As another round of "voluntary team activities" comes to a close, there's lots of noise about who is stepping up and who will overcome injuries in time for August training camps. In Baltimore, Joe Flacco should benefit from some new additions. In Washington, there's a bit of a speed bump between Chris Cooley and a return to fantasy stardom. Brandon Jacobs has a fight on his hands in New York. And what in the world should fantasy players do with Wes Welker?
News is coming out of Baltimore that Flacco is getting a little feisty with the (defensive) help, and becoming a team leader. Sure, it's one of a million fairy tales that come out of OTAs, like the annual myth that Tampa Bay's Michael Clayton is looking good, but it got me to thinking about Flacco's fantasy fortunes.
The Ravens added some pass-catching firepower this offseason, and Flacco is poised to take a step up. Derrick Mason was a solid receiver over the years, but he hardly puts the fear in anyone anymore. Enter new No. 1 WR Anquan Boldin. Dude can put up 1,000 receiving yards without breaking a sweat. While Boldin isn't a deep burner, he's got plenty more juice than Mason, and can stretch the field. Baltimore also added pass-catching tight end Ed Dickson, who can step up and be a threat when Todd Heap's inevitable injury happens.
Flacco put up a respectable 3,613 yards and 21 TDs last year with minimal receiving help and an over-reliance on the rushing game. Now with some legitimate threats, Flacco looks set to take the next step in his growth. Expect Flacco and Eli Manning to be neck-in-neck at the lower end of the QB1 ratings. He'll be worth playing "matchups" with if you wait a long time to take a QB.
Donovan McNabb always does right by his TEs, and that makes for an interesting fantasy dilemma. Chris Cooley is returning from a broken ankle, and early indications are there are no lingering effects from the injury. After Cooley went down in Week 7, youngster Fred Davis did an excellent job stepping in. Davis had 41 catches for 464 and six TDs in 10 games as a starter. That makes for some decent backup TE numbers, and certainly someone you wouldn't hesitate to call on if needed.
Davis earned touches this coming season. While it seems that Cooley will hold onto his starting job, there's no doubt that Davis will cut into Cooley's numbers. Considering Davis' nose for the end zone, that could very well be a deep cut.
Anything can happen with a new coaching staff in Washington, but Mike Shanahan has a history of playing multiple TEs (as well as RBs), much to the consternation of fantasy owners. Unless some definitive statement denouncing Davis' skills comes from the Redskins organization, he will likely see significant playing time. While that's good news for folks holding on to Davis in keeper leagues, it's not good for Cooley fans in redraft leagues. Considering Cooley a TE2 in your upcoming drafts and forget about Davis unless Cooley goes down.
Oh Lord, here comes the pain. Reporters got some video of Wes Welker on the practice field this week. The half of Bostonians that didn't have a heart attack after the Lakers' Game 1 beat-down of the Celtics are now clutching their chests and scrounging for aspirin. Fantasy players are right behind you, Beantown.
The question of what to do with Welker in the upcoming draft dwarfs any other single consideration, unless Brett Favre decides not to come back. When Welker is healthy, his WR1 qualifications are unquestioned. Of course, he's trying to recover from a January ACL tear. It would be unprecedented for Welker to return to the Patriots roster before mid-season, and that's taking into account his "blue collar work ethic" that has been blown up to ridiculous proportions. The way Welker is hyped, you'd think no guy in the league ever worked as hard as he does.
Not to downplay his skills or determination, but the guy does not walk on water. He will not return and be what he previously was in under a year after blowing an ACL. No way. Of course, it's certainly possible that he can contribute to your roster as a WR3 in time for a playoff run.
The issue is where you take him in the draft. My feeling is that folks will start pulling the trigger on Welker around the seventh or eighth rounds. It's certainly a gamble to take him that high, but if you've got faith in your selections up to that point, it could be worth it. He might give you a fantasy playoff run that results in a championship. Even if he doesn't, mid-round picks have been wasted on guys with far less potential than Welker.
Brandon Jacobs can deny it all he wants, but it's pretty clear that Ahmad Bradshaw is the Giants best RB and should be the starter. Jacobs might have led the Giants in rushing yards, but he wasn't nearly as effective as Bradshaw, sporting 3.7 yards per carry to Bradshaw's 4.8. Jacobs is supposed to be this big bulldozer between the tackles, and he took to tip-toeing through the line, waiting for holes to open, where he once made his own holes. He only scored five times to Bradshaw's seven touchdowns, and five TDs from a player that never catches passes is not nearly enough for fantasy value.
Whether or not this is enough for Bradshaw to claim the majority of the playing time largely depends on his health. After fighting through injures all season, Bradshaw had foot and ankle surgeries. Word is that he's looking good, but foot surgery on a speedy running back is never a good sign.
There's no doubt there will be a time-share with these two RBs, but neither is looking better than a RB3/flex player at this point. They might perform well in spots, but which spots? Don't count on either one to consistently deliver unless the other one is hurt.
Mike Gilbert is RotoExperts.com's Senior NFL Editor and a 2010 FSWA award winner. Need accurate and up-to-date daily and weekly MLB player rankings? Check out RotoExperts Xclusive Edge Rankings.