Fantasy Football stock watch: Offense

Fantasy Football stock watch: Offense

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Kevin Smith, RB, Lions: There's nothing special about his skill set but Smith might wind up being Detroit's starter simply because he's the last back standing. Concussion-prone Jahvid Best is unlikely to be ready for the first third of the year, and Mikel Leshoure will miss two games because of a drug suspension. Smith knows how to play in multiple packages and he can catch the ball, and that makes him a keen fit in the Lions offense.

Austin Collie, WR, Colts: We gave him a tangential upgrade earlier this month because of our faith in Andrew Luck, and that was backed up nicely by the first Indianapolis preseason result (Luck, in particular, was outstanding). And when you consider how terrible the Colts defense looks right now, you can imagine a lot of high-scoring affairs in Indy this year. Go where the carnival is. Go where the points are.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: You need to be careful with the flow of August news and training camp slants - everyone looks terrific, everyone is in outstanding shape, etc. It's a Mad Lib. But sources we trust are giving us strong reports on Gates's condition, and No. 85 is more important than ever in San Diego given that Ryan Mathews is dinged up and Vincent Jackson left town. If Gates can stay on the field, he might be able to post stats that closely resemble Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. He's still that much of a matchup nightmare, and when you get open, Philip Rivers will find you.

John Skelton, QB, Cardinals: Cheers to the Arizona management, which is not going to hand Kevin Kolb the starting QB job simply because of his bloated contract. Skelton is a more raw prospect but he's also more exciting to us - he'll hold the ball longer and he has a better intermediate and deep arm. If you're tied to Larry Fitzgerald, you want Skelton taking the snaps that matter.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Chiefs: New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll knows all about Hillis - Daboll called the plays two years back when Hillis went off for the Browns. And Daboll was just as impressive last year, getting control of Miami's offense and turning Reggie Bush into a surprise star. While we also think good things about Jamaal Charles into the new year, we get the idea Hillis could score 9-12 touchdowns without much trouble. And if Charles ever gets hurt, Hillis might be a Top 10 fantasy back again. Last year's zero, this year's hero.

Danny Amendola, WR, Rams: The St. Louis passing game might be the worst one in the NFC right now, but someone is going to make a run at 70 or more catches, with Amendola leading the way. We've also heard very positive things about Steve Smith, the former Giant slot machine. Success in fantasy football depends on knowing all the depth charts, all the situations. Highlight these low-buzz targets for PPR formats.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings: Here's another modern, hybrid tight end to get familiar with, a freakish athlete who will see lots of snaps as a de-facto wide receiver. That's how you want your fantasy tight end deployed; forget the blocking and trench work, go out and run some patterns. Rudolph scored three touchdowns in the final third of the 2011 season, and he might be ready for a 750-yard, eight-score breakout as a sophomore.

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Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: His offensive line was exposed for all to see on Monday night, and there's been a non-stop flow of bad news with the name receivers here (Miles Austin is dinged up; Dez Bryant is a wild card; Jason Witten has a spleen injury). Given the depth of the quarterback position in fantasy this year, why would you want to waste a mid-round pick on Romo, tied to this uncertain offense? The Cowboys will probably regret letting Laurent Robinson get away.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets: Could the setup in New York be any worse? Sanchez has a mediocre running game to help him, a spotty cast of receivers (Santonio Holmes cannot be trusted and then it drops off), and the offensive line has issues as well. And to make things even more messy, Sanchez has to share practice reps with Tim Tebow and a gadget offense. Do the Jets want their franchise quarterback to fail? Sometimes it seems that way.

Sidney Rice, WR, Seahawks: He's been slow to recover from offseason shoulder surgeries, which tells you why the club brought in aging Terrell Owens. And the most reliable wideout on the current roster isn't Rice, but rather second-year target Doug Baldwin. We're going to slot Rice outside our Top 50 on the next set of receiver ranks, which probably means we won't get him in any league. That's the idea.

Roy Helu, RB, Redskins: He's the most talented back on the Washington roster, but little good that does him now that he has a sore Achilles' and a buried spot on the depth chart. The summer dream was fun while it lasted. No one who writes off a Shanahan Backfield has regretted it in recent seasons.

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Rare spinal conditon forced Zach Orr to retire

Rare spinal conditon forced Zach Orr to retire

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens inside linebacker Zach Orr had no choice but to retire, after a physical examination detected a spinal condition that made it extremely dangerous for him to continue his career.

“I have a condition that I was born with,” Orr said Friday, making his formal retirement announcement during a press conference. “I’m forced to walk away from the game of football.”

Orr said a CAT scan revealed a rare congenital abnormality, and that the top of his spinal column had never fully developed. Orr was never aware of his issue until he suffered a shoulder injury against the Steelers on Christmas that led to further testing.

While Orr never imagined he would retire at age 24, he felt blessed to be leaving the game before his condition led to a catastrophic injury. Orr has been playing football with his spinal condition since he was nine years old, and said doctors could not explain how he had played so long without his issue being detected.

“When I first found out the news, it was shocking,” Orr said. “Football is something I’ve done my whole life.”

Orr said retirement was his only option, because he would never pass an NFL physical. He also said that reports the Ravens tried to talk him out of retirement were inaccurate.

“They’ve supported me through this,” said Orr, who added that one of his high school teammates was paralyzed playing football.

Orr kept his composure during the press conference, but admitted he took the news hard at first. One of those emotional moments came after a telephone conversation with recently retired wide receiver Steve Smith Sr.

“I broke down a couple of times, as recent as a couple of days ago,” Orr said.

Three of Orr’s teammates attended Friday’s press conference – linebackers C. J. Mosley and Albert McClellan, and safety Eric Weddle. General manager Ozzie Newsome, coach John Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Dean Pees, and linebackers coach Don Martindale were also in attendance. Orr is one of the most popular and respected players in the locker room. An undrafted free agent in 2014, Orr made the team as a special teams standout and earned a starting job for the first time this season. He led the Ravens in tackles (130), finishing 10th in the NFL in that department.

Orr had a bright future as a player. Now, that future will head in another direction.

“Instead of asking – ‘Why me?, ask ‘What’s next?’” Orr said.

“I’m very proud that he’s been a Raven,” said Harbaugh. “I can’t wait to see what the next door holds.”

Related: Ravens name their new offensive line coach

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Redskins D-lineman says team has 'no idea' what'll happen with Kirk Cousins

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@Francis_Sports/USA TODAY

Redskins D-lineman says team has 'no idea' what'll happen with Kirk Cousins

All around the DMV, people are searching for clues as to what the Redskins are going to do with Kirk Cousins.

Lines are being read between. Conclusions are being jumped to. Yet still, no one truly sees how the situation is going to play out — and that includes Cousins' teammates.

"No one outside of the front office knows what they're going to do at any time," defensive lineman A.J. Francis, who has a reserve/futures contract with Washington, told Redskins Insider J.P. Finlay in a recent #RedskinsTalk podcast. 

"I've learned that through all the teams I've been on, crazy moves I've seen, whether it be who they let go, or who they sign back for how much, or who they drafted. You never know. And to say you think you have an idea about what's going to happen is wrong."

MORE REDSKINS: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

There are only a few finite ways the Cousins dilemma can play out (this isn't an M. Night Shyamalan movie, after all). The Redskins can put the franchise tag on him again, they can look to hammer out an extension, they can let him walk or they can try and trade him. 

But, for those hoping to get the scoop from someone who shared the locker room with the quarterback for parts of the last season, sorry to say, but he's got nothin'.

"It's all up to the two or three people that really have a say in the decision making process and they're going to come up with a decision whenever they want to and not a second before," Francis said.

Guess it's time to get back to playing interviews with Cousins in reverse to hear if a secret message is being glossed over, as the wait continues for some news to break between the two sides.

For more from this episode of #RedskinsTalk, including Francis' thoughts on the team's defensive coordinator search and his opinion on Finlay's faltering athletic ability, click below. And don't forget to subscribe, either.