Several players out there merit handcuff consideration. The value of handcuffing depends not only on the value and health of the starter, but on the talent of the backup. For your consideration, some of this year’s more obvious pairings:
Lock Them Up And Throw Away The Key
Maurice Jones-Drew/Rashad Jennings – This is a no-brainer. Jones-Drew is an injury risk. Jennings can be grabbed late in the draft for next-to-nothing. Snatch him in the draft, stick him on your bench, and sleep more easily if you can’t simply avoid drafting Jones-Drew this year.
Adrian Peterson/Toby Gerhart – Peterson has seen a heavy workload and will obviously be the most critical part of your team. He suffered a major injury in college, so his bill of health is not entirely clean. If he does go down, it could be devastating. Gerhart is still unproven, but put up reasonable numbers as a rookie fill-in (apart from a fumbling issue). He would certainly be available in the event of an injury to Peterson… if you act in time. However, if you miss out on him and do not have another suitable option your season would likely be done if Peterson goes down. Given that risk, Gerhart merits a long look at the bottom of the draft. With a performer like Peterson in your starting lineup, you can afford a small luxury or two on your bench.
Michael Vick/Vince Young – Vick is enough of an injury risk and Young has enough potential, that this might be the only time I would consider handcuffing a QB. Generally, I tend to avoid carrying a backup QB. However, Young merits serious consideration given his talent, his likely fit in the system, and Vick’s injury history. I am still not certain I would burn a pick here, but I’d be prepared to jump on Young in the free agent pool at the first sign of trouble from Vick.
Maybe You Should Use Those Kiddie Fake Handcuffs Instead
DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart – The platoon back situation is always a tough call for handcuffing. With both players likely to go off the board in the first 10 rounds, this is a bit of an expensive pairing. On one side, Williams is a relatively low risk, high reward player coming in at Round 7. On the other, Williams is coming off an injury and Stewart is likely to be scooped up by another team, leaving you a bit exposed. Personally, I would tend toward trying to find another back with the potential to start outright (Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant, or Jahvid Best), rather than diving in for Stewart in round 9 or 10.
Any Redskin – Avoid any running back playing for Mike Shanahan (Ryan Torain, Tim Hightower, etc.) until the late rounds, when you are comfortable taking a shot in the dark. Certainly never, ever bother taking two of them unless your league is so deep you have nothing else useful left to do. It is impossible to know from one week to the next who Shanahan will start, let alone to draft someone for the entire season.