Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blame the NFL Owners for Injury Wave

By Al Giordano

We’ll lead with the good news: Adrian Peterson is now part of our team. Details below. But, first, our top story is about how NFL owners’ greed has led to a scary rise in player injuries in the opening weeks of this season.

In our last post we boasted two great pick-ups for our team. Both have been hit by injuries. And it’s not just us. Everybody’s getting slammed (imagine having used your first fantasy draft pick for Jamaal Charles or Arian Foster or Michael Vick… at least three teams in every fantasy league are cursing at the gods by now).

As for everybody’s favorite team, The Narcos…

WR Kenny Britt led the AFC in receiving until Sunday, when his knee buckled. Now he’s out for the season.

In Week Two, TE Aaron Hernandez sprained a ligament, and is reportedly out “for four to six weeks.”

Also in Week Two, WR Mario Manningham was concussed and was not cleared to play this past week. And RB Felix Jones separated his shoulder (still, he came back and played real well Monday night and will surely be utilized in many of our starting line ups in the weeks to come).

Related to all this is that América’s team, The Narcos, had its first losing game in Week Three. It was a squeaker of a game with, in the end, a defeat by only five points.

But here we don’t cry. We fight!

Here’s what we’ve done to retool:

Another mega-trade: Adrian Peterson is now on our roster. For the all day running back we traded Lion QB Matthew Stafford, Redskin RB Tim Hightower and Raider WR Denarius Moore. Of the three, we were only using Hightower in starting line ups anyway (and we don’t expect any Mike Shanahan RB to last the season), so we consider AP to be an outstanding upgrade. (And like RB Fred Jackson, who we traded to another team for Britt, these trades have worked out well for our trading partners, too, which we’re glad to see: It helps other owners in the league understand that we’re not out to rip folks off when we offer an exchange for mutual benefit… When The Narcos trade, both teams win.)

So now the Viking AP and the emergent Charger Ryan Matthews are our clear starting RBs. We’re real happy with them.

Cowboy Jones, Saint Mark Ingram (still waiting for him to break out), Packer Starks (the Green Bay RB situation is like a see-saw these days, one week up, one week down) and two new acquisitions – Chief Dexter McCluster (on the Yahoo fantasy platform, he can be played as RB or WR) and Texan James Casey (can be played as RB or TE) – can fill the Flex slot depending on week-to-week match-ups. 

Casey is intriguing to us. We didn’t know he existed until his breakout game this week. He can also be slotted at TE, where we also picked up Redskin Fred Davis on waivers. Davis had great Weeks One and Two, but was “meh” on Monday night, thus the flyer on Casey as the Texans move closer toward a Patriots style two-TE system (which, we think, is where all teams will soon move, bringing on a new offensive era in the NFL).

With the devastating loss of Britt (which because we traded RB Fred Jackson for him, who is presently the third top-fantasy RB in the league, hurts doubly), we picked up Seahawk Sidney Rice and Jaguar Mike Thomas on waivers, two players who may yet break out this season. We’re especially intrigued by Rice, who reappeared from injuries this week to catch ten passes for 109 yards on a Seattle team without other good receiving options. (Thomas is more of a bye-week flyer option as we watch the Jacksonville QB situation shake out.)

We also made a coaching mistake in Week Three, believing the hype on the Philadelphia Eagles “dream team” and dumping the NY Giants defense and their defender DL Jason Pierre-Paul during their Philadelphia vacation in favor of the Tennessee Titans defense and DL Panther DL Charles Johnson. Had we not done that, we would have won our Week Three contest. We’ve repented and grabbed both the Giants and Pierre-Paul off the waiver wires anew. Lucky for us, nobody else did that first.

This current roster leaves The Narcos with one glaring weakness. We have no back-up QB. And two of the better ones on the waiver wires – Jet Mark Sanchez and Raider Jason Campbell – have the same Week Eight bye as A-Rodge, so they’d be useless to us then. We’ll just sweat that out, hoping Rodgers stays healthy, for the next few weeks while looking for our best opportunity and assessing McCluster, Casey, and Thomas, in particular, to see which is cut-able – or who else gets knocked out for the season, which we fear will be an inevitable part of 2011 – when the time comes to slot in a QB2.

It’s just too likely that other players will fall to injuries, not just on our team, but on every team. Blame the NFL owners for their lockout of players, which delayed practice camp this year. There is no other explanation for the high injury rate plaguing almost every NFL team. The lack of practice meant lack of conditioning time. In particular, ligaments and legs seem to be vulnerable. And that means more RBs and WRs will be going down in coming weeks, plaguing fantasy owners, not to mention real teams and real human beings.

Anyway, here’s our current roster:

QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB: Adrian Peterson, Ryan Mathews, Felix Jones, James Starks, Mark Ingram
WR: Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Mario Manningham, Sidney Rice, Mike Thomas, Dexter McCluster (also slottable as RB)
TE: Fred Davis, James Casey (also usable as RB under Yahoo rules), Aaron Hernandez (injured, but stashed for his return)
Flex: Any of the RBs or WRs above.
DEF: NY Giants
LB: Patrick Willis
DB: Kerry Rhodes
DL: Jason Pierre-Paul

Not bad. 

But Kenny… we hardly knew ye.

Update: Noticing that Raider WR Jacoby Ford looks ready to return from his hamstring injury this week, vs. a Patriots team that is giving up a lot of passing yards and scores, we've picked him up on waivers, dropping Mike Thomas. (When we grabbed - and later traded - Raider WR Denarius Moore, it was always with the anticipation that we'd bring back Ford, once healthy. Both are solid WRs who increase each other's value by drawing defender coverage from the other, but Ford is the long ball speedster of the two, we believe, despite Moore's current status as fantasy shiny object.)

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