The "real" games are here. This is the time that dynasty owners need to keep a close eye on all of the football news. This article can serve as a place to catch you up on the week's news as it relates to dynasty leagues. We will look to identify some winners and losers. The focus will be on the players with recent injury issues or change in situations during the past week. Keep a close eye on the Footballguys.com news page for the up to date news.
The biggest news of the past week centered around Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. After a local sports radio host tweeted that "according to multiple sources, Manning will need another procedure and be out of action indefinitely", the internet was abuzz. The Colt organization has denied the report but acknowledged that the star passer will stop practicing because of the slow recovery from the most recent neck surgery. Peter King added to the worries when he reported that Manning was also having back pain. This appears to be a related neurological issue to the neck. Whether Manning is out indefinitely or just a few weeks, the impact is enormous. The Indianapolis offense just is not the same with journeyman Kerry Collins under center. Since Manning did sign the huge contract, dynasty owners who believe he will come back by midseason may be able to "buy low" on the Colt passer. Buyer beware, Mike Freeman of CBS Sports reported that the feeling is that he will miss potentially at least four or five weeks. This has the feeling of Manning missing the first half of the season at the minimum.
The second biggest piece of dynasty news was the Chris Johnson signing. He agreed to terms with the Tennessee Titans on a four-year, $53.5 million contract. These four years are added to the two seasons left on his current deal which is surprising with the $30 million in guarantees this deal offers. Expect him to regain the workhorse role of the past two seasons. This is dangerous with the holdout. How many running backs can touch the ball almost 800 times over two seasons, hold out of all offseason activities, then make it through another year with 350 touches?
Isaac Redman is a forgotten back behind Rashard Mendenhall. But, the a beat writer at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette opined that Redman could handle the job if anything happened to Mendenhall. Redman is a valuable player for the Steelers' Super Bowl hopes. Mendenhall has carried a huge load the past couple of seasons.
The Cleveland Browns now are optimistic about second-year tailback Montario Hardesty. Cleveland General Manager Tom Heckert said, "He turned a corner coming off the injury ... We fully expect him to be what we thought he was when we drafted him." The Browns are hoping the former Tennessee star has regained his pre-injury form. They want, and need, him to take the load off of Madden coverboy Peyton Hillis. A strong running game will keep the pressure off of Colt McCoy.
Expect Jet running back Joe McKnight's role to increase as the season progresses. His head coach indicated as much with this quote, "I think, as far as a role, good things happen when you put the ball in his hands ... He's one of the fastest athletes in the league. He is an explosive athlete, so you want to get him some touches." Given the lack of speed in the New York backfield, McKnight will see most of his action on passing downs. Also, if starter Shonn Greene were to miss action, the for USC Trojan could be a sleeper, especially in PPR leagues.
The Detroit Lions have been looking to fill the void left after Mikel Leshoure was lost for the year. They signed Jerome Harrison a couple of weeks ago, and he has played well in preseason. Then, this past weekend, the team claimed Keiland Williams from the Washington Redskins. Williams played well last season when forced into action and will offer the Lions a bigger complement to Jahvid Best and Harrison. Considering Best's injury history, the odds are pretty good that either Harrison or Williams will see extended action this season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars had high hopes for Rashad Jennings this season. But, he was placed on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury. The team only has Deji Karim behind Maurice Jones-Drew. Karim is a player to target in dynasty leagues. He is very quick and will be used in the passing game when the Jaguars want to take the load off of Jones-Drew. The performance last Thursday night should help fantasy owners' eagerness to acquire Karim. He carried the ball eight times for 58 yards and looked especially sharp.
Chester Taylor was greatly outplayed by Marion Barber in Chicago, which led to his release from the Bears. Taylor looked slow and was not able to make a play with the ball in his hands. His 27 yards on ten carries in the preseason finale had to be the last straw. This is the same player who averaged a meager 2.4 yards per carry last season. He has since signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona is needing running back depth after losing rookie Ryan Williams for the season. But, Taylor is not a fantasy option under any circumstances. The one back to watch is the shifty LaRod Stephens-Howling who will play the third down role.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was surprisingly cleared to practice last week. It was feared he was headed for the PuP list or Injured Reserve after injuring his Achilles a few months ago. Bronco general manager Brian Xanders said that "He's ready to go". But, the reality is that the big wide receiver will not be practicing with the starters and will be eased into action. He still has to get into game shape. Do not look for him to play much before week four or five. But, this is very good news for the injury-prone receiver.
A youngster many on the Footballguys staff like is undrafted rookie running back Phillip Tanner. A man never at a loss for words, Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones, stated last week that the former Middle Tennessee State star will make the final 53-man roster. "He's special," said Jones. "His coach says, 'I've never seen a kid like this.' You've never seen anybody who takes every note, that tries every way in the world he can to get better plus he's talented." Those who watched the Cowboys in preseason noticed the explosive ability of Tanner. He is a player to watch this season, especially given the injury histories of the other backs on the Cowboy roster.
While Antonio Brown is making headlines this preseason, Emmanuel Sanders was recovering from a foot injury. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined that Sanders "might be the best route-runner on the team and reads defenses as well as the coaching staff". Savvy dynasty owners might use this time to acquire Sanders on the cheap while he is a forgotten player. Hines Ward is in decline and Sanders, if he can stay healthy, could be primed for a breakout season.
In the last few weeks, New York Giant receiver Victor Cruz has worked primarily in the slot. There was some debate as to whether he would get the nod. For those not familiar with Cruz, he lit it up in preseason last year before losing the season to injury. With Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham out wide, Cruz could have a few big games in the middle of the field. He is still young and needs to earn the trust of quarterback Eli Manning.
It was no surprise to see the Carolina Panthers claim former San Diego wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu off waivers. Panther head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski are backfilling the Carolina roster with former Chargers. For those keeping score at home, Legedu Naanee was also signed by the Panther. But, if you are looking for sleeper wide receivers, you might want to keep on looking. The venerable Patrick Crayton was kept over both of these two pass catchers. If these two cannot beat out the very average Crayton, how can they be viable long term?
Kansas City tight end Tony Moeaki was lost for the season after suffering a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve. Many expected Moeaki to take a big step forward in his second season. The young tight end struggled with injuries throughout college at Iowa and now has another hurdle to overcome. After the injury, the Chief offense has one less playmaker for Matt Cassel to target. Teams will focus on stopping Dwayne Bowe.
The Cleveland Browns signed tight end Evan Moore to a two-year extension last week. Moore was the MVP of Browns' training camp and has emerged as a great dynasty sleeper. It was a shrewd move for the club as Moore was slated for free agency next offseason and they signed him on the cheap with Ben Watson ailing already. As a former basketball player at Stanford, Moore does not lack athleticism, just an understanding of the game. Vic Carucci of the ClevelandBrowns.com believes Evan Moore will lead the team in receiving this season. He could become a viable dynasty starter in the coming year or two.