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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Twins double up Orioles Monday night after erasing Baltimore's early lead

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USA Today Sports

Twins double up Orioles Monday night after erasing Baltimore's early lead

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Max Kepler homered and drove in four runs, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco each had a career-high four hits and the Minnesota Twins roared back to beat the Baltimore Orioles 14-7 Monday night.

Minnesota trailed 5-0 in the second inning and 6-2 entering the fifth before cranking up the offense against Ubaldo Jimenez and an ineffective Baltimore bullpen.

A two-run double by Kepler helped the Twins knot the score in the fifth, Minnesota sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run sixth and Sano added a two-run homer in the ninth.

Joe Mauer had three hits, two RBIs and scored twice for the Twins, who reached season highs in runs and hits (21).

Adam Jones hit a three-run drive in the second inning off Kyle Gibson (1-4) for Baltimore.

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It was his 125th home run at Camden Yards, moving him out of a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for the most in the history of the 26-year-old ballpark.

That proved to be the highlight of an otherwise ugly night for the Orioles.

Jimenez frittered away a five-run lead and missed a chance to earn his first win since April 19. The right-hander allowed six runs and nine hits in four-plus innings, a performance that lifted his ERA to an unsightly 7.17.

Jimenez was replaced by Tyler Wilson (2-2), who gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Down 5-0, the Twins got an RBI groundout from Mauer in third before Kepler led off the fourth with a home run.

It was 6-2 before Minnesota bunched together five hits in the fifth. After Kepler chased Jimenez with a two-run double, Eduardo Escobar hit a sacrifice fly and Polanco tied it with an RBI single.

Highlights of the Twins' sixth inning included a tiebreaking double by Mauer, a two-run double by Escobar, an error by second baseman Jonathan Schoop and a run-inducing balk when Stefan Crichton dropped the ball in the midst of his windup.

Recalled from Triple-A Rochester before the game, Gibson gave up six runs in five innings, but nevertheless earned his first victory in seven starts this season.

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Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

In 2016, Chris Thompson simply needed to prove to Jay Gruden that he could handle 16 NFL games.

Now, looking ahead to 2017, the fifth-year running back hopes to show his head coach he can shoulder 16 NFL games and a larger workload.

"I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year," Thompson said Monday at the Redskins Charitable Golf Foundation. "[Gruden] knows now that I'm healthy and I can stay healthy, which I think that was one of his biggest concerns. So now he sees that I can handle the load, I think that I'll get a lot more opportunities this year."

Last season was by far the best in the 26-year-old's career. He played a full slate of games after playing in just 19 over his first three seasons combined, and he set career highs in rushing attempts (68), yards (356), receptions (49), receiving yards (349) and total touchdowns (5).

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He also held up well in pass protection, a key duty for him as the team's third-down running back. And it's all of those qualities — being able to contribute on handoffs and with catches while also providing help in keeping Kirk Cousins upright — that make him an excellent fit for a popular NFL duty.

The most excellent in that duty, actually, if you ask Gruden. 

"I think Chris Thompson's role is big," he said. "When you're talking about third downs, that's the most important down in football. There's nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He's got a huge role on this football team." 

Gruden went on to indicate that an increase in Thompson's responsibilities is likely coming, though No. 25 will still do the majority of his work when the offense needs him most.

"Whether he does some more stuff on first- and second-down will be determined," he said. "I'm sure he will. But he's so valuable on third-down that I gotta keep him in that role for now."

A 2013 fifth-round pick who came into the league with a history of injuries, Thompson has now fully gained the trust of his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-8 running back may be small in stature, but the Redskins know he's not small in importance.  

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