depth in a future article.

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7 Responses to “Running Backs: Handcuff Hierarchy”

  1. A C Slater says:

    Great Points Seth. I have the 8 th pick in my up comming Draft and am thinking about taking Steven Jackson. Who should I draft as the Handcuff Kenneth Darby or Chris Ogbonnaya? There are 16 rounds in my draft which round would I take one of these guys? Would round 11 be to high ?

  2. fantasy flukie says:

    Yes it would be too high. don’t draft a handcuff for Jackson. trust me on this one

  3. CHAZ says:

    Seth. I am nervous cause I am draft is next month. Can you rank the following handcuffs in the order from best to worst. Glen Coffee, Mike Bell, Corel Buckhalter,and Bernard Scott. Thx!

  4. Shasta McNasty says:

    Overall a good read, but this guy needs to do his homework. Leon Washington was traded from the Jets to the Seahawks months ago.

  5. A C Slater says:

    CHAZ what takes this Seth guy so long to answer. While I appreciate Fantasy Fluke’s help my question was directed towards Seth. Seth, Chaz and I are waiting eagerly for an answer. So don’t be a Screech Powers be a Jesse Spano and get back to us.

  6. CHAZ says:

    Slater, since Seth won’t help me either can you give me some input. I’m sweating bullets over here. Coffee, Bell, Buck, or Scott?

  7. Seth Pollock says:

    @Slater-If you read the article carefully, you’d see, I specifically mention the S-Jax situation (ie, Kenneth Darby) one in which NO handcuff option should be drafted, so Greg is correct there.

    I’d say you have more pressing matters with no true #1 RB on your keeper team amongst R.Bush, B. Jacobs, Forte, and J. Harrison. One (or more) of them should step up, but the question is who.

    @Chaz-You need more than fantasy football help since you wrote “I am draft is next month.” You write like Bizarro from Superman. However, to answer your question, I would only draft 1 of those guys: if you have the #1 from that team OR with a late round pick where all other good starting options are gone.

    You also have more important matters to worry about like whether or not Vincent Jackson will be playing in the beginning of the season (or even in the first 10 games!).

    @Shasta-You are correct. In regards to Mr. Washington, he COULD be a good option if Forsett doesn’t play well, but I don’t really trust the Seattle RB situation after Forsett and I’m not even that high on him.

    Hope I was helpful and, please, pass word about along to your friends!

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