montee ball2

Kindly, most NFL coaches have given us an answer to the pressing fantasy questions we had as July became August. Since it’s often the position that gets tapped out first in drafts, running back position battles were of particular concern.

Say Jeff Fisher, who ya got over there in St. Louis? Daryl Richardson? Sweet. What about you guys, Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese? What say you between David Wilson and Andre Brown? Alright cool, it’ll be Wilson leading that committee. Thanks.

In other situations like the Carolina calamity discussed with a little more depth below, an injury answered our question, which was helpful. But John Fox is still the worst.

The Broncos head coach feels no sense of commitment to us, but it sure would be nice if he did. This week and next week are, of course, the peak of fantasy football draft season, as the days after the third preseason game are generally viewed as a much safer time following the height of August injuries. Personally, I’ve had one draft this week, and have three others prior to opening night.

Frenzied times indeed, and it would be convenient if most of our pressing positional questions are answered. Unfortunately, we don’t play in a world where such a thing is possible.

On Monday Fox gave rookie Montee Ball first-team reps while Ronnie Hillman walked around the field and practiced holding on to a football properly. Over the Broncos last two preseason games he’s fumbled three times (two of which were returned for touchdowns), an especially alarming pace because he’s been given only 22 touches over that stretch. Every coach at any level despises fumbles from his running back, but Fox’s detest will be even greater this season because ball turfings have the strong potential to immediately undo the fine work done by a loaded passing offense following the addition of Wes Welker.

So then after Hillman’s two fumbles this preseason and two last year on just 85 carries, it was reasonable to think that at the very least, Ball would climb to lead the backfield committee, and be on the high end of a share. Not so, says the devilish Fox.

After his one-day detention Hillman was back with the first team yesterday. Having fun yet, John?

“I don’t even know yet, so I don’t know how you all know. They’ll both carry a big load for us this season, knock on wood. Whether it’s ’1A’ and ’1′ or however you want to list it, they’re both very capable, and we’re very pleased with both.”


There will be a starter here only in the sense that someone has to be on the field to begin the game. Being the “starter” will have little meaning, and instead, the value will come in who has the greater opportunity to contribute in important fantasy situations. See: the goal-line.

That title will belong to Ball, who’s the much larger running back, and has a far more barreling style which he regularly showcased with 61 touchdowns during his two years as the starter at Wisconsin.

His yardage may be restricted as Hillman sucks back snaps between the 20′s, but the greatest value lies in Ball’s scoring ability. It wouldn’t be shocking whatsoever to see Ball finish with double-digit touchdowns, and something in the vicinity of 700 yards, fine numbers for a rookie RB in a split.

Thankfully, few are letting Fox’s witchcraft fool them. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Ball is currently coming off draft boards nearly 50 picks earlier than Hillman.

More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness

Robert Griffin III, future politician

If this whole quarterbacking thing doesn’t work out for our boy Robert Griffin III (ummm, he’ll probably be fine), he has a bright career as a politician ahead.

Griffin is abundantly aware that since the moment his knee was sliced and diced last January, every word he’s said regarding his health and playing status is dissected relentlessly by men who are paid to wear nice suits and laugh on TV, and by jerks like me on the Internet. That’s why he’s become increasingly skilled in the fine art of trying to sound like he’s not saying something, while saying something.

His latest masterpiece during a radio interview yesterday

“I would say I’m 100 percent, but you can’t put a number on it. No one ever knows when they are 100 percent or what percentage they’re playing at. The biggest thing is, I’m not below 100 percent.”

To review then: personal health cannot be defined by the rigid and wholly unscientific percentages assigned by the sports media (fair enough), but if RG3 were to give a percentage right now, it definitely wouldn’t be less than 100. Since 100 is the best possible percentage in anything, he’s fully healthy. Annnnd scene.

Hey over there, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. What say you?

Cool, that’s settled then. Griffin will meet with Dr. James Andrews in Florida tomorrow for a final inspection and medical clearance, though the true last word on his Week 1 status rests with head coach Mike Shanahan. Ready for my craziest leap in logic of the day? If Andrews says Griffin can play, he’s playing. Boom.

UPDATE: Though none of the above has changed (he’ll still meet with Andrews, and an official decision and announcement by Shanahan is surely forthcoming), ESPN’s Adam Schefter passes along what seems like a formality at this point. Griffin will play in Washington’s season opener against Philadelphia.

And in other important but much less exciting fantasy injury news…

Deepest apologies, Heath Miller, but you’ll just never get RG3 love. Chicks dig the long ball and quarterbacks, but we — the degenerate community — still love you.

You see, even though Miller’s knee injury last year was just as devastating as Griffin’s, and therefore he’ll miss some time and may not be nearly as effective as he was last year when he returns, the fantasy game will still welcome him with a warm embrace. At a position that’s lost Aaron Hernandez and Dennis Pitta, and will be without Rob Gronkowski for maybe a quarter of the season, depth is a wonderful thing.

Yesterday, Ed Bouchette reported that Miller will likely come off the PUP list when the Steelers cut down their roster to 53 this weekend, meaning his time on the mend when football matters could be reduced to just a few weeks. To your waiver wire battle stations, men.

And in other horribly predictable injury news…

Kenny Britt has endured several knee surgeries since tearing his ACL in 2011. So go ahead, Mike Munchak, feed us your optimism when he misses practice, is being rested, or worse, when he experiences swelling. I will exercise my right to never, ever draft this man.

Although he played a full season last year for the first time in, well, ever, Britt was highly ineffective and often restricted. Sure, his one booming week with 143 receiving yards in Week 14 was nice and all, but in that one game on that one day he had nearly a quarter of his yardage for the entire season (589 yards in total).

His sporadically appearing speed and physicality is still present somewhere, though, and his current eighth-to-ninth round draft price makes Britt’s risk manageable as a flex option. So don’t feel so horrible if you’re forced to fall back on this gimpy horse, and remember brighter days.

Speaking of brighter days…

And one more crappy but entirely predictable injury

To the surprise of no one, Jonathan Stewart was placed on the PUP list yesterday due to an ankle injury that’s somehow still lingering after surgery way back in February. By default we now have an answer to our running back questions in Carolina, with DeAngelo Williams the only back worth owning, and he now has six weeks to run away with the starting job before Stewart returns. However, with Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton there to suck back goal-line touches, he’ll often be little more than a flex option, or a low-end RB2.

Why is Stewart still dealing with issues tied to an ankle sprain? Injury expert Jene Bramel has some educated speculation. He’s now clearly fighting something larger.

I think it’s highly unlikely that the procedure on the left ankle was to surgically fix residual issues from his high ankle sprain. Given Stewart’s long history of ankle and Achilles issues, I don’t think it’s a stretch to wonder if he has a degenerative cartilage condition in one or both ankles. I’ve said on our live podcast in recent weeks that all evidence points to the 26-year old Stewart having the legs of a 30-year old (or older) running back.

Why do I believe this is important? If Stewart had microfracture surgery, his rehab could stretch to 7-8 months and delay his conditioning and readiness for contact until late in training camp and beyond. It is equally concerning if Stewart had only a minor cartilage repair (i.e. not microfracture) and still isn’t ready as camp begins.

Today in things that are very Jets

Presumably because they need a human punching bag to get through this week’s final preseason game and risking senseless injury to another possible starter isn’t advisable, the Jets signed Graham Harrell last night. He’ll make a one-game courtesy appearance because both Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy are out.

The real Jets being Jets news here is that, remarkably, the head coach will decide who his starting quarterback will be. Previously it was reported/assumed that with Rex Ryan set to begin his final games as the Jets’ head coach next week, he had taken the form of a John Idzik puppet, with the general manager eying the long term. Not so, according to Manish Mehta‘s sources.

“I’m sure John will have his say,” a team source told The News. “But at the end of the day, Rex will consult his coaches and make the decision.”

Oh, Rex. Even when you’re gone, we’ll always have the God Damn Snack Game. Always.

More dark Aaron Hernandez details

I’ve long passed the point where it’s possible to be surprised by anything Aaron Hernandez. He fell fast and hard, and there was seemingly no one along the way to give him a firm smack in the right direction onto a path that didn’t lead to future accused murderer.

In a teaser for contributing editor Paul Solotaroff’s in-depth look at Hernandez’s life, Rolling Stone notes that Urban Meyer was may have covered up the tight end’s violence and legal missteps.