PORT ARTHUR —
Since we’ve already gone through the position tiers (and most of you should have already drafted by now), and gone through the guys rising and falling just before the NFL season opens, what’s left to cover?
Well, since I’m nothing if not derivative, let’s steal a page out of my Crawfish Boxes playbook and do a Three Fantasy Football Things column this week. We’ll run through three different situations or players and talk briefly about how they’ll impact your team heading into the 2012 season.
1) Ryan Mathews, hurt again.
There are just some players that rub fantasy owners the wrong way. Ryan Mathews is that guy for me.
Like many situations with irrational dislikes, the reason why I don’t care for Mathews is that once upon a time, I did like his potential…a lot. That would be right around the time he was drafted, when I desperately hoped the Houston Texans would trade up for him and fix their running back woes.
Turns out, they didn’t need Mathews, as they signed a guy after the draft that’s done okay the past two seasons. Mathews, on the other hand, has dealt with injury after injury and never really has shown the explosiveness or big play ability that people thought he would in Norv Turner’s offense.
Did I mention he gets injured a lot?
It wasn’t suprising when Mathews came into the season ranked as a Top 5 fantasy back, yet suffered an injury early in August that has kept him out of practice and the preseason. There’s talk he could be ready to play this Monday. Come on, Ryan, you’re not suckering me in again with that nonsense.
There are some fantasy guys who it’s just easier to stay away from, for your own sanity during the season. For me, that guy is Mathews, which is why I was very glad someone drafted him before me last weekend.
2) What to do with the Dallas skill guys?
Wednesday night was expected to feature the return of both Dez Bryant and Miles Austin to the Cowboys lineup, providing Tony Romo with two very nice options in the passing game. However, Jason Witten, the mainstay of that group, didn’t figure to play and there are questions on how effective either Austin or Bryant will be.
This situation isn’t unique to Dallas, as Saints wideout Marquis Colston and Cleveland’s Trent Richardson are both dealing with injuries that could hamper their fantasy value early. The problem for fantasy owners is this season these guys have no track record to fall back on.
Sure, you assume that Miles Austin will be just as good in the Dallas’ offense as ever, but without seeing him play at all this year there are some questions. If the injury had happened in Week 5, you’d at least be able to see what he’d done in the first four games before deciding to drop him or stash him on the bench until he’s healthy.
Now, you’ve just come out of the draft with these guys and yet your team won’t be healthy for a few weeks. The knee-jerk reaction is to blow up these picks and trade them off for lesser value or drop them for a waiver warrior in a week’s time. That’s probably the wrong move, too, as most of these players figure to provide just as much value as you expected when you drafted them.
It’s the unknown that really hurts right now. By the time you read this column Thursday morning, we’ll know how Austin and Bryant did, but many of these questions won’t get answered right away. My advice, at least for the first couple of weeks, is to let things play out and trust your draft. If Austin isn’t rounding into form by then or if Colston is still bothered by the foot injury, you can make a move then.
3) MJD ends holdout, kills fantasy value
The worst possible outcome of Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew’s holdout is what occurred last weekend. An unhappy MJD showed up in camp without a new contract, but also having missed virtually all of camp. He won’t start Jacksonville’s first game, but will see some playing time.
Oh, did I mention he’s still pretty unhappy about the way things went down? Don’t you think that will affect his play this season? With the uncertainty surrounding his holdout, there were plenty of drafts where MJD slipped to the second or maybe even the third round. But, there are a ton of fantasy owners out there who picked him up early and are counting on him as their primary running back this season.
The problem this week is that MJD figures to get so little work, he’s hardly worth starting. But, he will get carries and possible third down reps, which limits how effective backup Rashad Jennings will be. When MJD’s holdout was lingering, Jennings became a popular sleeper early in the season, but now his value is also toast.
At least for the first couple weeks, Jacksonville may be like most Mike Shanahan teams are normally. It’s not clear which back is worth starting and you won’t know which one will get the big plays or TDs. Basically, you’re playing running back roulette. If you’ve got a safer play than either of these two guys for those first few weeks, take it and wait until the Jags get their backfield figured out.
David Coleman is a sports writer for the Port Arthur News. He can be e-mailed at email@example.com