Ranking the Biggest Fantasy Football Takeaways from 2013 OTAs
Spring has turned into summer, and that means that across the National Football League, teams are gathering for organized team activities, the training camp before training camp.
Summer also brings with it fantasy draft season, so astute fantasy owners are already combing the news for reports on injuries and position battles that will have a significant impact on the world of fantasy football.
We've got you covered with some one-stop shopping in that regard.
Here's a look at the top 10 storylines (based on the significance of both the report and the player) presently swirling around OTAs across the league and how that news affects the fantasy value of the players involved.
10. The Latest on Michael Crabtree
Without question, the biggest injury to occur to this point in the offseason happened in San Francisco.
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree of the 49ers, who topped 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career in 2012, tore his Achilles tendon on May 21 and underwent surgery to repair the issue the next day.
The surgery apparently went well, with head coach Jim Harbaugh telling John Breech of CBS Sports that "the doctors have already been extremely positive about the success of the surgery" and "we do not anticipate that it'll be season ending for Michael."
From a fantasy perspective though, Crabtree's value is effectively toast.
Even if Crabtree's recovery goes as well as can be expected, and he makes it back onto the field this season, he's likely to be playing at far less than 100 percent.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who suffered the same injury last year, told Breech's colleague Clark Judge: "For me, my explosion didn't really get there until the end of the season. So, my guess is that he wouldn't be Michael Crabtree right off the bat."
Crabtree might be an interesting "buy low" candidate in dynasty fantasy football leagues, if you don't mind waiting until 2014 for a return on your investment.
In redraft formats, however, drafting Crabtree is a waste of a pick.
9. Adrian Peterson Nearly Back to 100 Percent
The fact that Adrian Peterson was able to rush for more than 2,000 yards in 2012, after tearing his ACL late in the 2011 season, is amazing.
The fact that he gained many of those yards while also dealing with a sports hernia borders on the absurd.
Peterson, who is participating fully in Vikings OTAs, said that the hernia rehab was "a cakewalk compared to recovering from the ACL tear."
Backing up his gaudy 2012 production won't be, however, and the recent history of fantasy's top backs and the history of 2,000 yard rushers in the NFL should concern fantasy owners more than Peterson's abdomen.
No back in NFL history who gained more than 2,000 yards in a season has ever gained 1,500 the following year, and the past four running backs who led a season in fantasy points experienced a big regression the following season, according to Greg Kellogg of Fantasy Sharks.
Of course, none of those backs was the lost son of Jor-El of Krypton.
Peterson, on the other hand, just might be.
8. Michael Vick Running with the Ones
One of the more interesting position battles under center this offseason is taking place in The City of Brotherly Love.
Michael Vick, Nick Foles and rookie Matt Barkley are vying to start at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, with the winner being a potential fantasy asset in head coach Chip Kelly's frenetic offense.
For now, it appears the early leader is Vick, who suffered through a miserable 2012 season when he had more turnovers than touchdowns and was benched.
Jordan Ranaan of NJ.com tweeted earlier this week that the 32-year-old Vick has been running with the Eagles' first team in OTAs, and Vick told Ashley Fox of ESPN that he understands what it will take to hang onto that job.
For any quarterback to be the starter for this football team, you've got to be consistent. You've got to make good decisions, and you've got to be confident, and you've got to be a team leader. We've got that, so we're just trying to get the most out of each and every quarterback. I know Coach Kelly is, and that's the way he's going to coach us.
There's a long way to go until Week 1. Vick is going to have to show that he can run Kelly's offense without turning the ball over, something that he struggled with in the past two seasons.
However, Vick would also seem to have the skill set to excel in the read-option offense, and he's shown the ability to post huge fantasy numbers in the past.
That makes Vick one of the more intriguing risk/reward picks at quarterback in fantasy drafts this year. He's a player to monitor closely throughout the summer.
7. Giants Wideouts MIA
It's important to stay abreast of news from OTAs from a fantasy standpoint, but it's also important not to get too freaked out by what's transpiring.
Well, at least not yet.
That's probably also the train of thought that the New York Giants are trying to keep on the tracks, as far as their star wide receivers are concerned.
Neither Victor Cruz nor Hakeem Nicks has been present at the team's workouts to this point. Cruz's absence while the team works on a long-term contract isn't unexpected, but head coach Tom Coughlin apparently isn't happy that Nicks is sitting out as well.
Granted, these workouts are technically voluntary, but Coughlin told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN that "at one point Hakeem told me he was going to be here, and then he was not here."
Nicks is entering into the final year of his rookie deal; therefore, much like with Cruz. this is just posturing and of no real concern to fantasy owners.
However, it's a situation that at least bears watching, especially if it begins to drag on.
6. DeMarco Murray's Pledge
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray has shown flashes of considerable talent during his two NFL seasons, but he has also had considerable trouble staying on the field.
However, 2013 is going to be a different story, at least according to Murray.
The 25-year-old, who gained 663 yards and scored four touchdowns in 10 games a year ago, told Clarence Hill of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram that "I am going to play all 16 (games) this year, and I’m excited. It’s going to be a great year for us.”
Of course, Murray's statement would carry a lot more weight if he hadn't been nursing a hamstring injury when he said it.
Murray even seemed to quantify his promise a few days later when speaking with David Helman of the Cowboys website after joining the team at practice.
When it comes to that, you’ve got not control over that … It’s not like it’s little things here and there, I’ve had an ankle and I had a foot – two things that are pretty serious,” he said. “I’d rather play five or six games the way I play – hard, fast and physical – than 16 games soft and tip-toeing and not contributing the way I’m used to contributing.
And that's DeMarco Murray in a nutshell. RB1 fantasy upside, with a boatload of risk to go along with it.
5. Trent Richardson Banged Up Again
Despite the fact that he gained fewer than 1,000 yards during his rookie season (mainly due to injuries), many fantasy pundits see big things in store for Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson in his first year in Norv Turner's new offense in Cleveland.
However, spending a top-five overall pick on the former Alabama star may have become a little harder to justify.
Training camp hasn't even started yet, and already Richardson is nursing another injury.
This time, according to the Associated Press via ESPN, Richardson's shin has sidelined him, although the 21-year-old was adamant that this is an isolated incident as far as 2013 is concerned.
It's not going to be like last year, being hurt and injured. Injury prone is not going to be me. I just can't wait to get back out and running. I tell coach every day that I can go. I put my helmet on or something, and we laugh. I know he means good about sitting me out for right now.
This easily be one of those situations early in OTAs where it's important not to read too much into things, and Turner's offenses have produced some huge fantasy seasons from the running back spot.
Still, any time you're about to invest an early first-round pick on a player, it's advisable to consider all the potential risks. To this point in his career, Richardson's durability has been a substantial one.
4. Robert Griffin Running Again
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was one of the big stories in the NFL in 2012, leading the Redskins to the NFC East title and finishing the year as a top-five fantasy passer in points per game.
However, that story ended on a very sour note. He tore his ACL during Washington's playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and ever since that day, fantasy owners have been anxiously tracking RG3's rehab and potential Week 1 status.
The news has been almost universally positive. As Tarik El-Bashir of CSN Washington recently reported, Griffin has progressed to running and will start sprints and cutting in the next couple of weeks.
RG3, who told El-Bashir that he has been “patiently aggressive” in his rehab, added: “This next month will be the month where I start doing the explosive sprinting and explosive cutting. It will be good to be doing that stuff … before camp so that I’m ready to go.”
Griffin has become the new Michael Vick, at least from the fantasy perspective. While his running ability makes him capable of huge fantasy numbers, his style while doing so tends to land him on the shelf.
That makes him a risky play as a fantasy starter, albeit a tempting one.
With every bit of good news regarding Griffin's odds of suiting up in Week 1, the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year's draft price gets a bump.
3. C.J. Spiller Set for Larger Role?
OK, enough about injuries and holdouts! How about some good fantasy news?
It comes from, of all places, Buffalo.
Running back C.J. Spiller, who gained more than 1,200 yards on the ground last year, could be set to establish himself as one of the NFL's truly elite running backs.
That's because new Bills head coach Doug Marrone seems set to give Spiller a chance to prove he is one.
Marrone told Tim Graham of The Buffalo News that he views the 25-year-old as "more than a situational pick" and that his "philosophy's always been if someone starts off and they're running well, keep feeding them the ball."
With all due respect to Fred Jackson, if the Bills are going to feed the hot back in 2013, then C.J. Spiller is going to get fed. Spiller averaged six yards a carry in 2012, and Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded Spiller as the NFL's most elusive running back a year ago.
A larger workload means more chances to break off big gains, as he did on both a run and reception of more than 60 yards in 2012.
Spiller's durability is an issue, but that can be said about any number of running backs. His explosiveness, however, does not grow on trees.
The more chances it looks like Spiller will get to show those skills off, the higher his asking price is going to climb. It may well hit the top five before the summer's out.
2. Arian Foster out Until Training Camp
Unfortunately, as is usually the case in fantasy football, the bad news outweighs the good. So, back to the trainers' table we go.
Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who finished second in the AFC with 1,424 rushing yards in 2012, will miss the rest of OTAs with a strained calf, according to the Associated Press via USA Today.
An MRI on Foster's calf was negative, and the 26-year-old didn't appear concerned about the injury, stating that "I don't really care about OTAs. It's always good to perfect your craft and get better, but it's OTAs, it's not even training camp."
On one hand, Foster has a point. This could be much ado about nothing.
However, in Foster, we're talking about a running back who has an average draft position of third overall in 2013, according to My Fantasy League, and a player who topped 350 carries while averaging a career-low 4.1 yards a tote last year.
It's doubtful that Foster's average draft position will drop much for now, but that could change rapidly if this injury lingers into training camp.
1. The Summer of Gronk
We started this slideshow with the biggest injury that has happened so far in OTAs, and we'll wrap it up with a look at the biggest one that's still going on.
Shortly after undergoing a fourth operation on his forearm, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is now scheduled for surgery on his aching back, according to ESPN.
Gronkowski's agent asserted that this surgery isn't related to the 2009 back operation while at Arizona, which cost Gronkowski his entire junior year.
However, this puts Gronkowski's availability for the start of training camp in doubt, and as the injuries continue to mount, Gronkowski's Week 1 status has clouded as well.
There's no denying that, when healthy, Gronkowski is a difference-maker, both in the NFL and fantasy football. The fact that he still managed a top-five fantasy finish in 2012 even after missing five games attests to that.
With that said, Gronkowski also carries a second-round fantasy price tag. Not only is that steep for a tight end, but it's very steep for a player whose availability for games is looking iffier by the day.