This is the most important and busiest weekend for fantasy football drafts. Catch up on all the latest player news before you head into the draft room.
FFN searches nearly 30 of the leading fantasy sites so be sure to check out the current consensus player draft rankings prior to your draft.
Here's the truth on MJD - Depending on the size of your league, it's very likely that he will be drafted as an RB1 or an RB2 on someone's team. He's the current league rushing leader and the workhorse for that Jacksonville team. They need him as much as he needs them. His stock has only gone down slightly in fantasy land however. He's currently the 7th-ranked RB on FFN (14th overall) and has the potential to end the year as a Top 5 back. His value could slide significantly if he doesn't report to the team soon. A report out today indicated that if he didn't show up to camp by Saturday, he would not start Week 1. The longer he stays out, the less positive the fantasy outlook. It's nearly impossible to mention MJD without invoking memories of last year's Chris Johnson disaster. As we've stated, MJD will be drafted in the first 2 rounds. If you take him, be sure to put an emphasis on handcuffing Rashad Jennings who has looked fantastic in MJD's absence.
What concussion? It was great to Jennings suited up and ready to play on Thursday. He caught two balls for 37 yards. He said later that he felt a little rusty and his routes and timing were off a bit, but he still has time to get back up to speed. Don't let concussion concerns, lack of preseason playing time, or his decline in production last season prevent you from drafting him as a WR1. He is still the #1 receiver on one of the most high-powered passing offenses. He's going to get the targets, and as long as he stay healthy, he's going to produce.
We received emails from folks last week suggesting that we erred by not recommending McFadden. Call us gun shy, but we'd rather have Chris Johnson over RunDMC - not because of potential but rather because we're looking for more safety with our first pick. McFadden isn't safe. Betting that McFadden will miss some games this year is a safer bet than any one you could make in Vegas. It's virtually guaranteed that he'll be out at some point this season. McFadden has so much potential and he's such an explosive player that it sucks to pass him down the line. If you're sitting at the mid to end of the first round, you're going to have to decide on whether or not to take him. If you want to gamble, go ahead and draft him. He's a beast when he's healthy. We're big believers that first round picks should be safe. We prefer to leave the gambling for the later rounds.
Steve Smith (Carolina)
The last thing a fantasy owner wants to see is Steve Smith on crutches. It probably helps grab readers attention, but in this case, it would appear that the bark is worse than the bite. He has an infected foot and the team is simply being cautious. At this point, there's no reason to be alarmed. Smith is currently ranked 16th among wide receivers on FFN and should be a solid WR2 for any team.
Like Darren McFadden, Michael Vick causes heartburn for fantasy owners. The potential is such a draw, but every fantasy owner has to prepare for the inevitable injury. It would be a miracle for Vick to finish the season healthy. He's certain to miss some time which is why he has dropped a few spots in ADP. It probably sounds crazy, but we wouldn't laugh at the guy who drafts Eli Manning, Tony Romo, or Matt Ryan ahead of Vick. There's perhaps less reward with those other QB's but there's also less risk. Vick is ranked 6th among QB's on FFN, and even with durability concerns, he's still a QB1.
Nobody in the Vikings organization wants to commit to Adrian Peterson suiting up for Week 1. He looks like he's progressing well, but there exists a chance that he won't be ready to go. Even with his status in doubt, he's ranked 14th among running backs on FFN and being drafted as an RB2. All-Day is such a physical machine that at some point he's going to back to producing solid numbers in an offense that sorely needs him. We have no hesitations on drafting him as our second running back and you shouldn't either.
We've watched Trent Richardson's ADP go down since the announcement of his arthroscopic surgery. He was once a consensus RB1 but has been drafted lately as an RB2. If you're able to draft Richardson as your second running back, consider yourself in decent position. He should have a ton of work this year and reports today indicate that he should be ready to go for Week 1. We're optimistic with our expectations and think Richardson has the potential to end the season as a Top 10 back.
I've watched folks treat Mathews as the plague in drafts over the past week. In two of my leagues, I have Mathews as my 3rd running back. This is a guy who was a consensus RB1 before he broke his clavicle and who still has great upside when he returns. The injury and his ability to stay healthy are question marks hanging over his head and scaring fantasy owners away. Mathews believes that he'll be ready by Week 1. We have our doubts. Even if he is back, he may not be in true form for a few more weeks. If he can get healthy and deliver on his pre-injury expectations, he still has tremendous value.
Chris Johnson will have a bounce back year. I'm convinced of that and I've put my money where my mouth is. In multiple leagues, including FFN Users League 1, I drafted CJ2K with my first pick ahead of guys like Darren McFadden, MJD, and Matt Forte. I'm not going to lie to you - I felt a twinge of angst when Johnson managed a paltry 2.1 yards/carry against the Cardinals Thursday, but I consider that game to be more about the QB battle first and foremost. When the regular season starts, the Titans will unleash Johnson and he should produce like a RB1. Forget about last year.
Last year, Matt Forte was the Chicago Bears offense...literally. The addition of Brandon Marshall may cut into his receptions this year, but it wouldn't be far-fetched to see Forte be the rushing and receiving leader on that team in 2012. In fact, Marshall may be a welcome relief for Forte by giving the Bears a legitimate passing/receiving threat and opening up the field for the run game. The presence of Michael Bush is going to negatively impact Forte, particularly in goal line situations. Bears' OC Mike Tice has publicly said that he wants to see Forte and Bush both reach 1,000 yards rushing this year. Forte should be a beast this year, and depending on the size of your league, could even serve as an RB1 - particularly in PPR formats.
Torrey Smith is the epitome of feast or famine. He's either going to give you big points or he's going to chip in single digits. If Thursday's game against the Jaguars was any indication of what to expect, Smith could be fantasy gold. He was clearly the #1 target for Joe Flacco who targeted him 11 times. Smith made the most of those targets hauling in 8 receptions for 103 yards - a fantastic performance that any fantasy owner would be thrilled to have. He's ranked 28th among wide receivers on FFN so look to target him as your 3rd wide receiver.
Santonio Holmes intends to play this weekend. He's still dealing with bruised ribs and the Jets have given no indication that they plan to involve him too much before he's ready. Holmes has said that he feels good enough to go, so we'll see how he does once he gets on the field against Carolina this weekend. He should be ready to go for Week 1 and we wouldn't hesitate to draft him as a WR3. He's ranked 37th among WR's on FFN.
Jordy Nelson made many fantasy owners incredibly happy last year. Don't let his 2-for-26 yard performance on Thursday influence his draft position. Nelson is a WR1/2, and like Greg Jennings, he's on one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL. There's no reason to believe that he won't come close to 1,200 yards again this season.
When it's time to draft your 4th wide receiver, Blackmon is a good guy to target (currently ranked 42nd among WR's on FFN). His upside is fantastic. He may have had his difficulties getting to camp, but he's looked very solid once he got there. He has obviously connected well with QB Blaine Gabbert highlighted by a good outing against the Ravens where he pulled in 4 receptions for 72 yards. It's not that far-fetched to see 4 or 5 century mark games this year. We'd like him better if his QB wasn't Gabbert, but as is, we'll definitely take a flier on him as our 4th wide receiver.
Training camp and preseason games have sent a clear message: this is not the same Laurent Robinson who impressed so many of us last year in Dallas. It would appear that Robinson has taken a backseat to rookie Justin Blackmon, and let's face it: Blaine Gabbert is no Tony Romo. Don't draft him thinking that you're going to get last year's Laurent Robinson. He may have gotten his money, but fantasy owners should shy away from him unless they're feeling adventurous and want to take a late round flier on him.
The bad news is that Lynch likely won't play this week. The good news is that he will likely avoid a suspension for his DUI arrest. He's ranked just outside the Top 10 among running backs on FFN which makes him a Round 2 pick, however he's still an RB1 for draft purposes. As long as Lynch stays healthy (and sober), he's still a beast. We're comfortable with him as our first running back but very happy to have him as our second. Depending on the size of your league, Lynch won't likely make it past the second round. He's a safer pick now than he was a few weeks ago.
It's been said that Turner "the Burner" is gone. If you don't like the outlook for Michael Turner today, wait a few days and it will change. We've heard all the grumblings that Turner will see less action this season as the Falcons take to the air, but then Mike Smith comes out and says that Turner will remain an "integral" part of the offense and that "he's going to get his touches just like the other guys." Turner has been drafted lately as a solid RB2. As the 18th-ranked running back on FantasyFootballNerd.com, he'll likely surpass 1,000 yards rushing and could still see 10 scores this season. That's fantastic production from your second running back! We have no hesitations on Turner so ignore the distractions and draft away.
What better way to start with a new team than by suiting up and playing against your old team! Benson looked pretty decent against the Bengals in the Packer's 3rd preseason game. He rushed 6 times for 38 yards (6.3 yds/carry). His stock has been steadily climbing and he's currently the 39th-ranked running back on FFN. We've seen quite a few folks reach for him on draft day, but as his FFN ranking shows, the industry hasn't adopted those expectations. In deeper leagues, Benson can make a fantastic RB3.
He's currently ranked 40th among running backs on FFN, but the combination of a nagging turf toe injury and the addition of Cedric Benson to the team leaves very little reason to draft James Starks this year. If he gets healthy, and more importantly - if he even makes the team, expectations have sunk for him. Frankly, we're not drafting Starks at all. If we want him when it becomes likely that he'll play, we'll look for him on the waiver wire.
The best thing BenJarvus Green-Ellis could have done was to get out of New England. He didn't play against Green Bay this week and there are legitimate health concerns surrounding his foot. Reports today indicate that he may not play the final preseason game. It's a situation worth watching as Green-Ellis should be a solid RB3 with RB2 potential.
Gresham sat out Thursday's game against Green Bay to continue resting his knee. Some folks have expressed concerns that Gresham could miss more time, however every report we've seen seems to indicate that this won't be the case. He's currently ranked 12th among TE's on FFN so he's likely a TE1 on someone's team. After Graham, Gronkowski, and Gates are off the board, that second tier is open to debate. Gresham should perform like a TE1 and we have no hesitations drafting him as such.
We've seen Isaac Redman drafted far ahead of Rashard Mendenhall in several drafts this week. While he will likely be the primary rusher initially, Mendenhall will probably share time once he's fully healthy. The fact that Mendenhall has been taken off the PUP list and Redman expects his hip injury to linger all season, it makes us question the legitimacy of taking Redman too early. Frankly, nobody in the Pittsburgh backfield gets us excited. That being said, we're still fans of Redman and think he can produce this year but no more than at an RB3 level.
The good news is that Jason Witten will not need surgery on his spleen. The Cowboys are going to take it easy with him, and as of right now, he's still questionable to play Week 1. Witten is ranked 7th among tight ends on FFN so he's still being drafted as a TE1. Witten has a history of playing through injuries so we're still all-in on him this year.
The backfield in New Orleans is a busy place and Darren Sproles is busy resting his knee. All indications are that he could play if he had to, which is good news for fantasy owners. He is expected to suit up for Week 1 and should be able to produce solid #'s (particularly in PPR formats) as your second running back.
We're going to go on record and say that this is the year that Shonn Greene finally breaks out. The QB situation is anyone's guess in New York, and frankly, neither Sanchez nor Tebow get us excited. The Jets appear determined to pursue a strong run game this year and Greene is the focal point of that backfield. There's no LT to legitimately share time with and Rex Ryan has been impressed with Greene's running in the preseason. Shonn Greene is currently ranked 24th among running backs on FFN effectively putting him as a low end RB2/high end RB3. We're happy to take him as our second running back in 12-team leagues, but boy would it be nice to have him as our third.
There's no reason to doubt that Dez Bryant will suit up for the NFL opener. The MRI on his knee came back fine so don't let his injury prevent you from drafting him as a high end WR2/borderline WR1. He's the top option in that Dallas receiving corp ahead of Miles Austin and Jason Witten.
Hakeem Nicks is working hard to come back from a fractured foot and he's progressing nicely. He's expected to suit up and play Week 1 against the Cowboys. Don't let his injury prevent you from drafting him. He's still going to produce WR1 numbers.
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