Articles by Jerry Donabedian

A listing of all the articles written by Jerry Donabedian for the RotoWire Blog.

NFL Free Agency: Best of the Rest

 

While most of the top free agents don’t last more than 48 hours into the league year, there are still a few potential gems that remain unsigned at the two-week mark. None of these guys is a sure thing to contribute to fantasy teams next season, but all three have reasonable upside if they happen to land in the right situation (and maybe catch a few breaks between now and Week 1).

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Friday NFL Notes

Kevin Kolb (concussion) was placed on season-ending injured reserve, putting an end to any hopes that he could return in 2013. The veteran quarterback is reportedly contemplating retirement, as this is the third major concussion that he’s suffered since entering the league in 2007. With Kolb out of the picture, E.J. Manuel (knee) is essentially a lock to start once he’s healthy, but Manuel won’t necessarily be ready for Week 1. Jeff Tuel, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Washington State, will get the start against the Patriots if Manuel isn’t ready by next Sunday.

Dennis Pitta (hip) will likely be paced on IR/designated to return, which would make him eligible to play in Week 9. He isn’t expected to be ready by Week 9 and could very well still miss the entire season, but the Ravens have apparently seen enough progress to at least consider the possibility that Pitta could make a late-season return. Ed Dickson (hamstring), who is filling in as the Ravens’ starting tight end, returned to practice earlier in the week and is looking like a good bet to be ready for Baltimore’s season opener against the Broncos. Should Dickson miss that game, veteran Dallas Clark figures to get the start against Peyton Manning and co.

DeAndre Hopkins has passed through four of the five stages in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and the Texans are hoping that he will be cleared over the weekend, which would allow him to return to practice Monday. Hopkins has a solid grip on the starting wideout spot opposite Andre Johnson, as he’s surprisingly polished for a rookie receiver. He’s looking like a good bet to be ready for Week 1, but in the event that Hopkins isn’t able to go, there could be more targets available for Lestar Jean, Keshawn Martin, and DeVier Posey. The Texans have a speedy group of backup receivers, but realistically, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels figure to carry the receiving load if Hopkins doesn’t suit up.

Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) will handle an increased workload in practice next week in an attempt to get ready for a favorable Week 1 matchup against the Raiders. Vick Ballard figures to get the starting nod if Bradshaw can’t suit up, while No. 3 running back Donald Brown would likely handle backup duties. Bradshaw is tentatively expected to play, but it won’t be particularly surprising if he isn’t able to go.

Tom Crabtree was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain after leaving the Bucs’ final preseason game with a potentially severe injury. The news isn’t as bad as it could have been, but Crabtree can essentially be ruled out for Week 1 and will likely miss time beyond that. Prior to suffering the ankle injury, Crabtree was expected to serve as the top backup to Luke Stocker, who has just 28 career receptions heading into his third NFL season. Crabtree may be able to push Stocker for the starting job, but we’ll have to wait to find out.

LaMichael James was diagnosed with a sprained MCL and is expected to be out for three weeks. James worked as the 49ers’ No. 2 back throughout much of the offseason and training camp, but fell back to No. 3 once Kendall Hunter (Achilles) returned. Hunter is clearly the preferred handcuff to Frank Gore and should hold some stand-alone value in San Francisco’s powerful rush attack.

Thursday NFL Notes

The Patriots are leaning towards activating Rob Gronkowski from the PUP list, as the superstar tight end supposedly has a chance to return before Week 7. The team will have to make a decision by Friday, but this seems like a pretty easy call if there is any chance that Gronk could be available before he would be eligible to return from the PUP list. While a Week 1 return can seemingly be ruled out, it sounds like Gronkowski has a decent chance to be back a few weeks in to the season. Injury concerns and all, he should probably be one of the first five tight ends off the board in most drafts.

As expected, Robert Griffin (knee) received final clearance from Dr. James Andrews. The Redskins may limit Griffin’s running, and he won’t necessarily have full confidence in the knee at first, but the upside here is tantalizing for fantasy owners and casual fans alike. For what it’s worth, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan previously said that running the ball may actually keep Griffin safe, as the threat of the read-option slows down opposing pass rushers.

Chaos continues to reign in New York, as recent reports say that Mark Sanchez (shoulder) will likely be out for Week 1. Sanchez doesn’t have any structural damage, but a deep bruise in his throwing shoulder may prove to be too much for the veteran to play through. Though the Jets haven’t officially named a starter yet, it seems likely that a healthy Sanchez would get the nod over a healthy Geno Smith. Of course, Sanchez isn’t healthy and Smith is, so this battle could fall to Smith by default. Unless you’re in a two-QB league or a format with 16-plus teams, it’s probably a situation to avoid. Neither quarterback looked good in the preseason, and the Jets lack playmakers on the offensive side.

Moving on to a new injury, the Giants’ Andre Brown fractured his leg in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Patriots. Brown said that the fracture is minor, but even in a best-case scenario he figures to miss the first few weeks of action, and it’s possible that the injury could end his season. David Wilson subsequently gets a nice boost in fantasy value, while the Giants will look to Michael Cox, Ryan Torain, and Da’Rel Scott to find a viable backup. Wilson and Brown were previously slated to split time in the New York backfield, and the supremely talented Wilson is now in line to see more snaps and more touches than he would if Brown were healthy.

Marques Colston (foot) made his preseason debut Thursday against the Dolphins, catching one pass for 18 yards. There are still some questions about how his foot will hold up throughout the season, but Colston should be just fine for Week 1. Nagging foot injury or not, he figures to produce if he’s on the field.

Sunday NFL notes

Three different quarterback battles were affected by injuries this weekend, starting in New York where Mark Sanchez was diagnosed with a bruised right shoulder joint. Sanchez was knocked out of Saturday’s game in the fourth quarter and is thought to be day-to-day, but he isn’t expected to play in the Jets’ preseason finale Thursday. Although Geno Smith looked terrible Saturday night, the rookie could start by default in Week 1 if Sanchez isn’t ready to go.

Meanwhile in Buffalo, the Bills now have two injured quarterbacks, as Kevin Kolb was diagnosed with a concussion after hitting his head on the ground during Saturday’s game. Kolb missed a total of four games with concussions in 2010 and 2011, leading to speculation that this latest injury could threaten his career. At the very least, Kolb seems doubtful for Week 1 against the Patriots, though the Bills are still holding out hope that E.J. Manuel (knee) will be ready. There’s no question that the team is highly concerned about the situation, as Matt Leinart was signed Sunday afternoon and Thaddeus Lewis was acquired via trade from the Lions. Manuel figures to start if he’s healthy, but if not, the Bills will turn to Leinart, Lewis, or undrafted free agent Jeff Tuel.

The injury doesn’t sound as serious in Oakland, but Terrelle Pryor is looking like a reat threat to Matt Flynn, who will miss the next few days of practice and the final preseason game with elbow tendinitis in his throwing arm. While Flynn shouldn’t be ruled out of the running, Pryor has a nice opportunity to work with the first-team offense in practice and make an impression during Thursday’s game against the Seahawks. As for Flynn’s injury, it’s a problem that he has had in the past, but doesn’t sound like something that will necessarily prevent him from being ready for Week 1. It seems as if Pryor may have a chance to win the starting job, regardless of Flynn’s health status.

Moving away from quarterbacks, Rashard Mendenhall was diagnosed with a minor sprain in his right knee and is expected to be ready for Week 1. Health permitting, Mendenhall is the unquestioned starter in Arizona, but if his injury lingers it could open up an opportunity for the likes of Alfonso Smith, Stepfan Taylor, and Ryan Williams (knee).  Smith was the first running back to replace Mendenhall during Saturday’s game, while Williams was the subject of trade rumors Sunday, and Taylor is a fifth-round pick who seems to be buried on the depth chart. Though he received little hype this offseason and isn’t a particularly explosive runner, Smith currently looks like the best bet to work as Mendenhall’s primary backup.

Both Jordy Nelson (knee) and Randall Cobb (biceps) returned to practice for the Packers, with Nelson’s return registering as the bigger news. Cobb never appeared to be in danger for the regular season, but Nelson was looking questionable after undergoing a procedure on his knee in early August. Nelson is reportedly ahead of schedule and is tentatively on track to be ready for the Packers’ season-opener against the 49ers on September 8. With Nelson, Cobb, and James Jones in tow, Aaron Rogers should get along just fine in the post-Greg Jennings era.

The news isn’t entirely positive in Green Bay, as DuJuan Harris missed Sunday’s practice after suffering a knee injury during Friday’s preseason game. Harris didn’t seem too concerned about the injury following the game, but after Sunday’s practice coach Mike McCarthy said that the third-year running back’s status is still “up in the air”. Harris and Eddie Lacy are the favorites to get carries heading out of the gate, so Lacy could be in line for a larger-than-expected workload if Harris isn’t ready for Week 1.

Friday NFL Notes

Giants General Manager Jerry Reese said that David Wilson is expected to start over Andre Brown. This latest report simply confirms what has been expected all along and doesn’t change the fact that both running backs figure to have significant roles. Brown is expected to shoulder the third-down workload, while Wilson figures to handle most of the early-down work. As for goal-line carries, Brown had success as a short yardage runner last season, but both backs may be in the mix. Curious fantasy owners will want to pay extra attention when the Giants reach the red zone during Saturday’s preseason contest against the Jets.

Felix Jones was traded from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in exchange for linebacker Adrian Robinson. Jones was on the roster bubble in Philly but may find greater need of his services in the western half of Pennsylvania. The Steelers’ need for a running back was further reinforced with the news that LaRod Stephens-Howling has a mild MCL sprain. Jones should be a candidate to work as a third-down back and kick returner in Stephens-Howling’s stead, but probably won’t mount much of a challenge to Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer for early-down work. It should be noted that Stephens-Howling hasn’t been ruled out for Week 1, and Jones very well may find himself on the roster bubble again, despite having a new home. Projected starter Le’Veon Bell (foot sprain) is still expected to be out for Week 1 at the very least.

Arian Foster (back) took the next step in his recovery, as he was a full participant at practice. Foster saw limited work Wednesday and Thursday, but figures to be ready for the regular season. He won’t play in the Texans’ third preseason game this weekend, and may also miss the fourth and final exhibition contest.

With Dustin Keller (knee) ruled out for the season, Charles Clay is expected to head into Week 1 as the Dolphins’ starting tight end. Clay is a solid H-back with some surprisingly slick receiving skills, but he can’t replicate Keller’s potential impact in the downfield passing game. The Dolphins will likely move Clay around the formation and work to his strengths rather than pigeonhole him into a traditional tight end role that he isn’t comfortable with. Dion Sims and Michael Egnew are the other candidates to see playing time at tight end, though Sims is primarily a blocker and Egnew has been disappointing since Miami selected him in the third round last year.

Though he won’t play in the Vikings’ third preseason game, Jarius Wright has passed all of his concussion tests, and barring an unforeseen setback, he should be a full go for Week 1. The second-year wideout is competing for targets with Jerome Simpson and Cordarrelle Patterson behind surefire No. 1 receiver Greg Jennings. Wright gained some attention last season when he did a respectable job filling in for Percy Harvin, but even with Harvin out of the picture, Wright isn’t assured of a significant role in the offense.

Steve Johnson (hamstring) will play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Redskins, albeit on a limited snap count. It will be interesting to see how he looks in a new offense, as reports out of training camp indicate that he will spend more time working out of the slot this season. Fantasy owners will also get a chance to check out Johnson’s chemistry with Kevin Kolb, who is expected to head into Week 1 as the starter in the wake of EJ Manuel‘s knee injury.