Author: Steven Van Tassell
Surely everyone is aware of the terminology and know that a handcuff is a backup player who will likely take over for a team’s starter in the event of an injury. In addition to “regular” injuries that happen all of the time to NFL players, Dynasty Owners in 2020 also have to worry about players testing positive for COVID-19 and going on the new Reverse/COVID-19 list. This new list is defined as being for players who have tested positive, or players who are quarantining because they came into close contact with someone who tested positive.
One of my fellow Beta Users (Nick – Quaranteam) suggested that I look at whether Dynasty Owners were valuing handcuffs for their star players enough in 2020 due to COVID-19. The possibility is out there that some star players will contract the contagious disease and have to sit out games at some point this season. It’s not a minimum of three games as previously expected, but more flexible than that as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk explains in the following article: https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2020/07/18/clarifying-the-2020-injured-reserve-covid-19-rules/.
Since 12-team leagues are new to Dynasty Owner for 2020, we don’t have historical data to see whether handcuffs are being utilized more or less this season than last year, but we can still look at what’s going on this year. This analysis of handcuffs is based on a review of 43 Dynasty Owner drafts for the 2020 season. All of the drafts were conducted between June 14th and July 26th. There were 5 drafts by Beta users, 15 For the Love of the Game drafts by players only paying the $29 entry fee, 11 drafts in the $600 prize pool leagues ($50 entry fee per team) and 12 drafts in the $1,200 prize pool leagues ($100 entry fee per team).
For the purposes of this analysis, I’m looking at situations where there is a clear starter (Lamar Jackson, Christian McCaffrey, etc.) and then a backup who will likely only play if their team is winning or losing by a lot or if the starter gets hurt or is placed on the COVID-19 list. I purposely left out players on teams and positions in which the starting position is up for grabs, which is more of a hedging your bet on a certain position. Examples of that include starting QB for the
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers as it’s reasonable to think either Justin Herbert or Tyrod Taylor could be the starter in Week 1, the Ravens’ RB situation with Mark Ingram and rookie J.K. Dobbins or the Rams who have a quartet of RBs (Cam Akers, Darrel Henderson, Malcolm Brown and John Kelly) who coach Sean McVay has identified as “NFL-legitimate starting-caliber backs”. There are other examples but that should give everyone an idea of what qualified as a handcuff versus hedging your bets.
All stats are based on the Standard Dynasty Owner scoring system as outlined in the updated Dynasty Owner Constitution. Standard Dynasty Owner scoring gives you .1 points for every yard rushing or receiving, .1 point for every 2 yards passing, 1 point per reception, 6 points for a rushing, receiving or passing touchdown and 2 points for a successful 2-point conversion (rushing, receiving, or passing). Interceptions or fumbles lost cost you 3 points, while a fumble that is recovered by the player’s team is a loss of only 1 point. Bonus points are available for 100-199 yards rushing (2 points), 200 yards rushing or receiving (6 points), 300-399 yards passing (1 point) and 400 yards passing (4 points). There is also a 3 point bonus for clutch scoring, which is a score that results in a lead change in the final two minutes of the 4th quarter or overtime. Kickoff and punt return touchdowns are worth 6 points for the player and kickoff and punt returns are worth 1 point for every 40 yards.
Handcuffing by Position and League Type
Overall, there were 300 identified handcuff situations over the 43 leagues analyzed, or an average of 6.98 per league. Teams could draft more than one handcuff for their players, and we’ve identified several interesting ones later on in this article. Since we are all in 12-team leagues now, that means only about half of the teams in each league drafted a handcuff for one of their players. There are multiple situations in which a team drafted more than one handcuff, so the average number of teams drafting a handcuff is lower than the number of situations.
By league type, there were more handcuffs per league in the $100 entry fee leagues (8.00 per league) than any other type by a significant margin (6.64 for $50 entry fee leagues, 6.60 for the $29 Love of the Game leagues and a low of 6.40 for the five Beta user leagues). The more cash people have invested in their Dynasty Owner team, the more likely they are to handcuff – very interesting. For newer players, Beta users are free for life and don’t pay anything in return for spending last year and this off-season spotting bugs in mock drafts and on the website and app.
By position, it’s not surprising that more people are drafting a handcuff at the running back position than any other position (141 in total, or 47% of all handcuffs are RBs). There were 104 WR handcuffs, or about one-third (35%). There were 38 handcuff QBs, or 13% of the 300 handcuffs, while only 17 handcuffs (6%) were TEs.
In terms of players, 74 individual star players were handcuffed with a lesser player. Thirty-one WRs were handcuffed, or over two-fifths (42%) of players handcuffed were WRs, followed by 19 RBs (26%), 16 QBs (22%) and a mere 8 TEs (11%). Let’s find out more about who was handcuffed most frequently and wasn’t frequently enough.
Running While Handcuffed
The position in which most fantasy football players utilize handcuffs is usually running backs based on their higher rate of injury and the current preference of many NFL coaches for running back by committee (RBBC). Dynasty Owner is no different in this regard as nearly half of the handcuffs in the early drafts were RB handcuffs with 19 starting RBs being handcuffed by 37 backups. Remember that we are looking only at handcuffs and not situations like those identified earlier where the starting job is “up for grabs”.
So, which RB was handcuffed the most in Dynasty Owner drafts? Was it the RB with the highest salary in Dynasty Owner, Ezekiel Elliott at $15 million in salary cap room, or was it one of the top two RBs drafted in Christian McCaffrey (ADP 2.6) or Saquon Barkley (ADP 3.8)?
The answer is: None of those guys. There was a tie as the most handcuffed RBs were in fact Dalvin Cook of the Vikings and James Conner of the Steelers, both of whom were handcuffed in 15 Dynasty Owner drafts. While both were handcuffed the same number of times, the most common handcuff was picking Conner and his $790,381 one-year contract along with Jaylen Samuels and his equally affordable $679,517 salary for the next two years.
Dalvin Cook and his threatened training camp holdout was big news back in early June when he announced it (Spoiler alert: He didn’t hold out and reported to training camp on time) and likely caused many of his Dynasty Owners to handcuff him with either Alexander Mattison (8 times) or Mike Boone (6 times). There was at least one team (Wasabi) who handcuffed Cook with both of those guys.
There was also one team (The Team) who handcuffed Cook, who they drafted with the #12 overall pick, with fullback C.J. Ham and his 4-year, $12 million salary. Ham was drafted with the first pick in the 20th round by The Team in their For the Love of the Game league. This wasn’t a wise pick for The Team since Mike Boone was still available if they wanted a handcuff. Ham is so lightly regarded by other Dynasty Owners that no other team has Ham on their roster. Probably because he’s a blocking fullback and had just 37.1 Dynasty Owner fantasy points last year.
Two players on one-year contracts were also handcuffed nearly as often (14 times each). Kenyan Drake and his $8.483 million contract was handcuffed equally by Chase Edmonds and rookie Eno Benjamin. Joe Mixon was also handcuffed 14 times, but was handcuffed by four separate players (Giovani Bernard – 7 times; Trayveon Williams – 4 times; Rodney Anderson – 2 times; Jacques Patrick – 1 time). The four handcuff players were the most for any single starter. Congratulations!?!
Handcuffing the Top Picks at QB
In contrast, the most obvious handcuff at QB is drafting Robert Griffin III to pair with Lamar Jackson, who many Dynasty Owners have been taking with the #1 pick (ADP 1.3). Dynasty Owners who have chosen Lamar are handcuffing him with RGIII more than any other QB combo with 7 Dynasty Owners having done this. Interestingly, even though there were 15 For the Love of the Game drafts analyzed, none of the Lamar-RGIII handcuffs occurred in one of those leagues. For those Dynasty Owners who have Lamar and $2 million in salary cap room, RGIII is currently available in 50% of Dynasty Owner leagues.
That’s three more handcuffs than the trio of starting QBs who are next most likely to be handcuffs (Patrick Mahomes, Cam Newton and Carson Wentz). Mahomes is has the second best ADP (1.8) with 4 handcuffs (3 times by Chad Henne and 1 time by Jordan Ta’amu). All three of the potential Kansas City backup QBs are highly available for Mahomes’ owners who have salary cap room to protect their investment in the $450 million Super Bowl MVP. Ta’amu is owned by the highest percentage (11%), followed by Henne at 7% and Matt Moore at only 2% ownership.
Despite not being signed by the Patriots until late June and only being selected at his new salary in the July drafts, Cam Newton was also handcuffed four times by backups in New England. Three Dynasty Owners chose Jarrett Stidham as Newton’s backup, while one chose Brian Hoyer. Even though Coach Bill Belichick has said that Newton won’t be handed the starting job, he’s the starter in New England barring an injury. For Newton’s Dynasty Owners who didn’t handcuff in the draft, but are thinking about it doing it now, sorry to inform you but Stidham and his $788,423 contract isn’t available in any Dynasty Owner leagues right now.
Finally, we have four Dynasty Owners who handcuffed Carson Wentz and his $32 million annual salary with rookie QB and 2nd round draft pick Jalen Hurts. Even though only a few Wentz owners chose Hurts as well, Hurts and his $1.5 million salary is 100% owned, compared to 78% ownership for Wentz. Wentz does have a better ADP (80.7) than Hurts (152.9). Nate Sudfeld, who might end up being the true backup in 2020 if media reports are true, is only owned in 2% of leagues. You’ll need $2 million in salary cap room to go get Sudfeld if you have Wentz but not Hurts, are concerned about Wentz’s injury history and want to ensure you have a stake in the Eagles’ offense this year.
The only other two first round QB draft picks – Kyler Murray (ADP 4.3) and Deshaun Watson (ADP 5.0) – were lightly handcuffed with only one Dynasty Owner handcuffing Murray with his likely backup in Brett Hundley and none of the Dynasty Owners who drafted through July 26th handcuffing Deshaun Watson. The owner who drafted Hundley (The Guns of Hochuli – great team name!) is the only one right now with Hundley on their roster.
Not a Lot of Handcuffing of Tight Ends
At the other end of the handcuff spectrum from RBs and QBs are TEs who are rarely being handcuffed in the early Dynasty Owner drafts. Only 8 starting TEs had their backup drafted by the same Dynasty Owner and it only occurred a total of 17 times, accounting for just 6% of all handcuffs drafted.
The consensus top three Dynasty Owner TEs (George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews) were rarely handcuffed by their Dynasty Owners even though they had clear backups at the time (Ross Dwelley for Kittle, Ricky Seals-Jones for Kelce and Nick Boyle for Andrews). Nobody handcuffed Mark Andrews and only one Dynasty Owner handcuffed Kelce or Kittle. Steveo FC was the only Dynasty Owner to draft both George Kittle and Ross Dwelley, in case Kittle can’t play, even though Dwelley performed pretty well in the two games (22.8 Dynasty Owner fantasy points) that Kittle missed in 2019. Dwelley only cost Steveo FC a last round draft pick (#291 overall) and $750,000 in salary cap room. In case Kittle owners are thinking that having Dwelley on the roster is a good idea (even with the recent signing of Jordan Reed by the 49ers), he’s currently available in 96% of Dynasty Owner leagues. Kelce was also only handcuffed in one league by Kilmer’s Coyotes with Ricky Seals-Jones. Seals-Jones doesn’t cost much ($925,000) and is only signed to a one-year deal so Kelce owners in the three-quarters (78%) of Dynasty Owner leagues in which Seals-Jones isn’t owned could go out and grab him if they have cap room.
The most handcuffed starting TE is the eighth TE being drafted, on average, in Dynasty Owner – Evan Engram of the Giants. His backup Kaden Smith is being drafted well over 100 spots later than Engram (ADP of 79 vs. 201.8 for Smith). His cost is minimal as he has 3 years left on his contract at just $680,002 per year and his production was high in place of Engram last year, when he averaged just under 11.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy point per game and had four double-digit point games in just seven contests after Engram got injured last year.
The Single Most Handcuffed WR Is Also the Highest Drafted One
Michael Thomas is being drafted a full round ahead of any other WR with an ADP of 7.6. The next highest drafted WR by ADP right now is Chris Godwin with a current ADP of 20.3. Thomas has the third highest salary of any WR at $19.25 million and some of his Dynasty Owners are backing up their investment in the Ferrari of WRs (373.6 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 2019). The handcuff of choice for Thomas’ Dynasty Owners, like The Jerk, is Deonte Harris who only had 34.5 Dynasty Owner fantasy points in 2019 – with twice as many coming from returns (23.0 Dynasty Owner fantasy points) than rushing and receiving combined (11.5). Six Dynasty Owners have both Michael Thomas and Deonte Harris on their roster, the most of any single WR starter and backup. Since Taysom Hill is listed as a QB, I didn’t consider him as a handcuff for Thomas even though he does play WR fairly frequently.
While the Thomas-Harris handcuff was the single, most frequently drafted one, Thomas was not the most frequently handcuffed WR in Dynasty Owner drafts. That honor goes to Eagles rookie WR Jalen Reagor who was handcuffed 9 times by three different players (Quez Watkins – 4 times; Greg Ward – 4 times; John Hightower – 1 time), followed closely by Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills. Three backup WRs (Gabriel Davis – 4 times; Duke Williams – 3 times; Isaiah Hodgins – 1 times) were also selected by the Diggs’ Dynasty Owner a total of 8 times, just one fewer time than Reagor. However, if you add in Diggs’ fellow starting WRs in Buffalo (John Brown and Cole Beasley), there were a total of 11 backup WRs selected as handcuffs to starting Buffalo WRs.
Eleven handcuffs for Buffalo WRs was the highest for any team, but there were three WRs being handcuffed. There are a lot of top WR pairing out there for the handcuffing, such as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa Bay or A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd in Cincinnati, among others. Interestingly, there was a wide divergence in handcuffing for those two pairs with Green and Boyd being handcuffed twice as frequently as Evans and Godwin (10 times versus 5 times). There was an even split by Dynasty Owners handcuffing Green (and his $17.97 million salary) and Tyler Boyd (who has a $10.75 million salary). The much more expensive WR in Tampa Bay, Mike Evans, was handcuffed four out of the five times that a Dynasty Owner handcuffed one. Just only Dynasty Owner (WKFLD Jags) handcuffed Chris Godwin with Tyler Johnson.
After looking at over 500 Dynasty Owner rosters, you see some “interesting” handcuff situations. Here are a few that stood out to me as I was looking at all of those rosters:
- The Cincinnati Sizzlers drafted five Green Bay WRs, pretty much every WR on the Packers roster, except Davante Adams. That’s right they have Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Reggie Begelton and Jake Kumerow (in draft order). That’s the most players from any one team at a single position. Fortunately for them, they didn’t draft Devin Funchess even though they could have since they drafted in June before he opted out for the 2020 season.
- Stacking three Bengals on one team was not an isolated phenomenon. Two teams in $100 entry fee leagues (Flex and SBB) drafted the same three Bengals RBs (Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams and Giovani Bernard). They both even got Williams and Bernard with the same picks (#249 and #273 respectively). Another two teams (Toronto Squad and Young & Dumb) had three Bengals WRs. Toronto Squad drafted A.J. Green, Tee Higgins and Auden Tate, while Young & Dumb went with Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins and John Ross. Young & Dumb loves Bengals since they have those three WRs, two RBs (Mixon and Bernard) and rookie QB Joe Burrow.
- TFFO figured that he wanted a piece of the New England running game, so they went out and drafted Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris and J.J. Taylor. Rex Burkhead went undrafted in that league and at the end of the draft, TFFO had a little over $7 million in cap room. To avoid Rex having hurt feelings about this situation, TFFO should spend part on their leftover cap room if they still have it. Might as well go get Lamar Miller while you’re at it.
- Not to be outdone, Boomer2377 drafted four Eagles WRs. They avoided both DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey for good reason and went with Jalen Reagor, Hightower, Ward and Watkins in that order. I’m guessing Boomer2377 is an Eagles fan because they also have both Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts on their team as well.
- Only four TEs had their backup drafted by the same team in more than one Dynasty Owner league. In addition to Engram, they were Darren Waller (handcuffed by Foster Moreau), Tyler Higbee (handcuffed by rookie Brycen Hopkins) and Austin Hooper (handcuffed by David Njoku). All these handcuffs were drafted twice.
- The Clown Punchers took my recommendation of drafting three QBs (https://dynastyowner.com/2020/05/draft-tips-2020/), but possibly didn’t read the part about having them on different teams since they decided to draft three Kansas City QBs (Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne and Jordan Ta’amu). Hopefully, Mahomes stays healthy and Matt Moore isn’t the backup, or The Clown Punchers will be in trouble.
- Many Dynasty Owners like a good handcuff, but Pohlcat, a $100 entry fee league Dynasty Owner, really, really likes to handcuff backfield players. Pohlcat drafted Lamar Jackson and RGIII, Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, Todd Gurley and Ito Smith, plus two potential Giants backups to Saquon Barkley in Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman. No word on why Pohlcat didn’t handcuff any WRs or TEs.
- Does it count as a handcuff if you draft the backup before the starter? Asking for Ball Busters who drafted Quintez Cephus of the Lions with the #153 pick then took the starter in Detroit, Marvin Jones, over 100 picks later on with the #256 pick.
- Finally, the Midwest Tradesman spent only $34 shy of $33 million, or 30% of their salary cap, on Bengals WRs when they drafted Tyler Boyd ($10.75 million), A.J. Green ($17.971 million) and John Ross ($4,278,966).
There are a lot of ways to handcuff your starters in Dynasty Owner, but really no consensus on which one is best or which starters are most worth a handcuff. It’s your Dynasty, handcuff your guys if you want to and with who you want. This analysis covered 43 Dynasty Owner leagues with over 500 teams that had 300 identified handcuffs of 74 different players. That’s a lot of variety, but also indicates that there are a lot of Dynasty Owners who, even in this era of COVID-19, aren’t handcuffing.
In terms of position, running back was the most handcuffed position and by league, Dynasty Owners in $100 leagues were most likely to utilize handcuffs. We had a surprise RB (James Conner) be the most handcuffed player overall, even though he has an ADP of 49.8 and is the 26th RB off the draft board on average. The top QB (Lamar Jackson) and WR (Michael Thomas) were more heavily handcuffed than other players at their position, but in line with other high draft picks like RBs Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. And if you handcuffed a TE, you are a rare breed indeed as I only identified 17 TE handcuffs in total, or half of leagues has a team with a handcuffed TE.
We are less than a month out from the 2020 NFL season and three are more articles coming from myself and Chris Wolf (@ckwolf21 on Twitter). The podcast series with myself and Dynasty Owner CEO Tim Peffer will continue to be posted on the Dynasty Owner channel on YouTube and other places (iTunes, Spotify, Spreaker) as well. Subscribe to the YouTube channel and make sure to “Like” all of the videos to help promote them. We have over 400 subscribers on YouTube now and thank you all for watching and listening. All of this great content is available to help you win your Dynasty Owner league and maybe become the winner of the 2020 Chase for the Ring!