Preseason update: Injuries, roster cuts to consider in fantasy draft prep

Monday August 25th, 2014

With the third week of the preseason behind us, we are truly closing in on the start of the 2014 NFL season. A lot has happened so far in the preseason, and if you’re drafting this week, you’ll want to make sure you’re up to date on all the latest news. Here are a few tidbits to keep in mind when you sit down around the draft table.

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Welker’s Week 1 status in doubt after concussion

Wes Welker suffered a concussion in the Broncos’ third preseason game, and that could have a ripple effect on the entire Denver passing game. The 33-year-old had two concussions late in the 2013 season, so getting one more so close to the others has to be troubling. His status for Week 1 is up in the air, though word out of Denver suggests that he will play in the season opener against the Colts.

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If Welker doesn’t suit up for the first game of the year, rookie Cody Latimer could get a chance to show what he can do much earlier than expected. The Indiana product projected as a strong late-round flier given the role he could potentially have in the Denver offense. He caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns during his final year in Bloomington, but it was believed he wouldn’t get much of a shot in the offense until later in the season. If there was one position on the roster where the Broncos could afford to bring a rookie along slowly, it was wide receiver. That may no longer be the case.

Even if Welker does play against the Colts, this concussion illustrates why the Broncos were so concerned about him staying healthy all season. Both Latimer and Andre Caldwell could have a shot early on in the season, though fantasy owners want to be targeting Latimer late in drafts. Emmanuel Sanders deserves a bump, as well, given that he’d also see more targets if Welker had to miss time. He should still be ranked behind guys like Torrey Smith, Michael Floyd and Jeremy Maclin, but ahead of Golden Tate, Terrance Williams and Brandin Cooks.

Stevan Ridley on the roster bubble?

It seems ludicrous to say so, but it sounds like Ridley may be looking for a new employer next week. ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss made his latest 53-man Patriots roster projection on Monday, and Ridley was noticeably absent.

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Ridley landed in Bill Belichick’s doghouse last year – even though he was the team’s most accomplished runner – after dealing with a case of fumbleitis. He put the ball on the ground in the second game of the preseason, and though the Patriots recovered the fumble, Belichick could not have been pleased. That displeasure may have shown through in the third game, when he played in just 11 snaps in what amounts to a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Meanwhile, Shane Vereen played 31 snaps and James White played 15.

It still seems unlikely the Ridley gets cut, and I would still be drafting him, though at a much lower price. What this news does primarily is boost the draft stock of White and, to a lesser degree, Vereen. The pass-catching back Vereen was always going to have a big role in the New England offense as a receiver, and that role shouldn’t really change all that much regardless of Ridley’s fate. If the Patriots do cut him, though, White would be the team’s lead ball-carrier. Even just the speculation that Ridley could be cut is enough to make White a guy who should be owned in all leagues. If Ridley does get cut before your draft, you might even want to add Brandon Bolden to your radar.

Sam Bradford tears ACL

Bradford’s poor luck showed up again on Saturday when he tore the ACL in his left knee, the same knee in which he tore the ligament last year. He will miss the entire 2014 season, which had a bit of a make-or-break feel to it for the former No. 1 overall pick. In real life, the injury could be equally as devastating for the Rams, whose defense makes them legitimate playoff contenders. The impact will be felt in fantasy leagues, as well.

What's next for the Rams with Sam Bradford done for 2014?

The downgrade to Shaun Hill from Bradford is noticeable and will likely have a negative effect on everyone in St. Louis. Intuitively, fantasy owners may think that the injury gives Zac Stacy a boost. The logic goes that with Bradford out, the Rams will rely on Stacy and the run game more than they originally planned. However, that overlooks the fact that the offense as a whole is better with Bradford under center. Not only does Stacy not get a bump in value, he’s actually less attractive with Bradford out. I’ve been lower on him than most people all summer, but he isn’t even inside my top 20.

St. Louis’ receivers were already pretty low on draft boards. Tavon Austin is the only one with an average draft position inside the top 50 among receivers, and only he and Kenny Britt are taken with one of the first 160 picks in a typical draft. In other words, it’s not like their stock could realistically get any lower. If you were already looking at Austin or Britt with a late-round pick, the move to Hill from Bradford shouldn’t change that. The same is true for tight end Jared Cook, who has fallen out of the top 20 at his position. He should not be on your board unless you are in a very deep league.

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