2022 Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: The Top WR Handcuffs


A lot of attention is given in fantasy circles to the idea of handcuffing running backs. That means securing the backup of clear lead backs during fantasy drafts (think Dalvin Cook in the first round and Alexander Mattison in the eighth round to secure the Vikings’ backfield). While this strategy can be extremely effective, there are also limited players to target, since a lot of NFL teams feature many running backs with various roles. Given the way offenses run today, by spreading the ball out in three-wide receiver sets, the same attention should be given to the wide receiver position.


This article will highlight the best “handcuff wide receivers” to target in fantasy football. These players are likely flex-level plays or bench stashes with very little starting upside in a vacuum. All the players on this list are currently or eventually will be the third option (or worse) in their team’s passing attack. However, they could see a major role increase in the case of injuries. However, any injury would create a situation for them to ascend into higher volume and become a weekly starting option in fantasy lineups.

2022 Fantasy Football WR Handcuffs

Ready to Go Day 1

This group of WR3s will have larger roles in the offense early in the season due to injuries and/or suspensions.

Russell Gage, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The lack of wide receiver talent in Atlanta the last two seasons has allowed Russell Gage, a former sixth-round pick out of LSU, an opportunity to develop into a very solid receiver. Gage has averaged 101.5 targets, 69 receptions, 778 receiving yards and four touchdowns the last two seasons playing as the second option on a bad Atlanta offense. Gage doesn’t have the explosiveness to be featured on the outside, but he has done a great job establishing himself as a strong receiver out of the slot. His situation saw a massive upgrade this season when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered him a three-year contract.

Not only will Gage be catching passes from Tom Brady now, but he finds himself in a situation where he has very little established target competition on a team that likes to throw the ball. Mike Evans will undoubtedly be Brady’s first target in the passing game, but Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown are no longer on the team, and Chris Godwin suffered a late-season ACL injury that will likely put him on the PUP list to start the season. Gage will have immediate value in fantasy leagues while Godwin is working his way back from injury, and he could easily establish himself as the second target in Brady’s passing attack early in the year. 

Ultimately, the return of Godwin may cap his upside, but Gage should still have a defined role in a pass-heavy offense and could provide fantasy value later in the season as well.


Jalen Tolbert, Dallas Cowboys

Jalen Tolbert finds himself in an excellent position to have fantasy success after being selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The rookie enters the league as an older, small-school prospect, but he’s aided by the fact that he dominated his last two seasons at South Alabama. In 23 games, Tolbert had 146 receptions for 2,559 yards and 16 touchdowns while frequently winning on contested catches and deep/intermediate throws. Tolbert has good size (6’1, 194) and solid speed (4.49 40-yard dash) for a small-school prospect, which could help his transition to the NFL.

The rookie will have a fantastic chance to make a mark early for the Dallas Cowboys following Michael Gallup’s late-season ACL tear and the trade of Amari Cooper during the offseason. Dallas will still lean on the run game with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, but outside of CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz, there aren’t any remaining pass-game weapons remaining from the 2021 season. Tolbert will likely see the field in three-receiver sets with Lamb and James Washington until Gallup returns from his injury. If Tolbert outplays Washington during the early part of the season, he could easily factor into three-receiver sets once Gallup returns as well. At the very least, he will have an early-season role in a strong passing attack led by Dak Prescott.

A.J. Green, Arizona Cardinals

One thing we know for certain heading into the 2022 season: DeAndre Hopkins will be suspended for the first six games after a PED violation. The Cardinals acquired Marquise Brown during the offseason, and he will likely become the team’s top target during that stretch. However, A.J. Green is currently being overlooked in fantasy drafts given the role he could command as the team’s WR2 during Hopkins’ suspension. In six games without Hopkins last season, Green averaged 6.3 targets, 2.8 receptions and 63.6 receiving yards per game. A second year in the offense (and time to game plan without Hopkins) should increase those stats and give Green a solid weekly floor in fantasy leagues as a WR3 or flex play.

A.J. Green 2022 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Handcuffs

Even when Hopkins returns, Green should have an established role on the outside, since Brown will likely become the team’s primary slot receiver. There are plenty of weapons for Kyler Murray to utilize, but Green will be the big outside receiver who should get funneled easy targets to start the season. He has also shown an ability to command targets with the receiving corps at full strength.

Fantasy-Relevant Stashes

This group of players will find themselves behind very talented wide receivers to start the year, but could see a strong-enough target share in the offense to have flex appeal. Any injuries would boost them up the depth chart into high-volume roles.

Josh Palmer, Los Angeles Chargers

Early reports in training camp have Josh Palmer making a push for the team’s WR3 spot. In his rookie season, Palmer caught 33-of-49 targets for 353 yards and four touchdowns. Palmer was especially effective down the stretch last season, catching 18-of-28 targets for 185 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, Palmer had three out of those five games with at least a 60% snap share, the only three times it happened last season. Palmer showed strong hands and good route-running in his rookie season, and an increased role in the offense could only signal growth.

Unfortunately, an increased role in the offense won’t necessarily mean a massive jump in production for Palmer. The Chargers attempted 674 passes last season, third most in the NFL. Despite his limited snap share, Palmer still finished fifth on the team in targets. Unfortunately for Palmer, the top-three target leaders on the team (Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler) all return after garnering 56% of the team’s targets. Palmer is worth drafting and stashing on the end of your bench in case one of the bigger pieces of the offense goes down with an injury. 


Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams

Van Jefferson‘s production leapt in his second year with the Rams, catching 50-of-89 targets for 802 yards and six touchdowns. Jefferson had an impressive stretch of games in Weeks 10-13 (when Odell Beckham was getting acclimated to the offense), catching 11-of-20 targets for 192 yards and three touchdowns. Things were looking up for Jefferson this offseason, with Robert Woods being traded and Beckham a free agent coming off a Super Bowl ACL tear, until the Rams signed Allen Robinson in free agency. Cooper Kupp will once again dominate targets, but Robinson is still a strong receiver who will command the second-most targets in the offense.

The Rams will throw the ball again in 2022, and Jefferson will have a consistent role in the offense as the team’s WR3. However, unless something happens to Kupp or Robinson, his role in the passing attack will be capped.

Tim Patrick, Denver Broncos

There’s a little buzz heading into the fantasy season about KJ Hamler and his role in an offense with Russell Wilson. Most don’t realize that Hamler not only suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 3 but also a hip injury that required surgery. Due to the complicated rehab, the handcuff receiver to target in fantasy drafts is Tim Patrick.

In the last two seasons, Patrick is averaging 82 targets, 52 receptions, 738 receiving yards and 5.5 touchdowns. Patrick isn’t especially explosive, but he’s a big target who runs routes in the slot and will garner targets. The fifth-year receiver will likely finish second in targets behind Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy, but he could have a big enough role in the offense to be a bye-week streamer and could once again earn targets if Sutton or Jeudy get injured. 

K.J. Osborn, Minnesota Vikings

K.J. Osborn 2022 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Handcuffs

In his rookie season, K.J. Osborn had zero targets or receptions. He had much better results in his second year while occasionally filling in for an injured Adam Thielen. Osborn was targeted 82 times and caught 50 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns. He was most impressive to close out the season when Thielen was injured. From Weeks 14-18, Osborn caught 15-of-28 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns. The third-year receiver did enough to earn a consistent role on the offense and could see a boost in his role with the new coaching staff.

Unfortunately, there will be plenty of competition for targets in Minnesota. Justin Jefferson has a legitimate chance to finish as the overall WR1 in fantasy. Thielen will return once again and has had an offseason to get healthy. Osborn could at best be the third target in the offense, but he would once again have huge upside with any missed time between Jefferson and Thielen.

Boom or Bust Without an Injury

These players are available in the last three rounds of fantasy drafts and could function as bench fodder while also having big roles in their offenses.

Bryan Edwards, Atlanta Falcons

There was a lot of hype around Bryan Edwards the last two seasons in the fantasy community, but he has yet to deliver any usable results. Edwards did have significant improvements in his second season. Edwards finished the season with 34 receptions on 59 targets for 571 yards and three touchdowns. Edwards also had 11 games with four or more targets. The Raiders acquired Davante Adams this offseason and promptly shipped Edwards off to Atlanta.

Edwards is far from a sure thing, but some things are working in his favor with the Falcons. For one, the wide receiver room is very thin around him. Kyle Pitts will function as the team’s top receiver again, and they added Drake London with the eighth pick of the NFL draft. The Falcons also have Edwards’ former teammate with the Raiders, Marcus Mariota, slated to be their starting quarterback. Mariota has familiarity with Edwards and could lean on him early in the season.

If London or Pitts were to miss time, Edwards could see his role grow in the offense. At the very least, he’s worth a flier after the 16th round of fantasy drafts. He has the size and explosiveness to still have a role in the NFL.

Terrace Marshall, Carolina Panthers

Terrace Marshall 2022 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Handcuffs

You couldn’t draw up a worse rookie season for a second-round pick than Terrace Marshall’s. The rookie was inactive in four games and struggled to consistently get on the field. All told, Marshall finished the year with just 30 targets, 17 receptions and 138 yards. He had just five games with at least three targets, none after Week 6. It’s easy to write off talented players after a bad year, but Marshall has a chance to have a much bigger role in the Panthers offense.

The former LSU product was a five-star recruit who had 94 receptions, 1,402 yards and 23 touchdowns in his last two seasons in college. He struggled with a foot injury coming into his rookie year which likely had an impact on his ability to make explosive plays. DJ Moore will undoubtedly pace the team in targets, and a healthy Christian McCaffrey will get his work in the passing game. Robbie Anderson was underwhelming last season and at least mentioned retirement on social media.

Marshall could see his role grow if he can hold off Rashard Higgins for the team’s WR3 spot. If Moore, Anderson or McCaffrey miss time this season, then Marshall could find himself seeing consistent weekly targets. The second-year player is being drafted in the last round of fantasy drafts and offers huge upside at almost no cost.

Previous 2022 Fantasy Football Coaches and Coordinators Rankings Next NFC South Division Winners: Can Anyone Challenge Tom Brady and the Bucs?