Michael Fabiano | Tags: Three and out, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Beanie Wells, frank gore, Joseph Addai, Ray Rice, Ryan Torain, Ryan Williams, San Francisco 49ers, Tim Hightower, Vonta Leach, Washington Redskins
Time for our fantasy takes on the NFL news of the day …
Frank Gore back with the Niners: Fantasy owners and fans of the 49ers alike should breath a sigh of relief, as Gore announced that he would end his holdout and return to the team. That’s positive news, as he is coming off hip surgery and would be even more of a risk had he decided on an extended holdout. One of the most productive runners in the league, Gore has the skills to be a high-end No. 1 fantasy back. Unfortunately, his Achilles heel has always been injuries. He hasn’t played a full season since 2006 and has missed a combined 10 games over the last four years. Still, the fact that he’ll be the bell cow for new coach Jim Harbaugh in an offense that will run the football makes Gore worth a first-round pick. If he slides out of the top 10, the veteran could turn into a nice bargain. Remember, he’ll be motivated to produce in what is now a contract year.
Hightower traded to the Redskins: In a move that had a domino effect in fantasy land, the Cardinals dealt Tim Hightower to the Redskins in exchange for DL Vonnie Holliday and an undisclosed draft pick. The move clears up what had previously been two of the more confusing backfield situations in the NFL. The ‘Skins will now roll with Ryan Torain as their starter, with Hightower serving as a pass-catching, change-of-pace runner. Torain has been about as durable as a chandelier in his career, but he’s still a viable flex starter. Hightower is more of a No. 4 runner with added value in PPR formats. In Arizona, the absence of Hightower makes Beanie Wells a potential fantasy sleeper. The talented but injury-prone back is motivated to break out this season, and now it appears that he’ll get his chance. His overall upside is limited with rookie Ryan Williams also in the mix, however, so consider Wells as a potential flex starter. Williams, who figures to complement Wells and could steal some early-down work, has middle- to late-round value in seasonal formats.
The Ravens add Vonta Leach: If you know fantasy football, you know that Leach has no value in drafts. But his presence in Baltimore is going to make a major impact. The Pro Bowl fullback, who blocked for breakout fantasy star Arian Foster last season, will now lead the way for Ray Rice. The value of the Rutgers product is clearly on the rise, as he now has a stud fullback in front of him and will no longer have to contend with Willis McGahee behind him. In fact, the versatile veteran should now be considered a top-five option in the majority of drafts.
- The Cardinals signed TE Todd Heap, who will step in and see a prominent role. While the team has rarely had impact players at the tight end spot in recent years, Heap is a pass-catching threat in an offense that lacks for reliable options outside of Larry Fitzgerald. That makes him worth a late-round look as a No. 2 option. It also helps the value of Kevin Kolb, who gets another weapon.
- Joseph Addai re-signed with the Colts and will return to his role as the team’s top running back. That’s good news for his fantasy appeal, as Addai has proven that he can put up nice stats behind Peyton Manning. The downside, of course, is that Addai has been injury prone for most of his career. He’s a risk-reward pick, but Addai has the tools to be a nice No. 2 fantasy runner.
- Raiders beat writer Vittorio Tafur reports on his Twitter page that Jacoby Ford has suffered a broken hand and will miss two weeks. Being out of camp does hurt, especially with the absence of OTAs due to the lockout, but Ford remains a nice deep sleeper in fantasy land. Coach Hue Jackson clearly wants to get him involved in an offense that lacks a true No. 1 wideout.