Brownout in North Jersey?
A not-so-shocking occurrence in fantasy football: A running back dominates play in a brief window and is widely grabbed, with the promise of a weekly role, only to lose grip due to some mildly foreseen circumstance. In this case, a mix of skill woes, lost opportunity and injury jeopardizes Andre Brown's long-term value and restores rookie David Wilson's fantasy relevance.
Though I had doubts about his future, I jumped on Brown when he resurfaced after years of injury- and depth-chart-fueled suppression in the New York Giants backfield. Wilson had fumbled away the chance to become the No. 2 back out of the gate. Brown stepped up and powered forward as a more explosive and decisive version of Brandon Jacobs, which gave him plenty of cred as an Ahmad Bradshaw complement.
Bradshaw returned from the sidelines in Week 4, and it was revealed the G-Men were skeptical of Brown's pass protection. You could tell Brown's hopes were tied to the Giants' game plan and flow in their contests against the Carolina Panthers in a Bradshaw-less Week 3 (run run run against that weak front) and the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 (work around an effective Wide 9 by focusing more on pass formations and Bradshaw, which, as hinted before, cost Brown plenty of snaps).
In Week 5, Brown, as running backs are wont to do, left with an injury. Turned out his head was fuzzy. He'll need to pass concussion tests to play in Week 6, and it's a solid bet he'll miss it.
Unfortunate, but good timing for Wilson: Though his lack of ball security put him in the doghouse, he's steadily regained the respect of the coaching staff with the playmaking ability he's displayed over the last few weeks, both on kick returns and in putting a bow on New York's blowout win Sunday with a 40-yard scoring scamper. Tom Coughlin doesn't give handouts to many, if any, rookies. They have to earn his trust. Wilson is creeping toward the inner circle.
At first glance, this has the potential for a revival of New York's 2008 "Earth, Wind and Fire," when Bradshaw, Jacobs and Derrick Ward formed one of the best trios in recent memory, with the then-up-and-coming Bradshaw as the youngest member
As for the potential 2012 three-headed monster, Kevin Gilbride recently suggested that a "hot hand" situation would dictate who gets to solo and when, with Wilson serving as the old-school Bradshaw in this case. The 30 carries New York gave Bradshaw in his monster effort against Cleveland on Sunday is a lofty precedent for the injury-prone back's weekly business, and a Brown-less backfield would create the need for another understudy to step up.
Of course, if Wilson slides in for Brown this Sunday or as the permanent No. 2 down the road, he'll need to consistently shield Eli in aerial downs, something the Virginia Tech alum struggled to do in camp. Plus, Wilson's touchdown came in landfill time against a weak Cleveland Browns defense.
When Brown returns, it'll be hard to deny him the changeup work he had. Still, now that the Giants have a palpable ground game, Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride are in a better position this year to take what the defense gives them, so the lotto ticket of a big Wilson game shouldn't be ignored. Coughlin would be right to work Wilson into a handful of touches per game at minimum, especially with Hakeem Nicks (foot, knee) still banged up and the secondary receivers, while holding much promise, fluctuate in effectiveness depending on matchups.
In taking the chance that Brown doesn't regain full strength for another few weeks, Wilson looks like a solid pickup for desperate bye sufferers. He was probably discarded in many leagues after his Week 1 exile. Beware, however, that the Big Blue faces some solid pass rushers over the next month-plus with the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals looming before NY's Week 11 vacation. Ergo, Wilson may not get as many touches as desired unless he proves himself in the shield game sooner than expected - possible, but not guaranteed.
Of course, if Brown must remain sidelined, like he's had to in the past for extended periods, or fails to seal Eli's pocket, the exciting Wilson could become a prime flex play, at least in workload, for much of the season's second half. Owning both to hedge your bets makes sense.
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About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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