News And Notes: Jimmy The Wide Receiver?
July 1, 2014 | Jeff
An interesting and potentially monumental decision is awaiting both the NFL and fantasy football host sites this week in the case of “Jimmy Graham vs. The Tight End Position.” ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Twitter that a decision on whether Jimmy Graham will be labeled a tight end or wide receiver will be handed down on Thursday, July 3rd. While this decision is worth roughly $5 million for Graham, it could set a precedent for what exactly a “tight end” does in the NFL and how a player is labeled for franchise-tag purposes. This distinction will also impact us fantasy folks, as Graham could potentially be given eligibility at wide receiver in 2014, or perhaps be given a WR/TE combo tag. It will be very intriguing to see which sites adjust Graham’s eligibility if he is ruled to be a wide receiver, as a strictly “WR” tag would lower his fantasy value as he would no longer hold the throne atop all other fantasy tight ends. Whatever the conclusion on Thursday, there will likely be heated debate from both sides and plenty of coverage on the impact of the decision moving forward. Isn’t the offseason exciting?!
Andre Ellington is getting plenty of attention this offseason as Arizona’s 2013 “starting” running back (hurl) Rashard Mendenhall is out of town. AZCardinals.com’s Darren Urban believes that Ellington is in line for plenty of work this season, which makes sense as he averaged a beefy 5.5 yards per carry last season. Urban recently wrote, “He’s earned the right, and we’ll see about the touches per game, which I will guess will be 20 to 22 a game.” If we break out our calculators, 21 carries per game would give Ellington 336 total carries over a 16 game slate and that does not include receptions. Arizona’s top two rushers from 2013, Mendenhall and Ellington, ran the ball a combined 335 times last season so that would imply that Arizona either thinks Ellington is Emmitt Smith (not likely) or is made of some sophisticated indestructible metal compound that was mined from a distant planet (also not likely, probably). Fantasy monster himself, LeSean McCoy, led the NFL in carries last season with 314, so Mr. Urban’s estimation may be a bit high. In any event, the point remains that Ellington will get a TON of work this season and his skills in the receiving game make him even more attractive from a fantasy prospective (is there any other perspective?). I personally have him ranked 16th at the running back position and I am going to start letting my pooch use Chet’s lawn as a restroom until his ranking of Ellington improves!
Ray Rice‘s despicable incident with his girlfriend/wife over the offseason has thrown the Baltimore Ravens backfield into disarray and created an interesting situation for fake footballers as well. With a likely multiple game suspension looming for Rice, there are a few options in Baltimore to fill the gap until he returns to the field. The Baltimore Sun has weighed in on this topic, stating, “Bernard Pierce, Rice’s top backup, is the obvious favorite to carry the load but he had shoulder surgery in the offseason and has yet to be cleared for full contact.” The Sun also lists rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro and depth chart fillers Justin Forsett, Cierre Wood, and Fitzgerald Toussaint as potential options to chip in and handle a few carries in Rice’s absence, but Pierce should be viewed as the top beneficiary of Rice’s offseason decision making. It is worth noting that new Baltimore Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak did like to use Ben Tate in tandem with stud running back Arian Foster (in rare instances when Tate was healthy), so Bernard Pierce will hold a decent chance at contributing to fantasy football teams even after Rice returns. Kubiak’s Houston Texans teams also ran the rock more than his predecessor, Jim Caldwell, did in Baltimore so both backs should have an increase in opportunities. I am going to reserve judgement until the final ruling is handed down from King Goodell, but Rice is sitting at RB30 and Pierce is at RB33 in our Preseason Rankings and I think that is just fine for the moment.
We have touched on the Atlanta backfield a couple of times already since the Falcons selected Devonta Freeman in the NFL Draft (most notably HERE and HERE), and he has popped up in the news once again. ESPN’s Atlanta Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure is reporting that Freeman may push Steven Jackson this season “if he looks as good in pads as he did in shorts.” While this has all the ingredients of a tall, cold, delicious glass of “offseason Kool-Aid,” Freeman does have the potential to eclipse Jackson this season if he catches onto the NFL game quickly and we all know that Steven Jackson staying healthy for 16 games is as likely as you cleaning out your storage unit this weekend. As we have talked about, the Atlanta offense should be back to normal in 2014 with a full complement of weapons, so a healthy heap of redzone touches should be in the cards.