As I work my way through offseason projections and fantasy draft preparations, I have found two players standing out but going in opposite directions.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt is on the rise - substantially, in my eyes - and Cleveland Browns rusher Trent Richardson (leg) is slowly working his way down my draft board.
Britt has the talent to shine in the NFL as a No. 1 receiver for the Titans. He is finally healthy entering offseason workouts and doesn't have any lingering legal woes hanging over his head at the moment. While Britt seems to be capable of derailing this upward trajectory at any given second, I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now.
Titans quarterback Jake Locker is entering his third season and could be in a make-or-break year. He is almost six months removed from shoulder surgery and claims to be as good as ever before the injury. I don't think Locker will take a huge step forward this season, but even ample improvements should prove fruitful for Britt's fantasy standing.
Britt on the rise
It is all too easy to become caught up in the thought of a poor quarterback situation making a wide receiver less impactful. Yet, we have plenty of examples through the years of meager QB play with high-end fantasy receiver rewards coming in tow. Britt should be Locker's go-to guy, especially in the red zone. Tennessee finally has legitimate weapons around Britt to help take some pressure off him, too.
I am all in on Britt being a strong No. 3 fantasy gamble. He has the ability to achieve high-end WR2 status in 2013, and if he falls short you spent only a midround pick on him.
On the mend
For as much as I love Britt this year, Richardson is becoming almost equally as unappealing to me. A leg injury - what I understand to be a possible stress reaction, or "hot spot" - has the second-year back on the shelf until at least early August. He will miss valuable training camp reps to learn the offense first-hand. Keep in mind this is a new system he has to learn, and one that rarely uses a true fullback. He he is reportedly dealing with migraines.
Assuming he can return for the duration of the preseason and displays no ill-effects from his absence, Richardson is still a No. 1, albeit risky, fantasy running back. My optimism for him enjoying a breakout season is waning fast, and I suspect fantasy owners of T-Rich will be forced to suffer with him being inactive a few times in 2013.
It sure seems like Cleveland's front office has little confidence in Richardson's ability to stay healthy. They acquired running back Dion Lewis and re-signed Brandon Jackson to bolster their depth. Chris Ogbonnaya and Montario Hardesty also return for insurance purposes.
At one point I thought Richardson could be a top-three fantasy back, although now I am leaning more toward valuing him somewhere between No. 7 and No. 12. I realize that isn't a big drop-off, but when you're looking at banking your first-round pick on an already-injured player it becomes quite amplified. Be sure to adequately address your running back depth if you select him.