NFL fantasy roundtable: Jones-Drew's holdout a battle to avoid
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. How far has Maurice Jones-Drew fallen in your preseason rankings and how much stock do you place in Rashad Jennings?
Will Carroll: My worry is that MJD misses games. I doubt he's out of shape or can't learn the offense enough to do what he does. Jennings becomes a better handcuff, but he's hardly going to jump into any draftable tier on his own. I think the opportunity becomes that other people will drop Jones-Drew and he ends up falling to people at 7, 8, 9. Let's say Jones-Drew misses two games; that makes him Arian Foster, not Kevin Smith.
Eric Mack: MJD has gone from the No. 4 overall pick to perhaps out of the second round all together now. That is legit, too. He will have to re-earn his job back and it might not be easy with Jennings healthy and proving capable of carrying the load. This could be a real ugly holdout that extends into the season, too, since the Jags seem to be happy with the players they have in camp right now. MJD would do himself and his fantasy owners a favor to report today, but he won't.
David Sabino: I had questions even before the holdout, but now I wouldn't draft MJD before the second round. However, the longer this thing rolls toward Opening Day the more of a hit he takes. With new owner Shad Khan a veteran of tough labor negotiations, Jones-Drew is most likely the one who'll blink first. My advice is to let someone else in your league worry about the entire saga.
2. Fantasy leagues often are won in the middle rounds or later. Who are you targeting after the big names are off the board?
Carroll: I'm sticking to my strategy of taking the best available fantasy player at every pick. While my plan is to go RB-RB due to depth at QB and the real scarcity of solid, plug-and-play RBs, you have to be flexible enough to go "best available." Sometimes that's going to be against the conventional wisdom and sometimes its going to be as pure chalk as Dover. What I am definitely doing is keeping discipline to the projections I trust and putting together a team with the best balance between consistency and upside as I can create. I'm not going to be thrown off by emotion, teams or players I like. I'm staying disciplined this season.
Mack: You always have to think QB in that area, particularly if you don't get Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees. That is the highest-scoring position, and taking a Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler or Joe Flacco in the middle rounds can give you a high-scoring starter late, bench depth or great trade bait. Once you lock up that high-ceiling QB, go with strength in numbers at the RB position. Backs who are in timeshares can take off if the starter ahead of them gets injured. They always seem to.
Sabino: I'm giving away state secrets, but here goes: Among those who'll be available later, and who I believe will have big years, are Jacquizz Rodgers of the Falcons, Peyton Hillis of the Chiefs, Antonio Brown of the Steelers, Brandon Lloyd of the Patriots, Washington's Pierre Garçon, and Chicago's Jay Cutler. I'd also take a chance on Ryan Williams of the Cardinals and Titus Young of the Lions.
3. Jake Locker has been named the starting QB in Tennessee? What does this mean for him and the Titans offensive players?
Carroll: Locker played well enough in his stints last year that the team had to either decide to move forward or cut bait. I think he should do well enough, but will have the typical first-year growing pains. Normally, we'd think, Oh, he'll just hand it off more to Chris Johnson. But I think people have lost confidence in that being a great option. Line play and WR depth will keep Locker from being a great option, but if you forget to draft a decent QB2, he's one of those guys who might have some good matchup weeks given the AFC South.
Mack: Locker gives the Titans offense a little more life. Matt Hasselbeck is a dink-and-dunk game-manager who isn't a great threat to stretch the field. Locker will stretch the field to Nate Washington, rookie Kendall Wright, third-year WR breakout candidate Damian Williams and, eventually, leading target Kenny Britt. That should ease the eight in the box off Johnson. Also, Jared Cook should continue to progress, as a tight end is a young QB's best friend. Best of all, when everything breaks down, Locker is a good enough athlete to make plays with his legs. Locker is a viable late-round backup QB and we should be a bit more excited about everyone around him.
Sabino: Locker has a great arm and a very good receiving corps, which theoretically should be a perfect match. A return to form by Johnson would be the perfect remedy for the offense, and exactly what Locker, Wright, Britt (when healthy), Cook, Washington, et al need to become a dangerous and quite productive fantasy offense. But in any case, right now I have a hard time seeing Locker as one of the 12 or 14 best fantasy quarterbacks.
4. What can fantasy owners expect from Larry Fitzgerald as it seems likely that John Skelton starts for the Cardinals this season.
Carroll: I'd select him if he fell to me at the right value. I don't have him as my first WR or even my second, but why are we thinking Fitzgerald's numbers with Skelton will be any worse than his numbers with Skelton and Kolb and whoever else the Cards used at QB last season? It's not like he's suddenly lost Tom Brady or Drew Brees. Fitzgerald had Skelton for half a season last year and had four games over 140 yards during that time. None of his fantasy numbers went down. If you liked Fitzgerald yesterday, there's no reason to change that opinion now.
Mack: Skelton starting is a best-case scenario -- well, short of the Cardinals trading for a Hasselbeck at least. Fitzgerald's numbers were a lot better with Skelton as the starting QB a year ago, so owners can feel more confident in making Fitzgerald the second receiver off the board late in Round 2 now.
Sabino: The best part of the decision to make Skelton the starter is that it gives the Cardinals some stability and direction before the start of the regular season, something they've sorely missed since Kurt Warner's retirement. In a vacuum, either Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson is the NFL's most talented receiver, so Fitzgerald can be instrumental in the development of Skelton. The two will get 100 percent of the snaps together in the rest of the preseason, in practice and on Sundays. The more they work together, the better off both will be. While it's not a given, the added familiarity could easily push Fitzgerald back into double-digit touchdowns. Also realize that he had 1,411 yards (second-best in his career) and eight TDs last year with a revolving door at quarterback. I absolutely would draft him late in Round 2 or early in Round 3 given the new situation.
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