Adam Levitan

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Alternative Handcuffs

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Like any other strategy game, the explosion of fantasy football has led to sharper and sharper players. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that virtually everyone is now aware of the handcuffing strategy at running back. If the Jamaal Charles owner doesn’t select Knile Davis, he’s playing with fire.  

What many owners aren’t doing right now is handcuffing at other positions. It’s viable in far fewer situations, but can be just as beneficial. To be clear, the purpose of handcuffing is having 16 weeks of high-quality production, regardless of the inevitable injuries that will strike. The idea is that our handcuff – now thrust into a starting role – will score more than any player we pick up off the wire or insert off our bench.

Here are eight situations where I’d apply this strategy:

1. Cody Latimer to Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker or Emmanuel Sanders
Last year, the Broncos had four players with double-digit receiving touchdowns and five with 60-plus catches. Even with the Peyton Manning regression coming, Denver is still a good bet to lead the league in most passing categories. So anyone on the field in this scheme is going to be worth a look – and Cody Latimer isn’t just “anyone.” This a 6’3/215 4.4 guy with elite contested catch ability and velcro hands.

Come Week 1, the Broncos will line up with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as outside bookends to slot man Wes Welker. If Thomas or Sanders go down, Latimer would be an every-down outside receiver. If Welker goes down, Sanders would kick to the slot and Latimer would be an every-down receiver. Given that Welker is one headshot away from a career-threatening diagnosis, I think Latimer is well worth a handcuff investment. He’d be an instant WR2 if pressed into action.

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2. Davante Adams to Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb or Jarrett Boykin

I think Jarrett Boykin did enough last year (5.5 catches, 78.3 yards two touchdowns between Weeks 7 and 12) and will do enough this August to win the No. 3 wideout job, also known as the James Jones spot. But that doesn’t mean second-round rookie Davante Adams can’t play. Packers GM Ted Thompson previously used second-round picks Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and no one should be surprised if Adams eventually follows in those footsteps. He led the nation last year in receptions (131) and touchdown catches (24) as Derek Carr’s go-to guy. In fact, don’t be surprised at all if Adams takes over a healthy Boykin at some point during the season.

But the bigger payoff will come if any of the top-three wideouts suffer an injury. We know Jordy Nelson can play all over the formation, so he’d likely move inside if Randall Cobb went down. Adams as an every-down receiver with Aaron Rodgers in an offense now devoid of a true pass-catching tight end? Yes please.


Editor’s Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's games. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.

3. Marquess Wilson to Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery

Marquess Wilson entered the NFL as a seventh-round pick with gobs of talent and almost as much off-field baggage. But he’s progressed nicely enough that the Bears were comfortable letting Jay Cutler favorite Earl Bennett walk, essentially penning in Wilson as the No. 3 receiver. The 6-foot-4 Wilson responded by adding a much-needed 20-plus pounds to his frame during the offseason and shining during OTA season.

So if Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery go down, the Bears can plug in a player with similar measurables. Wilson doesn’t have the polish or experience, but he does come with an undrafted ADP in most formats. It’s a small price to pay if you’re making a second-round investment on Marshall or Jeffery.

4. Gavin Escobar to Jason Witten

People will brush this one off as Jason Witten has missed one game in his 11-year career. But note that Roddy White rode a 128 consecutive game streak into last year before his disaster, and Witten is now 32 years old. At some point, Father Time gets everyone.

Gavin Escobar needs to be on our radar because the Cowboys used a second-round pick on him in 2013 because of his ability to catch the football – not block. New offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has already stated that he’d really excited about Escobar because of the “untapped” upside, and his spread scheme is perfect for a player deficient in blocking. Armed with a Tony Gonzalez-esque skill set and NCAA slot experience, Escobar would border on TE1 status if Witten were to go down. There’s not much pass-catching talent in Dallas behind Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams.

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Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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