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The Evolution of the Handcuff

I believe it was the Rolling Stones who first spoke the words, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try some times, you just might find, you get what you need.” Nothing more accurately describes the woes of the “corner slot” draft position. Whether you sit at the tail end of the first round, or the front, the majority of your draft will be spent picking two players at a time. The old school strategy of picking the two best players available is always a possibility, but your team may often be left with major holes as you struggle to fill roster needs later on. Other members of the F.I.C. (Fantasy Intelligence Committee) will argue taking a quarterback early in this year’s draft is on par with trying to trim your fingernails with a sledgehammer. But this year is special as it is the first time in recent history that grabbing a stud WR is essential. After the top 10-15 WRs come off the board, the level of the following tiers drops exponentially. However, the newest strategy, sent from the fantasy Gods, is that of the handcuff.

Handcuffing your stud RB is far from a new or unique idea. Experts and gurus have been suggesting this strategy since the days before running-back-by-committee was a household term. But this isn’t the strategy I speak of, and not the strategy I suggest (at least not in this article). Rather, I recommend handcuffing your WR to their … ahem …. QB (gulp!). Before you smack your computer monitor and declare this advice a disservice to your research, let me explain. What I mean is if you’re sitting at the end of the first round, and all the top RBs have been drafted, the general consensus is to take a stud WR. I agree with this idea, but when the next pick comes around shortly after, handcuff that WR with his QB counterpart.

Okay, okay. I know what you’re thinking: Why would I draft a QB when I can grab a RB in the second round? Simply put, because champions ARE made during the draft, but not because a team has the most high-caliber names on his/her roster, but because they drafted with intelligence. Think about it, two years ago, if you drafted Tom Brady and Randy Moss, you likely dominated your league. With two record setting seasons and 73 combined TDs, any other QB-WR tandem would have fallen well short. But this theory goes beyond the extreme highs. Logically put, if you believe any given WR is “guaranteed” a stud-like season, you have to also subconsciously believe his QB will have a quality season as well. Any time L. Fitzgerald, A. Johnson or S. Smith has a TD, K. Warner, M. Schaub or J. Delhomme needs to throw the ball to them. And for every TD your receiver scores, you nearly double your points with the captain of his huddle tossing him the ball in the end zone.

What’s the reasoning behind drafting a stud WR anyhow? Most people argue outscoring your opponent at any given position creates a significant advantage; it’s the reason Jason Witten and the

defense are valuable in fantasy terms. They outscore all other TEs and DEFs on average. But if you look at your team as a combination of players, rather than just a hodgepodge of well-known names, you can pair up particular players and create even greater mismatches.

Enough of the explanation, this is how your draft could look. Based on ADP, the following QB/WR (and one TE) tandems can be grabbed around the same time whenever you have multiple picks near the end of a “snake” draft. Though some of these QBs may be a reach (and some WRs), if you believe any big-name QB/WR will have a big season, you also have to believe his handcuff will as well.

Round  —  QB/WR  —  ADP

1-2  —  Tom Brady/Randy Moss  —  23/15

2-3  —  Peyton Manning/Reggie Wayne  —  28/20

2-3  —  Drew Brees/Marques Colston  —  18/25

3-4  —  Kurt Warner/Anquan Boldin  —  39/23

3-4  —  Tony Romo/Jason Witten* —  44/41

5-6  —  Donovan McNabb/DeSean Jackson  —  61/60

6-7  —  Matt Schaub/Kevin Walter  —  80/76

6-7  —  Ben Roethlisberger/Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes  —  88/67, 70

8-9  —  Matt Hasselbeck/T.J. Houshmandzadeh  —  109/93

8-9  —  Eli Manning/Domenik Hixon  —  108/107

** Note **

This strategy doesn’t only work at the tail-end of the draft order, but at any time. To say A. Johnson is the second best WR available is to simultaneously declare M. Schaub will be good enough to allow Johnson to dominate his competition. And even though Schaub may not finish the season as a Top 5 QB, when every one of his TDs is paired with an extra six points (at least!) it’ll be tough for your opponent to compete. So go ahead, grab Steve Smith in Round 2-3, and then sit on him for at least half a dozen rounds before grabbing Jake Delhomme as a handcuff. The handcuff: it means more than knowing who sits on the bench behind Jamal Lewis.

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