It was a slow Tuesday as we close in on the quarter mark of the regular season. However, there were still a few fantasy-relevant nuggets of information worth discussing.
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Jonathan Stewart hasn’t practiced or played in a football game since Week 12 of last season due to ongoing ankle issues. The 26-year-old has legitimately been battling injuries from his ankles on down ever since he entered the league in 2008. Stewart underwent surgery on his big toe in the 2008 pre-draft process and has dealt with recurring toe, Achilles’, heel and ankle ailments up through this exact moment.
Stewart only missed two games in four seasons prior to 2012, but he exited early in a handful of those and was limited in plenty of others. Last season, the former Oregon Duck played in just nine games. Stewart underwent separate surgeries on both ankles in January and hasn’t been able to get them back to 100 percent. He didn’t participate in OTAs, minicamp, or training camp and couldn’t even participate in a laid-back golf tournament this summer because his ankles were in such rough shape.
Fast forward to July 25. The Panthers placed Stewart on active/PUP to kick off training camp. He never made it off the list and ended up starting the season on reserve/PUP despite coach Ron Rivera’s continuous summer optimism. Reserve/PUP means Stewart has to sit out the first six weeks of the regular season.
In late August, there was some concern that Stewart may not be ready to return to the field in Week 7 when he’s eligible to come off the PUP list. It was also even mentioned that Stewart could miss the entire 2013 campaign. Now, as we sit here on September 25, it appears Stewart will be ready to make his season debut in Week 7 against the Rams. Stewart says his left ankle is 100 percent. The right one has been giving him trouble.
If Stewart’s ankles are right, he should slide right back into a timeshare role with DeAngelo Williams upon his return. Williams is averaging over 20 carries a game through the first three weeks and is the league’s third-leading rusher behind LeSean McCoy and Doug Martin. Stewart is worth stashing in deeper leagues, but we wouldn’t waste a roster spot on the chronically-injured back in 10- and 12-team leagues until we learn more in the coming weeks. He could easily suffer a setback. We’ve seen it numerous times with Stewart in the past. For Williams owners, this could be a perfect time to sell high on the 30-year-old back. Even if Stewart doesn’t return, we don’t see Williams keeping this pace. If you can package Williams and acquire an underachieving back like C.J. Spiller or Ray Rice, then we’d advise pulling the trigger. Williams will be no more than a RB2/flex option once the second half of the season rolls around.
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News Nugget #2
49ers OC Greg Roman said on Tuesday that there remains no timetable for Michael Crabtree’s (Achilles’) return. Crabtree tore his Achilles’ on May 22. He was placed on reserve/PUP to start the season.
“He’s working hard,” Roman said. “I don’t think there’s any specific day or date. “If we can get him back this year, that’d be gravy. I think the way he’s working now, it’s quite possible [he could return this season], but again, I think you probably want to talk to the medical staff.”
We wouldn’t expect Crabtree back before Week 11 or 12 at the earliest and that may even be optimistic. The way the 49ers have started the season on offense, they could certainly use their top outside weapon. However, Crabtree likely won’t be his normal self until 2014. He isn’t worth stashing on fantasy rosters unless the league is insanely deep. The likes of Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore haven’t been cutting it for the 49ers. Look for rookie Quinton Patton to start seeing extended looks, while Jon Baldwin could even be active this week against the Rams. San Francisco needs someone to start catching passes on the outside while Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis work the middle of the field.
News Nugget #3
Lions receiver Nate Burleson broke his arm in two places in an early-Tuesday morning single-car accident. The 32-year-old was driving home after watching Monday Night Football with some teammates when a pizza slid off his front seat and distracted him. Burleson lost control of his GMC Yukon and crashed into a center median. He was transported to a local hospital and will undergo surgery Wednesday.
Burleson is reportedly facing a 6-8 week recovery period, but we’ll know more in the coming days. The Lions have no immediate plans to place him on season-ending injured reserve. Detroit has already used its short-term injured reserve spot on special teams maven Montell Owens.
Burleson is the No. 42 fantasy receiver after three weeks in standard scoring. He has 19 catches for 239 yards and is coming off a six-catch, 116-yard performance against the Redskins in Week 3. Burleson was never more than a WR4/5 for fantasy purposes, but his loss will be felt much more in real life. He’s a team leader and safety blanket for Matthew Stafford.
The Lions are now back in a familiar spot they found themselves in last season after Burleson broke his leg. They have minimal experience behind Calvin Johnson at the receiver spot. Look for Ryan Broyles to man the slot, while Patrick Edwards handles the outside spot opposite Megatron. Broyles is a guy to watch, especially in PPR formats. He’ll have WR3 upside in Detroit’s pass-happy attack. There were reports on Tuesday that the Lions could look to trade for a receiver. Miles Austin’s name was brought up, though a Cowboys source told the Lions’ official website that Austin was not available. Two other names potentially on the block are Kenny Britt and Josh Gordon. Both have off-the-field issues, so it might be a stretch to expect the Lions to take on another malcontent after they’ve dealt with numerous off-field issues the past couple seasons.
Quarterback/Running Back Slants
Terrelle Pryor was concussed in Monday night’s loss to the Broncos. Coach Dennis Allen said on Tuesday that he’s preparing as if both Pryor and Matt Flynn will start this week against the Redskins. Pryor tweeted that he doesn’t remember the hit that concussed him. … Brett Favre’s agent says the 44-year-old could still play today. … Michael Vick (foot) and LeSean McCoy (ankle) practiced Tuesday. … Daryl Richardson (foot) returned to a full practice Tuesday after being limited on Monday. He’s already declared himself “good to go” for Thursday night. However, Richardson could start losing more snaps to Isaiah Pead. … Le’Veon Bell (foot) might start this week. He’s going to play against the Vikings, and we’d expect him to lead the backfield in touches. Isaac Redman is expected to be a healthy scratch. … Kenjon Barner (ankle) was cleared to practice Tuesday. He hasn’t been on the field since spraining his ankle in the preseason finale. … Ronnie Hillman says he got the goal-line carry late in Monday night’s win over the Raiders by beating Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno in a game of rock, paper, scissors. … Eddie Lacy (concussion) said he expects to play when the Packers come out of their bye in Week 5.
Wide Receiver/Tight End Slants
Chris Givens (knee) returned to a full practice Tuesday. He sat out altogether on Monday. It was likely just a day off for the Rams’ No. 1 receiver. Treat him as a WR4 this week versus the Niners. … Ryan Broyles said he’s ready for a bigger role in Detroit. … The Nashville Tennessean is “sure” the Titans would listen to trade offers for Kenny Britt. … Danny Amendola (groin) is reportedly “progressing well.” There’s still no word of a timetable for return. … Vernon Davis (hamstring) remained limited in Tuesday’s practice. Look for him to suit up on Thursday night against the Rams. … The Steelers are expected to remove Heath Miller’s (knee) snap count restrictions this week.