Victor Cruz reportedly tears patella tendon; likely out for season

 

The scoreline wasn’t the only hardship the New York Giants had to suffer through last night, as it also appears that star wide receiver Victor Cruz is done for the season. Cruz left the game in the third quarter after tearing a patella tendon in his right knee, and was seen sobbing as he was carted off the field.

Although Cruz hasn’t played as well in the first six weeks of the season as he has in previous years, his loss will be a big blow to New York as they look to bounce back from a 27-0 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.

Down 20-0 at halftime, the Giants elected to try for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Eagles’ three-yard line.

Cruz got open in the back-right corner of the end zone and saw the ball come his way. But at he leaped to catch it, Cruz’s leg appeared to twist. He immediately reached for his right knee whilst still in mid-air. The pass fell incomplete, and the wide receiver fell to the ground grimacing in obvious pain.

Cruz’s fantasy owners may now be forced to look in the direction of rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who may well be thrust into a starting role for the Giants for their Week 7 matchup on the road in Dallas.

Beckham, the Giants’ first-round selection in this year’s draft, had four receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown in his debut against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, and followed that up with two catches for 28 yards against the Eagles. He did create enough separation to warrant a better stat line, but the ineptitude of Eli Manning and the rest of the Giants’ offense meant that his play was wasted.

There may be other options on waivers to replace Cruz, but Beckham should be a direct substitution for a player who has only had two notable fantasy outings this season.

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Rookie Gems: Kelvin Benjamin

 

The Carolina Panthers had a very impressive campaign in 2013, winning the NFC South with a 12-4 record before losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the Playoffs. The defence was the bedrock of the team, which featured NFL Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly. Their offense wasn’t as hot. Carolina were one of the better rushing teams in the league, but they had an anaemic passing attack, which ranked twenty-ninth in the NFL.

If things couldn’t get worse for Cam Newton and company, the team lost all four of its top receivers to free agency – Brandon LaFell, Domenik Hixon, Ted Ginn Jr, and long-time Panthers talisman Steve Smith. The only non-running back left on the roster that had ten or more catches last year was veteran tight end Greg Olson. The loss of so many pass catchers gave Carolina’s front office a headache in the offseason, but they managed to add a couple of pieces to give their quarterback something to work with. One of those pieces was Florida State University’s Kelvin Benjamin, who they drafted with the twenty-eighth overall pick in May. The Panthers also signed former Jet and Steeler Jerricho Cotchery, wide receiver Jason Avant, and tight end Ed Dickson.

Out of all those additions, the one expected to have the biggest long-term impact is draftee Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin, who was part of the Florida State Seminoles’ BCS National Championship-winning team in 2013 is a big-bodied wide receiver, and has an 83-inch wingspan. Carolina will be able to use him as a physical mismatch against defensive backs, and his large frame could become a big target for Cam Newton in the red zone. At FSU, he also showed good strength after the catch, so he may see some short routes with potential to gain further yards after the catch.

One knock on Benjamin, however, is his speed. The first round pick doesn’t have the elite speed that other receivers do which could limit his deep threat and make it difficult for him to get separation in tight, press coverage. Benjamin will also head straight to the top of the depth chart in Carolina, so he may have more on his plate than most rookies would. Whether he can deal with the pressure and expectation put on him in his first year could also affect his production on the field. If he does perform well, then Benjamin could well become a valuable fantasy asset for his owners.

He should see a decent amount of playing time in a Panthers uniform this year, but that is more down to a lack of offensive talent than Benjamin being ready to take the leap as an everyday starter in the NFL.

In fantasy football terms, Kelvin Benjamin’s stock won’t be as high as Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans’, which means that he could slide into one of the later rounds. However, his touchdown production could be higher, due to Benjamin’s more fantasy-friendly situation. He could be great value after rounds nine or ten, and his floor should be solid fantasy wide receiver depth for use on a bye week, to bring in if there is an injury, or if he becomes more productive than one of the starters.

My 2014 projection for Kelvin Benjamin is around 60 catches for 700 yards and nine touchdowns. Here are some highlights from his time at Florida State University:

Rookie Gems: Bishop Sankey

 

Last month, Michael Fabiano labelled first-year running back Bishop Sankey as “the number one rookie in fantasy football.” It was a bold claim to make about the new Tennessee Titan, but is the statement likely to be correct?

The fifty-fourth overall pick in this year’s draft has already been attracting a level of expectation, with most predicting Sankey to be the starting running back in week one. If you also look at the situation that Bishop Sankey is entering, then all signs point to a productive season – provided he lives up to his potential.

When Chris Johnson was released in April, it opened up a number one spot on the Titans’ depth chart. With Tennessee having used a second-round pick on a running back, it seems as though they would expect Sankey to fill the void left by CJ2K. His plight is only helped by his competition being Leon Washington and Shonn Greene. Dexter McCluster may also be used at the position, but he is largely a special teams player, so it is unlikely the former Chief would take the lead role. If Sankey lives up to the hype, he should be able to take the starting role.

The uncertain quarterback situation in Tennessee is another factor which could help Bishop Sankey’s fantasy value. If he manages to stay healthy, Jake Locker will probably take the field as the starting quarterback on opening day. The Titans also have backups Tyler Wilson and Charlie Whitehurst, as well as their sixth-round pick from this year, Zach Mettenberger. It is unlikely that any of those three will unseat Locker, but with his history of poor health and mediocre play, the Titans’ coaching staff may look to run the ball more. So essentially, the team’s running backs could see a lot of the ball in 2014.

But none of that should discount the talent and ability of the Washington State product. At 5’10” and 203 lbs, Bishop Sankey is a powerful, elusive runner, and is especially effective when running between the tackles. What should help Sankey’s play is Tennessee’s offensive line. The Titans have spent their two most recent first round picks on linemen – guard Chance Warmack in 2013, and tackle Taylor Lewan, who was drafted ahead of Sankey in this year’s draft. Lewan will surely add to an already formidable unit, who should be able to create plenty of holes for the running game.

Planning to have a rookie as an RB1 or RB2 is probably not a great idea, due to the risk involved. It may work if you prioritise receivers over running backs. Bishop Sankey, however, could be a low-end second running back option, if not a good choice for an RB3. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sankey drafted in the first six or seven rounds in most leagues, although he won’t be a high pick.

It would seem that the best case scenario for him is that he has a similar rookie year to Eddie Lacy and cracks the top 15 or 20 fantasy backs. Worst case – he has a steady year like Montee Ball did in 2013, and is then predicted to be a breakout star in his sophomore season.

Rookie Gems: Ka’Deem Carey

Position: Running Back

College: University of Arizona

Age: 21 (30/10/92)

Height: 5’10”

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 196 lbs

Statistics courtesy of ESPN.

 

The next rookie I’m going to evaluate in the ‘Rookie Gems’ series is the University of Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey. The running back has had a couple of productive seasons with the Wildcats and, if he finds the right system, could be a late-round steal and a productive fantasy back in 2014.

Carey is a three down running back who concluded his college career with 16 straight 100-yard games. He is durable and doesn’t seem to mind contact, and his cutback ability makes him an elusive runner. One problem with his game is that he isn’t really a breakaway player. He officially ran a 4.70 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which isn’t very good. Ka’Deem Carey is more likely to move the chains than to hit a home run. However, he does have impressive traits, which are featured on his game tape below.

ESPN’s Christopher Harris rated Ka’Deem Carey as the draft’s best ‘all-around’ running back prospect, and compares Carey to Giovanni Bernard and Ahmad Bradshaw. Although I think that Ryan Lownes’ comparison of Ka’Deem Carey to the St. Louis Rams’ Zac Stacy is more accurate.

One big question mark over Carey’s head is his demeanour, following the opening game suspension he received last season. Taking a player who has had off-the-field problems in the past is always a risk. In spite of that suspension, Carey put up some good numbers in 2013, rushing for 1,885 yards, with 19 touchdowns – even if it fell short of his previous campaign, in which he rushed for 44 yards more, with an additional four touchdowns. His play in both 2012 and 2013 resulted in two consensus All-American honours.

If Ka’Deem Carey lands with a team where he should be able to see a decent amount of playing time, then he may well be worth drafting late on. I would expect him to be a waiver pickup if he starts to produce in 2014, but there will probably be players out there willing to take a gamble on Carey in fantasy drafts, who will be hoping that he pans out.