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Evaluating rosters after final cuts

9/3/2013

My first thought when seeing the news that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer was surprisingly cut this weekend was actually a positive one, as I assumed this meant hotshot injured rookie Le'Veon Bell must be considered close enough to playing that the team didn’t feel it needed the depth. I had other thoughts as well after that, such as how in the world did Dwyer go from a potential starter heading into August to not worth a roster spot at all? How does this affect interim starter Isaac Redman and potentially Felix Jones? And basically, wow, Dwyer must be really bad, worse than even Jones.

There generally isn’t much fantasy-relevant roster news the final weekend before the games start to count, as rosters are pared down to 53. Oh, to some the intriguing Tim Tebow situation with his former New England Patriots warrants front-page news, its own cable show and Congress filibustering, but honestly, he wasn’t going to make a fantasy difference. In retrospect, it’s amazing that he once did (and he really did). He’s not likely to make a difference again, unless one plays in a Canadian Football League fantasy league (which I’m sure people do!). Bottom line is, I can’t find a ton of useful information when it came to the many cuts NFL teams made, but the Dwyer news sure was interesting.

Bell, like pretty much all rookies who haven’t had the opportunity to disappoint fantasy owners like San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, for example, was being a bit overdrafted to start with, and now he’s being a bit too ignored. While Bell’s right mid-foot sprain could hamper or restrict him all season (the unrelated Stephania Bell from ESPN is definitely concerned), the Steelers did not place Bell on the PUP list, which would have cost him six weeks. Bell is not expected to play in September, but recent reports have been encouraging, in theory. I like the fact Bell is currently one of the highest risers in ESPN average live drafts (ADP), because he should be a top-100 player. His value has been way up, way down and now up again.

For September, however, Redman has a nice opportunity to succeed and, as he told reporters, seize the job and not give it back. Of course, he missed the final three preseason games with a neck stinger, but he’s reportedly healthy now. Anything is possible; Bell is a rookie, after all, and it’s dangerous to trust them, and this one is hurt. Redman is a wide power back who had one really good game last season, when he tore through the New York Giants for 147 rushing yards (on 26 carries!) and totaled 20 standard fantasy points in Week 9. In September, he’ll face Tennessee (nice matchup), Cincinnati (not so nice), Chicago (not nice) and Minnesota (generally not nice), so I can’t imagine you’d use Redman, but I have a 20-team league, and he’ll be active there. Hey, Felix Jones, Steelers teammate LaRod Stephens-Howling and even Dwyer and Franco Harris might need to be used there!

I will say this about Dwyer, though: He should find work somewhere else, and while I question if he’ll make a difference with his new team, opportunity for pretty much anyone is generally just an injury away and injuries happen all the time. If you’re taking a last-round flier on other unemployed fellas such as Michael Turner, Willis McGahee and Brandon Lloyd -- I’m not bothering -- then Dwyer is closer to being a factor, because he at least has been playing and practicing.

As for other interesting news from the weekend, well, let’s go by position.

Quarterback: Hmmm. So now that Tebow has been cut, it’s safe to draft Tom Brady again. Phew, I know many of you were concerned. … The Oakland Raiders reportedly will start Terrelle Pryor over Matt Flynn in Week 1. Sure, I’d take a shot in a really deep format. The guy runs, and he’s not as bad as Tebow throwing. … Vince Young did not make the Green Bay Packers after all. Seneca Wallace reportedly retired Friday, then became the Packers’ backup Monday. Says a lot about Young, eh? Aaron Rodgers need not worry. … Jeff Tuel (pronounced Tool, no, really) will start Week 1 for the Buffalo Bills, but you should still be drafting rookie EJ Manuel in deep formats. As for Kevin Kolb, I will continue to wear the Philadelphia Eagles jersey I have with his name and number on it with pride … or to paint walls and mow the lawn.

Running back: I can’t say I’m a big Chris Ivory fan, but he’s starting for the New York Jets. Ordinary Bilal Powell is the backup, but when the Packers cut Alex Green the Jets swooped in and grabbed him. Green didn’t show much last season, but Ivory is rarely healthy and Powell isn’t special, so remember the name. … As for the Packers, the fact Green was cut should mean James Starks backs up rookie Eddie Lacy, or splits time with him. Remember, we all seem to love Lacy today, but he is a rookie and often they do rookie things, such as play poorly. … The Miami Dolphins mercifully named Lamar Miller the starter, though I don’t think the situation was in doubt. … The Houston Texans parted ways with average Deji Karim. Cierre Wood, the undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, rushed for 107 yards in the preseason finale and made the squad. Arian Foster is probably hurt and Ben Tate hasn’t been durable, so again, remember the name. … Nothing was going to be settled with the Denver Broncos’ situation this past weekend, though I found it interesting Ronnie Hillman played in Thursday’s exhibition, while rookie Montee Ball and veteran Knowshon Moreno were saved the ignominy. It really means nothing, though. Hillman will be involved -- all of them will -- in Week 1. … Finally, Giants goal line guy Andre Brown broke a bone in his left leg Thursday -- why was he even playing? -- but I wouldn’t drop him in standard leagues. He might return the first week of October, and he should matter.

Wide receiver: It had become clear the San Francisco 49ers weren’t going to keep veteran Austin Collie, and now he’s available for any team. Looks like the 49ers will start Marlon Moore alongside Anquan Boldin, though I’d watch Quinton Patton and eventually former first-rounder Jon Baldwin. … The well-traveled Brandon Stokley, now 37, made the Baltimore Ravens and should see targets as the slot option. He might be a play in PPR formats during bye weeks. … Remember when former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem was going to make an impact with the San Diego Chargers? Now he’s unemployed. And that team doesn’t have much receiving depth.

Tight end: There’s really no update on the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski, once it became clear he would avoid the PUP list. However, if we like Le’Veon Bell a bit more after Dwyer was sent packing, note that the Pats parted with tight ends Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells. Ballard was viewed as a sleeper two months ago. Rookie Zach Sudfeld will likely get a decent rank by the ESPN Fantasy staff when the Week 1 rankings are released Wednesday.

Kicker: We rarely spend time discussing kickers -- and for good reason -- but at least make sure your kicker has a job. I saw someone draft Jason Hanson in a 20-team league last week. He’s retired. Shayne Graham was cut by the Cleveland Browns Sunday. And the Browns aren’t the lone team perhaps upgrading the position, so just make sure later this week.