Analyzing the Fantasy Impact of the NFL Preseason's Biggest Stories

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystAugust 14, 2012

Analyzing the Fantasy Impact of the NFL Preseason's Biggest Stories

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    The 2012 NFL Preseason is off and rolling, and now every team in the National Football League has played at least one exhibition contest.

    Actually, the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals have each played two, but given how badly the Cardinals first-stringers have played I'm pretty sure each one of those only counts as half a game.

    There were any number of happenings in the first slate of preseason games that could have a significant impact on the world of fantasy football, and here's a quick rundown of some of the biggest.

Michael Vick's Hand Injury

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    It didn't take long for the injury clouds to start swirling around Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

    The 32-year-old southpaw, who celebrated his third anniversary with the team on Monday, banged his throwing hand on a helmet in last week's preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers and was forced from the game.

    X-rays were negative and Vick is expected to be fine, but this boo-boo just underscores that Vick, who has missed at least three games in each of the past two seasons, is a major injury risk, although Vick recently told The Philadelphia Inquirer that "I plan on being out there 16 games. I've just got to stop banging my hand on helmets and all that miscellaneous stuff."

    Vick may plan on playing a full season, but his fantasy owners had better plan on having a capable backup ready just in case.

Strong Debuts from Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin

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    The top two picks in April's NFL draft didn't disappoint in their first game action in the National Football League, as both Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Robert Griffin of the Washington Redskins looked very good under center for their new clubs.

    Griffin completed four of six passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in limited action against the Buffalo Bills, while Luck was even more impressive, connecting on 10 of 16 attempts for 166 yards and a pair of scores in a blowout win over the St. Louis Rams.

    As good as the youngsters looked, however, this was one preseason game against defenses that remained in their base packages and didn't do much blitzing.

    It doesn't change the fact that there will undoubtedly be some growing pains along the way, nor does it mean that Luck and/or Griffin are more than the fantasy QB2s they were going into these games.

Ryan Mathews Fractures His Clavicle

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    The first week of the 2012 NFL preseason also brought with it the first major injury to strike fantasy football owners.

    The San Diego Chargers let running back Mike Tolbert depart in free agency, and the increased carries that meant in theory for third-year tailback Ryan Mathews was enough to vault him into the top-five overall picks of many fantasy drafts this summer.

    However, after missing time due to injuries in each of his first two NFL seasons some questioned how Mathews would hold up under that increased workload, and if Thursday's preseason tilt with the Green Bay Packers was any indication the answer is not so good.

    Mathews carried the ball all of once before going down with a broken clavicle, and although the team and Mathews are hopeful that he'll be back on the field in time for opening day that may be an overly optimistic outlook.

    Definitely not the start to the season that fantasy teams that used their first-round pick on Mathews were looking for.

Jamaal Charles Returns to Game Action

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    The news was considerably better for fantasy owners of Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles.

    For the first time since tearing his ACL in the second game of the 2011 season, Charles returned to the playing field in the Chiefs' contest with the Arizona Cardinals.

    The fifth-year pro, who topped 1,900 total yards in 2010, gained 23 yards on four touches, displaying excellent burst and acceleration and showing no ill effects from last year's injury.

    More importantly, as the Associated Press reports via The Washington Post, Charles took a shot directly to his surgically repaired knee and got right back up, something that Kansas City head coach Romeo Crennel said can only help Charles' confidence.

    “That was a relief,” coach Romero Crennel said. “For him to take that hit, I think that helped clear his mind about where he is with that injury. Until you get hit on it, you just never know. You’re always wondering about it. Now he’s been hit in a game and I think that will help him going forward.”

    Charles' performance will also likely boost the confidence of fantasy football drafters, and Jamaal Charles will continue to creep up draft boards the more that he can demonstrate that the knee is not an issue.

Adrian Peterson Is Back at Practice

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    Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson may not have made his return to the playing field just yet, but Peterson's rehab from last December's devastating knee injury is progressing about as well as anyone would dare hope.

    Peterson, who tore both his ACL and MCL late last season, has been activated from the physically unable to perform list and re-joined his teammates in the practice field Sunday, a step that left the sixth-year veteran feeling like a "kid in a candy store" according to Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports.

    However, not everyone was pleased to see "All Day" back in pads.

    Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice recently spoke to ESPN's NFL Live about his own return from an ACL tear in 1997, and according to Pro Football Talk Rice feels that Peterson may be coming back too soon.

    “I cracked my patella,” Rice said. “I feel that I rushed myself back to the football field. And I think that with Adrian Peterson, he’s doing the same thing. Because we are accustomed to being out there with the guys, sweating with the guys, fighting on the football field. And if you’re not able to do that you just don’t feel connected. And that’s the reason why I rushed back. I hope he doesn’t do the same thing.”

    Rice's reservations only underscore the risk/reward aspect of drafting Peterson in the second round of fantasy football drafts this year. If he's anywhere near 100 percent Peterson possesses top-five fantasy upside, but he could just as easily wind up right back on the shelf.

    Which Adrian Peterson shows up is going to decide a lot of fantasy championships this season.