May
29

NFL fantasy football: Arian Foster suffers calf injury

Foster carted off the field: It’s not the news fantasy owners wanted to hear — Arian Foster left Texans practice Tuesday with an apparent calf strain. The good news is that it doesn’t appear to be serious. The better news involves memories of two seasons ago, when Foster sat out multiple games with an “anti-awesome” hamstring injury, but still finished fourth among fantasy running backs. This shouldn’t knock him off his perch as one of the top two backs in fantasy football. However, it means Ben Tate is likely to see a lot more carries during OTAs.

Hopkins catching on in Houston: When the Texans drafted wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the expectation was that he’d be able to compete for a starting job immediately. It appears the team is getting its wish. Hopkins appears to be on track to line up as the No. 2 wide receiver, across from Andre Johnson when the season opens. While Tavon Austin is considered a potential rookie breakout candidate, Hopkins has a better supporting cast around him and should definitely be on the list of first-year wideouts that fantasy owners consider on draft day.

Flynn is Raiders starting QB: An NFL team has named Matt Flynn its starting quarterback for the season. All the while a rookie is reportedly challenging to earn the top spot on the roster. However, things appear to be different this season. This is Oakland, not Seattle … and there’s no Russell Wilson anywhere to be found. For all intents and purposes, this is Flynn’s job to loseTerrelle Pryor and Tyler Wilson will have to do some big things in the preseason to unseat the veteran.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
28

NFL fantasy football: DeMarco Murray still out of OTAs

Murray still struggling with injury: Stop me if you’ve heard this one … DeMarco Murray is out with an injury. The third-year running back is still recovering from a hamstring injury and is expected to miss at least a portion of Dallas’ organized team activities. There’s no denying Murray’s effectiveness when he’s on the field, but the fact that he’s already missed nine games in his first two seasons is cause for concern. In the interim, it likely means rookie Joseph Randle will see more snaps — though Randle is still recovering from thumb surgery.

Ravens could seek veteran WR: Now that Anquan Boldin is plying his trade for the San Francisco 49ers, the Ravens plan to rely on a pair of young receivers — Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones — to pick up the slack. However, general manager Ozzie Newsome admits that the team could target a veteran wideout if the team can’t get production from the position. We’re likely a long way from seeing that happen, but it could cause a shake-up in the pecking order if the move indeed comes to pass.

Pead looking to compete in St. Louis: The Rams’ running back job is reportedly wide open. But in practice, it appears Daryl Richardson is in the catbird seat. That isn’t discouraging Isaiah Pead from believing he can challenge for the top spot. He’ll have some work to do since he appears destined for a gig as a third-down back. It’s been hard to rank either player without knowing how they’ll be used during the season. But if the latest reports are any indication, those clouds could be starting to clear.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
23

NFL fantasy football: RG3 gets back to work for Redskins

Griffin III active at practice: And now your (almost) weekly Robert Griffin III update. The dynamic Redskins quarterback was on the field at practice Thursday and was described as looking “spry”. Now’s the part where we add the usual caveat — there’s still a long time between now and the start of training camp. But as always, it’s good to see RG3’s rehab is coming along well. All signs point to him being ready to go when the lights come on for real. However, don’t be surprised if Kirk Cousins is the guy who takes the bulk of the snaps during Washington’s offseason workouts. Oh … and not to be overlooked, Fred Davis was also working out. If he can return, it’s one more weapon added to an increasingly dynamic offense.

Harvin to play some RB: If variety is the spice of life, things are going to get zesty in Seattle. Percy Harvin says the Seahawks plan to use him in multiple spots — including running back. The ‘Hawks already have one of the league’s most productive running backs in Marshawn Lynch, but the idea of Harvin lining up in the backfield is one that is sure to give defensive coordinators fits. Fantasy owners shouldn’t worry that this is going to cut into Lynch’s touches. If there’s anyone who could be affected by this, it’s likely to be the duo of Robert Turbin and Christine Michael.

Cobb a “100-plus catch guy”: Now that Donald Driver (retirement) and Greg Jennings (free agency) are out of Green Bay, there’s pressure on the Packers remaining wideouts to pick up the slack. As for Randall Cobb, quarterback Aaron Rodgers seems to have the utmost confidence. According to the star QB, Cobb has the ability to be “a 100-plus catch guy every year.” It’s not a stretch for a guy who caught 80 balls in 2012. But Rodgers’ statement would lead you to believe Cobb is targeted to be the team’s new top target. The young WR’s upside just keeps going up.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
22

NFL fantasy football: Michael Crabtree tears Achilles tendon

If you’re a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, a fantasy football enthusiast or both, well, your Wednesday just took a turn for the worse.

NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles tendon during Tuesday’s organized team activities. Rapoport later reported that Crabtree already has had surgery to repair his torn Achilles, and the estimated recovery time is six months. USA Today first reported the story of Crabtree’s injury.

A potential breakout candidate in fantasy land, Crabtree now is all but undraftable in most seasonal formats – unless you have deeper rosters or injured spots.

In his absence, the Niners will have to lean on a mish-mash of wide receivers to fill the void. Anquan Boldin, acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, now becomes the top option at the position. He’ll see an uptick in value, but not enough to make him more than a No. 3 or No. 4 fantasy wideout. The rest of the depth chart includes A.J. Jenkins, who was non-existent as a rookie, Mario Manningham, who is coming off a reconstructive knee procedure, and rookie Quinton Patton.

None of them jump off the board as potential fantasy stars, but they are players to watch in training camp.

Fantasy owners should expect tight end Vernon Davis to see more targets, but he’s been unpredictable in recent seasons. He’ll be a risk-reward No. 1 fantasy tight end.

This news also is unfortunate for the overall draft appeal of quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

While I still see him as a surefire No. 1 fantasy QB, losing his top option pushes him out of the running to finish in the top five at his position based on points. The Niners will have to run the ball more, though, and Kaepernick’s skills as a runner are well known.

The loss of Crabtree also will mean more of running back Frank Gore, who should be seen as a viable No. 2 fantasy back after what was an impressive 2012 campaign. Just be advised, though, that he will be at the dreaded age of 30 entering his ninth season.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

May
22

NFL fantasy: EJ Manuel needs work on ‘everything’

Manuel working in slowly: When the Buffalo Bills made EJ Manuel the first quarterback selected in this year’s NFL Draft, many expected he was the clubhouse leader to be the team’s starting quarterback. That might still happen, but Manuel is going to have to step things up. Early in OTAs, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett says the rookie has a number of issues to iron out “from footwork to progressions to plays to formations, everything.” That’s not to say it can’t be done between now and Week 1, but certainly Manuel has a learning curve ahead of him. In the meantime, Tarvaris Jackson and Kevin Kolb are splitting the majority of the reps in practice. Neither of those options does much for the fantasy values of guys like Stevie Johnson or Robert Woods.

Nicks feeling healthy: When Hakeem Nicks has been on the field, he’s been a productive receiver. The problem is that he’s has problems staying healthy. In his first four seasons, Nicks has yet to play a full 16 games. But now the Giants wideout says he’s feeling “as good as I’ve felt in awhile”. That’s key as long as Victor Cruz is away from the team while dealing with a contract situation. At his best, Nicks is a quality No. 2 fantasy receiver with No. 1 upside. If he really is feeling as good as he says he is, he becomes a viable early round draft target.

Locker feeling good: Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker says his surgically-repaired left (non-throwing) shoulder is feeling good and he’s ready to get back to work heading into OTAs. All eyes will be on the third-year quarterback. The Titans made upgrades to their offensive line, added skill position help in the form of free agent RB Shonn Greene and rookie WR Justin Hunter. In addition, new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is building his scheme to better fit Locker’s talents. While it could be a make-or-break year for young signal-caller, he’s likely going to be a waiver wire prospect in most fantasy leagues.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
21

NFL fantasy football: Tony Romo to miss OTAs

Romo recovering from surgery: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo won’t be a part of the upcoming organized team activities as he recovers from surgery to remove a cyst on his back. Romo says if a regular season game were approaching, he’d be able to play but is choosing to sit out the voluntary camp in order to recuperate. The veteran is one of the tougher QBs in the game, though he doesn’t always get credit for it. How many quarterbacks lead come-from-behind victories with a punctured lung? We fully expect Romo to be ready to go for the start of the season and should remain a top 10 option in most leagues.

Ball, Hillman sharing reps: With no Willis McGahee at Broncos’ OTAs and Knowshon Moreno prohibited from taking reps as he recovers from a knee injury, it fell to Ronnie Hillman and rookie Montee Ball to carry the load. It could be a sign of what’s to come this season. The Broncos don’t believe Hillman is capable to being a lead runner; age has slowed McGahee and Moreno’s health issues have made him an unreliable option. It appears that the starting job could be Ball’s to lose. Temper your enthusiasm, though. As long as Peyton Manning is healthy and has a full complement of pass-catchers, this team will still rely on its aerial attack.

Woods looks to be No. 2 for Bills: Second-round draft pick Robert Woods is in camp with the Bills and all signs point to him being Buffalo’s No. 2 receiver behind Stevie Johnson. While Woods was overshadowed in his final season at USC, he is a consistent playmaker who runs excellent routes and shows good hands. His value will be dictated by whoever is under center for the Bills, but Woods has plenty of sleeper upside as a No. 4 fantasy WR option in most leagues.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
20

NFL fantasy football: Tom Brady more confident than ever

Brady ‘never felt better': They are the words that make defensive coordinators cringe and fantasy owners rejoice. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says he has “never had more confidence” throwing the football. That’s a big statement for a man who is a sure thing for the Hall of Fame once his career is done. It’s also potentially a vote of confidence for a guy who is going into 2013 with some of his best weapons either hurting or possibly missing. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be among fantasy’s top QBs yet again, but it’s hard to be quite as high on him if he doesn’t have his full complement of pass-catchers.

Vick gets running tips: After 12 seasons in the National Football League, you’d think a player will have learned just about everything there is to know about the game. So it’s a surprise when Michael Vick says new Eagles coach Chip Kelly taught him the proper way to hold a football. Huh? That statement is probably more of an indictment of Vick’s previous coaches than the player himself. But it provides hope that the veteran QB can curb some of the fumbling problems that have plagued him during his career. Last season, Vick fumbled 11 times — fourth-most in the league — and lost five of them. Hopefully Kelly’s instruction brings that number down.

Goodson future in limbo?: Three and Out generally stays away from the police blotter, but after Mike Goodson’s arrest on multiple gun and drug charges last week, it becomes noteworthy for fantasy owners. While Chris Ivory was likely to win the starting running back job for the Jets, Goodson was likely to see some time in third-down situations and possibly around the goal line. Now Goodson’s future with the team could be in jeopardy. The Jets haven’t suggested anything publicly about what they plan to do with the running back, but one would have to imagine that his footing is a lot less sure than it was a week ago.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
17

NFL fantasy: Reggie Bush comfortable with Lions offense

Bush says Lions similar to Saints: When Reggie Bush signed with the Detroit Lions, the assumption was that he would be used similarly to how he was with the New Orleans Saints. Bush confirmed that suspicion when he told “NFL AM” that the Lions offense bears a striking resemblance to New Orleans’. While Bush’s rushing numbers with the Saints were never spectacular, he was productive as a receiver out of the backfield, averaging 846 scrimmage yards during his five seasons there. Now that he’s a little more seasoned — and in an offense with slightly fewer options — he has the potential to surpass those numbers. He’ll be a strong No. 2 fantasy back with huge upside in PPR leagues.

Vick looks ‘noticeably bigger': Now that Michael Vick plays in an offense that could ask him to run a lot more, everyone was immediately concerned about whether the injury-prone quarterback would be able to stay on the field for 16 games. So it comes as some relief to hear reports that the veteran looks “noticeably bigger” coming into OTAs. While it’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to withstand the rigors of a full NFL season, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. It’s also one of the things that continues to make Vick a big bargain in the later rounds of drafts. As long as you’re not counting on him to be your No. 1 option, he can provide a lot of upside on your roster.

Gordon working on route running: Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon was a nice fantasy surprise last season, finishing in the top 40 at his position. He did it mostly as a home-run threat — his shortest TD catch was 20 yards — but overall was just a raw talent. This offseason, head coach Rob Chudzinski says the second-year wideout is working on his route-running skills. If Gordon can refine that raw ability and make himself into a more complete receiver, it bodes well for his continued development. He’ll start the season as a No. 3 fantasy option, but definitely possesses upside as a sleeper in many leagues.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
16

NFL fantasy: Mark Sanchez gets harder to cut

Garrard retirement boosts Sanchez: And then there were two. Actually there are still four quarterbacks on the New York Jets roster, but only two that are expected to compete for the starting job. After David Garrard announced his retirement Wednesday, it became clear that Mark Sanchez is going to start the season on Gang Green’s roster — despite recent pronouncements to the contrary. As for whether he’s taking snaps in Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers … that’s not so certain. This roller coaster still has a few more ups-and-downs before we get back to the station.

Weeden starts at No. 1: If you listen to Browns general manager Michael Lombardi talk about his team’s quarterback situation, it would seem that Brandon Weeden is playing for his football life. However, if you watch how Weeden is being handled, the opposite seems true. The second year QB opens OTAs as Cleveland’s No. 1 option, which doesn’t seem surprising considering the other options are the chronically-inconsistent Jason Campbell and the woefully-unproven Thaddeus Lewis (who has just one NFL appearance in two seasons). Management may be trying to convince the world that a QB competition is afoot, but we’re not totally buying it right now.

Robinson takes QB snaps: Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback running back wide receiver hybrid option Denard Robinson took snaps out of the shotgun Wednesday, though head coach Gus Bradley was coy on what that meant for Robinson’s role in the offense. It could be a glimpse into the myriad things the team has planned for the multi-talented athlete. Or it could be a complete smokescreen. Robinson will be one of the toughest players to evaluate from a fantasy perspective since the Jaguars are likely to keep us guessing all summer as to how they will use him.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
15

NFL fantasy: Matt Forte to catch more passes

Forte excited about new role: It’s been a couple of seasons since Matt Forte was a top 10 fantasy running back. But those days could be returning with news that the Chicago Bears back will be more involved in the team’s passing game in 2013. Forte is no stranger to catching the football — he’s averaged 53 receptions per season in his first five campaigns. The difference this year is that he could line up occasionally as a wide receiver. Overall, it’s big news for Forte’s fantasy value. But it should especially be music to the ears of owners playing in PPR leagues.

Gabbert, Henne splitting reps: Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said immediately that there would be a competition between quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Apparently that wasn’t just lip service. The two QBs have reportedly taken an equal number of reps so far in OTAs. Neither choice is going to excite fantasy owners, but the winner could have an impact on the fantasy value of the guys around him. For instance, Justin Blackmon was much better with Henne than with Gabbert. This battle is worth keeping an eye on for that reason alone.

Bernard to complement Green-Ellis: The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Gi0vani Bernard ostensibly as a complement to veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The rookie confirmed that suspicion on “NFL AM”, saying he was there to help out. The Law Firm will likely start the season as the starter, but after his inconsistency last season, you have to wonder how long his leash will be — especially if Bernard is able to produce. Green-Ellis still has value as a No. 2 option, but that designation could change as training camp shakes out.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
14

NFL fantasy football: 49ers consider RB committee

Niners prefer ‘three-headed approach': Over the past few seasons, few backs have been as consistent as Frank Gore. But that consistency could take a hit if Trent Baalke’s vision is put into practice. The 49ers general manager says the team prefers to take a “three-headed approach” to the running back position. That groan you hear is fantasy owners lamenting yet another running back committee taking over an NFL offense. While it likely means more work for Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James this season, it does more to diminish Gore’s value since he’ll see some of his touches lost.

Jackson back to returning punts: After transitioning out of the punt return game for the past three seasons, it looks like DeSean Jackson will once again take his talents to special teams. The speedy receiver sounds excited about the opportunity, but it begs the question: what does it mean for his role in the offense? All offseason, Jackson has speculated about what he would be asked to do under Chip Kelly — surmising that he’d have a similar role to his cousin, De’Anthony Thomas, as a hybrid WR-RB option. Kelly himself has suggested nothing of the sort, leaving Jackson’s fantasy value something of a mystery. At Oregon, players were more likely to rack up receiving yards out of the backfield as opposed to from a receiver spot. Jackson’s value should still remain fairly strong in leagues that include return yards, but it could take a hit elsewhere.

MJD’s rehab progressing: Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew has remained on schedule in his rehab from last season’s foot surgery. During the team’s OTAs, MJD has been running on his own and says he’s pretty close to being back. Ultimately, the veteran plans to be back to a full-scale regimen by late July. 2012 was a lost season for Jones-Drew, but with nearly a full year to get ready there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about a bounce-back in 2013.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
13

NFL fantasy: Jets reportedly enamored with Geno Smith

Smith leading Jets QB race?: When the New York Jets selected Geno Smith in this year’s draft, everyone suspected Mark Sanchez would have to compete with his new understudy. But it appears his run on Broadway could be ending sooner than many expected. According to the New York Post, Jets brass is “smitten” with the rookie quarterback after his work at this weekend’s minicamp, leaving some to believe that the job could be Smith’s to lose. One weekend does not a QB competition make, and there’s certainly plenty of time for Sanchez (or David Garrard, for that matter) to rally and win the job. Whoever wins the job will have limited fantasy value because of the lack of depth at WR. But it’s better than being a backup.

Rice wants to catch more passes: It might not be a surprise to learn that in the past five seasons, no running back has caught more passes than Ray Rice. What might be a surprise is that Rice says he wants to be an even bigger part of the Baltimore Ravens passing game. Over the past four seasons, the Rutgers product has averaged 70 receptions per year and twice has led the team in catches. Perhaps this is a desire to pick up some of the slack after the departure of Anquan Boldin. Or maybe it’s a way to add some separation between himself and Bernard Pierce on the depth chart. Right now, it seems hard to believe Baltimore can make Rice a bigger part of the pass attack than he already is, but fantasy owners should appreciate his desire.

Wilson aims for starting gig: The Oakland Raiders quarterback competition has centered on the battle between Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor, but there could be a new name emerging in the race — Tyler Wilson. The recently-drafted signal-caller was impressive over the weekend at the team’s minicamp and his new coaches certainly took notice. Wilson likely has a long way to go in order to earn the starting nod, but his opening salvo in this fight should be a signal that this one could get heated.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
10

NFL fantasy football: Eddie Lacy’s toe is okay

No issues for Lacy: One of the reasons Eddie Lacy slipped in the 2013 NFL Draft was due to reported issues with a toe injury. But, according to the team doctor at the University of Alabama, there’s nothing for anyone to worry about. The Packers aren’t necessarily taking the doctor’s word for it, since the team drafted Johnathan Franklin two rounds later. That duo is expected to battle in camp for carries — then we’ll get a better sense of how good Lacy’s toe actually is.

Ingram says he’s healthy: Another former Alabama running back — Mark Ingram — says he feels better than at any time since he left Tuscaloosa. The timing couldn’t be any better, at least if you believe Pierre Thomas‘ proclamation that the New Orleans Saints plan to run the ball more in 2013. Both Ingram and Thomas (along with Darren Sproles, to a lesser extent) will be in a pitched battle to earn the bulk of the carries this season. If Ingram truly is healthy, he would seem to have the inside track to the No. 1 job.

Vick leading for Eagles job?: Yesterday, it was Santonio Holmes pledging support for Mark Sanchez. Today, it’s Jeremy Maclin handicapping his team’s quarterback race. According to the Eagles receiver, Michael Vick appears to be in the lead, although Nick Foles has been “sprinkled in” for occasional reps with the first team. Really, it’s not the least bit surprising — on any count. Vick is in the catbird seat when it comes to running Chip Kelly’s offense. But with the veteran QB’s injury history being a constant concern, it seems like a good idea to have a backup option that’s comfortable working with the starters.

– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
09

Three and Out: Holmes says Sanchez is Jets starting QB

Holmes says ‘it’s Sanchez’ for Jets: You can all rest easy, the Jets quarterback situation is solved. Okay, not really. But for what it’s worth, wide receiver Santonio Holmes has made his feelings known, casting his lot toward Mark Sanchez. It’s notable considering Holmes has been critical of Sanchez in the past. It also suggests what many of us already believed — that the incumbent has the inside track to the starting gig. That doesn’t mean Geno Smith and David Garrard won’t have a legitimate chance to compete for the job. It just means Sanchez will have a head start when training camp begins.

Saints to focus on ground game: There’s no denying that the New Orleans Saints are one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL. That’s to be expected when you boast a quarterback like Drew Brees and a deep stable of receivers. But according to running back Pierre Thomascoach Sean Payton has talked about a need to return to a more robust rushing game. That’s good news for Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles, but not necessarily for fantasy owners. Similar to trying to figure out which Saints receiver is going to be a favored target on any given week, it could become an exercise in guessing which running back will see the bulk of the carries in a particular game. At least no one will have to worry about Chris Ivory taking any touches now that he’s in New York.

Austin strengthening hamstrings: Dallas Cowboys receiver Miles Austin is taking time this offseason to get his hamstrings a little stronger. That’s been an Achilles’ heel (pun intended) for the wideout over the past few seasons, causing him to either be slowed or miss games altogether. Austin is a productive receiver … when he’s on the field. Hopefully this is going to keep him there where he can provide value for fantasy owners in 2013.

– Marcas Grant
Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

May
08

NFL fantasy football: Arian Foster seeks improvement

Foster hopes to “bounce back”: It’s hard to imagine needing improvement after finishing with more than 1,400 yards and a league-best 17 touchdowns. Then again, most of us aren’t Arian Foster. The Houston Texans running back recently told the FOX Sports Southwest that he didn’t feel like he was at his best in 2012 and has spent his entire offseason in an intense training program in an effort to “bounce back”. First, Adrian Peterson sets the bar at 2,500 yards, now this. The battle to be the No. 1 fantasy draft pick is truly on.

Robinson to get work: The Jacksonville Jaguars might have waited until the fifth round to draft Denard Robinson, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to sit around waiting for a chance to play. General manager David Caldwell says the rookie could see 10-15 touches per game, working behind Maurice Jones-Drew – including returning kicks. It’s a pretty solid workload for a guy who will be learning a new position. If that is indeed the case, Robinson will be the obvious choice as a handcuff for MJD. What his value will be for 2013 is still debatable.

Gronk facing another surgery: For the fourth time, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will reportedly go under the knife to repair his broken forearm. As has been the case for most of the offseason, Gronk’s issue continues to be the infection that has hampered the recovery. The fear is that the tight end could need a fifth surgery that would jeopardize his availability for the start of training camp. Until further notice, it’s time to start sliding Gronkowski down the draft board.

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