Whether it's Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte or Maurice Jones-Drew, featured running backs will come flying off the board in the first round of fantasy drafts at a furious pace. Since there are so few runners that aren't in committees, owners will also be taking chances on players who've been less than durable in recent seasons.
The veteran out of Miami hasn't dealt with serious injuries at the NFL level, but he has missed a combined three games and been limited in other contests over the past two seasons due to various ailments. Coach Mike Singletary and fantasy owners alike hope this is the season that Gore avoids injuries and returns to his impressive 2006 form.
Gore entered camp noticeably slimmer than he was during OTAs and is in tremendous shape. Despite the addition of rookie Glen Coffee, he's expected to remain the true centerpiece of coordinator Jimmy Raye's offense. What's more, Raye's system is very similar to the one Gore thrived in while under the guidance of Norv Turner. He'll also have fullback Moran Norris, who was Gore's lead blocker during his banner 2006 season before leaving for Detroit last year, ahead of him in the backfield, which could turn into a major advantage.
The 49ers also plan to use more of a zone-blocking scheme this season, especially on between-the-tackle runs. Because zone runs and inside zone runs are designed to spread out opposing defenses, Gore should hit the holes that are created with ease. Because of his tremendous strength and vision, he'll be a perfect fit.
Of course, Gore needs to remain out of the trainer's room to reach his full fantasy potential. But based on his physical condition, changes in offensive philosophies, the return of Norris and a schedule that includes 11 games against defenses that ranked 16th or worse against the run last season, Gore is well worth his current ADP (average draft position) of 11.31 on NFL.com.
While Gore's stock is on the rise, the value of his future teammate, Michael Crabtree, is taking a nose dive.
A report has surfaced that Crabtree's cousin and adviser, David Wells, told the Niners Crabtree is prepared to sit out the season and re-enter the 2010 NFL Draft if his contractual demands aren't met. The team has no comment on the report. Regardless, Crabtree is still missing valuable time at training camp and is hurting his chances of making an impact for fantasy owners.
In a run-based offense with a questionable quarterback situation, one could argue that Crabtree's chances of being the next Anquan Boldin were already pretty slim.
Crabtree's current ADP is 118.67, but he's been drafted as late as 150th overall in NFL.com leagues. In fact, unless you're in a keeper format, the wideout to target in scarlet and gold could be Josh Morgan. The Virginia Tech product drew rave reviews in offseason workouts and has continued to impress Raye and his coaches in camp.
"For a big-bodied guy, for a big receiver, he has excellent explosion for a guy his size," Raye said of Morgan. "He doesn't look like he would have that kind of explosion, but he's an explosive guy, a great leaper. His range, because of his arms, his circumference range is very good. He can get to some balls with extension that some guys can't."
Based on Morgan's impressive showing and Crabtree's continued holdout, the team appears set to make Morgan a prominent option in the pass attack for quarterback Shaun Hill. In fact, Morgan could end up leading the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards, even if Crabtree does agree to a contract and gets into camp.
"In a three-wide set [Morgan] could play all three positions, including the slot, or the F as we refer to it.," Raye said. "He can play both X and Z, and so that makes him, in a game-day situation, a real plus, a real positive because he's multiple enough that he can learn it, one, which is a plus, and he can play both receiver spots or inside at the F in a three-wide package. So, that's a positive for him and us."
Morgan, who's current ADP is 138.39 on NFL.com, is a tremendous super sleeper and well worth a late-round pick. While the team has a crowded corps of wideouts with Isaac Bruce, Brandon Jones (shoulder, out eight weeks), Jason Hill, Arnaz Battle, Crabtree (when he signs) and tight end Vernon Davis, Morgan could still wind up as the best fantasy receiver the Niners have to offer this season.
News and notes
- » Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem has been running with the first-team offense while Lance Moore (shoulder) is limited in training camp. Meachem has been a real standout and is now pushing Devery Henderson for a starting spot opposite Marques Colston. He has had good camps in the past only to falter during the regular season, but it still makes sense to keep tabs on Meachem's status in the Saints powerful pass attack.
- » The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that Shonn Greene could challenge Thomas Jones for carries this season. The rookie out of Iowa has impressed coach Rex Ryan, who has already said that Greene would be in the backfield mix. While he likely won't take over the starting role, Greene could still be prominent in short-yardage and goal-line sets. Regardless, his presence is clearly going to hurt Jones' stock.
- » The Broncos have made Eddie Royal a centerpiece of their offense in training camp while Brandon Marshall sits with an injured hamstring. Royal, who caught a strong 91 passes in his rookie season, seems destined to see a pile of targets in the pass-laden offense of new coach Josh McDaniels. If Marshall continues to miss time, Royal will be an even more attractive option across the board in fantasy football drafts.
- » The Akron Beacon-Journal reports that James Davis continues to impress the Browns' coaching staff with his "speed and elusiveness" during training camp. While he won't be taken in most seasonal drafts, the rookie runner is someone to watch. Jamal Lewis is a year older and coming off ankle surgery, while Jerome Harrison is more of a change-of-pace back. Davis could turn into a nice keeper or dynasty league choice.
- » The New England Patriots have added yet another disgruntled Oakland Raider, trading for OLB/DE Derrick Burgess on Thursday. While he has been prone to injuries at times, Burgess gives the team a better pass-rushing option at outside linebacker. The move is the most recent in a long list of additions that should help make the Patriots defense a much more appealing option in the late rounds of fantasy drafts.