It is never too late to rearrange the rankings on your fantasy football draft lists and cheat sheets.
It is always best to hold fantasy drafts and auctions as close to the opening game of the season as possible. This way everyone knows who is hurt, who is starting, who is not starting and who got cut. A lot can change in a week in the NFL, and these past few days have proven that to be fact.
So if you are having your fantasy draft sometime this week, here are four players whose fantasy values have shot up right before your Draft Day:
David Wilson, New York Giants (RB)
Oft-injured backup Andre Brown fractured his leg for the second time in two years in New York’s final preseason contest, so unless the Giants beg Tiki Barber to come out of retirement Wilson will touch the ball as much as any running back in the NFL during the first half of the regular season.
Brown would have probably carried the ball 10 times per game as a change-of-pace battering ram to compliment Wilson’s sheer speed. Plus Brown would have been given the ball down by the goal line due to his nose for the end zone (eight touchdowns in 2012). Now Wilson will get those coveted carries.
Wilson has no competition for carries now. The backs left behind him on the depth chart have little experience, so Wilson will be an every-down, every-situation workhorse. He should be moved up four to five spots at the running back position on cheat sheets immediately.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers (RB)
Green Bay had as many running backs as it had “Cheeseheads” at the start of training camp, with at least four guys having a chance to win the starting tailback job. While first-round pick Lacy was always the favorite, the prevailing fantasy thought was that even if he won the job he would have to share playing time with one or two other decent runners.
But training camp and the preseason have thinned out the running back corps quicker than an enema. DuJuan Harris suffered a season-ending knee injury, Alex Green was waived and fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin has been unimpressive.
That leaves the always average James Starks and Lacy, so Lacy wins the top tailback spot by default.
Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay’s high-flying passing attack will give Lacy plenty of scoring opportunities, and Lacy proved at Alabama he knows how to take advantage of (19 TDs in 2012). Lacy has some pass-catching skills, too. Just like Wilson, Lacy needs to be bumped up a few spots in fantasy owners’ rankings.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (TE)
While fantasy owners should not start twerking like Miley Cyrus about Gronkowski’s availability for the season just yet, they should be encouraged that fantasy football’s top tight end was not placed on the PUP list, meaning he will not automatically miss the opening six games of the season now.
Gronkowski should still be one of the first tight ends taken in fantasy drafts. You can definitely make the argument that New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham could go ahead of him since he is healthy and can post similar numbers, but there really is not another tight end you can slot ahead of Gronk if you believe he will only miss two or three weeks.
ESPN has reported that Gronkowski is already practicing in full pads, another sure sign that his return will be sooner rather than later. If you had taken him off your draft list because you believed he would miss six games or more it is time to put him back on.
E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills (QB)
There were only two things standing in Manuel’s way of being Buffalo’s starting signal caller this season—Kevin Kolb and Manuel’s health.
But Kolb is out with a serious concussion and will not be coming back anytime soon, if ever. So Manuel’s only competition at quarterback is Jeff Tuel, an undrafted rookie third-stringer who did not exactly make people at Washington State forget about Drew Bledsoe.
Then there is Manuel’s health, something that must be improving because he returned to practice recently. He had minor knee surgery during the preseason that made him a humongous question mark for the start of the regular season. Now even if he misses the opening week he seems that he surely will be ready for Week 2.
As fantasy owners discovered last year, rookie quarterbacks should not be discounted.
Manuel has not entered the NFL with the fanfare that Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck or Washington’s Robert Griffin III did, but remember that there were not many experts expecting much from Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Nor were fantasy pundits claiming San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick would be a stats stud when he came out of college, either.