The mini-camps, voluntary camps, Summer schools, and rookie programs are all in the rear view mirror, leaving just Training Camp between now and Hank Williams Jr being unfrozen to sing again this year. Two RBs are among the hardest to judge in all of football and when it comes to draft day, positioning these two on your draft board is going to be something that separates the winners from the losers.
Perhaps I shouldn't say separate ... because when it comes to second-year back Laurence Maroney, that's the problem. Maroney was every bit as good as expected last year in New England, making Corey Dillon expendable. (In fact, Dillon remains unsigned and supposedly working on his golf game. I just can't see Dillon on the links, can you?) The problem is that Maroney has a chronic shoulder problem, what's called a lax shoulder. He had two procedures done just after the season, one to tighten the shoulder capsule and the other to clean up some small fraying in his labrum. If you just had a vision of Clinton Portis last season, that's the downside. Maroney doesn't have Dillon to take the load off him and in his time-split last year, he ended up with some knee problems, an oblique strain, and the shoulder surgery. That doesn't suggest "workhorse" to me and given the kid gloves he was treated with in mini-camp, I'm not confident in his ability to stay healthy throughout the season. Given the changes to the Pats personnel and offensive scheme, Maroney could be a top tier running back if healthy. It's just that it's a big "if."
If you're in an early drafting league, you simply cannot put Maroney up in the top tier of backs. Rotowire's cheat sheet (magazine version) has Maroney at #6, just behind fellow soph Joseph Addai and just ahead of names like Willie Parker, Brian Westbrook, and Maurice Jones-Drew. It's going to be hard, but the risk on Maroney is simply too high at this stage. We won't know until the first couple pre-season games (yes, there's actually something you can learn from pre-season games) whether Maroney can take hits with bad intentions behind them. If you simply have to have him (or are Bill Simmons), then you simply have to pair him with Sammy Morris, his backup. With a deep crop of productive RBs in the draft - there could be top tier production down as low as #40 - you need to let someone else take the risk in the top two rounds.
Another wild card on draft boards is going to be Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson. Yes, he's good, yes, he's fast, yes, he's big, and yes, the Minnesota offense looks to be one special breed of miserable this season. The one thing we can't say yes to is that he's durable. Peterson had a series of injuries that held him back while a Sooner and coming into the league, his collarbone necessitated special medical checks before he was drafted. It got so bad that his agent sent him to super-surgeon Dr. James Andrews to put his seal of approval on Peterson, something he did. That opinion carries a lot of weight with me; if Jim says Peterson can hold up, I believe him. While there's plenty of questions to answer before draft day - such as "Is Peterson going to beat out Chester Taylor" and "Can Tarvaris Jackson complete enough passes to keep the defense from stacking the box 11 deep?" - Peterson's health shouldn't be one of them. A smart strategy would be to bring up all the problems Peterson has had as you're getting ready for the draft. Talk about how Mel Kiper Jr moved him way down on his board back in April in hopes that your fellow fantasy owners do the same.
There's nothing better on draft day that avoiding a risky player that can kill your season or stealing someone two rounds below their true talent level. Merry Christmas in July -- I just gave you both.
By the way, I'm the new guy in these parts, but you probably know me. Whether you read my work at Baseball Prospectus or my pieces that I've been asked to do in the last three Rotowire Baseball magazines, or even if you were one of the six people that watched me on "The Fantasy Show" last year, you know that as much of a baseball fan as I am, I'm also passionate about fantasy football. Winning at fantasy football, I should say. I'm here to help you do that by letting you know how injuries will affect your team after each week. You'll see my column pop up here every Tuesday (I think - we're still working on details) letting you know where you have problems, where you can steal someone blind, and the inside scoop on what really happened. We'll end up talking about everything from ACL reconstruction to splenectomies and hopefully we'll both learn something and have some fun.
I want to encourage everyone to email me with questions as well. I'm here to help and while I can't address all the injuries in my column, I will try and help you as much as possible. Every team in the NFL has a medical staff that helps the GM and coaches make decisions. Just think of me as the team doctor for your fantasy team.
Posted by Will Carroll at 7/18/2007 4:04:00 PM