Identifying the ideal handcuffs to have taking up roster space is difficult but there may be a method to the handcuff madness. There are three crowds when it comes to rostering ahandcuff player:
(1) Owner rosters a handcuff that provides depth to their starting running backs, but no other handcuffs.
(2) Owner will handcuff in specific systems and on specific teams.
(3) The other crowd only rosters a specific type of handcuff. All types have their pros and cons and they all have their own specific criteria in rostering a handcuff. Let’s dive into what I believe is the most successful strategy for rostering a handcuff RB. When rostering a handcuff RB, we want to consider a few things: Does this RB profile support his ability to be a lead back? Has this RB had opportunities to be the lead back, what happened if he did? Does this backfield feature a lead back role? Let’s define what a profile looks like that has been able to support a lead back historically. When we look at RBs who are lead backs on their team, whether they are bell cow RBs or workhorse RBs, there is a trend. Let’s look at the last three years of RBs and what their profile looked like out of college to establish some things to look for.
On average, throughout the last three seasons, the top-12 running backs were 71.05 inches tall(5’11”), 217.85 pounds. They also have a body mass index averaged at 31.24. Height and weight are important, but it is not the end all be all in determining a running backs durability. Body Mass Index, however, is a better indicator in determining the weight to size ratio a running back has to withstand the physical punishment they undergo each week. We aren’t going to pay much attention to height but we will be looking into Body Mass Index when determining the ideal handcuffs. Rostering a handcuff that is unable to withstand the physicality of the position becomes a wasted roster space and a wasted opportunity. Next, what opportunities are available if the lead back can’t start for a game? We have already determined in previous articles how many touches a RB needs to be a workhorse: 20. Let’s look at the teams where you are seeing an RB with 20 touches a game.
And finally, does this offense compliment a running back being the lead back? Let’s take a lookat the 32 teams and see what the top rusher are getting for their snap share.
What we are looking for here is to find a workload for the primary back that is 60+%. A running back with a 60% snap share will leave enough touches for their handcuff to come in and become an impactful replacement. Snap share is not indicative of touch opportunity but it does show what touch void will be created if that player misses time. It is important to note that some of these players have a higher snap share than indicated due to multiple factors, most notably Swift, Mostert, Harris, Carson and Chubb.What does this all mean for assessing the viability of a handcuff now that we have established thresholds that we want our handcuff running back to meet? You can go through and start to tier the various handcuffs available.Out of the thirty two RBs, 22 have a snap share above 60%; This includes Chubb,Carson and Gurley on the list. Out of those 22 teams this is a list ranked 1-22 on who has the most touches.
As you can see, not every RB has a touch opportunity above 20. In fact only 9 RBs have that opportunity. Of those 9 players 7 have defined handcuffs, Devine Ozigbo and Jeremy McNichols are the two other high opportunity handcuffs to pay attention to. When determining similar players it is important to factor in athletic profile and track history. You want RBs to be athletic, and though it is not a necessity, it is a better predictive measure of success. What that means; is you want a speed score above 100, a burst score (vertical jump and broad jump)above the 70th percentile and an agility score (three cone and 20 yard shuffle) above the 70thpercentile. Since most do not have those metrics readily available playerprofiler.com has those metrics among others next to each NFL player.
Devine Ozigbo has a 31 BMI, he has a speed score of 91, an 80th percentile burst score and a 70th percentile agility score.
Jeremy McNichols has a 31.6 BMI, a speed score of 105.3, an 62nd percentile burstscore and a 72nd percentile agility score. As you can see both handcuffs meet two of the three criteria to be a high value handcuff. I would rank McNichols above Ozigbo for a few reasons. First, he has the requisite size, speed and agility you want for a running back and he also has a potential 23.5 touches a game with a 63% snap share open up if Henry were to miss any time. He does lack burst, which may limit his ceiling, though he certainly has the potential floor you want to see for a handcuff. Ozigbo has a below average speed score but the requisite size, burst and agility. He has the potential of 20.4 touches and 66.4% snap share to walk into if Robinson were to miss time. This method is pretty similar to how each of us should approach our ideal handcuff determinations. Before I give you tiers in handcuffs, there are some important things which also need to be factored in other than just pure numbers. First, does this backup have standalone value? If they do they should be in the higher tier than a similar back without the same value. Second, has the handcuff had a starting opportunity with this team? If a handcuff has had opportunity but did not utilize the potential of the opportunity given they may need to be lowered. Third, when this lead back went down, did the handcuff receive the majority of the open opportunities? If the coach has shown a tendency to take a committee approach when their starting running back goes down then that dilutes the touch and snap share potential. I will be writing another article shortly breaking down all twenty two handcuffs and their respective tiers. Stay tuned!