- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Now that preseason action has mercifully arrived, fantasy owners will extract meaningful results from these otherwise meaningless contests and form opinions on some viable players for the season.
I'd argue that it's difficult to rearrange draft rankings based on so few pass attempts, carries or receptions. What does change rankings are injuries, or perhaps the perception or reminder of injury-prone players. Two of them were in the news for all the wrong reasons Thursday night.
As a result, as we take another Friday look at what's happening with ESPN's live draft results and average draft position, the story isn't so much about what has changed, but what's about to.
At least San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews didn't make us wait for his latest debacle. He broke his clavicle on his first carry of Thursday's game against the Green Bay Packers. Awesome.
Mathews has hardly been the picture of health in his first two seasons, but he is oh-so talented and was confidently nestled in my first round, fourth at running back. Not anymore.
His stock will surely plummet in ADP starting today, but it's important to note this isn't Jamaal Charles wrecking his knee and missing the rest of the season. The prognosis on Mathews is four to six weeks out. ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell is leaning toward six weeks, but even that isn't cause to simply ignore Mathews. The season starts in four weeks, so I'm expecting Mathews to miss at least the first two regular-season games. That still leaves 14 games potentially, though I'll take the under, knowing Mathews' injury history.
As I wrote Thursday in analyzing Cleveland Browns rookie Trent Richardson, there is a shallow pool of sure-thing running backs this season, and the third round or early in the fourth round is notable for its injury-related question marks at the position. That's where I'm moving Mathews, after Charles and Adrian Peterson and one spot ahead of Richardson. I'm guessing Mathews won't fall too much further than that in ADP over the next week, but we shall see. Frankly, a wise owner might acquire Mathews on the cheap in dynasty formats. It's not like a broken clavicle is a predictable mishap or likely to haunt him for years.
As for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, he left Thursday's game with an injured thumb but was later seen on the sideline with a football in his hand, and X-rays were negative. Disaster avoided, for now.
Don't be surprised to see Vick drop a bit in ADP, because this is another reminder that of all the quarterbacks deemed starter-worthy in fantasy, Vick is the most likely to miss games this season. He's fine today, but what about Week 3, or Week 10? Even the most optimistic among us wouldn't predict a 16-game season. I'm not moving Vick after Eli Manning or Tony Romo yet, but the thought has crossed my mind.
As noted earlier, there haven't been major early-round adjustments to ADP in ESPN leagues since the last time I tackled the subject on July 27, but let's explore some of the modest movement.
Movin' on up
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots: No player in the first nine rounds is seeing his stock rise or fall more than three spots as of Friday morning except for Ridley. Nothing has really changed for him other than the release of nearing-the-end veteran Joseph Addai, giving more clarity to the top of the Patriots' depth chart. It doesn't mean Bill Belichick sticks with Ridley long enough for 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns, though. Ridley is up into the seventh round, and I've gently moved him up some as well.
Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks: The signature name in the first two rounds moving up, ever so slightly, is likely because new fantasy owners are stunned by his stupendous 2011 stats and starting to question -- or justify -- whether a suspension for off-field transgressions is coming. I have Lynch just outside my first round, so I've always been on board. In ADP, he has moved into Round 2.
Rashad Jennings, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: As long as the Maurice Jones-Drew holdout continues, someone has to lead the depth chart. Jennings wasn't being selected in drafts a few weeks ago, and now he is in quite a few leagues. I have no issue with that, though he'll likely be on your waiver wire by Week 2.
Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans: He should thank Kenny Britt, who is injured and likely to be suspended for his off-field decision-making. Washington hauled in 1,023 yards last season, and he has moved into the 12th round in ADP. He'll keep moving.
Others: Mathews' backup Ronnie Brown has already seen a jump, but he looked pretty poor in brief action last season. ... Terrell Owens played in the indoor league last season. His ADP is up the most of anyone in the past seven days. Good luck with that. ... Michael Turner's stock is down slightly, and backup Jacquizz Rodgers is up quite a bit. Rodgers is a reasonable late-round selection. ... I'm sure there's a reason why Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel is up 10 spots in a week, but I can't find it.
Movin' on down
Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins: His fantasy stock has taken a hit, and he might fall out of the sixth round soon. I wrote about Helu's interesting coach a few weeks ago and why the value of all Redskins running backs is problematic. Well, Helu is dropping, and Evan Royster is among the highest rising. I don't think that's what I meant!
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets: Wait, the Jets got Tim Tebow? When did that happen? Fantasy owners are realizing Greene's goal-line production, such that it was, will likely be lessened. Oh, and Tebow will lead the Jets to the Super Bowl.
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: See Greene, Shonn. Despite rampant news coverage, nothing has changed on the QB depth chart. Sanchez was fantasy's No. 10 quarterback last season. Perhaps this season it will be Tebow, but this is proof that ADP changes even when it's not warranted.
Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best, RBs, Detroit Lions: Leshoure's seven-day stock has dropped the most of anyone, edging out the unemployed Addai, but in reality not much has changed. Leshoure always had to serve a two-game suspension, and the Lions remain hopeful his hamstring strain will be healed by Week 3. Best is also dropping, as he hasn't been cleared to play due to concussion symptoms. Basically, fantasy owners are deciding they want no part of Lions running backs.
Others: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall has seen stock drop, as there is a chance he misses the first six weeks, but I wouldn't call that a surprise. ... I hope Sidney Rice isn't being ignored because of Owens signing in Seattle. ... Laurent Robinson has dropped a round as owners realize the Dallas and Jacksonville passing offenses aren't even close to the same vicinity. ... Free agent Cedric Benson was more popular in drafts two weeks ago. I'd argue he could find an NFL team any minute now and should remain a late-round fantasy pick.
Have a great weekend and enjoy the rest of the preseason matchups!
Eric Karabell discusses the latest risers and fallers in ESPN live drafts.