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Kelvin Benjamin on fantasy radar as ‘star of training camp’

Kelvin-Benjamin-PanthersFormer Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin seems to be fitting in with the Carolina Panthers quite nicely. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, Benjamin has the type of body that can make him incredibly difficult for even NFL defensive backs to cover. Carolina is apparently getting a first-hand look at that in practice.

Benjamin, who scored 15 touchdowns for the Seminoles last year, made an impressive 29-yard touchdown catch against the Buffalo Bills in the preseason opener. According to David Newton of ESPN.com, he has also made a number of acrobatic catches during training camp.

Benjamin knows he has massive shoes to fill in the wake of Steve Smith’s departure, but he sounds up to the challenge.

“I grew up watching Steve Smith, so I knew a lot about him,” he said. “I knew he was the franchise’s leading receiver here. It’s unfortunate that he’s gone now, but I’m going to try to come in and make my mark.”

With the Panthers having lost Smith and Brandon LaFell, there is some concern that Cam Newton will have no one to throw to. But between tight end Greg Olsen, veteran wideout Jerricho Cotchery and Benjamin, Newton should have plenty of big bodies to target in red zone situations and when looking to move the chains.

As Rotoworld noted, Benjamin’s average draft position (ADP) in fantasy football has been climbing steadily throughout the offseason. If for nothing other than touchdown potential, he is a player to target in the late rounds of your drafts.

Rob Gronkowski cleared to play

Rob Gronkowski spikeAssuming Rob Gronkowski can stay healthy throughout training camp and the preseason, Tom Brady will have his most dangerous weapon on the field when the New England Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. Bill Belichick told reporters on Wednesday that Gronk has been cleared to play.

Gronkowski, who underwent surgery for a torn ACL six months ago, was not placed on the physically unable to perform list before training camp began. That was the first indication that the big tight end is good to go.

The Patriots brought in Brandon LaFell this offseason and are hoping to get more production from Danny Amendola in 2014, but Gronkowski is the engine that powers New England’s offense. When Gronk is on the field, the Patriots are more effective in both the passing and run games. He has tremendous hands, is Brady’s favorite red zone target and is an underrated blocker.

Gronkowski hauled in four touchdowns last season despite appearing in only seven games. He has 15 touchdowns in 18 games over the past two seasons and 42 total touchdowns in 50 career games.

The question, of course, will be whether Gronk can stay healthy. He is only 25 and has already had multiple back and arm surgeries in addition to major knee surgery.

What does this mean for fantasy football? Drafting Gronkowski will always be a risk given his injury history, but he can single-handedly win fantasy weeks when he is on the field. The fact that he has been cleared to play so early in camp indicates that Gronk had no setbacks throughout the offseason, which is obviously good news. If the health issues don’t scare you away, there’s no reason Gronk shouldn’t be drafted nearly as high as Jimmy Graham.

Seahawks’ running back by committee could affect Marshawn Lynch’s fantasy stock

Marshawn-Lynch-Better-PreparationMarshawn Lynch has been an absolute workhorse for the Seattle Seahawks over the past three seasons. He topped 300 rushing attempts in both 2012 and 2013 and has scored 39 touchdowns since 2011, carrying a number of fantasy football owners to championships. Is the well finally about to run dry?

Lynch turned 28 in April. Running backs have a tendency to fall off the face of the earth when they creep into their late-20s, and Lynch may be no exception. According to Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, the team will be going with a running back by committee approach in 2014.

That may be enough to scare some fantasy owners away come draft time. As Rotoworld noted, decreasing Lynch’s workload would have nothing to do with a declining skill set. Beast Mode is scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2015, so he could very well be a salary cap casualty after the upcoming season.

The Seahawks would not have wasted a second-round pick last year on Christine Michael, a former Texas A&M star, unless they were planning for life after Lynch. While Lynch should still be a fantasy starter and could demand the rock if he runs like he always has, his stock is falling a bit. Michael’s is rising.

Torrey Smith rips his fantasy football owners

Torrey-Smith-Did-Not-Smoke-or-Drink-in-CollegeThe Baltimore Ravens pulled out a crucial win over the Detroit Lions on Monday night, but Torrey Smith had a relatively quiet game. The wide receiver secured just four of his 12 targets for 69 yards. He did not find the end zone.

Given that Week 15 was the semifinals for many fantasy football players, Smith left a lot of his “owners” disappointed. A four-catch, 69-yard performance is not going to carry many teams to the fantasy finals, and those who have Smith on their team let him hear about it after the game. He was quick to fire back.

About an hour before Smith sent his angry tweet, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was saying “you’re welcome” to his fantasy owners after he kicked six field goals. It’s interesting to see how differently teammates can feel about fantasy football after the same game. But don’t worry, Torrey — Ray Rice knows exactly how you feel.

H/T Jimmy Traina’s The Big Buzz

Week 15 fantasy pickups include Toby Gerhart, Jordan Todman, Da’Rick Rogers

dennis-pitta-ravensFor those of you who have made it to this point, congratulations. By now almost all fantasy football leagues have begun their playoffs. If you’re still in the hunt, you still need to be working the waiver wire. There were a ton of injuries across the NFL last weekend, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. We’re here to help. Here are your Week 15 fantasy pickups.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings: Adrian Peterson received good news this week in that he reportedly avoided any fractures or structural damage with his foot injury. However, he has been wearing a walking boot. The Vikings are 3-9-1 and out of the playoff hunt. They’re not going to risk Peterson suffering a serious injury, so he’s questionable at best for this weekend’s game against the Eagles. Gerhart would handle the bulk of the carries in AP’s absence and could make for a solid spot start.

Jordan Todman, RB, Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew suffered a hamstring injury last Thursday night against the Texans. While he says the injury is nothing serious, hamstring tweaks can be problematic for running backs. Todman carried the ball seven times for just 14 yards when MJD went down against Houston, but he could be in for more work against Buffalo’s 26th-ranked rush defense this weekend. It’s a tasty matchup and Todman would make for an intriguing start if Jones-Drew is unable to go.

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Jordan Todman a fantasy possibility after MJD injury

Jordan TodmanJordan Todman could be a fantasy possibility for Week 15 depending on the status of Maurice Jones-Drew.

MJD was having his best game of the season on Thursday night before exiting the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 27-20 win over the Houston Texans in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. Todman came in and replaced him before briefly leaving with a cramp and then returning.

Todman finished with 14 yards on 7 carries. MJD had 103 yards on 14 carries before his injury. The 100-yard game was his first of the season.

Though the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t have the greatest offensive line or team, they have shown signs of improvement during their three-game winning streak. Todman won’t put you over the top if you’re still involved in fantasy football — playoffs or otherwise — but he will probably be worth an add if Jones-Drew is out for Week 15 against the Buffalo Bills.

Week 13 fantasy pickups include Benny Cunningham, Nate Burleson, Montee Ball

nate-burlesonFor most of you, Week 13 is the final week of the regular season in fantasy football. That means if you are on the playoff bubble and need to win this week, this is the most crucial week of the season. Bench the wrong guy and it could very well be “see ya next year.” Leave the wrong guy on waivers and you might be kicking yourself until next August. Hopefully, we can help. Here are your Week 13 fantasy pickups.

Benny Cunningham, RB, Rams: Zac Stacy left Sunday’s win over the Bears with a concussion. Prior to his departure, he was completely shredding Chicago’s porous run defense. Cunningham took over after Stacy went out and did the same, racking up 109 yards and scoring a touchdown on 13 carries. Against the Niners this week, it will not be that simple. Still, Stacy owners have no choice. If you’re in the playoff hunt, Stacy has probably helped get you there. With his status still up in the air, Cunningham needs to be added.

Nate Burleson, WR, Lions: Burleson was out a bit longer than expected while recovering from a broken arm, but the extra rest appears to have served him well. With Calvin Johnson facing the usual double-teams against the Bucs, Burleson worked the middle of the field and racked up seven catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. Burleson is a particularly solid add in PPR leagues, as he has caught at least six passes in every game he has played this year. Matthew Stafford trusts Burleson, and he should continue to benefit from Megatron getting all of the attention.

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