Monday, August 8, 2011

Value over Risk: 5 Arguments Against Fantasy Football Handcuffing

Hey GHL fans. This week we’re going to be focusing a little bit on some draft tactics and strategies that you can enforce in your league. Over the weekend, I tried my damnedest to run a few mock drafts, but unfortunately there was at least one idiot in each one of them skewing the data. I kid you not, some ass took Peyton Hillis with the second overall pick. Jerk. Anyways, let’s kick things off with my five arguments AGAINST Fantasy Football Handcuffing.

Fantasy football owner are constantly trying to maintain the greatest team they can manage. Whether it is by way of the snake draft or through auctions, the primary goal is a simple one: Value. Value is most noticeable in the first five or six rounds of the draft, after all those are the rounds that you are drafting your starters. But the real subtlety of value comes in the later rounds in selecting backups.

Outside of the final few picks that include your Defense and a kicker and maybe a sleeper you have had your eyes on, the middle and late rounds are where you are solidifying your bench in case one of your players goes down. There are a number of strategies for doing this, one of the increasingly popular strategies is "handcuffing."

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it can be broken down into this. Handcuffing is selecting the back-up of your starter in a later round of your fantasy football draft. It is most popularly done with running backs. For example, drafting Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders as your starting RB, and in a later round selecting Michael Bush, McFadden's back-up, for your bench. This strategy differs from selecting two guys from the same team who work in a running-back-by-committee or tandem style offense (which is an entirely different article).

While on the surface this may seem like a wise insurance policy, the more in depth you get, the more you will find that it is a flawed system. These are the five reasons that handcuffing is a tactic that should be avoided when you enter your fantasy football draft.

1) What's the Point in Playing Conservative?

Let’s start at the beginning, handcuffing is kind of a wimpy move. By drafting Adrian Peterson’s handcuff, Toby Gerhart in round 13 or 14, you are making a play that can easily be deemed “too safe.” The late rounds are where you should be the most aggressive in terms of drafting. Why settle for someone who has proven that they are a backup, when you can take a bit of a risk.

Remember that one guy, Arian Foster, who last year likely went undrafted in your league? It’s fantasy football law that someone will rise from round 15 to be a top producer. Don’t throw your pick away on a backup, when you could be fishing for the next elite runner.

2) Insurance Argument: Karma, Karma, Karma

I hate car insurance. To me it is dumb for several reasons, but the worst of them all is that you are essentially gambling that you WILL be in an auto accident! How does that make any sense?

The same goes for handcuffing in fantasy football. You are basically buying an insurance policy for your top runner: an insurance policy that will only be effective (maybe) if your best player gets injured. I don’t claim to be an expert on karma, but I know well enough that you don’t taunt the fantasy football gods. They’re pretty bitchy.

3) Back-ups are on the Bench for a Reason

Look around the league at all of the teams that are using a running back by committee system. There is no denying that it is an effective NFL strategy. You have two or more good running backs, and you make them share time. It keeps their legs fresh, lowers the chance for injury and allows a change of pace to throw off the defense. Why wouldn’t a team use this?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because they don’t have a second running back that is good enough to take time away from their elite guy. Do you want to know why Steven Jackson had 330 rushes last year for the Rams and his backup, Kenneth Darby only had 34? Because Darby doesn’t hold a candle to Jackson. He isn’t as good. He has proven in years past, and practices, and training camps that he is not a starter.

So why does it make sense to draft him for your fantasy football team? Even if Jackson does get injured, doesn’t it make more sense to have picked up a player in a committee that has shown he can produce make a lot more sense than drafting a certified backup who won’t see any playing time until an injury? The answer is yes.

4) Defense (Helps) Wins Championships

Something else awful happens when you pick up your starter’s handcuff in a late round. A fantasy owner drafting behind you gets to pick up the talent that you left on the board. That doesn’t sound smart, does it? An overlooked part of the draft is that you are not only improving your team, but also keeping other owners away from possible production.

Let’s get hypothetical and say that you are pick 5. Pick 6 makes a bold strategic move and loads up on wide receivers in the first three rounds. Then gets his quarterback. Then settles for a tight end and two middle-of-the-road running backs. Then starts picking off backup WRs for his bye weeks. He could potentially be a dangerous team just because he is so heavily weighted at receiver and has a top quarterback as well.

Now we are getting down to the later rounds and he still doesn’t have any back up running backs. You, being one pick ahead of him, opt to take a handcuff, Javon Ringer, bold move. By doing this, taking a player that would have obviously gone undrafted only because you are terrified of injury, you are leaving the door open for him to find a more valuable player who strengthens his team. Unwise. Play a little defense with your fantasy picks, you’ll thank me in week 9 when you play him and he is forced to start Hardesty because you decided to steal away the best running back off the board.

5) The Draft is All About Value

It all simply boils down to this, the title of this article: Value over Risk. The reason the draft is so exciting is because you are out to prove that you know more about football than anyone else. You have the best strategy. You can predict the next big thing. Your goal must be to make the best team possible. Period.

And by definition, handcuffing is the opposite of this. You are taking the conservative approach rather than going for the value. You are willing to give up an entire pick for someone who will more than likely end up on Waivers, just because he is a back up to your star. You are passing up on a player who might be the next big thing because you’d rather have insurance that might not even pan out.

So, if you see me flaunting Arian Foster in the first round, and expect me to draft Steve Slaton with my 13th pick. You'd better think again.

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