Three and out: Lockout could increase injuries

Here’s our fantasy takes on the NFL news of the day …

Shady McCoy adds a few pounds: If fantasy owners lost points for players missing autograph signings, well, McCoy would lose some value. But in reality, the versatile runner will be one of the top picks in most 2011 drafts. In fact, our Craig Ellenport thinks McCoy can be fantasy’s top runner. But in order to keep his lofty status, he needs to stay in shape during the lockout. Admittedly, McCoy has gained a few pounds in the absence of OTAs, telling the Philadelphia Daily News that he’s “a couple pounds heavier” than he wants to be. This sort of scenario could be a concern for several players, not just McCoy, and is another negative in the long list of negatives associated with the lockout. What happens if players miss training camp? We all know how that has affected the likes of Steven Jackson and Darrelle Revis in the past, as missed camp time often equates to injuries. Maybe this season, more than ever, it’s going to be important to handcuff your top running backs on draft day.

2009 RB class hasn’t been stellar: Outside of McCoy, most of the running backs entering their third year as a pro have failed to meet expectations. One back in particular that fantasy owners are still waiting to break out is Knowshon Moreno. Sure, he’s shown flashes of potential with the Broncos, but Moreno hasn’t lived up to the hype just yet. And while the move from Josh McDaniels to John Fox is a positive for his 2011 prospects, there have been reports out of Denver that suggest the team doesn’t see him as a “big-time running back.” What’s more, the speculation that Fox would like to re-unite with DeAngelo Williams has been rampant. If that scenario comes to fruition, Williams could unseat Moreno atop the team’s depth chart and ultimately make both backs far riskier from a fantasy perspective. Once player movement is allowed, this is a situation to watch.

Crabtree: “Who’s the quarterback?”: If Michael Crabtree is ever going to have a breakout season, chances are it will be 2011. After all, numerous wideouts have had their first huge statistical season after two years in the league. But in order to meet expectations, Crabtree is going to need a better rapport with Alex Smith. Though he’s currently a free agent, most experts agree that Smith will be under center for the 49ers this season. Crabtree might feel differently, though, as he seemed “unsure” of the current quarterback situation, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee. Crabtree, who hasn’t been involved in workouts started by Smith, has all the talent in the world. In fact, our Bucky Brooks lists him as one of his top fantasy sleepers. But until we see proof that he’s ready to take that next step toward stardom, he’s going to be a risk-reward choice for owners.

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