Michael Fabiano | Tags: Three and out, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Emmanuel Sanders, Jacquizz Rodgers, Kyle Orton, marion barber, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Mathews, Ryan Torain, San Diego Chargers, Tim Tebow, Washington Redskins
Time for our fantasy takes on the NFL news of the day …
Tim Tebow no longer a sleeper?: The worst thing that could have happened to Tebow’s value is exactly the situation that is occurring right now in Broncos camp — Kyle Orton is seeing all the first-team snaps. When the team failed to deal Orton to Miami, coach John Fox had to make a decision on his starting quarterback. And to this point, it looks like he’s decided on Orton. Clearly, this is a situation that fantasy owners need to watch. If Tebow can earn the prominent role, he’d be worth a middle- to late-round look as a No. 2 fantasy quarterback with upside. But if Orton retains the starter’s spot, Tebow wouldn’t even be draftable in most leagues.
Ryan Mathews’ stock dropping: Much like Tebow, Mathews is starting to lose his status as a fantasy sleeper. The Fresno State product has missed some camp time with a toe injury, which is a red flag when you consider he dealt with ankle and foot ailments as a rookie. Mathews is also coming off wrist surgery. Another reason to be concerned about him is the presence of Mike Tolbert. Reports out of San Diego suggest that the bowling ball of a runner will dominate work on passing downs and near the goal line. So while Mathews has more overall talent, his statistical upside for 2011 could be a bit limited. Until I start to see some positive reports about him coming out of Chargers camp, it’s hard to promote Mathews as more than a low-end No. 2 fantasy back.
Torain running with the ones: The Washington Post reports that Ryan Torain has been seeing the starter’s snaps in Redskins camp, but he’s still no lock to top the depth chart in what looks like a three-man backfield battle. The ‘Skins traded for Tim Hightower, and rookie Roy Helu has been impressive in the early stages. Coach Mike Shanahan’s offense has produced a lot of running back sleepers over the years, but he’s also caused a lot of confusion when a true No. 1 option doesn’t establish himself. For now, I’d consider Torain the runner to target — somewhere in the middle rounds as a No. 3 or 4 option — but Hightower and Helu are also very draftable. Considering Torain’s lack of durability, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Helu emerge at some point in the season.
- According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bears envision Marion Barber as an “ideal short-yardage back.” He could also vulture his share of touchdowns from Matt Forte, who remains a high-end No. 2 fantasy runner. The former Cowboy seemed to lose a lot of his burst in recent years due to injuries, and it would be a shock to see him rebound and make a significant fantasy impact.
- Emmanuel Sanders will miss about three weeks due to an injured foot, which could hurt his chances of passing Hines Ward on the Steelers depth chart sooner than later. Sanders, who had two offseason surgeries on his feet, has the tools to make an impact both on the field and for fantasy owners. But at this point, he’s worth no more than a late-round flier in most leagues.
- The Atlanta Falcons seem to have no interest in retaining free agent Jason Snelling, so explosive rookie Jacquizz Rodgers looks likely to become the team’s new third-down back. Considering Michael Turner’s lack of pass-catching skills, Rodgers could actually have some value for fantasy owners in PPR leagues. He’s certainly a player to watch during training camp and the preseason.