When plotting a fantasy draft strategy, risk aversion is always a prominent thought. You look to minimize risk in the early rounds by avoiding injury-prone players. You try to avoid guys who are looking at possible suspensions or continuously find themselves in front of some sort of disciplinary committee. You even take a deep-dive into coaching schemes to avoid players who may not fit into a new offense being implemented. And yet, after all of that, there is still push-back with regard to handcuffing? What gives?

For those of you who may be new to the fantasy game, handcuffing means you own multiple players from the same team who play the same position in an effort to minimize the damage to your roster should there be an untimely injury or possible benching. In most cases, it is a concept reserved for the running back position. Last season, if you drafted Le’Veon Bell, you handcuffed him to James Conner . It didn’t matter if he reported or not because, either way, you owned the starter. When it became obvious Bell was going to miss the entire season, you added Jaylen Samuels as a handcuff to protect yourself, should Conner get injured. It’s as simple as that.

Handcuffing can also be important at the quarterback position, especially if you play in a 2-QB or superflex format. We’re not talking about drafting Jacoby Brissett late if you picked Andrew Luck, although now in hindsight, you probably hoped we were. We’re talking about the situations like Denver, Miami, Washington and the New York Giants. Rookie quarterbacks like Drew Lock , Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins are expected to take over for the veteran incumbent at some point in the season. While in Miami, Drew Rosen will be competing with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job. If you find yourself in need of a late-round quarterback in 2-QB or superflex leagues and your only choices are Eli Manning or Joe Flacco , you may need to hold an extra roster spot open to grab his handcuff.

While the concept sounds safe and clearly minimizes your overall risk, there are many who don’t subscribe to the belief that handcuffing is necessary. You can list a variety of situations where it was necessary last season and they still find a way to poke holes in the theory.

Kareem Hunt was suspended last year and kicked off the Chiefs. If you handcuffed him to Spencer Ware , then you were covered. Once Ware was moved up the depth chart, your next move was to handcuff him to Damien Williams and if Ware got hurt, which he did, you still had the starting running back in an Andy Reid system. Hard to argue against the late-season and playoff performances of Williams, isn’t it?

If you were a handcuff-truther and owned Todd Gurley , you would have also owned Malcolm Brown . And when Brown got hurt, you would have picked up C.J. Anderson . Anyone want to argue against that production?

In 2018, handcuffing would have given you Tevin Coleman , and subsequently Ito Smith , when Devonta Freeman suffered his Week 1 injury. It would have given you T.J. Yeldon when Leonard Fournette was out, Nick Chubb when Carlos Hyde was traded, Austin Ekeler when Melvin Gordon missed time (and Justin Jackson when Ekeler was hurt), Latavius Murray in the absence of Dalvin Cook and even Gus Edwards when the Ravens had enough of Alex Collins . In each case, the handcuff was clear and the value of handcuffing was huge.

You have to look at this season in the exact same light with regard to handcuffing your backs. Injuries occur every single year and opting to leave yourself unprotected poses a tremendous risk. If you draft Todd Gurley , you better own Darrell Henderson. If you own Dalvin Cook , you should leave a late-round spot to grab Alexander Mattison. If Leonard Fournette is your guy, Ryquell Armstead better be in your running back stable.

There is one caveat here and that comes when discussing the draft cost of a running back. Many will tell you they won’t handcuff Henderson to Gurley due to the cost. Currently, Henderson’s ADP is around 88 which puts him in the eighth round. For some, that’s too high for a handcuff. Running backs like Chris Carson , Lamar Miller and Tevin Coleman have similar ADP numbers and each of those players are expected to start for their teams in Week 1. Leaving them available so you can grab an insurance policy for Gurley is bad business to them and while, the argument does hold water, we can counter with a cherry-pick of our own.

Over the last four seasons, if you drafted Devonta Freeman , you were still paying a relatively high cost for his handcuff Tevin Coleman . However, we were made fully aware that Kyle Shanahan was going to use Coleman in a complementary role which meant a mid-round pick wasn’t a terrible overpay. Given the fact that the Rams have already stated a need to limit Gurley’s touches this year due to his arthritic knee, Henderson seems to fall in that same category.

This isn’t to say that handcuffing is an absolute must and you will lose if you don’t. It’s more of a suggestion on how to minimize risk at a position everyone prioritizes each and every year. Can you take a risk and not draft any of your handcuffs? Absolutely. Maybe they will be available on waivers. But if you have the roster space and there are concerns regarding the starter, then the old “better safe than sorry” adage should be your mantra.

How about an early look at the 2019 RB Handcuff Grid...?


TeamPrimary RBChange of Pace3rd Down BackHandcuffIR/PUP/Susp.
Arizona CardinalsDavid Johnson T.J. Logan  Chase Edmonds  
Atlanta FalconsDevonta Freeman  Ito Smith Quadree Ollison/Brian Hill  
Baltimore RavensMark Ingram Gus Edwards Kenneth Dixon Gus Edwards  
Buffalo BillsLeSean McCoy Frank Gore T.J. Yeldon Frank Gore /Devin Singletary  
Carolina PanthersChristian McCaffrey Jordan Scarlett Jordan Scarlett 
Chicago BearsDavid MontgomeryTarik Cohen Tarik Cohen Mike Davis  
Cincinnati BengalsJoe Mixon  Giovani Bernard Trayveon Williams 
Cleveland BrownsNick Chubb  Duke Johnson Duke Johnson Kareem Hunt
Dallas CowboysEzekiel Elliott   Tony Pollard 
Denver BroncosRoyce Freeman Phillip Lindsay Phillip Lindsay Devontae Booker  
Detroit LionsKerryon Johnson C.J. Anderson Theo Riddick C.J. Anderson  
Green Bay PackersAaron Jones Jamaal Williams  Jamaal Williams  
Houston TexansLamar Miller   D'Onta Foreman  
Indianapolis ColtsMarlon Mack  Nyheim Hines Spencer Ware /Jordan Wilkins  
Jacksonville JaguarsLeonard Fournette Alfred Blue  Ryquell Armstead  
Kansas City ChiefsDamien Williams Carlos Hyde  Carlos Hyde /Darwin Thompson 
Los Angeles ChargersMelvin Gordon  Austin Ekeler Justin Jackson  
Los Angeles RamsTodd Gurley   Darrell Henderson 
Miami DolphinsKenyan Drake   Kalen Ballage  
Minnesota VikingsDalvin Cook   Alexander Mattison 
New England PatriotsSony Michel Rex Burkhead James White Damien Harris 
New Orleans SaintsAlvin Kamara Latavius Murray  Latavius Murray  
New York GiantsSaquon Barkley   Paul Perkins  
New York JetsLe'Veon Bell Bilal Powell  Bilal Powell  
Oakland RaidersJosh Jacobs  Jalen Richard Doug Martin /DeAndre Washington  
Philadelphia EaglesJordan Howard  Miles SandersMiles Sanders/Corey Clement  
Pittsburgh SteelersJames Conner  Jaylen Samuels Benny Snell 
San Francisco 49ersTevin Coleman Jerick McKinnon Matt Breida Jerick McKinnon  
Seattle SeahawksChris Carson  Rashaad Penny Rashaad Penny  
Tampa Bay BuccaneersPeyton Barber   Ronald Jones II 
Tennessee TitansDerrick Henry  Dion Lewis Dion Lewis  
Washington RedskinsAdrian Peterson Derrius Guice Chris Thompson Derrius Guice