New York Giants running back David Wilson was already a trendy pick as a "breakout" candidate in fantasy football this year, due to a combination of his considerable talent and an increased role in his second NFL season.
Recent developments in the Big Apple have only strengthened that belief. However, those developments have also increased Wilson's asking price in fantasy drafts, and it begs a few questions: At what point should savvy fantasy owners be ready to pounce on Wilson? Is the second round too early? Would the fourth round be too late?
The news that sent Wilson's fantasy value skyrocketing occurred in Thursday night's preseason finale against the New England Patriots, per SportsCenter.
According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, Brown indicated the fracture is a "a little crack" in his leg. Brown also stated the injury will not require surgery, telling Youngmisuk, "I feel I can come back from this within a couple of weeks, and that's how small it is. We are definitely looking at it positively."
Brown's optimism aside, he fractured the same leg last November, and ESPN's Stephania Bell recently reported it will likely be at least a month before Brown returns to the field.
The injury will have a significant impact on the New York backfield. Wilson was listed as New York's starter, but Brown probably would have seen quite a few carries, including the majority of third-down, short-yardage and goal-line work.
As Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News put it a few weeks ago, the feeling among many pundits was that Brown would function as the "thunder" in the Giants backfield, while Wilson provided the "lightning."
Now, Wilson will have a golden opportunity to show head coach Tom Coughlin that he's capable of being a true feature back in the NFL.
If he can do the same sort of damage with those additional carries that he did with the touches he got as a rookie, then look out.
Wilson showed last season that he has breakaway speed. That point was hammered home when he rumbled 84 yards for a touchdown on his first carry in the team's third preseason game this year.
Wilson also has quite a bit more power than he's given credit for. Of Wilson's 1,709 yards on the ground at Virginia Tech in 2011, nearly 1,000 came after first contact. Wilson had over 250 more yards after contact that season than Trent Richardson.
Bleacher Report NFL Lead Writer Mike Freeman thinks that Wilson is more than capable of capitalizing on this opportunity.
How will this increased workload translate to fantasy football? Well, let's examine some fantasy projections for 2013 that have been updated in light of Brown's injury.
Those three sets of projections average out to just over 191 fantasy points in a standard scoring format. In 2012, that would have placed Wilson 12th among running backs. The season before, Wilson would have cracked the top 10.
Now let's compare that to Wilson's average draft position at several sites.
It's important not to read too much into these (other than Wilson's ADP at Yahoo! was ridiculously low). Wilson's ADP will climb quickly now, most likely into at least the third round.
However, even if Wilson moves into that third round, as say the 15th player at his position off draft boards, he would still be a solid value.
The reason is simple: upside.
Wilson's ceiling was already pretty high. Brown's injury only increased it. If Wilson can show the ability to thrive as New York's full-time running back, a top-10 finish isn't at all out of the question.
Is there risk involved? Yes.
Wilson has to get better in pass protection if he's going to remain the third-down back when Brown returns.
However, there has already been some improvement in that regard.
Wilson's so-called fumbling issue, however, is overblown. The well-publicized fumble Wilson had in his first NFL game was the only one he lost as a rookie. He didn't fumble in the preseason this year either, according to the game logs at NFL.com.
The potential rewards more than outweigh those risks. Given the premium placed on running backs in fantasy drafts this year, there just aren't many players with top-10 potential who can be drafted as a second running back.
In fantasy football, breakout running backs can be the difference between a so-so playoff contender and an unstoppable juggernaut. Ask owners of Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins what sort of difference those players made in fantasy football a year ago.
David Wilson can be that sort of player in 2013. In a worst-case scenario, Brown returns in a month and you overpaid slightly for your RB2. The best case is that Wilson establishes himself as a fantasy stud and you're sitting pretty.
Either way, Wilson is more than worth a third-round pick, and the argument can be made for taking him late in Round 2.
Because upside wins fantasy championships, and David Wilson oozes upside.