I hope you are as ready as I am, because with Week 13 comes the Fantasy Playoffs! While some of you may have regular-season games left, a lot of the fantasy community will be playing for their championships and that makes me feel like it’s Christmas morning.
If you missed last week’s column, I highlighted why adding favorable playoff defenses should be considered. This week, our playoff tip covers picking up one or two running back handcuffs, even if you do not roster the starting running back for the handcuff.
Firstly, you may wonder what a handcuff is. To keep things simple, a handcuff is a player that is a direct positional backup for a premier running back. Adding a handcuff can be done as early as the draft and it is usually done as an insurance policy for your fantasy team.
Now that you fully understand what a handcuff is, here is how we utilize the handcuff tactic going into the playoffs. By dropping some of your backend players – players you definitely have no plans to start in the playoffs – you can add a handcuff or two onto your roster before the playoffs start.
The reason this strategy is used is that if your handcuff’s starting running back gets injured, the handcuff immediately explodes in value. And since the handcuff is already on your team, you don’t have to spend up on FAAB or burn a waiver prioritization to acquire them. This can easily win you your championship if it works out in your favor.
It is important to understand that this handcuff strategy is a hail mary and should only be utilized by teams that have a firm grasp on their playoff outlook. Now more than ever, your roster decisions are as important as they will ever be. Determining who to cut versus who to save can be tough and each decision should be thoughtfully carried out.
Before dropping anyone, make sure to put your team into perspective. Just because your player is listed in this cut column, it does not automatically mean you should drop him, especially if you are in a dynasty league.
You also need to weigh your waiver-wire options. If someone tells you to drop a player, it does not necessarily mean the move is right for your team.
For your team to improve, you have to be able to add a player that will make your team better, immediately or down the road, compared to the player to be cut. With this being one of the last weeks of the regular season, you certainly can become more liberal with your cuts, but still make sure to think through them.
Here are some names you should consider dropping going into Week 13.
David Johnson (RB, ARI)
Boy… is fantasy football a fun game, especially when your first-round pick was David Johnson. After starting the season with at least 16 fantasy points in five-of-six weeks, Johnson has not recorded a single fantasy point in the last six weeks. The fall from his first-round production has many fantasy managers mulling whether or not to even keep Johnson. I am here to tell you that David Johnson can be dropped if you need the roster room.
Since returning from his injury, Johnson has not looked himself and it has allowed Kenyan Drake to take the reigns of the backfield. Johnson is likely dealing with multiple injuries at this point, but maybe his time as a starting running back has expired? Any way you put it, he remains impossible to start based on his current usage heading into the fantasy playoffs. You need players that you can count on in the playoffs, Johnson is no longer one of those players.
Royce Freeman (RB, DEN)
Royce Freeman’s fantasy value continues to trend downwards in 2019. Early in the year, it seemed that Freeman had a legitimate opportunity in beating out Phillip Lindsay and becoming the RB1 for Denver. Unfortunately for Freeman, the volume has shifted towards Lindsay.
In the last two weeks, Lindsay received 18 and 14 touches. Freeman during the same timeframe finished with nine and four touches. With the team turning more to Lindsay, combined with Freeman’s downward trend in touches, the backup running back is someone that can be cut heading into the playoffs.
Josh Gordon (WR, SEA)
Since leaving New England, Josh Gordon has continued to plague fantasy managers that insist on hanging onto him. Following his limited usage in his first start for Seattle, Gordon and the Seahawks entered Week 11 with a BYE. This BYE week seemed like the perfect opportunity for the coaching staff and Gordon to get onto the right page and maybe even script some plays in his direction.
Coming out of their BYE week Gordon actually saw a marginal decrease in his snaps, falling to 34-percent of snaps played compared to 38-percent of snaps played in Week 10. I fully admit that I could be jumping the gun on this but as we head into the fantasy playoffs, roster spots are always valuable. Gordon’s intangibles on the field are also good enough to create success at any point in the game, something you should know about him before cutting him. In the end, Gordon is still going to have to prove to his managers that he is a trustworthy asset for fantasy football, which could be after the playoffs are over. Move on from Gordon if you feel there are better rentals on waivers for Week 13 and beyond.
Zach Pascal (WR, IND)
After T.Y. Hilton went down with an injury in Week 9, teammate Zach Pascal looked extremely attractive to receiver hungry fantasy teams. Those who tried to add Pascal prospectively were let down with his bust-worthy finishes, which were four, three and zero fantasy points over the last three weeks.
With Hilton back, and seemingly healthy enough to play going forward, Pascal will return to his role of being the second option in this Indy passing attack. Pascal is still capable of having good games, but only deep leagues will find themselves starting Pascal. Drop the Indy receiver in all leagues that have 12 or fewer teams.