Injuries and Camp Battles: Fantasy Football Week 1 Preseason News & Notes

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With most teams having their first preseason game under their belt, we start to get a better idea of where depth charts will end up come week 1 and also get the privilege of watching our favorite breakout players get a lot of game action.  Here’s the highlights from week 1.


China Doll

Talk about impeccable timing on Thursday evening, as both Ryan Mathews and Michael Vick got dinged up just minutes apart in their first preseason games.  Vick’s injury does not appear to be serious at all however, and he still remains one of the better bargains in drafts this year.  Grab him if he’s falling to the 5th round.

Mathews on the other hand was not so lucky.  The now former consensus top-5 back will miss 4-6 weeks (or more) with a broken collarbone.  This places him in doubt for the season opener, and we may not see him until week 4.  It’s hard to find any positives to take away from this, but let’s take a look at why this is great news for Mathews’ fans. 

First of all, Mathews was already labeled as “injury-prone” before the collarbone injury, but that wasn’t slowing people down from taking him early in the first round.  Now, Mathews is falling to the tail end of the 3rd round.  While it is a given that he’s probably going to miss at least 1 game, the latest injury will have a lot of owners completely staying away.  Do I think Mathews is more prone to injury than everyone else?  No.  A broken collarbone is just piss poor luck as he got rolled on the wrong way.

Mathews played only 14 games in 2011 on his way to becoming the 7th best PPR running back, while sharing a lot of his time with Mike Tolbert.  It’s been well advertised that Mathews is going to be a workhorse back in 2012, so he’s still going to finish in the top 5 among backs (barring further injury).  I’ll live with 1-3 weeks of a replacement level back in return for solid production from Mathews for the rest of the season.  And who’s situation does Mathews remind me of this year?  Well, Arian Foster last year.  Foster missed two and a half games at the beginning of last year, yet still finished as the 4th overall PPR back.

What am I getting at?  Just draft Mathews in the 3rd round.  In the meantime, I wouldn’t get into a bidding war to grab any of Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle, or Curtis Brinkley.  It’s impossible to tell how that situation will play out, and it has the look of being your typical 3-headed monster backfield.


Julio Jones Goes Off

Julio Jones only put in one quarter of work in Atlanta’s first preseason game, but he didn’t waste any time posting full game numbers (6rec/109yds/TD).  Julio’s stock has never been higher, and his ADP has gone from a bargain in early round 3 to right about where it should be in mid round 2.  I realize there has been a lot of talk about going RB-RB in the first two rounds, but if you’re picking from the 6 spot and end up with a tandem of Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones in the first two rounds, you can still end up with a combination of running backs over the next 2 rounds that include rookie Doug Martin, Michael Turner, Reggie Bush, and Frank Gore.

Meanwhile in Atlanta, second year running back Jacquizz Rodgers put together a decent game.  The Falcons have made it clear they will reduce Turner’s role to some extent this year to keep him fresh all year.  This is great news for Rodgers (9th round ADP), who will get plenty of work on 3rd downs and obvious passing downs.  He’ll definitely have a shot at being a legitimate weekly flex option.


Backfield Situations

I was pretty appalled when I looked at Isaac Redman’s ADP and saw him routinely going in the 4th round.  Nothing about Redman’s game is overly impressive, and his days as the #1 RB in Pittsburgh will be numbered from the get go.  Jonathan Dwyer and rookie Chris Rainey will both push to steal playing time from Redman, and Mendenhall will eventually be back as well.  There’s just not a lot of value or upside with a guy like Redman to justify that early of a pick on him.

Meanwhile, Green Bay brought in veteran Cedric Benson after James Starks played very poorly in the first preseason game AND developed a case of turf toe.  With a backfield full of “meh” and a pass heavy offense, you’re not going to get consistent weekly production from anyone in Green Bay. 

Chris Johnson’s 5 totes for 8 yards in the Titans’ first preseason game did nothing to show us that he will improve upon his disappointing 2011.  I’ll gladly let someone else have at him in the first round while waiting on better options like McFadden, Forte, Murray, AP, and even Charles.  For a back lacking the burst he had two years ago, Johnson is very overrated at this point.


Rookie Quarterbacks

Luck, Griffin, and Tannehill all played very well in their NFL debuts.  Tannehill still hasn’t secured the starting spot, but is definitely worth monitoring if you really want to wait to take a QB2 late.  Both Luck and Griffin should see their stock rise after solid performances.  If you’re dead set on securing your other starters in the first 6 rounds, both should probably be there for the taking as high upside QB1’s. 



And now, chimes in with a few of his thoughts.


Seattle Quarterbacks

The Seattle QB quandary, who will be the starter? Well, Matt Flynn looked efficient orchestrating the offense peppered with slants and screens and other short, rhythm based routes.  But when the pressure was dialed up and his OL protection failed, he looked pretty "Gabberty" if you know what I mean. He did face the defensive starters of Tennessee (not that they are world beaters anymore), and in his defense, he looked good overall. For fantasy purposes? Let's hope to hell he falls flat on his face the rest of the preseason. Why?

Russell Wilson.

Sure he faced a backup defense in the second half, but he was dynamic to say the least. He did throw one ill-advised red zone pick, but he made Braylon Edwards instantly relevant again with a big 39 yard rainbow pass for a touchdown early in the 2nd half to prove he isn't a one trick pony. Wilson also scampered for a TD on a beautifully executed bootleg that showed why he can be a fantasy asset with his legs.

Will Pete Carroll see the light and name Wilson his week one starter? The next few weeks will be telling, and dynasty owners are surely bidding on this dynamic playmaker as we speak. For once, it would be great to see Old Pete get this QB thing right.


Patriots’ 3-Headed Monster

First blush of the Patriot RB situation? Proceed with we do every year.  It appears on the surface that it's Ridley's job to lose, but if you watched their matchup versus the Saints, Ridley botched a few assignments.  While he looked strong when he had the ball in his hands, his game still needs work.  Vereen looked much more dynamic against the 2nd team defense of the Saints (Vereen saw no first half work).  Woodhead is Woodhead. Reliable in the passing game, but small and he’s rarely used on early downs.  Watch this one closely, as there's definitely some late round value here.


More Injury Woes Lead to a Solid Fantasy Matchup

The Desmond Bishop news (out for the year with a hamstring injury/surgery forthcoming) is awful for IDP owners, but good news for owners of opposing run games. The Packers’ run defense was already spotty, but this makes them a sieve. Start opposing running backs with confidence.