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Andy Richardson

Checking in with the Index Experts Leagues

Injuries and kicker cuts take toll on magazine teams

In the preseason magazine, the Experts Draft and Auction Leagues are assembled in mid-May. Has to happen that way to meet the publishing deadlines. But these aren't mock drafts and auctions; we play the leagues out over the course of the season in no-transaction, best-ball formats.

It's fun (or painful) to look at those leagues at the start of the season and see who got hurt, or helped, the most by the preseason. Players get hurt, rookies step up or flop, backups emerge. Some observations on what the last few months have wrought:

Some teams could be taking zeroes at kicker. Nick Novak, Roberto Aguayo and Josh Lambo are among the kickers selected in the draft or auction (or both) who are currently unemployed. Holding his breath (maybe? Probably not) is Frank Rotella, Fantasy Index Open winner two years ago, who selected only one kicker -- Carolina's Graham Gano. Gano is one of two kickers on Carolina's current roster, and there's an outside chance he'll be released and not have a job this season. Nobody cares about kickers until you don't have one and take a zero each week rather than an easy 7-10 points.

Vlad Sedler looks stacked at running back. The Rotowire representative drew the top pick in the draft, selecting David Johnson. He then pulled starting running backs out of the fourth (Dalvin Cook), seventh (Ameer Abdullah) and 11th (Robert Kelley) rounds. Back in May, none of the three looked as solid as they do today. Sedler then tossed a 17th-round pick at Rex Burkhead, and it would not be terribly surprising if he wound up leading the Patriots in rushing. On the flip side, two of the four running backs Mike Nazarek drafted in the first 10 rounds were Spencer Ware (hurt) and Latavius Murray (probable backup).

Two different teams need big seasons from Derek Carr. In both the draft and auction leagues, the owner who selected Carr only has one other quarterback on his roster: Ryan Tannehill. He's out for the season, so those teams will definitely be taking a zero on Carr's bye, and if Carr get hurt, well, their seasons are basically over. Probably won't fare too well in tough divisional matchups against the Broncos and Kansas City, either.

Gronkowski's health is key. In a regular league, if you selected Rob Gronkowski and he gets hurt, you can replace him. Not the case here, so David Dodds has to hope Gronk stays healthy, or he'll be relying on Coby Fleener and Jared Cook. Those guys are at least working with good quarterbacks, but Fleener and Cook are pretty mediocre players and could easily be left out of game plans each week.

Another Rotowire team has receiver worries. While Sedler's draft team is strong at running back, Tim Heaney's auction team looks shaky at wide receiver. Cameron Meredith is out for the year, Breshad Perriman had a poor preseason, Jordan Matthews was hurt all of August and is now a Bill. That's three of his six wideouts, joining Jordy Nelson, T.Y. Hilton (Luck?) and DeSean Jackson (already possible chaffing in his role in Tampa Bay's offense). Mike Nease's auction team also has concerns, since five of his seven wideouts are rookies Corey Davis and John Ross (quiet, injury-marred preseasons), Kevin White (ditto), Quincy Enunwa (IR) and John Brown (health questions).

Scott Pianowski might want to swing a trade between his draft and auction teams. The Yahoo Sports writer has good running back depth in the draft: Ajayi, C.J. Anderson, Gillislee, Woodhead and maybe even Oakland No. 2 DeAndre Washington. In the auction, though, he lost Spencer Ware, and his other four backs will be in committees at best and backups at worst: Mark Ingram, Tevin Coleman, James White and Theo Riddick. By the way, no points for receptions in this league, dramatically hurting the values of both White and Riddick.

We'll be scoring both leagues as the season moves along, and see how this war of attrition plays out.

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