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Red Flag Injury Bargains for 2012

NFL mini-camps are over and the excitement of training camps opening up in less than a month is in the air! Now is the time for fantasy owners to really begin to formulate their draft boards in earnest. It is time to look at bargains in fantasy drafts that will be available due to injury concerns.

These players may have ended last season on the Injured Reserve, missed organized team activities and mini-camps so far in 2012 and will definitely have left some of their owners from last season with a bad taste in their mouths. They will be ripe for the picking at a reduced value due to the questions regarding how healthy they are and can they help to lead fantasy teams to championships.

1) Chris ”Beanie” Wells, RB, Arizona: Wells finally lived up to his 2009 first-round draft selection (31st overall) last season for the Cardinals after underachieving in his first two campaigns while dealing with a myriad of nagging injuries and limited touches. He did play all 16 games in his rookie season but was part of a rotation in the Arizona backfield with Tim Hightower and saw only 176 carries and 12 receptions. The potential was definitely there as Wells averaged 4.5 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns in his rookie campaign, leaving fantasy owners smiling in anticipation of what he could do in year two of his career with an increase in playing time.

What he did was bounce in and out of the lineup with a lingering knee injury and put up only 471 total yards and two touchdowns. Ouch! Nobody holds a grudge like fantasy owners, and Wells saw his stock plummet heading into last season, only a preseason injury to Ryan Williams kept Wells in the sixth to seventh round average draft position as he became the only game in town in the Arizona backfield. He rewarded his owners with an outstanding fantasy season, registering his first 1,000-yard season and scoring 10 touchdowns. More importantly, he played through injuries that seemed to sideline him in the past and blew up in Week 12 against the St. Louis Rams to the tune of 228 yards rushing and a score.

You may be wondering why after a breakout season like he put up in 2011, is Wells on a list of players that can be had at a bargain rate in 2012 fantasy drafts? Simple. It is the lingering knee issues that he has battled since joining the NFL. He had another procedure this offseason and has yet to participate in organized team activities or mini-camp. Combine that with the glowing reviews that Ryan Williams has been getting as he returns from the patellar injury he suffered last year, and Wells is falling down draft boards. Wells is once again slipping into the sixth and seventh round range as concerns over his knee and the number of touches that Williams will steal from him mount. Coach Ken Whisenhunt loves to run the football, Arizona has a very shaky quarterback situation and Wells has proven he can produce at the NFL level. His preseason workload may be limited and Williams could shine in those games, but make no mistake about it that come opening day, Wells will be the No. 1 back for Arizona. Grab him as early as the fourth round of fantasy drafts and you’ve got a potential No. 1, Top 15 running back at a bargain basement value.

Kenny Britt

, WR, Tennessee: Kenny Britt is the ultimate fantasy football enigma both on and off the field. He averages more than 17 yards per reception over his three years in the league and has posted 15 touchdowns in that time span. He began the 2011 season as one of the most productive players in all of fantasy football, putting up 17 receptions and 289 yards in less than three games. Oh yeah, he was averaging a touchdown per contest as well before suffering a knee injury that would require two surgeries.

Of course he has averaged nearly double-digit arrests per season (OK, I am exaggerating a bit there) since joining the Titans in 2009. Bar fights, careless driving, providing inaccurate information on his driver’s license applications and on and on. Britt is a busy man on and off the field but seems to have turned a corner in his personal life and has stayed in Tennessee, as opposed to returning to his native New Jersey during this latest rehab from surgery. When he does play he can be virtually unstoppable. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 215 pounds, he is a beast that creates mismatches all over the field. He has put up more than 100 yards receiving six times in his 31 career games and had back-to-back games of better than 130 yards receiving to start last season. Any owner fortunate enough to have had Britt in their lineup back in Week 7 of the 2010 season when he burned the Philadelphia Eagles for seven receptions, 225 yards and three touchdowns knows the potential he has to single handedly win a fantasy matchup for you.

The latest reports point to Britt being ready for the start of training camp as he has been running without a brace and as stated earlier will stay in Tennessee to keep his rehab on pace. His current average draft position has him going on average in the late fifth or early sixth round. The depth at wide receiver for 2012 is so deep that reaching for a potential stud No. 1 like Britt a round earlier than that will not cripple your draft or your fantasy team should he get injured again. His upside makes him a steal in the fifth round and if an owner is the gambling type, taking Britt in the fourth round is absolutely an option.

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