Fantasy Football: Rolando McClain comeback is on

Rolando McClain has defied the odds and his own retirement to swap the fantasy scrapheap for Dynasty prospect after his first two performances…

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Rolando McClain is proving he belongs in the NFL after retiring … twice. (Photo by Chuck Kirman/The VC Star)

When the Dallas Cowboys added Rolando McClain to their roster to help fill the void left by Sean Lee’s injury, my immediate reaction was a laugh-snort and a shake of my head at how desperate Jerry Jones had become.

I’m not laughing anymore.

The reason for my prior skepticism is we had been here before with McClain. He was a highly heralded linebacker from Alabama who was drafted eighth overall in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He turned in a good season on the field in 2011. In 2012, McClain started to clash with the coaching staff and saw his playing time reduced. He was eventually cut by the team, and said he was “mentally done.”

The Ravens signed McClain in April 2013, but the talented linebacker didn’t even make it to training camp. He “retired” – his word – from the team in May 2013. He was just 23 years old.

So when the Cowboys traded a draft pick to the Ravens for McClain’s rights, it drew snickers from more people than just me. It seemed more like a stunt than a serious comeback.

Not only had McClain earned himself a starting role, he is capitalizing on it and playing very well for the Cowboys. In the first game this year, McClain played 44 of 58 snaps against the 49ers, and recorded 7 tackles and an assist. He was used even more in the second game, seeing the field for all but two of Dallas’s snaps against the Titans. In that game, he had 5 tackles, 2 assists, a sack and a nifty interception.

The fantasy implications here are far-reaching. First, the Dallas middle linebacker position is bound to put up good fantasy numbers. With McClain playing 49 of 51 snaps last week, he has solidified that role. Dallas is bound to be tested by nearly every team with runs up the middle, considering how terrible the defense looked in the preseason. McClain stands to have a lot of first opportunities at tackles, and if he succeeds, he could actually bring safety Barry Church’s numbers back down to earth this year as well.

In redraft leagues, McClain is worth a very high waiver priority or a lot of free agent bidding bucks. You’re not likely to see many better opportunities come along in 2014 for a middle linebacker who has star potential and isn’t in a rotation. The time to bid is now.

Looking longer term, it will be interesting to see what happens in 2015 when Sean Lee returns (provided he can make it to opening day healthy.) Will McClain stick with the Cowboys, or end up on another team with linebacker woes? Did he catch lightning in a bottle, or can he replicate success with another team? For dynasty leagues, I’d urge a little caution when it comes to McClain. However, just like with the Cowboys, he’s earned his way onto the field and should be rostered on your fantasy team.

Follow me on Twitter at @SteveIDP or leave a comment on this article.

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