Fantasy Football Handcuffs 2019
What is a handcuff? A handcuff is a player who would ONLY be relevant were an injury to occur to the player in front of them on the depth chart. So this rules out projected timeshare/secondary players such as Jaylen Samuels, Rashaad Penny, Ronald Jones, Miles Sanders, Royce Freeman, Duke Johnson and Latavius Murray etc…as all these guys should be getting drafted already because they will already have a piece of the pie regardless of injury. When we think of handcuffs, we generally think of only running backs, but with Fantasy Football evolving and a plethora of leagues opening up, I will include two Tight Ends for those in TE Premium leagues and two Quarterbacks for those of you in Superflex leagues as well. Let’s get started!
Before we get started, lets quickly address the situations in Los Angeles and Dallas regarding their superstar running backs, Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliot. Both backs are currently holding out for new contracts and have yet to report to training camp. In Los Angeles, expect Austin Ekeler to run ahead of Justin Jackson for the time being. With a five-round difference in Average Draft Position (ADP) though, I would prefer Jackson in the 12th round as opposed to Ekeler in the 7th. In Dallas, the guy to own is Tony Pollard. Even before the Zeke holdout, there was a rumor that Pollard could be involved in the passing game in some aspect, and so far in Zeke’s absence, Pollard has drawn rave reviews. An effective back both on the ground and in the air in college, Pollard could step into an every-down role behind arguably the leagues best offensive line in the league, especially with the return of superstar center Travis Frederick. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has already stated that Pollard is capable of “carrying the load” in Zeke’s absence. With an ADP in the 13th round, Pollard is a no brainer for me, especially because I believe Zeke’s holdout is more likely to run into the regular season than Gordon’s.
However, Chase Edmonds is my number one handcuff for the 2019 season for holdout players. With the addition of new offensive-minded head coach Kliff Kingsbury and playmaking quarterback Kyler Murray, the upside is there for Arizona’s skill position players. David Johnson is, of course, entrenched as the workhorse back and should see a huge uptick in production because of the aforementioned reasons. Kingsbury has already stated that Johnson will be a big part of the receiving game after being under-utilized in that aspect last year. If Johnson were to go down, all of that volume would be given to Edmonds, considering that only TJ Logan is behind him on the depth chart. Edmonds boasted an 87% catch rate last year for the Cardinals hauling in 20 of 23 targets, showing that he can handle a three-down role if needed. An owner of a 6.3 Yards Per Carry (YPC) or higher in 3 out of his 4 seasons from his college days at Fordham, Edmonds has shown that he can be a successful runner. Stepping into a three-down role on a presumably ascending offense, Edmonds is a must draft if you are a Johnson owner and a savvy target in the last few rounds for non-Johnson owners as a potential lottery ticket if Johnson were to go down.
Vikings Running Back
Dalvin Cook has shown the fantasy world what he can do when he is on the field. The problem for Cook though is just that, staying on the field. Cook has played only 15 games in his first two seasons. In his absence last year, Latavius Murray blew it up and produced solid RB2 numbers. Murray is now a member of the Saints, leaving an opening for that backup Running Back role in 2019. Enter Alexander Mattison from Boise State. In his two years as a starter, he averaged 4.9 YPC, while running for a combined 29 touchdowns as well as 55 receptions. At 5’11 221 pounds, Mattison possesses three-down back potential and could even push for regular season carries regardless of Cook’s availability. With Cook’s lengthy injury history, 56.8% probability to get injured this season according to sports injury predictor to be exact, Mattison is a top target in the last rounds of your draft in the event that Cook goes down with an injury.
Jaguars Running Back
Leonard Fournette is another back who has missed time in the past, but unlike Cook, Fournette has missed time for non-injury related reasons with a history of being suspended. So a threat to miss time due to both injury and non-injury related reasons, Fournette’s handcuff is worth drafting. Ryquell Armstead is also a name to watch here, but for the time being, I am giving the edge to the veteran Blue, who handled 170 touches just last year. Blue is not an exciting prospect by any means, but he gets the job done when called upon. He is not going to be a league winner but could give you low-end RB2 numbers based on volume alone if Fournette were to miss time. The addition of Nick Foles should upgrade the entire Jacksonville offense as well as the upgrade from playing behind one of the leagues worst offensive lines in Houston to a much better ranked offensive line in Jacksonville according to our Offensive Line Rankings here at Gridiron Experts.
Packers Running Back
Mike McCarthy is out and Matt Lafleur is in, leaving Aaron Jones truthers everywhere rejoicing. McCarthy had a weird thing for the extremely average Jamaal Williams during his time in Green Bay. Williams proved to be nothing better than average and rarely gave you an impact play. It was clear Jones was the superior player yet McCarthy still gave carries to Williams. Lafleur decided to bring in one of his own guys in this year’s draft when he selected Notre Dame’s, Dexter Williams. With no ties to Jamaal, Lafleur could give Dexter every opportunity to leapfrog him on the depth chart and I am here to tell you that I believe he does just that. Dexter is the superior player to Jamaal, he is an explosive, one-cut runner with a burst score in the 86th percentile according to Player Profiler. Jamaal Williams, on the other hand, is an 11th percentile SPARQ athlete with a burst score in the 22nd percentile. There is no reason that Dexter can’t beat out Jamaal for the number two job behind Jones. If Jones were to go down, and Dexter steps into an every-down role in a high powered offense led by Aaron Rodgers, whewwwweeeee, we could be looking at a potential league winner here folks. Dexter is a last round lottery ticket who could pay off big time.
Superflex and Tight End Premium Handcuffs
Superflex and Tight End premium leagues are becoming more and more popular nowadays as commissioners try and find new ways to make leagues more interesting. For those not familiar, in Superflex leagues, owners can start a Quarterback in a flex spot, the “Superflex” and in Tight End Premium leagues, Tight Ends are awarded extra points per category than the other positions. These types of leagues make QB and TE more valuable than normal. So as a bonus, here are two Quarterback and two Tight End handcuffs that are worth drafting:
Eagles Tight End
Dallas Goedert’s talent is unquestioned. When on the field he dominated as a rookie and now with a full offseason to improve, camp reports out of Philadelphia have Goedert absolutely dominating practices. The only problem is the presence of superstar Tight End, Zach Ertz. While Goedert may have some stand-alone value in a few games here and there, for the most part, he will need an injury to Ertz to be a factor. If Ertz were to miss time for any reason, there is no doubt in my mind that Goedert would step in immediately as a top-five option. Especially in TE Premium leagues, that could be a huge swing in your teams favor if Goedert is sitting there on your bench when Ertz goes down.
Panthers Tight End
Greg Olsen has been a weapon for Cam Newton for years in Ron Rivera’s tight-end friendly system. Problem is that recently he has been quite injury prone, even mulling retirement this past off-season before opting to return for another year. Playing tight end in the NFL and having to block 300-pound lineman all while running routes, jumping and cutting, does not bode well if you have the history of lower-body injuries that Olsen has. I hate to say it, but I just don’t see Olsen playing a full 16, which leaves the athletic Ian Thomas to reap the benefits of playing tight end for the Carolina Panthers, a very fantasy-friendly position for the past few years. While not as dominant as Goedert, I could see Thomas return top ten value at the position of Olsen were to go down.
Michael Thomas. Alvin Kamara. Jared Cook. Trequan Smith. Ted Ginn Jr. Shall I keep going? The amount of weapons the New Orleans Saints have is any Quarterbacks dream come true. Add in the fact that they have one of the best offensive lines in the league and that makes a recipe for success for any Quarterback. Drew Brees is another year older, and while he has been quite durable throughout his career, you never know what ailments can pop up with age. A dual-threat quarterback with above-average arm talent, Teddy could thrive if Brees were to go down for some reason. He is absolutely worth a roster spot in all Superflex leagues as he would most likely become the number one waiver priority if Brees were to miss time. Be proactive rather than reactive and have him on your team already just in case that happens.
As I put the finishing touches on this article, breaking news out of Colts camp states that Andrew Luck is dealing with multiple injuries and is considered questionable for the start of the season. Jacoby Brissett is the Colts unquestioned backup and if Luck were to miss any time, he finds himself in a very favorable situation. Indianapolis has one of the best offensive lines in the league, an established run game with Marlon Mack and two new weapons in Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell. A dual-threat quarterback just like Bridgewater, Brissett should be drafted in all Superflex leagues and one could argue that he deserves a shot in deeper redraft leagues as well as a high end QB2 with upside if Luck were to miss any time.
Just missed the cut:
- TY Montgomery
- Darwin Thompson
- Jordan Scarlett
- Damien Harris