Fantasy Football mailbag: August 23

Published Aug. 23, 2013 1:00 a.m. ET

I hate misleading headlines. It’s bad enough when one of these monstrosities is deceptive to drive up page views, like when Miguel Tejada’s amphetamine prescription was bannered “MVP busted for drug use.” But when a header contradicts the ensuing story? Man, does that frost my cookies. (Unrelated note: that might be the first time in sports journalistic history that “ensuing” was used in a football column without “kickoff, drive or play” following.)

Case in point: I was blown away by the recent leader “Steelers RB injury not serious,” as a season-ending injury was mentioned earlier in the week for the rookie out of Michigan State after spraining his foot. Yet when I went into the article…well, I think reader Joe sums it up best:

Joe (chat) - Sup with Le'Veon Bell?

I know, right? Almost every media outlet ran with the streamer “Bell avoids major surgery,” which, yes, is technically true. Also true: Bell’s ailment will keep him sidelined for the next 6-8 weeks, severely diminishing his draft value and, more importantly, driving a stake into one of my fantasy football predictions. I mean, come on, at least let the season begin before my prophecies start going up in smoke.

Until Bell returns (or if), Pittsburgh will employ the dreaded committee approach with Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, maybe even a little Felix Jones mixed in. I think Dwyer could be of use if he receives enough touches, yet Redman will get the bulk of the action, meaning neither holds significant value in standard leagues. And while we’re here, I know we live in a now-now-NOW news cycle where every minor event is magnified to a startling degree, but the Steelers’ acquisition of Jones from the Eagles, where he was likely to be cut, does not qualify as BREAKING NEWS. Let’s leave that for the big things, ok fellas?

Sean Ruderman from Boston: I paid $63 for Ray Rice last year. Is keeping Rice and losing $63 off my spending money too much? (Salary cap is $200, have $10 locked up in Peyton Manning.) Keep in mind other top-10 backs will most likely be kept by owners.

Two ways to view this matter. In standard formats, Rice should be going in the $49 range, making your price excessive. Rice has been an iron man, but that’s a lot of dinero locked up in a position so conducive to injury. Moreover, Rice saw a considerable reduction in touches last fall (291 carries, 76 receptions in 2011; 257 carries, 61 catches in 2012), as the Ravens intended on keeping their star fresh throughout the season. While that’s still an ample workload, it’s not enough to justify a $63 tag, especially with Bernard Pierce possibly siphoning more touches this year.


The other approach is justifying Rice’s charge with Manning’s cut-rate fee, as the 6’5”, 250 lbs. quarterback with a laser-rocket arm is going at $33 in most standard leagues. Together, that $73 surcharge isn’t too shabby.

However, in my experience with auction/salary leagues (at least in football), I’d rather have the cap space than a high-figured entity. I’d drop Rice and see if you can get him cheaper in the draft. If not, accumulate a few second-tier backs for a third of the cost.

Micah Tranch from Yakima, Washington: Should I trade Dez Bryant, Hakeem Nicks and Mike Williams for Chris Johnson, Tavon Austin, Giovani Bernard and Ryan Broyles?

Nope, as you’re giving up three of the best four players in this deal. Even if you’re strapped for running backs, you should be able to command a better haul than that proposal. Personally I like the outlooks for Broyles and Austin, yet that’s also bringing their average draft position into the fold. Hold out to get more bang for your buck.

Robert from Lafayette, Louisiana: Who would you pick if you had the No. 2 pick?

Depending on the league format and configuration, either C.J. Spiller or Aaron Rodgers. Arian Foster isn’t far behind, although the ambiguity around his health keeps him from a top-three pick at the moment. (In his defense, Foster did begin practicing this week.) Spiller might raise a few eyebrows, as Fred Jackson could be envisioned as cutting into the spotlight, but the Bills have maintained that Spiller will be featured early and often in 2013. Likewise, injuries to the Green Bay offensive line and receiving corps have slumped Rodgers on some lists. I think this is an overreaction, and the Packers front line is still strong and the severity of harm to the wideouts is exaggerated.

Some would throw Doug Martin into this conversation, but think he’s due for a tad of regression and faces more competition than Spiller for touches. In truth, you could go Foster, Spiller or Rodgers and all would turn out alright for your fantasy squad.

Tazz (chat) - I drafted Gronk and Jared Cook, with Gronk out will I be ok with Cook?

Cook is viewed as a top-12 tight end this year, though we may be giving him too much credit. I think he’ll produce slightly better than he did in Tennessee, but not to the point where he’s a major fantasy factor. Going from Jake Locker to Sam Bradford isn’t that much of an upgrade, you dig? I like these options better than Cook…

Pettime (chat) - Zach Sudfeld or Tyler Eifert??

Sudfeld. Sounds outrageous, but even if Rob Gronkowski returns by Week 2 (which is looking more and more unlikely), I think Sudfeld has top-five potential. He’s seen a steady stream of balls during practice and in exhibition games, and has quickly picked up the Pats’ offensive scheme. I think he’s that good, and the Patriots will be leaning on him as the No. 2 recipient in their aerial assault. Swear, I’m not drunk.

Eifert isn’t far behind. Originally I had Eifert as a late-round sleeper, with the acceptance that he wouldn’t do much of substance in the early weeks before turning into a dependable asset in the second half. Turns out Eifert’s assimilation is on a faster timetable, as the rookie tight end has been a favorite target of Andy Dalton. Another development that is boosting Eifert’s stock is the utilization of Jermaine Gresham as a blocker rather than receiver. A Pro Bowler the last two seasons, Gresham may be the odd man out in Cincy this year.

Sugerpova (chat) - In a dynasty league, which rookie would you take, Marquise Goodwin, Stedman Bailey, Josh Boyce, or Justin Hunter?

Eventually, I think Hunter has the most upside, but he’s had a terrible training camp and preseason. Goodwin has been shining for the Bills, although he’s viewed as a situational receiver rather than one who will be seeing a ton of reps. That leaves Bailey and Boyce. I loved Bailey’s game in college, and think he’ll be employed more than people expect this season; alas, the Rams have a crowded rank at wide receiver. Go with Boyce. He will be an immediate contributor, and with the rest of New England’s wideouts at the same age, he’ll have plenty of room to grow. Besides, would you rather put your faith in Tom Brady or E.J. Manuel, Bradford or Locker?