When I hear the words "high-ankle sprain" in relation to a starting running back and his availability for the coming week, it certainly does not inspire confidence that said player will be available for immediate and successful action. Such is the case with San Diego Chargers rookie Ryan Mathews; he says he might play through the ankle injury this week, but he did not practice Thursday, and I don't like the momentum of this situation. I removed Mathews from my running back rankings on Friday morning, and wouldn't even expect this to be a game-time decision. It seems really unlikely he'll be able to perform Sunday.
Bulky fullback Mike Tolbert has been getting all the fantasy attention this week, and it's basically because he received a cool 16 carries, turning them into 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns, in relief of Mathews in Week 2. Hey, good for Tolbert. He's big, tough and the case can be made that the veteran has already usurped the goal-line carries even when Mathews is 100 percent. However, I'm not totally buying Tolbert as "the guy" this or any week. He is the third most added player in ESPN leagues, after Jason Snelling (a mistake) and Kevin Walter (not a mistake), but I don't see much upside here.
I do see it with Darren Sproles. Ah, you remember this little guy darting through opposing defenses when the LaDainian Tomlinson era was running down, don't you? Sproles is still a Charger. He has generally disappointed fantasy owners over the years, but he's got skills, and he totaled 100 rushing/receiving yards in Week 2. Why Sproles is being dropped in ESPN leagues is beyond me, because this week he seems like an emerging flex option, someone who can create havoc though the passing game if the team is trailing, but also accumulate double-digit rushes and get you five fantasy points that way.
The Chargers were up big in Week 2 and shouldn't have rushed Mathews back in the lineup, or risked the diminutive Sproles, for that matter. They should have wasted clock and used their tank to do so, which is why Tolbert received 16 carries. If the Chargers go into a game knowing Mathews cannot play, I think they would have a different game plan, one which would feature Sproles in the role Mathews was playing. Maybe if they're up a few touchdowns in the third quarter, Tolbert will be asked to play a significant role again, but I think Sproles is going to matter this week. I moved Tolbert up to No. 28 among running backs, expecting a touchdown and decent rushing yards, but Sproles is right there with him at No. 30. He will matter, too, and if/when Mathews is ruled out for Week 3 before Sunday, fantasy owners should consider the possibilities.
Here are a few other noteworthy items I will be watching heading into Sunday.
New York Jets wide receivers: Whether the public thinks/demands it or not, the Jets don't have to bench troubled Braylon Edwards. I think he will play, although the reason I didn't rank him among my top 50 wide receivers has nothing to do with off-field woes. It's about on-field woes, and the fact the Miami Dolphins should give Mark Sanchez fits. I didn't rank any Jets wide receivers. If you need to use Edwards, just make sure on Sunday morning the Jets haven't pulled an Andy Reid and abruptly changed their tune. You should look elsewhere even if he does play.
Buffalo Bills running backs: I've changed my mind on the Marshawn Lynch situation, based in part on quotes emanating from western New York this week. I don't think Lynch is being showcased for a trade. I do think the Bills want to use him more because they feel he gives them the best chance to compete, and so far, the team hasn't been competing. Maybe this week will be more of the same, but I moved Lynch well ahead of C.J. Spiller in the rankings, as the Bills admit the rookie was rushed into duty in Week 1.
Arizona Cardinals running backs: It appears Beanie Wells and his bruised right knee are ready for action this week, but that doesn't mean he'll get more touches than Tim Hightower. I didn't move Wells up much in my rankings upon seeing this news, and I left Hightower where he was, at No. 24 among running backs. Don't drop Wells, though I see some of you are. He will finish the season with more fantasy points than Hightower.
Have a great weekend and best of luck in Week 3!