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Handcuffs: WRs
Insurance For You Roster And For Your Peace Of Mind
8/13/09

Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers

In my mind there are three main parts to any successful fantasy draft. The first would be of course drafting your starting players, the second would be drafting bench players, (preferably with some upside to them), and third would be drafting insurance players, otherwise known as handcuffs. In this article I’d like to take a look at the 3 major positions (RB, QB, WR) and suggest some main insurance-type players to backup your starters in case the unforeseen happens.

Wide Receivers

Handcuffs at this position are not usually discussed but think about it like this: If Adrian Peterson goes down with an injury, the guy behind him on the depth chart just became very relevant. The same can be said about backup WRs. Not all 3rd or 4th string guys at this position could post helpful numbers if called upon but I believe the 6 guys below could fill in and give you quality third-WR type points with the possibility for even more. If you own the starter in front of them and have an open bench spot to draft them, do so. Even if you do not own the starter it may be a good idea to take a flier on one of these guys or have them on your watch list just in case their number gets called and you need a starter with upside.

  1. Steve Breaston (Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin) - Handcuff or not, Breaston is one of the few #3 WRs in the league that could actually help your team on a consistent basis. While only starting four games in 2008, Breaston managed to have a 1,000-yard season and score 9+ fantasy points seven times. With a year under his belt, Breaston’s confidence and skill should improve. If Fitzgerald or Boldin do miss any time due to injury Breaston will see more targets as he did last year when Boldin missed time with facial surgery and a hamstring inury. Breaston might even be considered a top-15 option should he crack the starting lineup. His combination of size (6’0, 190), hands, and explosiveness means he is more than just a slot receiver and therefore would fill in adequately if thrust into a starting role. His skill, the Cardinals desire to pass, and the supporting cast, gives Breaston a chance to emerge and make a name for himself.

  2. Chris Henry (Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles) - Henry has the size, speed, explosiveness and hands necessary to be a good #1 NFL wide receiver. His off the field issues, lack of focus and effort on the field. The word out of Bengals’ camp is Henry is playing like he knows this is his last chance. He’s reportedly added muscle to his long, lanky frame but kept his speed and quickness, which led him to hauling in 15 touchdowns over his short career. While he is technically still number three on the depth chart, Carson Palmer is back and has the talent to spread the ball around effectively to all his targets. Most defenses don’t have the personnel to cover three good wideouts and this should mean plenty of opportunities for Henry. If one of the starters does go down with injury or Ochocinco decides to go M.I.A, Henry would fill in adequately and I would predict top-20 WR numbers for him as long as Palmer is still behind center. If you’re looking for upside in the later rounds of your draft, look no further than Mr. Henry.

    Jeremy Maclin

    A rookie wideout that could be a late-season gem.

  3. Jeremy Maclin (DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis) - If you are in a dynasty league you probably will miss your chance to grab him late but for yearly re-draft leagues Maclin may be a late-round gem. Most fantasy football veterans know that 90% of rookie wideouts do not make much of an impact on the fantasy world their first year. Maclin may not initially get the chance to shine, but for those with patience and a good-sized bench, Maclin’s upside might be hard to resist. Most “experts” had Maclin as the number 2 rated wide receiver in this year’s draft after Michael Crabtree. He was projected to go top-15, possibly top-10, to a team where he might be under pressure to perform right away. A funny thing happened (Al Davis) though, and he dropped all the way down to the Eagles who for sure wanted a wide receiver but already had weapons in place. He will likely start the year as the Eagles #3 or even #4 wideout, but because of his skill and the Eagles propensity to pass, Maclin should quickly contribute to the team and in fantasy. Take Maclin late in your draft and be patient because around fantasy playoff time he just may get enough touches for him to be a good WR 3 with upside WR 2 numbers.

  4. James Jones (Greg Jennings, Donald Driver) - There was a time when the NFC north was a run first, black and blue, ground and pound division. That time has come and gone and the Packers are leading the way behind Aaron Rodgers and his 4,000+ yards through the air. Jones had an above average rookie year with 47 receptions for 676 yards despite not being a full time starter. Last year Jones tried to play through a torn PCL but had a big drop off in production. This year he’s back and should be 100%. Donald Driver is in his eleventh season and may start showing his age and Jones has the kind of tools to one day replace Driver as the primary possession receiver in the Packer’s offense. Keep an eye on Jones in your draft especially in dynasty and keeper leagues, as this is his 3rd year and may actually be his breakout campaign.

  5. Robert Meachem (Marques Colston, Lance Moore) - Folks have been waiting for Meachem to break out big since his rookie year where he was taken in the first round. I believe if it is ever going to happen this might be his last chance to shine, or remain a career backup. At 6’2, 210 pounds, Meachem has the size and raw ability to become a force in this league but has yet to put it all together. He has shown brief flashes of brilliance and then disappeared due to injury. He will most likely start at 4th on the depth chart but there are a few things going in his favor to see more time, and perhaps make a fantasy impact.

    First, Devery Henderson is #3 on the depth chart but is a wildly inconsistent receiver. He has amazing speed but drops easy passes and remains an unpolished route runner. Number 2 on the depth chart is Lance Moore who had a breakout 2008 but tore his labrum this off-season, which required surgery. Word is he should be back to complete health come game time but any setbacks would obviously move Meachem up the charts. Marques Colston also missed a good amount of time with a thumb injury last year, then had his knee scoped. He is also supposed to return to full health but it’s safe to say, the Saints starting wideouts are building a solid injury history. If Meachem does get on the field with any kind of regularity I believe it will be boom or bust, but as a late round pick or waiver wire flier you could do a lot worse than a former 1st round pick entering his third year on the NFL’s premier passing offense.

  6. Martellus Bennett (Jason Witten) - The only tight end to make this list, Bennett thus far is known more for his crazy You Tube clips than any plays he’s made on the field. At 6’6 and 265 Bennett is a massive target with above average speed, quickness and soft hands to match. As everyone knows T.O. is gone and the Cowboys are searching for another target to throw to and Bennett may just be the man for the job. When Bennett did get passes thrown his way last year he capitalized nicely by catching 4 touchdowns and 12 first downs – not bad on a total of 20 receptions. Of course, all pro Jason Witten is the unquestioned starter and even though he’s battled his share of injuries, he normally plays right through them. With a trio of good running backs, the Boys may run a lot of two tight end sets and Bennett could easily slip past the D with a little play action for a couple scores. Obviously, unless you have to start 2 tight ends in your league there should be better options out there, but if Witten did miss time Bennett could step in and become Tony Romo’s new security blanket. Keep an eye on him through the year and be ready to scoop him up at the first rumblings of a Witten injury or if the Cowboys decide to involve him more in the offense as once you get past the first 10 tight ends, Bennet has as much upside than any other tight end out there.