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Five Things to Know: Expect Helu to Stick for 'Skins

Mario Puig

Mario Puig

Mario sets the direction of RotoWire's college football and NFL draft content, with his other responsibilities primarily resting in those same subjects. He's a fan of Jim Harbaugh, James Harrison and David Bowie.


1. Expect Roy Helu to keep rolling

The Redskins are a mess, but Roy Helu should remain a viable fantasy starter regardless of how bad things get.

If the Redskins maintain some form of competitiveness, Helu's likely to get a big workload in the running game as the team's clear feature back. If the Redskins continue to play catch-up constantly, he's likely to get a healthy amount of receptions as the team's clear passing-down back - a task for which he increasingly appears to be a standout, particularly after last week's franchise-record 14 receptions against San Francisco. He would remain productive as a receiver particularly in the event that checkdown machine John Beck remains the starter at quarterback.

Helu's future looks especially promising when you consider that he's already a standout pass catcher despite heading into the NFL with relatively little practice for the role. He had just 54 receptions in 48 games in Nebraska's option-heavy offense, so he might not be done improving in that regard.

2. Laurent Robinson is a worthy fantasy starter with Austin out

Laurent Robinson looked like nothing more than training camp fodder as of two months ago, but he's in the midst of a puzzling fifth-year breakout season as an in-season free-agent pickup for Dallas.

He immediately displayed strong chemistry with Tony Romo, with the pair showing a sense of timing that normally takes players time to develop. The result has been 24 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns in six games, though his opportunity came thanks to Miles Austin's persistent hamstring troubles that cost Austin two games and cut short another.

Still, with Austin expected to miss 2-to-4 more games with his latest hamstring ailment, Robinson is primed to maintain his production for the short term, making him a viable spot starter in most leagues as long as Austin is out. As productive as he has been this year, there's no way Robinson will see more attention in coverage than Dez Bryant or Jason Witten, so his situation should remain favorable.

3. Jake Ballard looks legitimate

One of the biggest surprises at tight end this season is certainly the Giants' Jake Ballard, an undrafted player with only a practice squad background prior to this year.

It seemed as if media coverage of Giants training camp implied that Ballard wound up starting because of Travis Beckum's ineptitude rather than Ballard's merits. It wasn't a difficult narrative to believe - one year removed from the practice squad and, before that, a college career that saw him total just 34 catches for 377 yards and three touchdowns in four seasons. It seemed Ballard would be a blocking tight end more than anything else.

Yet Ballard has basically matched or exceeded in eight games this year what it took him four years to do at Ohio State, going for 395 yards and three touchdowns, with his touchdowns and 308 yards coming from the last five games alone.

What might be the most impressive part of Ballard's performance - the big-play ability highlighted by his 17.3 yards per reception - also illustrates what limits his fantasy upside, as he seemingly can't be expected to post even moderate reception totals on a reliable basis. Still, Ballard's role has increased significantly in recent weeks, with the last four games seeing him total 16 catches compared to seven catches in the first four. With Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham serving as the primary concerns of opposing defenses, Ballard should continue to see favorable coverage.

4. Mark Ingram's value is sinking fast

His long-term prospects remain promising, but it's growing increasingly difficult to envision Ingram becoming an especially useful fantasy option in his rookie season.

Even before Chris Ivory's 15-carry game against Tampa Bay provided new cause for concern, Ingram was plagued by a 3.9 YPC and the presences of Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas, both of whom are running with much greater efficiency (4.7 yards per carry for Thomas, 7.1 per carry in Sproles' case).

If Ingram hits the ground running when he shakes his heel injury and gets back on the field, he's still dealing with the possibility of playing on a team with three running backs who are better than him at the moment. He might not be worth owning in most leagues.

5. Bennett should continue to be Chicago's top receiver

Johnny Knox, Devin Hester and Roy Williams figure to steal plenty of targets, but Earl Bennett looked too good in his first game back from a chest injury against Philadelphia on Monday to not be considered Chicago's top receiver.

In a group of wideouts consisting of speed specialists (Knox, Hester) and a big guy with no especially evident positive traits (Williams), Bennett's distinction as the team's best possession receiver makes him the wideout least likely to become redundant.

While he's mostly a consideration in PPR or deep leagues, Bennett should build on the production he showed during his 54-catch, 717-yard performance in his second NFL season. He's still only 24, so it wouldn't be surprising if he took his game to the next level. His history with Jay Cutler going back to Vanderbilt certainly can't hurt.