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First Down: Cuts like a knife! Surgery clouds RGIII’s 2013 draft standing, keeper value

Brad Evans
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RGIII's 2013 draft stock has fallen, and it can't get up. (USAT)

Overnight Tuesday while most of us were dreaming about trysts with Brent Musburger obsession Katherine Webb, nightmarish details leaked from Redskins HQ about the status of one of fantasy's most coveted players.

First reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Robert Griffin III, who turned the fantasy world on its collective ear posting the fifth-best per game output among quarterbacks, was forced to undergo full knee reconstruction Wednesday morning, his second such procedure in four years. His recovery is expected to take 6-8 months, but sources close to Mortensen expressed confidence the Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner will be ready for game-action come September.

In a far more sinister way, Lucifer Shanahan struck again.

Whether the chewed up turf of FedEx Field, Shany’s shadiness or Griffin’s skewed sense of invincibility is to blame, it doesn’t matter. What’s done is done, an unfortunate turn of events that greatly complicates the rising star’s future effectiveness.

For keeper league owners faced with critical offseason decisions, the news presents unwanted dilemmas and uneasiness. Those heavily invested in the prized passer sincerely hope Dr. James Andrews injected Adrian Peterson cells into Griffin during the procedure. A quick, smooth recovery is highly desired.

Overall, gamers should remain upbeat about the prognosis. Recall in 2009 RGIII, then at Baylor, experienced a similar setback, only to complete 67 percent of his passes and account for 30 touchdowns the following season. He, like Peterson, could be one of those freakish athletes blessed with the quick-healing powers of Wolverine. Even if he doesn't,  a second ACL injury isn’t a death knell in this day and age of advanced medicine and rehabilitation methods.

Assuming he is at or near full strength by Week 1, skittish fanatics will still dodge him on draft day. Their trepidation is understandable. Until real game action gets underway, it's impossible to predict if Griffin's explosiveness returns, especially initially. If Vegas offered an over/under on his 2013 rushing yards and set the line at 499.5, I would be inclined to bet the low.

Whether he loses a step or not, look for the Shanahans to modify Washington’s read-option offense, molding the QB into more of a pocket passer. And when he does choose to tuck and run, bank on controlled, dash-to-the-sidelines scampers. For the sake of the club’s future and to avoid further reputational damage in the public eye, Shany must exercise caution. If that happens, it doesn’t mean RGIII will suddenly become  (Insert name of sloth-footed one-dimensional passer). Expectations of another 815 rushing yards and seven ground scores, however, must be tempered.

Though the setback is a knock against his value, it isn’t a devastating blow. Fred Davis will be back and it’s very likely 'Skins owner Dan Snyder will break the bank for a top-flight free agent wideout such as Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace or Dwayne Bowe. Couple one of those guys with Pierre Garcon and Griffin’s prowess as a passer increases exponentially. Recall his motley crew of pass catchers dropped a ridiculous number of passes this year. Under that scenario, whatever fantasy worth the signal caller loses on the ground could be made up through the air. Keep in mind his 65.6 completion percentage this season was the third-best in the league. Roughly 3,800 passing yards and 25-30 passing touchdowns wouldn’t be out of the question. Chip in an additional 400-450 rushing yards and 3-4 ground scores, and he would easily be a revered QB1.

For now, I’m ranking RGIII just outside the top QB tier (No. 5 overall), behind ultra-elites Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Tom  Brady and Aaron Rodgers, and one spot ahead of Matt Ryan. In 12-team redraft leagues, he should be targeted sometime in Round 3, though an early investment in a dependable QB2 (e.g. Eli Manning, Matt Schaub or Andy Dalton) would be a necessity. Handcuffing Kirk Cousins later is another sound option.

Undoubtedly, RGIII will be the most discussed player this offseason. His recovery, like Peterson’s before him, will be under the microscope. Selfishly, as an ardent supporter and fan, I hope it’s just as extraordinary.

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise and be sure to check him along with Andy Behrens, Brandon Funston, Scott Pianowski and Dalton Del Don on The Fantasy Freak Show (Now on iTunes) every Friday at 5 PM PT/8 PM ET on Yahoo! Sports Radio

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