NFL fantasy roundtable: Moss, Brown emerge as early sleepers
Fantasy football draft season is here. To help you make the right choices, SI's Fantasy Roundtable weighs in on some of the more intriguing topics and players to consider.
1. What sleeper do you have rising up your draft boards after Week 1 of the preseason?
Will Carroll: The more I think about Randy Moss, the more I think this could work from a fantasy perspective. I'm not saying he's a WR1, but he's a guy who could be a late round pickup who could put up 8-10 TDs and some mid-range catches. Alex Smith is mobile and Moss is big enough to be an easy target. He can still post up and jump in the end zone as well. If Jim Harbaugh's mojo is still working with that team, I have to think that Moss is precisely the kind of guy who'll work there. I'm also very curious about Ryan Williams in Arizona.
Eric Mack: Well, Ronnie Brown might go from rags to riches if Ryan Mathews cannot make it back early in the season -- or worse, continues to prove to be the injury-prone bust he has been in his first two seasons. The debut of Andrew Luck was the most awe-inspiring performance in Week 1, though. He sure looks like he is going to be a real tough hombre in a lot of wide-open games like Cam Newton was in his record-setting rookie year for a quarterback. Luck has weapons and his situation might be perfect for a lot of garbage-time yardage and touchdowns.
David Sabino: You have to take preseason results and stats with a grain of salt as many of the league's biggest preseason performers are simply fighting for a roster slot and will have trouble getting any offensive snaps in the regular season. The exception is when fortunes change due to injuries. Given the state of the Chargers backfield since Mathews suffered a broken clavicle on his first carry of the preseason, both Ronnie Brown and Curtis Brinkley should move up the rankings; Brown to borderline starter the first few weeks and Brinkley to late-round flier. Also, Saints running back Travaris Cadet out of Appalachian State has opened my eyes as a possible 14th- or 15th-round roll of the dice.
2. What expected star are you having doubts about?
Carroll: Reggie Bush. He showed last year that he can put up good fantasy numbers, but the QB issues, the WR issues, the growing pains of a new coach ... it all just seems to work against Bush's kind of game. If he's the only guy on an offense, I just don't think he can do what Maurice Jones-Drew did last season, which is basically take the focus and score anyway.
Mack: Trent Richardson's knee surgery that kept him out of the Scouting Combine before going No. 3 overall required yet another closer look and cleaning before he even was hit by the opposition in live action. He just might be like former college teammate Mark Ingram was a year ago, headed for an injury-plagued year. Mathews gave himself a good chance to have a strong season still because he said it wasn't his legs that were the problem. Richardson's knee clearly isn't 100 percent. And what might happen when he starts getting hit in the NFL, which won't happen in the preseason now? You cannot pick Richardson in Round 1 any longer, and you're probably better off taking some of the veteran backs returning from injury over him in Round 2, like Darren McFadden, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte and Fred Jackson. At least you have a decent idea what you're getting from those guys.
Sabino: Again, with few exceptions, training camp performances have to be taken for what they are. I wouldn't discount any star based solely on part of their training camp performance to date. A lot is going to change between now and Sept. 5.
3. Ryan Mathews and Trent Richardson are both hurt before the regular season has started. Where do you draft each?
Carroll: Mathews was already far too high, so this is pushing him down about where he should be. I simply have no confidence in Mathews as a feature back and almost as little in the Chargers offense this season. With Richardson, I think the concern is slightly overplayed. His durability was the one question I had coming into the season, but he's also productive. That hasn't changed with this minor procedure. It's not dissimilar to what Joey Votto had and no one in Cincinnati is panicking too much. I worry about Richardson in the long term, like the length of his career, not the first couple.
Mack: Mathews is no better than a early third-rounder, maybe the final pick of Round 2 now. How far Mathews moves down draft boards is contingent on how long he will actually be out. Mathews was initially ruled to be out three-to-six weeks (a broken bone needs at least four weeks to heal). The Sept. 10 opener is not out of the question, but coach Norv Turner said his third-year back will need a fairly "fortunate" recovery to make it back by then. Richardson might be ready for Week 1, so he will still go off the board by the middle of Round 2. But Mathews' cautionary tale should teach us to avoid Richardson at that amped up price. There is just so much uncertainty and there are so many other more sure-things to pick from through the first two rounds. Let someone else take the risk on Richardson.
Sabino: Given the questions about his durability even before the latest injury, I'll let someone else worry about Mathews and pass on him completely. For those who want to bite, he shouldn't be taken before the 20th pick. Richardson's knee issues seem to be chronic, and since his schedule for a return date is muddy at best he's someone who has to drop out of first-round consideration. That said, he's worth a second-round pick, given the potential for 12-14 games as a very talented workhorse back, but it comes with significant risk.
4. What rookie QB do you trust most and where would you select him?
Carroll: Andrew Luck looked pretty good in his first outing. Granted, it's the preseason and it's the Rams defense, but he seemed to be exactly what everyone said he would be -- poised, productive, and professional. Robert Griffin has more upside, but also more downside, so when the question is trust, I think it's Luck that's we can lock in as a solid if not spectacular (yet) fantasy QB.
Mack: No one will dare to say it yet, but as Luck would have it, the No. 1 overall pick of April's draft probably should be picked over Robert Griffin III. Luck's debut was nothing short of awe inspiring. Griffin's debut was merely auspicious. Griffin is going to be picked as a fantasy starter in many, if not all, leagues. He shouldn't merely because you're expecting him to be the next Newton. Luck is still the better quarterback and the bet here is he will be the better fantasy backup QB of the two.
Sabino: Luck's numbers were great in his NFL exhibition debut, but given his opponent, the somewhat vulnerable and rebuilding Rams, and his abnormally long stint in the contest, I wouldn't go overboard. I still lean toward Griffin as the better rookie fantasy quarterback to have, given his corps of quality veteran receivers (Pierre Garcon, Fred Davis, Santana Moss) and his superior athleticism, which gives him the ability to bail himself out when he gets into trouble. In Buffalo, against what should be one of the league's toughest defenses, Griffin showed the poise of a crafty veteran, and was very efficient in limited action, leading the Redskins on the only touchdown drive of the game. I wouldn't choose either as my starter in a standard 12-team league but in the around the ninth or 10th round, if they're still available I'd grab them as insurance, or, at the very least, as potential trade bait.
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