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Preseason ball is underway… and so are fantasy drafts. But with buzzy nuggets of news emerging on a daily basis it becomes difficult to keep track of what matters and what doesn’t. In an attempt to streamline managers’ FF experience, each Friday I’ll highlight the biggest headlines and explain how they might affect fans of the virtual game.
Ladarius Green facing early retirement?
Reports surfaced early on Thursday that Green had been dealing with lingering headaches since suffering two concussions over a two-week span in the fall of 2015. Despite rumors about the headaches, most had assumed Green was missing from camp due to a protracted recovery from ankle surgery. Given the complexities of a potential neurological issue, however, it seems that the Steelers are considering cutting one of their most recent acquisitions.
Green’s health obviously trumps any aspect of the virtual game. For a player so athletically gifted to end his career on this note is truly heartbreaking. Seemingly on the precipice of a breakout four years in the making, this unfortunate news prevents him from being ranked among the top-twenty players at his position. Managers currently drafting should avoid rostering the 26-year-old metrics stud until more information becomes available.
Stevie Johnson out for the year with a knee injury.
After hurting his right knee during training camp, it seemed Johnson might see the field at some point in 2016. After undergoing surgery on Tuesday, however, it was reported that Johnson would be done for the year. The 30-year-old slot man had flashed early in his inaugural season as a Charger, scoring back-to-back TDs over the first two weeks. Unfortunately, a series of burdensome injuries slowed the vet’s potential resurgence.
The Chargers have options. But most of those options are young and raw. Which is why they added James Jones shortly after the news about Johnson broke. While Jones had his moments in Green Bay last year, he had obvious difficulty separating from defenders. Brought in to exist as a veteran presence and mentor the younger guys, Jones is not the receiver to target in San Diego.
Rather, keep your eye on Dontrell Inman and Tyrell Williams. Inman flashed his impressive quicks and catch radius following the team’s Week 10 bye, but he was far from a steady producer. The ultra-raw but hyper-athletic Williams, on the other hand, has been drawing rave reviews in camp. The preseason will help determine which of these young guns is likely to see a significant number of snaps.
Jimmy Graham removed from the Seahawks PUP list.
Fewer than nine months removed from a patellar tendon rupture, Graham was back on the field Thursday morning. While this particularly injury has traditionally been a death knell for NFL careers, Graham appears to have made a Herculean recovery. Suffering zero setbacks as of yet, the former Saint could see the field as early as Week 1.
I’m a sucker for a comeback, but this seems too good to be true. While Graham’s studly fortitude cannot be denied, we still need to see how his range of motion has been affected and how he’ll stand up to contact. A player whose toughness was questioned by his previous team and who is also set to turn 30-years-old in three short months, owning Graham comes with some hefty baggage. Plus, let’s not forget how Seattle struggled to get him involved last season. With so much depth at the position, there’s little reason to overpay for a brand name talent presenting so many question marks.
Clive Walford to be heavily involved.
After leap-frogging Mychal Rivera last year, the sophomore tight end is reportedly in line for a bigger role this fall. Despite sitting out the Raiders’ offseason program due to a knee injury sustained in an ATV accident, Walford appears to be carving out a sizeable niche for himself in Oakland’s offense. Coming off a rookie season in which he only started two games, but still managed a 28-329-3 stat line, the Miami product offers breakout appeal.
I’m buying. Still flying under the radar in redraft leagues, Walford presents tremendous value and upside. At 6-foot-4 and 251 pounds, the former Hurricane is a big-bodied red zone target for the young and developing Derek Carr. He’s also a versatile athlete who can catch and block, which means he should stay on the field for plenty of snaps. Poised to pick up where he left off at the end of 2015, Walford is an ideal late-round grab for owners not afraid to stream the position.
Kendall Wright remains sidelined with hamstring injury.
Out since the beginning of August, Wright is expected to miss an additional few weeks as he nurses a hurt hammy. And amidst news that Head Coach Mike Mularkey is growing weary of the 26-year-old’s durability woes, Wright is in a tough spot. Rushing back from an injury could cause a setback, but prolonging the recovery could lose him his job.
As the saying goes, one person’s loss is another person’s gain. Such is the case for Wright and Rishard Matthews. While Houston Oiler supporters might be the only group loyal enough to draft the Baylor product, thrifty-minded owners should turn their late-round attention to Matthews.
A sharp-minded route runner with sticky mitts, Matthews flashed early in 2015. A reliable target for Ryan Tannehill, he produced two 100+ yard outings and three scores before the Dolphins’ Week 5 bye. With Wright continually hobbled, and the rest of the receiving corps either underwhelming or untested, Matthews is likely to emerge as the team’s most trusted weapon in the passing game.
Follow Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF