Big questions on best players come at bad time Print
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Friday, 22 August 2008 08:30
NFL Headline News

 Add Browns quarterback Derek Anderson and Bengals receiver Chad Johnson to the long and troubling list of top NFL stars who've been beaten up or have messed up at the worst possible time - right before many fantasy football drafts kick off around the country.
Their recent injuries further jumble draft boards that are looking unusually dicey for this time of year, with fears that the top two quarterbacks could miss the opener, suspensions of high-scoring receivers and league-wide reports of hamstrings gone wrong.
What the heck's going on? And what should people do with these guys on draft day?
Unfortunately, a lot of teams have their priorities all wrong and don't detail how all these developments might affect fantasy football lineups. But based on the best information out there, and some educated guesswork, here's how fantasy geeks should deal with the most prominent question marks:
-Tom Brady, QB, New England, foot injury: It's highly doubtful he'll miss any time, because he's the super-magical Tom Brady. The Patriots are probably just parking him for the preseason. Even if he somehow does miss the opener, he's a lock for Week 2 against the hated Jets.
-Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis, recovering from routine knee surgery: He says his goal is to be back by the opener, so he'll probably be back. Like Brady, don't sweat this draft pick.
-Anderson, Cleveland, possible concussion. With Cleveland hero Brady Quinn waiting in the wings, Anderson will be ready for the opener unless his head falls off. He's still a top-10 QB, maybe even a top-five, unless some dire news comes out.
-Ryan Grant, RB Green Bay, perpetually ailing hamstring: This one's scary, considering his hamstring, revamped line, team's statement that he may not get as many carries and sophomore jinx possibilities. As far as his hamstring goes, though, he says he could play if it were a real game. He's still worth making him your second back, but there's definitely flop potential.
fixed knee may wear out fast. Even so, he should be a solid pick as a second back.
-Rudi Johnson, RB Cincinnati, hamstring: New, bulked-up Rudi was supposed to be past that hamstring mess that killed him last year. However - surprise - hammy's bad again. If Johnson shows proof he can actually engage in athletic activity, he's a steal as your second back. If there's no such empirical data, let him slide all the way to your bench. (And consider Chris Perry as a great possible sleeper.)
-Braylon Edwards, WR, Cleveland, cut foot: He's expected to return from injury that occurred when he was inexplicably running around with no shoes on. Coaches initially said it was no big deal, but he spent the night in the hospital and hasn't been seen much since. You'd have to think he's still a top-five WR, but keep a close eye on his condition.
-Steve Smith, WR, Carolina, 2-game suspension, concussion: Some think the best way to deal with Smith is to just draft him as if he were still playing, simply plugging in a bench player until he returns. I tend to be a bit more conservative, thinking you should make him your second receiver. There's just a bad vibe after he punched an unsuspecting teammate, had a concussion and will return to a QB with a reconstructed arm.
-Brandon Marshall, WR, Denver: 3-game suspension. Oh, if only it were just a 2-game suspension, I'd say draft him high then plug somebody else in till he gets back. But that's a high draft pick, and an 0-3 hole is a biggie. Yet in a way his situation's better than Smith's since he has a mentor trying to keep him straight, and his teammates seem to still like and support him. Make him your second receiver if you can.
-Andre Johnson, WR Houston, knee injury: Something's always ailing with this guy, who made it all the way to Aug. 2 before getting hurt. The Texans say he's pretty much ready to return, yet his history's a concern after he missed seven games last year. He's still worth taking as your top receiver, but only after the more reliable ones are gone.
-Chad Johnson, WR Cincinnati, sprained left shoulder: The Bengals say he's recovering better than expected and they're hoping he'll be ready for the opener. But he's also got some cumulative problems that probably make him best as a No. 2. He's had ankle surgery recently, he recently demanded a trade and the Bengals' offense is hurting all over.

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