Some of the top performing fantasy football players come with some warning signs. Handcuffed players are necessary if you want to win.
Whether you’ve had your fantasy football draft or not, you need to strategically plan your roster on a week-to-week basis. Fantasy football isn’t just about statistics and drafting the big named players.
You need to consider bye weeks, schedules, injuries, and suspensions; as well as a ton of other things. You’d be surprised how many fantasy owners don’t even look at some of things before or during the season which is why, I have decided to compile a handcuff list.
If you don’t know what a fantasy football handcuff is, Fantasy Sports Hero describes it as, “an NFL backup, almost always a running back, who you draft after having drafted the starter.” However, I have broken the mold. By no means is a handcuff only needed or required for a running back.
If your fantasy football league offers several bench positions, go ahead and handcuff positions other than running back; wide receiver, tight end, etc. I have identified the top five players who should be handcuffed this season.
Spoiler alert, I don’t just have running backs on this list! So, without further ado, let’s begin!
Next: 5. Maybe there is a Madden curse
5. Rob Gronkowski, TE New England Patriots
A couple of years ago, fantasy football owners would kill for a chance to have Rob Gronkowski in their starting lineup. However, this season, the Gronkowski craze has died down. I am not saying don’t draft him, I am just saying be cautious!
Gronkowski is a great tight end, there’s no denying that. But, his injury history is beyond obscene! Dating back to his college years, he has ripped apart his body since 2009 when he missed 13 college games after he suffered a back injury.
We all remember the 2013 knee injury that required him to miss eight games. Since then, it’s been an on and off battle with Gronkowski. Last season, fantasy owners were devastated to find out he wouldn’t play the first two games; and a random game in November.
The unfortunate thing is that you don’t want to pass up an opportunity to draft or start him. Therefore, you desperately need to handcuff him now. Dwayne Allen isn’t going to be drafted early out, so it’s in your best interest to grab him and store on your bench for just in case purposes. After all, you wouldn’t want to blow your season because of an injured tight end!
Next: 4. He could be a top 5 running back
4. Thomas Rawls, RB Seattle Seahawks
It’s always smart to handcuff your running backs, but when you’re running back has passed injuries it’s more of a need than a want. Thomas Rawls needs to be handcuffed; trust me, you’ll be sorry if he goes down.
Remember when Rawls was one of the most sought out running backs? He could get there, but he could also be a huge flop. As of now, he falls behind Eddie Lacy on the depth-chart. But, with an ongoing preseason battle, things in Seattle could change.
I suggest handcuffing Rawls with Lacy. Not only will this help you if Rawls gets the starting job, but with last season’s injury, it’s just hard to trust in him 100 percent.
Now, don’t get me wrong, when Rawls puts in work, he’s good for double-digit fantasy points. But, last season he fell short after being injured and was limited to only nine games. However, Rawls is expected to have a good role this season and should be considered an RB2/3 if you secure a handcuff.
Next: 3. He could be replaced by rookie
3. Mike Thomas, WR Los Angeles Rams
Injuries aren’t the only reason you need to handcuff players, and Mike Thomas is a great example. Thomas is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Thomas will be able to practice and continue playing the preseason, but once the season starts he won’t be able to suit up until October 1. Even then, Thomas may take the back seat to a pair of rookies recently drafted.
As of now, Thomas is listed behind Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds on the depth-chart. Now, this could be due to his suspension, or it could reflect talent. It makes sense to handcuff Thomas and Kupp.
One of two things may happen. Thomas comes back and gets an opportunity to prove himself, and you have him on your bench to rotate in. Or, Kupp gets more playing time, and you have him starting due to Thomas’ suspension and you can ride out the season with Kupp. Either way, the Seattle Seahawks receiver needs a backup on your roster.
Next: 2. This running back enters 2017 suspended
2. Doug Martin, RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oh, Doug Martin! Martin was suspended for four games after for the same reason as Williams. But, he fulfilled one game last year in Week 17, so will only miss the first three weeks and will return in Week 4.
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This leaves fantasy football owners in a tough situation. Since being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, Martin has only been healthy for two of those seasons. The catch is, during those seasons, he was a top ranked fantasy football running back.
There has been some controversy over whether he will have the starting role when he returns in Week 4, but his preseason performance suggests otherwise. He looks healthy, strong and determined. I am confident he will be in the starting lineup once he’s completed his suspension.
With that said, Martin needs to be handcuffed. I would suggest going with Jacquizz Rodgers because he falls behind Martin on the depth chart and would be a great alternative need be.
Next: 1. Not the No. 1 running back
1. Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys
Obviously, I couldn’t create this list without including Ezekiel Elliott. In case you missed it and haven’t heard about Elliott’s recent suspension, here’s a quick summary.
Elliott is suspended for six games after he allegedly physically abused his girlfriend. Although he was never charged with these crimes, the NFL is following through with his suspension due to their personal standard of conduct protocols. Elliott has an appeal scheduled for August 29, and only time will tell.
What does that mean for the running back that was projected to be the No. 1 fantasy football overall pick? He needs a handcuff. Just because he’ll miss almost half of the season doesn’t mean you give up on the talent.
Start with Darren McFadden. He will be able to get you through the first few weeks. Especially, because the Dallas Cowboys have created their game around Elliott; why wouldn’t you want his backup? I have spoken to a few fantasy owners who are looking elsewhere for an Elliott backup. But, in my opinion, McFadden is an acceptable handcuff for the first few weeks, and if anything should happen to Elliott going forward.
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