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Hold Steady, Boys!

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We have all seen a war movie where the heroes are facing an enemy of greater numbers and have to defend their ground to ensure that a greater good is reached by their entire army. The grizzled leader of said heroes will undoubtedly utter the famous phrase, “Hold steady, boys!!” The outnumbered band of soldiers does just that, holding off the insurmountable numbers they face in a tooth-and-nail battle. When all seems lost, the re-enforcements arrive just in the nick of time and there is much rejoicing.

Well, in the spirit of that tried-and-true movie formula, I am imploring fantasy owners to do that same thing as training camps have opened for all 32 NFL teams. The proliferation of updates in today’s world of social media can overwhelm the senses and leave the unsuspecting owner wondering if any of his offseason preparation was worth the effort. Hour-by-hour there is a new player that coaches are raving about and seemingly another arrest that at first glance would make it seem like time to yet again, update our rankings. So my fellow fantasy football enthusiasts let me be that grizzled leader and state quite plainly, “Hold steady, boys!”

Do not be overly swayed by this initial deluge of NFL news and reach for those rankings. Your rankings are fine and need only be altered by verifiable injuries that will sideline a player deep into the preseason or into the actual regular season. Coach “X” commenting on how great player “Y” has looked in the first two days of training camp is not a reason to begin shuffling names on our draft boards. It is August, and depth charts mean absolutely nothing. There will be season-ending injuries. Jonathan Goff is early proof of that - I had to put some Individual Defensive Player (IDP) love in - to go along with suspensions and demotions that will occur before the kickoff of the regular season. Until they do, hang tight and monitor the news, but do not overreact to every news item that comes off the wire.

There are a lot of people covering this league and they all have something to say and a lot of time to kill. Patience is a virtue and it will be tested early and often before we sit down to our fantasy drafts, and trusting the work we have put in up until training camp is prudent, as opposed to trashing weeks of research over a ‘flavor of the day’ report from Day 3 of training camp.

Here are some names that are causing a stir among the Twitter world and news wire and just how much weight you should put on these very early reports.

Ronnie Hillman , RB, Denver: I love this kid and actually think he will get a chance to contribute this season for the Broncos. Hey, he broke Marshall Faulk’s record for yards amassed by a freshman at San Diego State. That says something right there. He is a speedster with the ability to make defenders miss in the open field and a quick burst up the field. The hype train for Hillman is picking up steam as early reports out of Broncos training camp have been glowing.

Coach John Fox recently commented, “He’s explosive. We like what we’ve seen so far. We targeted him and we think he will be able to help us.”

Some pundits are already predicting that Hillman will surpass Willis McGahee on the Denver running back depth chart by seasons end and is already a lock for third-down duties. Yes, there have even been comparisons drawn to Darren Sproles when describing the potential of Hillman. The knee-jerk reaction would be to immediately start moving the rookie up draft boards and grab him early as he has been described as a better fit in a Peyton Manning-led offense.

Not so fast. These are all very nice indicators that Hillman will have some fantasy value, but just what that will be remains to be seen as the preseason plays out. Fox may love the kid right now, but he has also shown a loyalty to veterans throughout his career. Hillman will have to continue to earn his snaps. Leave him at around No. 40 in your running backs rankings and as a 10th-round pick in standard leagues and as high as the late eighth round in points per reception (PPR) formats. Keep an eye on the type of touches that Hillman receives in preseason action before deciding to vault him up your rankings.

He is a sneaky good runner between the tackles, so watch to see if Denver gives him the ball on early downs. Are they using him on the stretch running play that Manning ran so effectively in Indianapolis? Has he improved his pass blocking enough for Fox to comfortably put him on the field consistently on passing downs? There is the very real chance that he can supplant McGahee as the primary back in Denver, but that isn’t going to happen between now and Week 1. Be careful about buying the hype and over reaching for Hillman.

Kenny Britt , WR, Tennessee: Britt falls on the other side of the spectrum as reports of more knee surgeries and arrests continue to be the norm for the oft-arrested Britt. This kid just cannot get out of his own way. Early reports this offseason had Britt as a maturing young man who had decided not to return to New Jersey to rehab and would be staying in Tennessee to limit the distractions. Well, that was working fine until he managed to once again run afoul of the law and will now get a trip to New York to visit Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In case Britt has not kept up to date with the happenings of the league, Goodell has not been in the greatest of moods lately. Of course, regardless of what punishment Britt receives from the league for his latest run-in with the law, there is still the issue of his knees. He has undergone surgery on both of his knees this offseason and is trying to return from a torn ACL and MCL injury suffered last season. However, I do not come here to bury Britt, but to praise him. Or at least to stand by his current ranking, pre-arrest, as opposed to dropping him far down the rankings.

Yes, there could be a suspension looming, but it has yet to be announced and one thing lawyers are good at is delaying things. Wait for the actual suspension to be handed down before deciding what to do with Britt on fantasy draft day. When he is on the field, he can look like a man among boys while abusing a defensive backfield, and if his knees hold up he still deserves to sit no lower than 30th in re-draft wide receiver rankings. A lot of owners are going to take the wait and see, or drop him down too far in their rankings, making him an excellent value pick in Round 7 of fantasy drafts as a WR3 with WR1 upside. Sure, Britt is a bit of a flaky wildcard selection, but let’s face it, we aren’t having him over for dinner. We are looking for him to score fantasy points.



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