Handcuffing Wide Receivers, 2014 Edition

Handcuffing Wide Receivers, 2014 Edition

By John Paulsen (Senior Editor) on Aug 20, 2014

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, finished as runner-up in 2011 and 4th in both 2012 and 2015 for a total of five Top 5 seasons in the last six years. Cumulatively, John was the most accurate expert from 2010-15 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

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Yesterday, I wrote about handcuffs for running backs, but receivers can have handcuffs too. The best ones hold standalone value as well. Here are a few names to remember:


If you draft… Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb

Then consider drafting… Jarrett Boykin

After Randall Cobb went down, Boykin stepped in and served as the Packers de facto WR3, catching 49 passes for 681 yards and three scores. In games where he played at least 59% of the snaps, he averaged 4.3-61-.27, which equates to 124 fantasy points over a full season. That’s about what Marques Colston scored as the #27 WR in 2013. Cobb is back, but James Jones is gone, so Boykin should play a lot in the Packers’ patented three-wide attack. The only concern is rookie Davante Adams, but first-year wideouts don’t usually play much in Green Bay. Even Jordy Nelson (54 targets) and Cobb (34) were not heavily involved as rookies. Boykin holds WR3/WR4 value on his own, but if Cobb or Nelson go down, Boykin would be promoted to a larger role. If you can’t get draft Boykin, Adams could also serve as a handcuff, though he may not offer the standalone value.


If you draft… Julio Jones and/or Roddy White

Then consider drafting… Harry Douglas

Douglas finished as the #32 WR in standard formats (#22 in PPR) thanks to injuries suffered by Julio Jones and Roddy White. The Falcons don’t have a solid pass-catching tight end on the roster to replace Tony Gonzalez, so Douglas is expected to fill that role. Gonzalez saw 7.5-7.8 targets per game in the last two seasons, so there is plenty of opportunity for Douglas to shine if the Falcons want to feature him in the slot. If Jones or White go down again, Douglas should post starter-caliber numbers in a larger role.


If you draft… Cordarrelle Patterson

Then consider drafting… Greg Jennings

Jennings dealt with some injuries in 2013 but showed a very nice rapport with Matt Cassel, averaging 5.9 catches for 70 yards and 0.57 TD with Cassel under center. Assuming Cassel or promising rookie Teddy Bridgewater can offer better efficiency, Jennings should bounce back as most fantasy eyes are set squarely on Patterson. Jennings is going in the 12th round even though he finished as the #39 WR in 2013. He offers standalone and handcuff value.


If you draft… Antonio Brown

Then consider drafting… Markus Wheaton

The Steelers play a lot of three-WR sets, so we’re expecting big snaps for Wheaton even if Lance Moore is on the field for two-WR sets. (Emmanuel Sanders played 76% of the snaps in 2013, while Jerricho Cotchery played 60%.) Wheaton was a 3rd round pick and is a terrific athlete. He’s not big (5’11”) but he fits the mold of a typical Steeler receiver. Despite a short resume, Wheaton is a breakout candidate if he sees big snaps in his second year. In the last four seasons, Hines Ward, Antonio Brown (x2) and Sanders have averaged 65-848-4.5 in the Steelers’ WR2 role. If something happens to Brown then Wheaton’s targets may double.


If you draft… Percy Harvin

Then consider drafting… Doug Baldwin

Once Sidney Rice went down, Baldwin emerged as a productive starter, averaging 3.6 catches for 55 yards and 0.45 TD in his final 11 games (including three postseason games where he caught 13 passes for 202 yards and a TD). Those are solid fantasy WR3 numbers, driven by his #11 FP/T (1.48). The Seahawks recently locked him up to a lucrative long-term contract, which indicates that they view him as a starter. If that’s the case, he should continue to post WR3 numbers in that role, and he has considerable upside playing with the injury-prone Percy Harvin. Baldwin only played 74% of his team’s snaps in 2013.


If you draft… Jeremy Maclin

Then consider drafting… Jordan Matthews

By all accounts, Matthews has had a great camp, but he’s going to have a tough time getting on the field if everyone’s healthy. Maclin has already struggled with leg injuries in camp, so owners who are brave enough to draft Maclin, it makes sense to target Matthews as well. That way, you’re likely to have one of the Eagles’ starters on your roster no matter what happens.


If you draft… Demaryius Thomas

Then consider drafting… Cody Latimer

Latimer doesn’t offer the standalone value of some of the other players on this list, but if Thomas were to go down with an injury, Latimer would be thrust into starter’s snaps alongside Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker. He has looked good in camp and appears ready to step up if called upon.


If you draft… Pierre Garcon and/or DeSean Jackson

Then consider drafting… Andre Roberts

Roberts was shaping up to be an intriguing sleeper before Washington signed Jackson. If either D-Jax or Pierre Garcon suffer an injury, fantasy owners should have Roberts on speed dial.


If you draft… Michael Floyd and/or Larry Fitzgerald

Then consider drafting… John Brown

The rookie has had a great camp and is already pushing Ted Ginn for WR3 duties. If something happens to Floyd or Fitzgerald, he’ll very likely step into a much larger role.


If you draft… T.Y. Hilton

Then consider drafting… Hakeem Nicks

The Colts signed Nicks in case Reggie Wayne wasn’t ready to play, but if everyone’s healthy, someone will be short on snaps, and we don’t think it will be Hilton. Nicks gives the Colts a serviceable starter if Hilton or Wayne miss time.


Due to roster size limitations, it may not make sense to handcuff a receiver if the handcuff doesn’t have standalone value on his own. When roster sizes grow to 20 or larger, it becomes more feasible to draft a WR handcuff.


Filed Under: Preseason, 2014

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