Instead of addressing the backup running back position via free agency, the Raiders traded away offensive tackle Bruce Campbell for Carolina backup Mike Goodson. This move made a lot of sense for both teams, as Carolina had no use for Goodson after signing Mike Tolbert, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams already on the roster. Meanwhile, Campbell wasnít playing much for the Raiders, but projects as a project player who at 6-7, 310 lbs. could help protect Cam Newton as soon as this season and pay big dividends in the long run. Iíd have to wonder if the two teams didnít discuss Jonathan Stewart, who has a cheap price tag (in terms of salary), instead of Goodson. Obviously, the asking price for Stewart would have been higher than Goodson, but Oakland has a plethora of young wide receivers they might have dealt if the price were right. With Goodson now in Oakland, heíll come onto the fantasy radar, backing up the oft-injured Darren McFadden along with Taiwan Jones. After missing at least three games in each of his first three seasons in the league, Run DMC missed nine games last season with a Lisfranc sprain. While itís a small sample, Goodson did have some success as Carolinaís running back in 2010 when he averaged 4.4 YPC and amassed 762 total yards. Goodson is a solid receiver out of the backfield and has averaged over 7.5 YPC for his career. Jones loses any sleeper potential he had with the trade, although he could see a few touches as a third-down back. Provided he sees 10-15 touches per game, look for Goodson to be ranked in the 35-45 range among running backs in this yearís fantasy drafts.
The Brandon Jacobs signing by the 49ers has to be a little bit questionable. Frank Gore has handled goal-line and short yardage work effectively in the past and Kendall Hunter proved to be capable of running the ball while Gore was out of the game. Jacobs averaged only 3.8 YPC last season and while 29 isnít that old, bigger running backs tend to see a decline in their abilities earlier. If anything, this could mean a small red flag against Goreís value, should Jacobs vulture a few goal-line carries away.
This week, Kenny Britt reported his recovery from knee surgery was going better than expected and it sounds as though he could be 100 percent come Week 1. Britt looked as if he was headed for a breakout season and a top-3 fantasy finish at the position before the knee injury in Week 3 last year. While the small sample caveat applies here again, he had 271 receiving yards and three touchdowns in just the first two weeks of the season. If he shows heís 100 percent while in camp this summer, how high do you rank him among wide receivers? Top-25, due to the injury or as high a top-20 or top-15? Heíll likely end up as one of riskier players to draft as a high-risk/high-reward kind of investment.
Two running backs to keep in mind this coming season are Arizonaís Ryan Williams and Detroitís Mikel Leshoure. Both players suffered season-ending injuries before Week 1, with Leshoure tearing his Achillesí, while Williams tore his patellar tendon. Williams is considered to have more upside and a better pedigree, but Leshoure finds himself playing in a better offense and could emerge as the primary goal-line back. Leshoure never fumbled in 461 touches in college and Williams had a season of 1,655 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns while at Virginia Tech. Both players carry their own injury risk and enter backfields that have the same black cloud over them. Both should end up as good late-round picks in fantasy drafts, given their upside as long as they show theyíre healthy in camp.
Youíve got to feel bad for the Miami and Cleveland fan base. Both organizations did nothing to improve their quarterback situation despite being rumored to be interested in several of the marqueee free agents. Miami has at least a decent in-house option in Matt Moore, but the addition of David Garrard brings about a quarterback competition to be the Dolphins signal caller this season. On top of that, the Dolphins traded away Brandon Marshall, bringing many holes to fill with the eighth pick. Cleveland, on the other hand. claims to be ready to go forward with the Colt McCoy project, but also has backfield needs after allowing Peyton Hillis to jump ship to the Chiefs. Look for Ryan Tannehill to end up with one of the two teams, while the other team looks to address wide receiver (Miami) or running back (Cleveland) some point early in the draft.
In case you missed it, the NFL instituted new rules into the fold for the 2012 season. Hereís a quick rundown of the new rules:
- There will be an automatic replay review for all turnovers. If Iím reading this correctly, Iíve got to think the Lions were strongly behind this. During their playoff game with New Orleans, they could have had a turnover by the Saints likely returned for a touchdown that could have (and likely would have) changed the outcome of that game. However, the play was blown dead and the Saints went on to not only win, but cover the point spread.
- The playoff overtime rules will now apply to the regular season. This makes sense since what happens during the playoffs should happen in the regular season as well. However, while the knee-jerk reaction is to assume that the team receiving the kickoff in overtime has a significant advantage by getting the ball first, that wasnít the case in the 2011-2012 season. Out of the 13 overtime games for the season, only three games (23 percent) were decided on the first drive.
- Defensive players are more protective on crack-back blocks. While Iím all for protecting defenseless players, at some point a line is going to have to be drawn or theyíll be playing flag football in the NFL. Itís also tough to watch, given the subjectivity of some of these calls and the lack of competence at times from the refs. While itís impossible to get these calls made uniformly, a level of consistency from the zebras would be welcome.
- When there are too many men on the field, the refs will blow the whistle dead and it will be a five-yard pre-snap penalty if they are in their stance for three seconds. If an extra defensive player is making an attempt to get off the field, the play will run with offense getting to choose the outcome of the play or the five yard penalty. Iím surprised a coach (looking at you Bill Belichick) hasnít taken advantage of this rule up to this point. Basically, late in a game you could have 15 defensive players on the field, have the offense run a play and the five-yard penalty will occur but the time run by the play is lost. Of course, this is under the presumption that the play nets no yardage. The NFL rightfully saw this as a potential loophole at the end of the game and rightfully changed the rule.