Fantasy football focus: Mendenhall among top 30 fantasy backs; mail

Wednesday June 19th, 2013

Rashard Mendenhall was named the Cardinals' starter after running with the first team in OTAs.
Ross D. Franklin/AP

NFL minicamps conclude this week, but the fantasy football news keeps on coming. Before we go through our mailbag, here are some updates on this week's top headlines:

Cardinals have their feature running back -- After running exclusively with the first team in OTAs, head coach Bruce Arians declared Rashard Mendenhall the starter going into camp on the NFL Network. "Rashard is just 25 years old ... and I know what he can bring to the table as a runner, a pass protector and also a receiver. He's an every-down player. And I think he's looking forward to having an outstanding season," said Arians. This will put Mendenhall among the top 30 running backs for fantasy, and Ryan Williams (knee), Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor will be mere backups.

Patriots' tight end situation gets cloudier -- Rob Gronkowski's back surgery has fueled rumors that he'll start the season on the PUP list, therefore missing at least the first games. The Pats don't talk about injuries, so we have nothing to refute that, but with the Patriots' difficult schedule in weeks 3-5 (at Atlanta, at Cincinnati and versus New Orleans), it's hard to imagine Gronk remaining on the bench for those games. Aside from Gronk, Jake Ballard is steadily becoming more intriguing, and the recently-signed Tim Tebow might also be needed as a tight end. To complicate matters more this week, Aaron Hernandez has been connected to a possible homicide this week near his home in North Attleboro, Mass. A vehicle rented in Hernandez's name is a key piece of evidence in the investigation. Stay tuned.

49ers' Davis working with the wideouts -- If Gronk and Hernandez are bumped out of the top five in the tight end rankings come draft time, the 49ers' Vernon Davis will be moved up the list. Davis was already more intriguing because of Colin Kaepernick, but Davis worked exclusively as a wide receiver in camp. The 49ers may even choose to line him up out wide, use Anquan Boldin in the slot and start either A.J. Jenkins or Mario Manningham (recovering from December reconstructive knee surgery) on the outside. That would open up an opportunity for rookie tight end Vance McDonald, too. McDonald is unlikely to be worth drafting in a standard league, but he could emerge as a fantasy fill-in during the bye weeks. The 49ers' targets in preseason games will be very interesting to watch, especially for owners planning to take Kaepernick as a starting quarterback.

Broyles promises to be ready for Week 1 -- Ryan Broyles, like Manningham, had reconstructive knee surgery just over six months ago, but according to reports, he fully participated in minicamp. That's the stuff of Adrian Peterson right there. Broyles should avoid the PUP list now and could be a late-round flier in fantasy. Matthew Stafford is due for a rebound year, and we already know that Calvin Johnson will draw attention on the other side.

Broncos cut back -- While Ronnie Hillman worked with the Broncos' first team in OTAs, it is still widely believed that rookie Montee Ball will rise on the depth chart once they put on shoulder pads and start hitting next month. Knowshon Moreno still isn't working out, but he plans to be ready for the start of training camp. That trio won't have to worry about a touchdown vulture anymore, because Willis McGahee was released. Ball is the most likely short-yardage back, so we should be inclined to bump his touchdown total up to 10-plus. That offense is going to get inside the red zone a lot this season, and if Ball starts, he could be a late second-round pick.

Bradshaw maybe not a complementary back? -- A week ago, I wrote how Bradshaw said he was brought in to help Vick Ballard, not replace him, but reports still state that Bradshaw will be the featured back once healthy. Bradshaw is still in a walking boot, and his career full of nicks and injuries make it unrealistic to expect a 1,000-yard feature back.

And onto the mailbag:

First thanks for your help last year, I didn't win but your advice helped. I'm in a keeper PPR league and have been offered LeSean McCoy and Dez Bryant for Arian Foster? Would you make the trade?
-- Justin Scott, Strathroy, Ont.

Mack: The stability of the elite running backs have declined over the years. But that makes trading Foster for a top ten running back in McCoy and an elite receiver in Bryant a very good deal. Take it.

I'm currently in a 14-team, two-keeper PPR league, which I was fortunate enough to win last season. Who should I keep among Ray Rice, Cam Newton and Larry Fitzgerald? Rice seems like a no-brainer, so it comes down to the other two. Both have their merits, and I do think Fitz is due for a rebound with an improved o-line and Carson Palmer getting him the ball. Good quarterbacks, however, are usually the first players kept in my league, so having one is quite the advantage. What to do?
-- Mike Ruppert, Erie, Colo.

Mack: While quarterback is the highest-scoring position in fantasy, it is also increasingly deep in this modern-day, pass-happy NFL. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are barely fantasy starters now with the emergence of Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. Look at your draft a year ago. Where were those quarterbacks selected? Odds are, the last two weren't drafted at all. Keep the first-rounder Rice and third-rounder Fitzgerald over Newton, who should slip out of the fifth round in standard drafts because of his lack of a supporting cast and the emergence of so many other elite options at the position.

Do you have any suggestions on how to set up waivers? Currently we do a waiver priority organized by worst record to best record for that week in the standings. One player asked if we could do an auction waiver, but I just think it would be too confusing for some of the novice players. Do you have any other thoughts on how to set up the perfect fantasy football league?
-- Sanjay Mohindroo

Mack: If you can handle the complexities of fantasy football, learning how to manage a Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB) shouldn't be too difficult. It is a much more fair way to process waivers, frankly, and I have always hated rewarding the weakest teams with first waiver priority. Fantasy football waivers are the most lively in the business, and bidding on the flavor of the week adds an outstanding dynamic to the game.

If you have a fantasy football question, we will answer it here in the coming weeks before training camp. Minicamps are closing down, so this next month before training camps open should be a bit quiet on the news front.

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