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Unanswered Questions

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All summer, fantasy football has had a large number of questions and a good majority of them have been answered by now with the new season only hours away. What will be the time-share situation between David Wilson and Andre Brown? Brown broke his leg, again, and is out until Week 10, so it’s the David Wilson Show now, every down, including at the goal line. Who will be the starting running back for the Dolphins; Lamar Miller or Daniel Thomas? Miller by a mile. Has MJD recovered from his injury-plagued 2012 season? Well, he looked fine in the preseason but his low ADP, somewhere in the 2nd and 3rd round tells me owners aren’t completely convinced yet.

While many of the offseason’s biggest questions have been answered, we still have three crucial questions that have yet to be answered. These are questions which will have a major impact on the 2013 fantasy football season and will strongly affect owners’ seasons, whether it be in a positive or negative way. 

What will be the pecking order of the Denver Broncos receiving corps?

Demaryius Thomas is the lockdown WR1 of the Broncos and has a real chance of finishing in the top-five of fantasy receivers in 2013. The real questions begin once you look at the rest of the Broncos receiving corps and try and figure out the real value of both Wes Welker and Eric Decker. For an entire summer of drafts I’ve intentionally avoided picking Welker and Decker. I don’t like drafting players that have so many question marks with them and I can’t figure out what their actual value is. Welker’s been bothered by a right ankle sprain for most of the preseason. He made a brief appearance in Week 2 of the preseason and had three catches for 33 yards and a touchdown but that was all we’ve seen of him. Eric Decker has had a fine preseason and has continued where he left off last year, catching six passes for 66 yards in the crucial Week 3 preseason dress rehearsal game.

And yet, Decker’s great game has to have an asterisk next to it because he did it all while Welker wasn’t playing. When Welker did play briefly in the Week 2 preseason game, Decker only had one catch for 10 yards. This is too small of a sample size in a meaningless game for any of us to draw any conclusions. With Welker working the slot now though, the same position that Decker played last season, there can be no doubt that he’s going to have a negative effect on Decker’s numbers.

Prediction: Without Welker signing with the Broncos, Decker would be a legit, rock solid WR2. With Welker in the picture, I see Decker as a high end WR3 and Welker as a low end WR2 in standard formats and a high end WR2 in PPR formats. While Decker may have a leg up on Welker because he’s had an extra year to develop chemistry with Peyton Manning, Welker is still the more talented player. Owners, who drafted Decker as a WR2 will end up being disappointed because he will have his share of “off” weeks now.

 

Who will be the Bengals RB1 this season?

We actually already know the answer to this question. For Week 1, the Bengals’ RB1 is going to still be the Law Firm BenJarvus Green Ellis. Giovani Bernard, the hot rookie sensation who owners overdrafted this summer, is waiting in the wings as a “change of pace” running back for the Bengals. Incorrectly drafted as a RB2, the talented Bernard hasn’t wrestled the starting job from the Law Firm just yet. It’s entirely possible that Bernard will take the starting job from the Law Firm by midseason, but will his owners really care at that point, after receiving subpar RB2 work from him for half the season?

Prediction: We still don’t know exactly how many touches Bernard will get a game. He’s been outstanding from the goal line in the preseason, scoring three touchdowns. Bernard’s only saving grace may be if he can be the goal line back for the Bengals, which would make up for the touches he’ll lose to the Law Firm early on. If Bernard doesn’t get regular opportunities at the goal line though, owners will regard him as a bust for the first half of the season. This is incorrect though, because Bernard was never meant to be a RB2 straight out the gate. The real bust here is the ridonkulous draft strategy some owners had in overdrafting Bernard with the false assumption that he would immediately be productive. Odds are he won’t be, and if owners are honest about it, they won’t be blaming Bernard, they’ll be blaming themselves. If drafted correctly, Bernard is a great RB3 with high upside, who will be increasingly useful as the season progresses. Just not right away.

 

Who will be Tom Brady’s Number 1 Wide Receiver?

The New England Patriots had one of the most eventful offseasons in recent memory. Aaron Hernandez allegedly murdered a guy and is now in jail and off the team. Rob Gronkowski is still hurt and recently had back surgery, which has him sidelined until Week 3, at the earliest. Wes Welker was let go and sent off to Tom Brady’s biggest rival in Denver. Brandon Lloyd, Tom Brady’s main wide receiving threat, was also sent packing. Needless to say, things really got out of hand for the Patriots this offseason.

The Patriots’ replacements for these receivers are talented but injury prone Danny Amendola and a bunch of rookies. Of the rookies, only Kenbrell Thompkins has stood out. Besides being a popular sleeper this summer, Thompkins has had a great training camp and a solid preseason, highlighted by an eight catch, 116 receiving yards performance in the Week 3's dress rehearsal game. All of this has led many owners to believe that Thompkins is going to be Brady’s WR1 this season.

Prediction: The short answer is that Brady’s WR1 is going to be whichever receiver is healthy. I think it’s telling that Thompkins' breakout game in the preseason happened when Amendola was, you guessed it, hurt and not playing. When Amendola played in Week 2 of the preseason, he had a 6/71/1 stat line. How did Thompkins do in that game? One catch for 3 yards.

To be sure, it’s a lock that Amendola’s going to miss some time this season. In his short four year career he’s already missed 24 games. Twenty-four out of 64 games he’s missed, including his 2011 season where he only played one game all year long. He’s already been hurt this preseason so he’s off to a great start. I think Thompkins has a chance to excel in the passing game but I wouldn’t be surprised if, like almost all rookie receivers, he has an up and down season.

Once Gronkowski returns, he’ll be Brady’s primary target, until he rejoins Amendola on the injury report, which is a virtual certainty for both players. Thompkins has a lot of hurdles to overcome but I think he’ll still be a decent WR3 and flex play. He isn’t the answer for the Patriots this season though. The answer is that a multitude of players will be Brady’s WR1 and this situation has a real possibility of becoming a major frustration for owners.

 

Good Hunting!

Ed Bonfanti

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