Week 1: Game Time Decisions - Injury Update
The only QB selected in the first round of April's draft will get a baptism by fire on Sunday against Bill Belichick and the Patriots. The rookie signal caller suffered a knee injury in week 2 of the preseason and fantasy owners should keep him on the pine despite a favorable matchup with a New England defense that ranked 29th against the pass last season (allowed 271 YPG). First year head coach Doug Marrone will employ a run heavy approach dominated by CJ Spiller/Fred Jackson. Manuel checks in at QB29 this week in our rankings and remains off the fantasy radar unless you are desperate and in a 2-QB league. Even then, it is not advisable as his mobility will be limited due to the injury.
The 27-year-old signed a 1-year $1 million contract and figures to lead the Colts in rushing provided his foot injuries don't reappear; he missed seven games over the past four seasons. Bradshaw's 2013 debut in a Colts uniform comes this week as he failed to take one preseason snap. He is expected to split carries with Vick Ballard in a dream week 1 matchup against Oakland. The Raiders defense ranked 18th against the run last season and tied for allowing the third most rushing touchdowns with 18. Bradshaw, who has scored at least six touchdowns every year since 2009 and is a proven receiver, should return to RB2 status once he proves he's able to carry a full workload. In an expected timeshare this week, he should be considered more of a flex play with upside.
Rashard Mendenhall will play 2013 on a one-year, $2.5 million deal. The 26 year old is a full season removed from his ACL tear, but reported additional knee looseness toward the end of the preseason. He's remained limited in practice, but is expected to suit up in week 1. First year head coach Bruce Arians is a proponent of feature RBs as evidence by his usage of Mendy in Pittsburgh and Vick Ballard last season in Indy. Ryan Williams (38th overall pick in the 2011 draft) played in just 5 games last season (shoulder injury) after missing his entire rookie season (knee injury). Williams struggled last season, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry (58 carries). Mendenhall is just a flex play this week (ranked #28 at RB) as he faces a solid Rams run defense that could give one of the worst offensive lines fits (made even worse following the season ending injuring to first round pick OG Jonathan Cooper). Stanford rookie Stepfan Taylor is expected to handle some shortage yardage and potential goal line work, making him a worthwhile flier on deeper league waiver wires.
Wes Welker's replacement was limited in Thursday's practice by a groin injury, but said he fully expects to start against the Bills. The oft injured former Ram played just one game in 2011, missed five games last season and has never topped 700 yards in a season, but appears primed to set career highs as Tom Brady's go-to weapon (at least until Gronk returns). It is worth noting that Wes Welker averaged seven catches per game over his six seasons in New England. Amendola has just seven career TDs, but should be started as a solid WR2 this week in Buffalo (ranked #12 at WR this week). The Bills defense ranked 10th against the pass in 2012 (allowing 217 YPG), but will be without top CB Stephon Gilmore (wrist surgery). Undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins would see a major boost in value if Amendola takes a turn for the worse. Regardless, Thompkins makes for a decent deeper league Flex play this week.
The 26 year old WR from UMass signed a 6 year $46 million contract this offseason after totaling 2,628 yards receiving and 19 TDs the past two seasons. It is worth noting that he battled calf / rib injuries in 2012 and struggled in the 2nd half as his YPC plummeted to 12.7 from 18.7 in 2011. Cruz suffered a bruised heel injury on August 18th (which has limited his practice time), but is fully expected to start Sunday night in a game with major shootout potential in Big D (Vegas over/under is 49 points). In two games against the Cowboys last season, Cruz caught eight passes for 81 yards and no scores, but has solid WR2 potential against a Dallas defense dealing with multiple injuries. Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff will be missing from the D-line and RCB Morris Claiborne missed most of the preseason with a knee injury. Keep an eye on second year WR Reuben Randle as he remains one of the better WR handcuffs to own (considering the injury history of contract year WR Hakeem Nicks).