Fantasy Funhouse: Second-year secrets

Brandon Funston

I learned my lesson with Mike Shanahan long ago. I simply avoid his backfields at all costs these days. Trust me, it's a fantastic sleep aid. But, if you're one that plans to mess with the bull that is Shanahan, let me just say that early ADP numbers suggest you're going to end up getting the horn.

Evan Royster, last year's Round 6 pick from Penn St., the guy who leads the Nittany Lions in all-time rushing yards and who closed out the 'Skins '11 campaign with back-to-back 100-yard games, is currently running with the first team offense in camp. This could be a problem for those that have already helped push Roy Helu's ADP value inside the top 70 overall (No. 26 RB off the board according to By comparison, Royster can be had No. 56 overall at the RB position. That's six spots later at the position than another Washington RB, Tim Hightower, who is mostly a bystander in camp right now because he's still not fully recovered from an ACL injury suffered last season.

Now I'm not saying that Royster and Helu should be flip-flopped in the rankings. Knowing Shanahan, he'll profess his love for Helu (or Hightower, or Alfred Morris, or …) as soon as you do that. But I think it's a mistake to dismiss Royster as a potential leading man in this offense. The correct course of action here is to move Royster up close to the top 40 neighborhood at RB, while moving Helu down to a similar spot. This will likely be a fluid situation, as things could change quickly once Hightower is deemed sufficiently recovered. You can adjust your rankings accordingly as further developments take place in this backfield. But the main takeaway is that I certainly wouldn't be drafting Helu inside the top 100 overall, and Royster is a steal right now going outside the top 150 overall. Of course, I won't be drafting them regardless.

We're fond of Atlanta second-year RB Jacquizz Rodgers here at Yahoo! We like him as a viable top 40 fantasy running back, whereas his ADP has him currently sitting at No. 49 at the position. Atlanta brass has been paying a lot of lip service to "The Quizz Show" this preseason, and the latest tongue bath comes from Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who was quoted as saying that Rodgers "… has the skill set to play on all three downs." Rodgers is only 5-foot-7 (and that might be pushing it), but he's built like a pony keg. At Oregon St., he averaged more than 25 touches (22 carries) per game, often utilized between the tackles, even at the goal line.

Last season, Atlanta ran the third-most plays from scrimmage behind only New Orleans and New England. And this year's squad could be even more potent with the extra year of development of QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones and Rodgers. There's plenty of pigskin to be shared even if Michael Turner remains the top option in the backfield. Regardless, all indications are that Turner will see a significant downturn in workload after rushing more than 300 times in three of his four seasons in Atlanta. There'll be 200-plus touches to be had for Rodgers, as ESPN's Pat Yasinskas suggests that Atlanta envisions him as the team's next Warrick Dunn.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph continues the theme of potential second-year breakouts here. The Vikings' second-round pick in '11 is getting rave reviews in camp, being praised for both his receiving and blocking skills. With Visante Shiancoe out of the picture and free agent signee John Carlson out for up to a month with an MCL sprain, Rudolph has a huge role ahead of him. Outside of perennial questionable tag Percy Harvin, the team lacks a proven go-to option in the passing game. A large, athletic, sure-handed underneath option like Rudolph could standout like a beacon for second-year QB Christian Ponder. I wouldn't reach for Rudolph in fantasy drafts because there's plenty of quality talent that will land in your lap no matter which direction your draft goes. But Rudolph, going outside the top 20 at the TE position according to his ADP numbers, is a great late-round bench stash if you end up missing out on a top eight guy at the position. Pair him with another potential breakout star like Jared Cook and you'll most likely have a top 12 fantasy tight end on your hands, one way or the other, when the dust settles.


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