Handcuffing in Fantasy Football: Pros and Cons

November 8, 2023
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Diving into the realm of fantasy football, managers know that every move, every draft pick, is a calculated risk. Among the myriad strategies employed, “handcuffing” stands out, conjuring images of being securely tethered to a particular outcome. At its essence, handcuffing means drafting both a team’s starting player and their direct backup, typically in pivotal positions like running back. The reasoning? Should your star player face an unexpected setback, their replacement is primed to jump in, offering a relatively seamless flow of points.

The handcuffing strategy has gained momentum in recent seasons. Given football’s inherently physical nature, injuries are often a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’. By snagging a team’s primary backup, managers feel they’re investing in a valuable insurance policy. Those who’ve watched their top draft pick leave the field with an injury mid-season can attest to the allure of such a safety net.

In this article, we venture into the intricacies of handcuffing, weighing its merits against its potential downfalls. In the intricate dance of foresight, strategy, and sometimes sheer luck, understanding the handcuffing tactic might just be the competitive edge you seek. 

Understanding Handcuffing

Fantasy football, a game of strategy, intuition, and sometimes, a touch of luck, constantly challenges its managers to stay one step ahead. Among the myriad of tactics that fantasy football aficionados employ, the concept of ‘handcuffing’ has garnered considerable attention. But why has this approach taken center stage in recent times, and when do seasoned managers utilize this tactic to their advantage?

At its core, handcuffing in fantasy football refers to the deliberate act of drafting a team’s starting player and pairing them with their direct backup—essentially having both the ace and the jack of the team up your sleeve. While this strategy can technically be applied to any position, it’s most frequently associated with running backs. The rationale? Running backs, due to the physical nature of their role, are more susceptible to injuries. By employing the handcuffing strategy, fantasy managers create a protective buffer for their roster. In the event that their primary player is sidelined, they have an immediate and usually effective replacement ready to step in.

The art of handcuffing begins during the draft. As managers navigate through the draft rounds, those who’ve already secured a primary running back, especially from teams known for their robust running game, often seek out their direct backup in the later rounds. This approach offers a safety net against the unpredictable landscape of player injuries, suspensions, or unexpected dips in performance.

However, the draft isn’t the sole arena for handcuffing. As the season unfolds, the dynamics of NFL teams change—starters might lose their sheen, backups might shine brighter, and injuries, unfortunately, might throw a wrench in the best-laid plans. Given these variables, astute managers remain vigilant, adapting their handcuffing strategy as the weeks progress. This is particularly true as the fantasy playoffs loom closer. With heightened stakes and thinner margins for error, having a backup for key players becomes less of a luxury and more of a necessity.

The Pros of Handcuffing

Handcuffing, a term that has become synonymous with smart play in the world of fantasy football, offers managers an array of advantages. This proactive approach of pairing primary players with their direct backups is more than just a safety net—it’s a strategy that can pay dividends in the ever-unpredictable realm of the NFL. Let’s dive deep into the compelling reasons that make handcuffing a favorite tool among seasoned fantasy managers.

  • Insurance Against Injuries: The NFL, with its intense and physically demanding nature, sees a plethora of injuries every season. And nothing is more disheartening for a fantasy manager than seeing their star player sidelined. Handcuffing serves as an insurance policy, ensuring that managers have a ready-to-play replacement if their primary player is out. This continuity can be the difference between clinching a win or facing a disheartening loss.
  • Mitigating Performance Slumps: Players, even the elite ones, can hit unexpected rough patches—games where they just can’t find their rhythm. When primary players are underperforming, having their backup can provide managers with a valuable alternative. It allows them to make tactical decisions, pivoting their strategy based on form and match-ups.
  • Capitalizing on Opportunities: Backups in the NFL are often incredibly talented and only need the right opportunity to shine. When primary players are rested, suspended, or facing limited game time, their handcuffs often step up, delivering standout performances. Managers who’ve handcuffed wisely can find themselves with a surprise star, reaping the benefits of their foresight.
  • Defensive Play Against Rivals: By handcuffing a primary player, managers also prevent their league rivals from accessing that player’s direct backup. This tactic can be a strategic move, ensuring that competitors can’t benefit from potential opportunities or capitalize on the primary player’s absence.
  • Peace of Mind: Perhaps an underrated aspect of handcuffing is the peace of mind it grants managers. In the rollercoaster ride that is the fantasy football season, having backups in place allows for more calculated decisions and fewer knee-jerk reactions. Managers can craft their weekly lineups with a clearer head, knowing they have reliable alternatives at their disposal.
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The pros of handcuffing in fantasy football are undeniable. In a game where unpredictability is the only constant, this strategy empowers managers, providing them with flexibility, foresight, and a competitive edge. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, handcuffing is a tactic well worth considering in your fantasy football playbook.

The Cons of Handcuffing

While the allure of handcuffing is undeniable, offering a strategic safety net to fantasy football managers, it’s essential to acknowledge that this tactic is not without its pitfalls. As with all strategies, handcuffing has a flip side. Understanding its limitations is vital for managers looking to navigate the NFL season with finesse and foresight. Let’s delve into the potential drawbacks of this popular strategy.

  • Limited Roster Flexibility: Each spot on a fantasy roster is precious. By choosing to handcuff a player, managers effectively utilize two spots for one position. This can limit the ability to pick up emerging talents, sleepers, or players with favorable matchups in a given week, thereby potentially reducing the team’s overall depth.
  • Over-reliance on a Single Team: Handcuffing naturally means placing increased faith in one NFL team’s offensive production. If that team hits a slump, suffers from a weak offensive line, or faces tough defensive matchups, both the primary player and the handcuff might underperform, leaving managers in a tricky spot.
  • Missed Opportunities: While managers safeguard one position through handcuffing, they might be missing out on potential breakout stars from other teams. The NFL is teeming with talent, and every week presents opportunities for different players to shine. By focusing too heavily on handcuffing, managers might overlook these golden opportunities.
  • No Guarantee of Similar Production: A direct backup doesn’t always equate to a direct replacement in terms of production. While they might fill in for the primary player, there’s no assurance that the handcuff will match the star’s output, leaving managers with reduced points and potential disappointment.
  • False Sense of Security: Handcuffing can sometimes lead to complacency. Managers might feel they’re insulated against risks, leading to fewer proactive roster moves or reduced engagement with the waiver wire. This false sense of security can hinder a team’s adaptability as the season unfolds.
  • Predictability in League Play: Seasoned opponents might anticipate handcuffing strategies, especially in competitive leagues. This predictability can make it easier for rivals to plan counter-strategies, draft accordingly, or make waiver moves that thwart a manager’s plans.

While handcuffing offers undeniable advantages, it’s a double-edged sword. It’s paramount for managers to weigh the pros and cons, ensuring they’re not overly reliant on this strategy and remain adaptable to the ever-evolving landscape of fantasy football. In the end, the key lies in striking a balance, using handcuffing judiciously while keeping an eye on the broader NFL horizon.

Essential Tips for Navigating Handcuffing

Handcuffing, a strategy both revered and disputed among fantasy football aficionados, can be a game-changer when done right. However, for those new to the concept or those looking to refine their approach, navigating the ins and outs of handcuffing can seem daunting. To help, here are some practical tips that will guide you in employing this strategy effectively.

  • Prioritize High-Investment Players: Not every player on your roster needs a handcuff. Focus on those you’ve invested heavily in, especially early-round picks. These are your star players, and ensuring their backup is in place can safeguard against unexpected downturns.
  • Research the Backup: Simply selecting a backup player isn’t enough. Dive deep into their past performance, skill set, and how they mesh with the team’s offensive system. A backup’s success isn’t just about stepping in; it’s about stepping up.
  • Monitor the Preseason: The NFL preseason isn’t just for the teams—it’s a golden period for fantasy managers. Keep an eye on potential handcuff players, their performance, and any emerging patterns that indicate they could be valuable assets.
  • Don’t Overspend on Handcuffs: While it’s essential to secure a solid handcuff, be wary of overspending, especially in auction drafts. The key is to strike a balance between securing your insurance player and maintaining a budget for other roster needs.
  • Stay Updated: Player roles can change rapidly in the NFL. Whether due to injuries, performance, or coaching decisions, today’s backup can be tomorrow’s starter and vice versa. Regularly update your knowledge to ensure you have the right handcuff in place.
  • Understand League Depth: In smaller leagues, you might have the luxury of picking up a handcuff off the waiver wire later on. However, in deeper leagues, it’s prudent to draft handcuffs, as the waiver options can be limited.
  • Consider Handcuffing Other Team’s Players: Sometimes, it might be beneficial to handcuff a star player from another team, especially if their manager hasn’t done so. This strategy can offer you leverage in trades or simply block the other manager from securing their backup.
  • Handcuff Strategically: If your league has a limited bench, you might not have the space for multiple handcuffs. In such scenarios, prioritize handcuffing positions that are more injury-prone, like running backs.
  • Stay Adaptable: Handcuffing, while valuable, shouldn’t be your only strategy. The NFL season is unpredictable. Stay adaptable, watch the trends, and be ready to pivot your strategy when needed.
  • Leverage Platforms like Maincard: In the age of technology, platforms like Maincard offer invaluable insights, data, and even unique mechanics using blockchain technology. Such platforms can provide a fresh perspective and edge in mastering handcuffing and other fantasy strategies.
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While handcuffing is a potent tool in a fantasy manager’s arsenal, its efficacy lies in its judicious application. By staying informed, being strategic, and keeping a pulse on the NFL’s ever-evolving dynamics, managers can maximize the benefits of handcuffing, turning potential pitfalls into pivotal successes.

Handcuffing in the Age of Maincard

In the ever-evolving world of fantasy football, where the intersection of technology and strategy continually shapes the landscape, the introduction of Maincard has added another layer of intrigue. As managers familiarize themselves with the nuances of Handcuffing, a tried and true strategy, Maincard beckons them to explore the tactic with fresh eyes.

Handcuffing has been a go-to for managers who wish to secure their investments, typically by drafting the immediate backup of a star player, ensuring that even in the case of injury or underperformance, they have a safety net. But as we journey into the era of Maincard, this age-old strategy meets modern technology, challenging managers to adapt and reimagine their approach.

Maincard, in its essence, isn’t just a management platform; it’s an evolution. It immerses players in a world where smart contracts, NFTs, and cryptocurrencies aren’t just buzzwords but are integrated into the very fabric of gameplay. With every Maincard being a unique digital asset, combining different attributes, it presents opportunities and challenges alike for the fantasy manager.

So, how does Handcuffing fit into this digital revolution? For one, the plethora of data and insights available on Maincard can guide managers in identifying potential handcuff opportunities. The transparency offered by blockchain technology ensures that every transaction, performance metric, and player’s health status is accurately recorded, adding another layer of depth to the handcuffing decision-making process.

Moreover, with Maincard’s emphasis on eSports and a variety of sports leagues, managers can apply handcuffing across different arenas, taking advantage of the platform’s expansive reach. The combination of traditional sports knowledge with the intricacies of Maincard’s unique mechanics can redefine how we perceive and employ handcuffing.


Within the intricate world of fantasy football, handcuffing stands as both a beacon of hope and a potential pitfall. At its essence, handcuffing captures the game’s ever-present dance between risk and reward. While it offers the comfort of a backup for a premier player, it simultaneously requires a valuable roster spot that might otherwise nurture a rising star.

Yet, as the fantasy landscape evolves, so should our strategies. The introduction of innovative platforms like Maincard has not only redefined our perspective of the game but also transformed how we engage with it. This fusion of blockchain technology and the excitement of fantasy sports presents an enriched approach to the game, making it more strategic and rooted in data.

For the modern fantasy manager, it’s about more than just traditional tactics. It’s about leveraging cutting-edge tools and adapting to the game’s dynamic nature. With assets like Maincard at their disposal, managers can more adeptly traverse the intricacies of strategies like handcuffing, ensuring consistent success across multiple seasons.


What does “handcuffing” mean in fantasy football?

In the captivating world of fantasy football, “handcuffing” is a strategic maneuver where managers draft both a team’s starting player and their direct backup. This approach is akin to having a safety net; if the starting player encounters unforeseen hurdles, like injuries or suspensions, their backup is poised to step into the fray, ensuring the manager’s points continue to flow relatively uninterrupted.

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Why is the handcuffing strategy most commonly applied to running backs?

Running backs often find themselves at the epicenter of the handcuffing strategy, and for good reason. Their role on the field, characterized by high-intensity runs, tackles, and frequent physical contact, places them at a heightened risk of injuries. Consequently, having both the primary running back and their direct backup on a fantasy roster offers managers a protective buffer against this volatility, ensuring that if one falls, the other can swiftly pick up the mantle.

How does the physical nature of football influence the popularity of the handcuffing strategy?

Football, with its pulsating energy and raw physicality, is inherently injury-prone. This unpredictable element underscores the very essence of handcuffing. Managers, recognizing the sport’s unpredictable nature where injuries are more a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’, gravitate towards handcuffing as a hedge against such unforeseen setbacks. The strategy is viewed as a prudent insurance policy, safeguarding a manager’s roster from the tumultuous ebb and flow of player health and availability.

Are there other moments apart from the draft when managers might consider handcuffing?

Indeed, while the draft is a pivotal moment for initiating handcuffing strategies, the tactic isn’t confined to this phase. As the NFL season unfolds, team dynamics can undergo seismic shifts — starters might wane in performance, backups could emerge as dark horses, and the ever-looming specter of injuries might necessitate unforeseen roster changes. Astute managers, therefore, remain ever-vigilant, recalibrating their handcuffing strategy in tandem with the season’s evolving narrative. This adaptability becomes particularly crucial as the fantasy playoffs beckon, with heightened stakes amplifying the importance of a reliable backup.

What are the primary benefits of employing the handcuffing tactic in fantasy football?

Handcuffing, far from being a mere safety net, is a multifaceted strategy that offers several enticing advantages. It provides insurance against the heartbreak of injuries, ensuring a manager’s points remain relatively stable. It mitigates the impact of performance slumps, offering an alternative when a primary player falters. Additionally, handcuffing allows managers to capitalize on unforeseen opportunities, like when backups deliver standout performances in the absence of primary players. Furthermore, it’s a savvy defensive play, preventing league rivals from acquiring a valuable backup. Lastly, the peace of mind offered by having a dependable backup can’t be understated, allowing managers to craft their lineups with greater confidence.

How does handcuffing provide a defensive play against league rivals?

In the strategic chess game of fantasy football, every move has ramifications beyond one’s own roster. By handcuffing a primary player, managers effectively block their competitors from acquiring that player’s backup. This preemptive move not only secures a manager’s own roster but also denies rivals the chance to capitalize on potential opportunities or exploit the absence of a primary player.

What potential pitfalls should managers be aware of when considering the handcuffing strategy?

While handcuffing has its allure, it’s not without potential pitfalls. It can limit a roster’s flexibility, tying up two slots for essentially one position and potentially sidelining emerging talents. This strategy can also lead to an over-reliance on a single team’s performance, making managers vulnerable to team-wide slumps. Additionally, there’s no iron-clad guarantee that a backup will seamlessly replicate a primary player’s production. Overzealous handcuffing can also induce a false sense of security, potentially dampening a manager’s proactive engagement with the league. Lastly, in competitive setups, predictable handcuffing strategies might render managers vulnerable to countermoves by seasoned rivals.

How does handcuffing impact the overall depth and flexibility of a fantasy football roster?

By its very nature, handcuffing consumes additional roster spots, potentially compromising a team’s overall depth. This commitment to a backup can hinder a manager’s ability to scout and acquire emerging talents or players with favorable weekly matchups. Essentially, while providing a safety buffer for one position, handcuffing might inadvertently constrict a roster’s versatility and adaptability to the league’s ever-shifting dynamics.

What are some essential tips to navigate the handcuffing strategy effectively?

Mastering the intricate dance of handcuffing in fantasy football necessitates a blend of foresight, adaptability, and research. Firstly, prioritize handcuffing for your high-investment or early-round picks, given their pivotal role in your roster’s performance. Dive deep into the potential and track records of backups, for not all substitutes are created equal. The preseason offers a treasure trove of insights, revealing potential breakout stars and clarifying team dynamics — stay attuned. Avoid overextending; while handcuffing provides security, overdoing it can curtail roster flexibility. Collaborate and exchange insights with fellow enthusiasts; sometimes, a fresh perspective can unveil unforeseen opportunities. Finally, as the season progresses, regularly revisit and recalibrate your handcuffing approach in sync with evolving team narratives and player dynamics.

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