There is certainly a debate on whether “handcuffing” is even necessary for CFF or C2C, given the volume of options in the player pool. But having the right handcuff has advantages in leagues where waivers are competitive, limited, or nonexistent. Pairing Max Duggan with Chandler Morris in your best balls last year or taking a flier late on Austin Reed if you invested earlier in Jarrett Doege would have drastically impacted your spot in the standings. If you are pro-handcuff, then this is the article for you.
This group has a clear QB1 that has proven capable of being a high-end CFF producer or is in a highly productive QB system that regularly has league winners. While there is little debate on who the starter will be, the backups have proven (or have immense talent) to be fully capable of producing at a similar level as the starter should an injury take place. In some cases here, the starter could even be Wally Pipped.
Tyler Shough with Behren Morton, Texas Tech
Joey McGuire ended any suspense and announced Shough as the starter early in the summer. That makes things easier for OC Zach Kittley’s QB1 to project in this coveted system that produced Bailey Zappe. The announcement likely means you have to pay up for Shough, but it also means Morton should come at a discount, making him more of a bargain handcuff. Shough is great when healthy, but he is made of glass. He has missed five or more games each of the last two seasons as the starter. Morton, while inconsistent, proved he’s ready when called upon and potentially has the highest ceiling in the Red Raider QB room.
Jayden Daniels with Garrett Nussmeier, LSU
Daniels is QB6 of the returning QBs from 2022 production, but he is being drafted much later due to the threat of Nussmeier. Yes, there is some potential that Kelly plays both, thus limiting the potential of both QBs, but that didn’t happen last year as Nuss’ reps were limited to blowouts. If you are willing to take on that risk, you could get a top-ten QB at a discounted price and his handcuff for next to nothing. Daniels is quite durable despite his slender frame, but Nuss and his elite arm would be a strong QB option if he were to get the opportunity.
Kyle McCord with Devin Brown, Ohio State
This one is fairly similar to the LSU situation. McCord appears to be in the driver’s seat, but his backup, Brown, is probably the more talented option. Even though we didn’t see Brown in the spring game due to a hand injury, it sounds like McCord failed to widen the gap, as no starter has been named (probably to keep Brown from entering the portal). Even if McCord’s leash is short, he gets three layups to establish himself as the clear guy before OSU plays Notre Dame in Week 4. Given the system and WR options, the Buckeye QB has both a high floor and ceiling, so you want to capture this room if you invest in McCord. Handcuff late with Brown just to be safe.
Brennan Armstrong with MJ Morris, NC State
Armstrong has all but been named the starter after reuniting with his former OC, Robert Anae. He was the clear starter in the spring game, and Doeren said he had the lead going into the summer. While neither he nor Morris looked great in the scrimmage, Morris was still learning the system. Morris looked solid in his short run as starter in 2022 before a knee injury ended his season. He’s a great fit for the Anae system should the opportunity arise. Armstrong, who has aspirations to be a UFC fighter, is tough as nails, but an injury is certainly in play given what the system asks of his legs and his career 363 carries.
Jalon Daniels with Jason Bean, Kansas
Daniels was a top-five QB prior to his shoulder injury vs. TCU last year. Interestingly, there was no drop-off when Bean took over in this fun Andy Kotelnicki offense. Bean outperformed Daniels in PPG on the season in games they started because he is an elite runner, which is great in this modified spread-option scheme. Bean won’t take Daniels’ job, but he’s shown he can push 30 PPG should Daniels have another injury.
BARGAIN UPSIDE HANDCUFFS
This group involves QB rooms that lack an established or clear starter but provide a high ceiling should they win the job or they are in a system that has been historically lucrative for QBs. Because of the uncertainty surrounding their situations, many are coming at a discount compared to the upside they provide. Generally speaking, all can be drafted in the mid to late rounds.
Malik Hornsby with TJ Finley, Texas State
New coach GJ Kinne produced the Walter Payton Award winner in QB Lindsey Scott with over 5,000 yards and 71 TDs while at Incarnate Word in 2022. Hornsby is an electric runner and looked like a slam dunk under Kinne until Finley announced his transfer from Auburn to Texas State. There is certainly potential for a dual QB system, but the ceiling is the roof for Hornsby should he be the clear QB1. He can be snatched up post-round ten after the Finley transfer news broke. Finley doesn’t have the Konami Code upside of Hornsby but is a wise handcuff at the end of your draft should you lean into Hornsby earlier on.
Jaxson Dart with Spencer Sanders, Ole Miss
Dart’s performance throughout the spring makes him a safe bet to start, but something about Sanders and his 41 career starts makes me think the leash will be very short. Tulane, Alabama, and LSU could make for an uncomfortable start for any QB. Especially one that was quite inconsistent in 2022 and saw multiple high-profile transfers enter the fold in the offseason. Neither QB will cost you much draft capital, but both provide dual-threat upside in a Kiffin system.
Tyler Buchner with Jalen Milroe, Alabama
The Tide QB room hasn’t been this unsettled since the start of 2016 before Jalen Hurts separated from the pack. Milroe appeared to have the edge to become Bryce Young’s successor, but an abysmal spring game showing motivated new OC Tommy Rees to pluck his former Irish QB out of the portal. Buchner has the advantage of two years of experience with Rees. We may see both get run early, and the one that performs best against Texas (similar to Hurts vs. USC) in Week 2 gets the nod. Ty Simpson could throw a wrench in this handcuff should he have an incredible fall camp, but that appears unlikely. It’s not often a Bama QB can be had so late in drafts, but here we are with a dual-threat handcuff situation at a minimal cost.
Ethan Garbers with Dante Moore, UCLA
DTR, Mariota, Thomas, Masoli…Garbers?…Moore? Chip Kelly has gone platinum many times over as a CFF QB producer. Don’t be fooled by the lack of experience in this QB room into thinking UCLA can’t be a successful offense. Chip has averaged 41 PPG on offense with first-year QB starters between Oregon and UCLA. Regression from their top ten offense in 2022 is likely, but system history, a strong WR room, and one of the weaker P5 schedules are all on your side if you take a shot on both these QBs late in best ball drafts. Garbers probably gets the first crack at the job, but don’t be surprised if the blue-chip freshman jumps into the fold after the bye if UCLA loses at Utah in Week 4.
Bert Emanuel with Jase Bauer, Central Michigan
This one has some similarities to the Texas State duo. Bauer appears to have the inside track to the starting job based on spring reports and early depth chart projections. But it is Emanuel that provides the potential to be a league winner should he win this job. Emanuel is currently being drafted in the mid-teens based solely on his 24-293-3 single-game rushing performance in 2022. Bauer also provides some rushing ability and isn’t currently being drafted in best ball leagues, but probably should be for those taking shots on Emanuel. Neither are proficient passers, so there is some concern that we could see a weekly rotation based on matchups and performance.