Hello, Handcuffs

"Handcuffing" players is a popular technique in fantasy football to help protect against injury or a lack of depth at a particular spot. The Panthers employed that same technique in the NFL Draft and hope the strategy pays real-world dividends.

Fantasy football players, especially those who are also Panthers fans, are familiar with the concept of a handcuff. For example, someone who drafts DeAngelo Williams may "handcuff" him to Jonathan Stewart. By choosing both players, the owner is assured that if one of the players is injured or relegated to a lesser role, his team is not left out in the cold.

Panthers GM Marty Hurney used the same technique in April's NFL Draft. He handcuffed Jimmy Clausen to Tony Pike. He backed up the selection of Brandon LaFell with Armanti Edwards and David Gettis. And he bundled together Jordan Pugh, R.J. Stanford and Robert McClain to make sure he got the secondary help and special-teams boost that he needed.

The upside is that Carolina now has an abundance of young, talented depth in three key areas that were considered weaknesses just a month ago. The downside is that the Panthers were not able to address other positions in the draft, such as offensive line and defensive tackle.

Nonetheless, coach John Fox believes the infusion of talent will restore his team's competitive juices coming off an up-and-down season.

"We are young but we have a lot of energy," Fox said. "Guys are willing to work hard and I'm seeing that. Now we just have to mold it into a football unit."

Really, that is the biggest benefit of the handcuff strategy, at least when applied in the real world: competition.

LaFell will compete with Dwayne Jarrett for the No. 2 receiver position, but both players know Edwards and Gettis are eager to crowd the mix. The competition is even more intense in the defensive backfield, where Pugh, Stanford and McClain could be fighting for one spot on the active roster.

Of course, the spot where competition is most crucial is quarterback. Pike seems penciled into the No. 3 spot, but he, Clausen and Matt Moore should push each other throughout the offseason and preseason.

If Moore wins out, he will be pushed to maintain his efficiency, which helped him win four of five starts last season. If Clausen takes the lead, he will know he must prove himself on the field before he earns the right to play without looking over his shoulder.

And if Moore and Clausen both falter? That's where Pike steps in. And that's the beauty of the handcuff.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.

Panther Insider Top Stories