The Justin Fields QB Handcuff

Back in 2017, we recognized an interesting new way to leverage the the “RB Handcuff” tactic, among multiple teams. In 2017 Ezekiel Elliot was suspended for the first 6 games, opening up an opportunity for an “above average RB” Darren McFadden to gain some serious points behind the best run-blocking OL at the time. Coincidingly, (but not related) Doug Martin was facing his own 3 game suspension to start the year. And although many were calling for a “Elliot/McFadden” handcuff, we saw an opportunity to take advantage of some interesting RB pricing for that season. Given Martin’s and McFadden’s draft ADP of RB 27 and RB 38 (compared to Elliot’s RB 9), why not draft two cheap(er) RBs with the intention to start McFadden early on in the season and shift to Martin after he had served his suspension. Zeke was going in the mid 2nd round, but we could get an “RB 1” between a RB in the 6th round and 8th round respectively.

*I should note that I am not a fan of the traditional handcuff, as many sources have reported they simply are not worth it, notably this piece by Sharp Football.

This seemed like this could be a great “Inter-Team Handcuff”. Obviously, this particular play didn’t pan out, but the concept has always stayed with me.

This brings us to today’s topic: The Justin Fields QB Handcuff. Regardless of your evaluation of Fields, or the draft capital that was spent to acquire him, rookie QBs that actually end up as QB1s, almost always have a significant running game attached to them. We also know that running QBs have become the “cheat code” within the fantasy community. With Field’s 4.44 40, and proven running ability, he seems like an excellent late round option, particularly those (like me) that de-value the “non-scarce” position that is QBs in fantasy football. Yet, his talent isn’t the main obstacle to his fantasy success in 2021. Its Nagy.

Let’s take a tidbit from last season to help us review him as a coach for second. Straight from the Sharp Football Analysis 2021 Preview (which I highly recommend getting if you are a serious bettor/fan/don’t want to sound like an idiot when talking about your team):

“He (Nagy) installed the Week 10 game plan against the Vikings. He worked with the
team all week in practice. And then on Friday late afternoon, approximately 72
hours before kickoff, Nagy dropped a bombshell. He would step down from
calling plays and allow new 2020 offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to call plays.
Lazor, of course, jumped at the opportunity, but was in a difficult position himself.
Was Nagy giving Lazor a chance to prove himself or was Nagy sacrificing
someone other than himself to the wolves?
It seemed if a change was to be made with the offensive coordinator, the best
time to make that change would be Tuesday morning, after the Week 10 Monday
night game against the Vikings, considering the team was entering a bye week.
The new playcaller would have almost two weeks to get his team ready with a
new style of offense. A new style certainly was needed, considering the current
style resulted in the fifth-worst offense in the NFL.
The second-best time to make the change would have been Monday morning,
after the third straight loss, at least giving the new playcaller almost a week to
implement the offense.
Changing the playcaller Friday night was peculiar, though it wasn’t the most
peculiar aspect of the Bears’ season.”

To summarize, we are not going as far as saying we have documented proof of a coach “sucking on purpose” (like we DO have with Jason Garret when he was an OC/HC in waiting the year before he became the Cowboys HC) or anything of that ilk. Yet, its a worrying anecdote, and further evidence that it’s been hard to trust what Nagy does/says. With that when he came out and said Andy Dalton is our starter, everyone rolled their eyes, and took advantage of the +350 Justin Fields Opening Day Starter Bets. Yet, as we inch closer to the season its starting to seem more and more like this is an actual truth Nagy is saying. Take that along with a Week 1 primetime matchup in LA, vs. Aaron Donald and the Rams defense, you start to think it may not be that bad of an idea anyway. But, Fields will play at some point this season, and if you look at the schedule, and consider the defenses they face it shapes up like this (again thanks to Sharp Football Preview):

Looking at the Bears schedule of Pass Defenses, the optimal time to bring Fields in may be as early as week 2. However, that’s not the point. Here is what we know:

  • Fields WILL play at some point this season, and its very UNLIKELY its week one
  • Knowing Nagy and GM Ryan Pace have once again hung their hat on a young QB, there is significant incentive for them to wait as long as they can before they start Fields
  • Fields is the ideal type of QB to raise your fantasy floor points
  • We don’t know when Fields will get in, but it will happen this season (Nagy and Pace don’t have more than a season’s worth of juice to milk this job security out)

So, why not (somewhat like the McFadden/Martin handcuff) find a cheap QB that has the best possible early season schedule, and pair him with Fields (i.e. a QB, rightfully priced at his season value, whereas we only need him for 3-5 weeks, securing us a surplus)?

When using Fantasy Pros Matchup Calendar, the options for “cheap (as in free/”last draft pick cheap”), great early season QB schedule” are:

Knowing that we need a QB12 or later, heavily weighted towards the easiest schedule, earlier the better, this leaves us with…

Kirk Cousins

As PFF and others have noted, Cousins is one of the most underrated QBs in the game (which is gold for astute fantasy owners). With his cake early season pass defense schedule, Bengals, Cardinals, Seahawks, Browns and Lions, along with all but one of those games being in a dome, makes Kirk Cousins the optimal “Justin Fields QB Handcuff“.

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