Adam Levitan

Football Daily Dose

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Messing with Mendy

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL in Week 17 last season. But unlike Adrian Peterson, no one was tracking his every move, word and rep since. Perhaps we should have.

While Peterson was a second-round pick in a lot of fantasy formats, Mendenhall was nothing more than a last-round throwaway pick. That’s because GM Kevin Colbert said he fully expected Mendy to start the season on reserve/PUP, which would have ruled him out of the first six games.

Instead, Mendenhall was surprisingly activated from the PUP list in mid-August. Still, the move was poo-pooed as the Steelers insisted they just wanted to get him on track for an October return. Fine, that made sense.

But this week, some stuff that doesn’t make much sense started going on. Even though Mendenhall didn’t play in any preseason games and was limited in most practices, he got a bunch of first-team reps Monday. On Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin declined to rule Mendenhall out for Sunday night’s opener, instead lumping him in with the rest of the questionable Steelers. Hmmm.

Even though it would be an absolute shock if Mendenhall plays Week 1, this week’s developments are a sign that his rehab is well ahead of schedule. He’ll be eased back in, but a Week 3 or 4 return doesn’t seem so far-fetched anymore. That means Mendy needs to be rostered in all formats, because all it takes for some of you is a waiver add. It’s not like we’re spending a second-round pick on a guy eight months removed from ACL surgery a la Peterson.

And while we’re on the subject of the Steelers’ backfield, Isaac Redman is still nursing an ankle injury. Even if he plays, Jonathan Dwyer has more upside for desperate Week 1 spot-starters.

Marshawn Lynch needs a backieotomy. Kidding.

What he does need, apparently, is some rest for his back. Even though we’re only in Week 1, he’s already experiencing spasms similar to the ones that kept him out of Week 7 last season. Lynch is considered questionable for Sunday’s opener against the Cardinals.

The good news for Lynch owners is that after he skipped that one game last year, he went on play the best football of his life without issue. The bad news is that he subsequently signed a four-year, $31 million contract and his five-year career has been marred by inconsistency. Roster impressive backup Robert Turbin and see how the week plays out.

New Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey doesn’t shy away from questions about roles. He also doesn’t make a ton of sense sometimes.

Mularkey was asked if Maurice Jones-Drew will be his bellcow once back up to speed.

“That’s kind of the way the system works, yes. Whoever starts, the other one will handle the third downs,” said the coach.

OK. But what if Jones-Drew is beasting on third downs? Or what if Rashad Jennings is playing well enough to earn a share of the early-down work? We’re just going to pin players into roles and forget it?

This is the kind of thinking that allowed Mularkey backs such as Jerome Bettis and Michael Turner to get run into the ground. Either way, it’s good news for Jones-Drew owners. Mularkey basically says that once Jones-Drew is in game shape, he’s going to be the bell cow.

Jason Witten (spleen) made the trip to New York, but he’s listed as doubtful. Owners need to get other options in lineups. … Ahmad Bradshaw (hand) will start. … Hakeem Nicks (foot) is fully expected to play through a questionable tag as a WR1. ... Check out Evan Silva's breakdown of the game here.

Randy Moss was bumped up to the first-string offense on the Niners’ latest depth chart. Yawn. He’s going to rotate with Mario Manningham, leaving him as a mere situational deep threat on a team that doesn’t throw deep. … The Panthers confirmed that they will continue to encourage Cam Newton to run in the red zone. … Cedric Benson is listed as the first-team tailback, as expected. … The Steelers have been impressed with Mike Wallace’s conditioning and knowledge of the playbook. He appears on track to start Sunday night.

Golden Tate (knee) is almost certainly out for Week 1. Braylon Edwards is looking at a full complement of split end snaps Sunday. … Steve Smith (foot) is practicing and planning a barefoot walk for charity. He’s ready to go. … Julio Jones confirmed that he’s in tip-top shape heading into Week 1. Look out.

Jonathan Stewart (ankle) didn’t practice once again Tuesday. He’s nothing more than questionable at this point. … If Adrian Peterson plays Sunday, he’ll have “limited exposure.” Toby Gerhart is going to carry the load.

Adding a different D/ST each week based on matchups is a fine strategy. Here are three units that might be on waiver wires to consider for streaming purposes:

1. BILLS at Jets - This Buffalo front four featuring Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus has the potential to be fearsome. They also added a potential shutdown corner in rookie Stephon Gilmore. Mark Sanchez tossed two interceptions, zero touchdowns and took six sacks in his three preseason appearances.

2. LIONS vs. Rams - Detroit is banged up in the secondary, but Sam Bradford won’t have the time and doesn’t have the weapons to exploit it. He looked timid and uncomfortable in the face of a heavy pass rush lasts season.

3. SEAHAWKS vs. Cardinals - Seattle’s D/ST should probably be owned in all leagues anyway, as pointed out by Chris Wesseling in Waiver Wired. But this is an especially good spot. In John Skelton’s seven starts last season, he threw 12 interceptions and got sacked 22 times.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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