Bernard Berrian suddenly has WR1 potential in some formats.
Just when the Vikings’offensive situation started to clear up with the return of Brett Favre and Percy Harvin, top target Sidney Rice goes down for at least the first half of the season. And so another cloudy haze hangs over Minneapolis with regard to the Vikes’aerial attack. But that’s just the headliner on this week’s Stock Market report. For the most part, preseason performances —and not off-the-field news —are dictating who is rising and who is falling.
Bernard Berrian, WR, Vikings
Merry Christmas to owners who, like me, took Berrian as a late-round flier in earlier drafts this summer. In a matter of two days, he has risen from the land of the fantasy forgotten to a potential fantasy WR1. The talent is there, as we saw in Chicago in 2007 and Minnesota in 2008, but prior to Rice’s potentially season-ending hip surgery, the opportunity was not. Now, despite the acquisitions of Javon Walker (free agency) and Greg Camarillo (trade with Miami), Berrian is primed to start opposite Percy Harvin this year, and to potentially become Brett Favre’s new favorite target. He is a smaller version of Rice and is best at stretching the field. He might never be a true PPR WR1, but in non-PPR leagues and performance-based scoring formats, he could end up being an every-week starter.
Jabar Gaffney, WR, Broncos
I know this is just the preseason, but have I been watching the same Jabar Gaffney this year? I mean, this guy looks like a legit NFL wideout capable of putting up some serious digits this year as Brandon Marshall’s replacement. A job that could have gone to rookie Demaryius Thomas if not for a foot injury setback in early August now has Gaffney’s name written all over it. There’s no question at this point that he’s the top WR to own in Denver, and with the state of their defense, the Broncos are likely to be playing (and passing) from behind for most of the season, which should equal large totals for Gaffney, who hauled in six balls for 98 yards in preseason Week 2 against Detroit.
Jahvid Best, RB, Lions
I have to be honest, I just saw this guy play for the first time Wednesday night on an NFL Network replay of the Lions’preseason Week 2 game against Denver. He plays bigger, stronger and faster than his measurables dictate, which is huge. There is no doubt that this kid is the real deal. He has Chris Johnson-esque speed to the edge and is a game-changer, flat out. My only concern with him is the presence of Kevin Smith, who is also a gamer and won’t go away. Smith’s surgically repaired right knee is supposedly 100 percent. I believe the two will share carries in 2010, but the Detroit offense is improved enough for both to be productive. There’s no question, however, that Jahvid is the Best value (sorry for the horrible pun). Seriously, though, Best in Round 5 of any seasonal league is an amazing value.
Sean Jones, SS, Buccaneers
IDP owners, here is your sleeper DB of 2010. In 2006 and 2007, Jones was the top fantasy defensive back as a member of the Cleveland Browns. After an injury-plagued 2008 season, a stop in Philly last year did him no good as he spent the year either playing behind lesser players or playing out of position at free safety. Now, after signing as a free agent with Tampa this offseason, he has beat out Sabby Piscittelli and is primed for a comeback year. He’ll start at strong safety opposite Tanard Jackson and is a great late-round IDP sleeper.
Dan Connor, MLB, Panthers
If you’ve had your eye on Connor as a deep-sleeper pick, the cat probably got out of the bag after he registered six solo tackles in preseason Week 2 against the Jets. That’s what happens when a stud tackler takes over the starting MLB job. After Thomas Davis went down with his second torn ACL in 18 months, Panthers coach John Fox elected to move Jon Beason to WLB and insert Connor as the starter in the middle. It has gone so well that it could stick, making Connor the true LB to own in Carolina, and rendering Beason overrated.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings
Ahem ... fallen. While we knew he wasn’t 100 percent all offseason due to a hip injury suffered in the NFC Championship Game against New Orleans, nobody expected him to have potentially season-ending surgery this week. A huge “oops”by the Vikings, who could have encouraged him to get this problem taken care of in February, which would have increased his chances 10-fold to be ready by Week 1. Instead, his seasonal value is completely shot, and even his dynasty value is up in the air with Brett Favre likely coming back for only this season. Then again, who really knows.
Paul Hickey is the lead contributor for Athlon Fantasy Football and operates the website NoOffseason.com, a site that appeals to all fantasy heads but offers a special emphasis on dynasty formats and IDP leagues.
That’s the matchup I’m pondering right now. You see, I play in a 10-team dynasty league with IDPs and 28 roster spots, and our draft is this weekend. Available players include all rookies as well as players not on fantasy rosters at the end of 2009, plus anyone else that any of the 10 team owners have elected to drop.
You may have read about my previous trades in earlier blogs, but now my mind is focused on draft day … and that Rookies vs. Free Agents thing.
Rashard Mendenhall reminds a former Colts coach of Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James.
The injuries that have kept Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch out of action this summer have raised questions about the Bills’ ground attack. They’ve also prevented coach Chan Gailey from playing around with the Wildcat. Last year, the team used the formation for nine plays; this year Buffalo fans can expect more of it, probably with dazzling rookie C.J. Spiller having a prominent role. “We’re not so polished in one area that we can stay in that and beat people,” Gailey said. “We’re going to have to consider everything.” … Anthony Fasano, the Visanthe Shiancoe of 2010? Don’t count on it. Even though the Miami tight end caught a pair of second quarter touchdowns in the team’s last preseason game, he remains a lower-level fantasy prospect. Brandon Marshall received more red zone targets than any player last year, and although that number will likely decline in Miami, Marshall will remain the team’s best option when it passes near the goal line. … Said Laurence Maroney to a Boston Herald reporter this week: “I know how good I am. And I know the type of player I am and how much help I can bring to the team.” In the Patriots’ first game the veteran back scored twice and averaged 3.8 yards per carry in a reserve role, then didn’t play the following week. For whatever it’s worth, coach Bill Belichick was supportive of Maroney in comments he made this week: “I think Laurence has worked hard and has been out there every day and taken his reps, and I think he’s ready to go.” … The Jets’ decision to sign center Nick Mangold to a record deal says plenty about the value the team places on its blockers up front. It probably helped Mangold’s cause that starting quarterback Mark Sanchez started wearing his knee brace again after getting a scare last weekend. The Jets do not allow many sacks, thanks in part to the interior protection Mangold and the guards provide. But good protection or not, fantasy owners might want to give Sanchez a closer look before drafting.
Speaking about the separation between Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, Baltimore running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery said, “It’s not like there’s a one and then there’s a two. … Willis is practicing every day as if he’s the starter and not as a backup, and we as coaches see Willis as a starter and not as a backup.” Uh-huh. Sure. Fantasy owners of Rice need not worry; the Ravens might continue to use McGahee as a change-of-pace back, but he won’t share carries with Rice evenly. If anything, sounds like Baltimore might be ready to take McGahee to market. … Cleveland running back Montario Hardesty was back in action this week, telling reporters, “I’ll be ready way before the opener.” Hey, Montario, “way before” was two weeks ago. Most fantasy owners have already wisely moved on to Jerome Harrison, leaving Hardesty as a waiver wire consideration for later. … A popular sleeper pick (and must-have handcuff) this offseason has been backup running back Bernard Scott, who has led Cincinnati in average yards per carry in each of the team’s last two preseason games and had 113 yards from scrimmage against Denver. The coaching staff admitted this week that Scott would have an increased workload this year as the team tries to lessen the burden on starter Cedric Benson. If Scott keeps up his current pace, Benson might soon be spelling him. … Former Indianapolis assistant and current Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that Rashard Mendenhall reminds him of former Colts do-it-all backs Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James. “He has that kind of skill set,” said Arians. “There is no doubt he can do what those two did.”
Florida papers were buzzing this week over the Jaguars’ absent rushing game. The backfield gained just 54 yards on 19 carries last week, and just 14 yards on nine carries in the team’s first game. It’s important to note that Maurice Jones-Drew has carried the ball only six times (but has gained negative-two yards on those carries). Coach Jack Del Rio stated the obvious when addressing the matter: “We have not really made that an emphasis point in the first couple of games.” Maybe, but it is still something for fantasy owners to be concerned with, especially when considering the Jaguars enter the season with a completely rebuilt defense and might be forced to abandon the run if that unit fails. … During its preseason fantasy show, one member of the on-air ESPN crew questioned why Vince Young would be ranked ahead of someone like Matthew Stafford. Young might be the best person to answer. Through two games he has completed 14-of-19 passes — much more efficient than his .576 career completion percentage. And the development of his young receiving corps suggests Young does belong in the second tier of passers, where most fantasy sources have him ranked. … No one can be sure just how secure Joseph Addai’s job is in Indianapolis. Or Donald Brown’s backup job, for that matter. Devin Moore has been the team’s most effective rusher in two preseason games, and while his success has come against second- and third-string defenders, Moore’s speed has made the team take notice. With 10 carries for 52 yards, a punt return of 49 yards and a kick return of 38 yards, Moore will be given more chances in these final weeks. What does it mean for fantasy owners? Probably not a lot, but it does add confusion to an already-muddled backfield picture. … The Texans will turn to Jacoby Jones to return punts, which suggests Kevin Walter will remain in the lineup at wide receiver opposite Andre Johnson. Jones has been a favorite of fantasy owners this summer and still has value as Houston’s No. 3, just not quite as much value as he had a week ago.
Left tackle Ryan Clady returned to Broncos practice Aug. 25 and could be ready for the team’s Week 1 contest. This is great news for fantasy owners holding Broncos players; Clady’s presence plays a big role in how well the unit performs on the ground and through the air. … With its first unit seeing plenty of time last weekend, the Chiefs’ coaching staff used Saturday’s loss to Tampa Bay as an opportunity to test Dwayne Bowe. The receiver was given six looks (tied for the most on the squad) and hauled in three passes for 33 yards. Bowe remains a fringe No. 2 fantasy receiver in the eyes of most fantasy owners. … San Diego rookie running back Ryan Mathews had minor surgery on his nose Aug. 24 in an attempt to stop recurring nosebleeds. During his playing career, the back has dealt with nosebleeds and was forced to miss a series against Dallas last week after getting struck in the face. Said Mathews of the procedure, “They put some stuff up in there to numb it, and they burned some veins. It sucks. You can’t sneeze. You can’t do anything. I mean, I feel like I’m sick right now because I’m so congested, but it is worth it so I don’t have to bleed like that again.” Fantasy owners banking on Mathews sure hope so. … Oakland running back Darren McFadden made a return to practice Aug. 24 after missing two weeks with a bum hamstring. Fantasy owners considering McFadden might want to watch the team’s game against San Francisco this Saturday to get a feel for where the third-year back stands in his recovery. Heading into this summer, McFadden was viewed as the favorite to win the No. 1 job, but most fantasy owners have shown a preference for Michael Bush lately.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Cowboys kicker David Buehler is making progress in camp after some early struggles. In practice Aug. 19, Buehler missed his last four field goal attempts; on Aug. 24, Buehler was 6-of-7, including successful tries from 38 and 39 yards. … Donovan McNabb will miss this week’s preseason contest against the Jets and likely the Redskins’ final one as well. McNabb sprained his left ankle last week against Baltimore and coach Mike Shanahan said the injury was so bad, McNabb wouldn’t play this week even if it were a regular-season game. Maybe the Redskins are being cautious, or maybe watching Eli Manning get smacked around by the Jets a couple weeks ago scared the coaching staff. … Philadelphia’s offensive line has failed to protect Kevin Kolb this preseason, and the rushing totals suggest the line could do a better job of opening holes, too. It’s reason for fantasy owners to have concern; Kolb’s stock continues to rise, evident by his average draft spot, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Brent Celek all rank favorably at their respective positions. A bad offensive line is bad news. But coordinator Marty Mornhinweg suggested this week there is no need to worry yet. “I think our offensive line has a bright future here,” he said. “They can be one of the very best in the league.” “Can” is nice, but fantasy owners would much rather hear the word “will.” … Brandon Jacobs’ absence from the Giants’ loss to Pittsburgh was the result of not stretching before doing a set of shoulder shrugs. Jacobs had a stiff neck and sat on the sideline with Manning. The injury shouldn’t concern fantasy owners as much as how good Ahmad Bradshaw looked. On one run he bowled over a Pittsburgh defender and finished with 28 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
Here’s a number to consider for those fantasy owners who have doubts about Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings this season: 31. Nope, it’s not Jennings’ yards receiving through two games, but rather his average yards per catch in those contests (four catches, 124 yards). Last week he caught a bomb on the Packers’ first play from scrimmage, and the week before he hauled in the team’s first touchdown. If the preseason is any indication, Aaron Rodgers will go over the top early and often to the Packers’ No. 1 receiver this season. … Lions running back Kevin Smith has finally returned to action, perhaps just in time to carry rookie Jahvid Best’s pads to and from the locker room. Through two games Best has been superb — 4.8 yards per carry in his first contest, 6.1 last week — and it has become more unlikely that, even if healthy, Smith will be able to win back his job. … The best sighting in Chicago this summer? Gotta be Matt Forte’s 89-yard touchdown run against Oakland on Saturday. A top-five fantasy back for the 2008 season, Forte fell off the face of the earth last year. Teammates suggest he was more hurt than he was letting on. Maybe his 109-yard effort against the Bears (on five carries) is evidence a comeback is in the works? … Sidney Rice’s pending hip surgery opens the door for another Vikings receiver to step into the No. 1 role. Fantasy owners would love for it to be Percy Harvin, but it’s unlikely the team will change how it uses Harvin just to satisfy the void created by Rice. Instead, Bernard Berrian’s stock should be on the rise. Berrian has been thrown to just once in each of the team’s two games (both completed passes), but that will change now that the team needs to prepare for a half-season without its top wideout. As for newly signed Javon Walker (Favre’s one-time favorite weapon in Green Bay), don’t count on much.
The Saints have experienced a number of injuries at the running back position, including Lynell Hamilton and P.J. Hill. Still, coach Sean Payton isn’t backing away from his philosophy that the team needs several backs to contribute. The Saints brought in former Packer DeShawn Wynn this week and will continue to mix up carries throughout the remainder of the preseason. Pierre Thomas is still a viable fantasy prospect, but fantasy owners hoping he would become a 20-carry back were brought back to earth by Payton. … The good news for Falcons fans is that Jerious Norwood, who has missed time with a sore hip flexor, is expected to make his preseason debut in Friday’s game against the Dolphins. The bad news is that Norwood will be hurt again at some point this season. Fantasy owners looking for a handcuff for Michael Turner should stick with Jason Snelling. … Quarterback Josh Freeman’s injured thumb will be in a splint for the next two weeks, limiting his ability to practice. Said general manager Mark Dominik, “It’s about the swelling, being able to grasp the football, being able the hold onto it and react.” The Buccaneers have still not ruled out Freeman’s return for Week 1, but in the meantime they will rely on fellow youngster Josh Johnson, who was 6-of-10 for 113 yards in a win over Kansas City. … Carolina rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen has been bothered by a sore toe — no, really — and told the media that it will take a while before he is back to full strength. “The doctor said it would probably be after the season until I feel 100 percent,” Clausen said. “He said I’d have to play through some aches and pains until the season’s over. That’s just the nature of football.” Somewhere, Dick Butkus is enjoying a good laugh.
The 49ers have been cautious in using running back Frank Gore this preseason, but Mike Singletary didn’t rule out a Gore appearance for this week. Then again, he didn’t confirm, either. “We know what Frank can do, but this offensive line has not really had the opportunity to feel the timing of Frank’s quickness and the way he makes cuts in a live situation,” said Singletary. Whether he plays the full game or misses every down of the rest of the preseason, Gore has cemented himself as a first-round pick in most fantasy league formats. … Fantasy owners were unsure whether to pick Justin Forsett or Julius Jones in drafts this summer. Leon Washington hopes the correct answer is “None of the above.” Washington is expected to get the start this week and could be in line for the No. 1 job. … Elite fantasy receiver Larry Fitzgerald remains on the sideline, nursing a sprained knee. But this week Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt shared some encouraging words for fantasy owners. “I don’t think there’s any question in any of our minds now that he’ll be ready for the first game,” said Whisenhunt. “I think he’ll be ready for the last preseason game, but obviously, that’s not something we’re pushing to do.” … As the Rams transition to Sam Bradford at quarterback, one thing in the offense has remained constant: running back Steven Jackson. In his first preseason action last week, Jackson averaged 5.0 yards per carry; as a team, St. Louis averaged 1.7 yards. With Jackson, the Rams can move the ball. Without him, they can’t. As left guard Jacob Bell summed up last week’s game: “Pretty good first drive. We keep Steven in the game, I think we can keep doing that.” Mike Beacom is a contributing writer for FootballDiehards.com.
Owen Daniels is certain he'll be good to go in Week 1.
Updated: August 31, 2010
Jason Campbell, Raiders (neck, wrist). Campbell suffered a stinger on a hard hit in Oakland's third preseason game (Aug. 28) and injured his wrist in the game as well. Early signs are that neither injury is serious.
Brett Favre, Vikings (ankle). The bum ankle almost kept him from returning for a 20th season, but expect him to fight through it one way or another. He’s always found a way before.
A.J. Feeley, Rams (thumb, elbow). Feeley suffered his injuries in the Rams’ second preseason game and sat out their third one. Sam Bradford started in his place and performed well. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said Feeley likely won't play in the preseason finale, either.
Josh Freeman, Bucs (thumb). Freeman broke the tip of the thumb on his throwing hand in Tampa Bay’s second exhibition game and is out for the rest of the preseason. He is expected to be ready for Week 1, though he figures to play in pain for the first few games.
Charlie Frye, Raiders (wrist). The Raiders placed Frye on injured reserve, ending his season.
Eli Manning, Giants (head). Manning sat out the Giants’ second preseason game (Aug. 21) after getting 12 stitches in his forehead during their first one. Manning did not suffer a concussion, and the main problem is how his helmet rubs against the stitches. He finally was able to pull on a helmet Aug. 25, and he returned to practice. He started the Giants' Aug. 28 preseason game.
Donovan McNabb, Redskins (ankle). McNabb injured his ankle in the team’s second preseason game, and it's unlikely he'll play in any more. He has not practiced since the injury, and now there is concern that he won't be sufficiently healed by Week 1.
Tim Tebow, Broncos (bruised ribs, sore abdomen). Tebow was injured in the Broncos’ first preseason game and missed the second one, but it is not expected to be a long-term concern. He returned to practice Aug. 25 and played in the team's Aug. 29 preseason game.
Mike Bell, Eagles (hamstring, calf strain). Bell made his preseason debut in Philly’s third preseason game, rushing eight times for 17 yards.
Michael Bush, Raiders (thumb). Bush broke a thumb in Oakland's Aug. 28 preseason game. Missing some regular-season action is a possibility, though the Raiders are hopeful he won't.
Correll Buckhalter, Broncos (back). Buckhalter has been missing practice and sat out each of Denver's preseason games, but the Broncos expect him to be ready for the season opener.
Ryan Grant, Packers (concussion). The Packers are easing Grant back into things slowly, but his readiness for Week 1 is fully expected.
Lynell Hamilton, free agent (knee). The Saints cut Hamilton after he blew out his knee.
Montario Hardesty, Browns (knee). The rookie made his training camp practice debut Aug. 25 but has yet to play in a preseason game. He has been nursing a bone bruise but insists he'll be in the mix for playing time when the season starts. He is expect to play in Thursday's game.
Fred Jackson, Bills (hand). The timeline for Jackson after breaking his hand was 4-6 weeks, which would put him on target for perhaps a Week 2 return.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (knee). It is believed to be general soreness that is keeping Jones-Drew idle in recent days. Reports of him undergoing knee surgery have been refuted, and the Jaguars say no operation will be required. They likely are just being careful with MJD.
Marshawn Lynch, Bills (ankle). Lynch could be back in time to play in Buffalo’s preseason finale. A return by Week 1 is considered certain.
Darren McFadden, Raiders (hamstring). McFadden returned to practice Aug. 24 after being idle for a couple of weeks. He made his preseason debut Aug. 28, rushing seven times for nine yards.
Knowshon Moreno, Broncos (hamstring). The Broncos are proceeding carefully with Moreno, who has not participated in preseason activities since the first day of training camp. There is growing concern that he will not be ready by Week 1.
Clinton Portis, Redskins (ankle). Portis sprained an ankle in the team's third exhibition game (Aug. 27). He won't play in the preseason finale, but coach Mike Shanahan said the injury is not serious.
Steve Slaton, Texans (foot). Slaton left Houston's Aug. 28 preseason game with a turf toe injury.
Ben Tate, Texans (ankle, leg). Tate will miss his rookie season after breaking bones in his ankle and leg in his first preseason game.
LenDale White, Broncos (ankle). The speculation is that White’s ankle will be good to go by the time he’s done serving his four-game league suspension at the beginning of the season.
Donnie Avery, Rams (knee). Avery tore his ACL in the Rams' third preseason game and is out for the season.
Ramses Barden, Giants (back). Barden returned to practice Aug. 30 after suffering a stress fracture in his back, but his availability for the start of the season remains in question.
Antonio Bryant, free agent (knee). It had been suspected that Bryant's ongoing absence since the first day of Bengals training camp would lead to his release, and it did.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys (ankle). Bryant’s recovery from a high ankle sprain reportedly is proceeding well, and both a return to practice this week and an appearance in Thursday's final exhibition game are possibilities. He should be ready for Week 1.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers (neck). A neck strain slowed Crabtree a bit for a few few days, but the injury is considered minor and he appears to be practicing at full speed again. He has not played in any preseason games, but he is expected to be ready for Week 1.
Early Doucet, Cardinals (abdominal strain). The Cardinals are being cautious with Doucet, whose injury is not serious but who was held out of the team’s second preseason game. He played in Arizona's third exhibition game and will be ready for the start of the regular season.
Harry Douglas, Falcons (knee). Douglas’ return from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2009 season reached a significant milepost when he made his preseason debut in Atlanta’s second preseason game.
Marcus Easley, Bills (knee). The Bills placed the rookie on injured reserve.
Mike Furrey, Redskins (concussion). He will spend the season on IR.
Justin Gage, Titans (thumb). His thumb isn’t broken, but he might have ligament damage. The severity of the injury is unclear. He returned to practice Aug. 25 but has missed Tennessee's last two exhibition games.
Pierre Garcon, Colts (undisclosed). The Colts haven’t announced why Garcon missed the team’s first two preseason games, but he returned to the practice field Sunday and played in preseason game three, catching two passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.
James Hardy, Bills (foot). Hardy's ailing foot was keeping him out of preseason games and, until Aug. 25, off the practice field. He played in the team's third preseason game (Aug. 28).
Percy Harvin, Vikings (migraines). The Vikings says it wasn’t a migraine that caused him to collapse on the field and be taken to a hospital in an ambulance Aug. 19. They say it was factors they can control. Maybe so, but migraines are always a risk with Harvin.
Torry Holt, free agent (knee). The Patriots released Holt after he suffered what is believed to be a season-ending (and perhaps a career-ending) knee injury in camp.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles (neck). Jackson strained his neck in Philly's third preseason game (Aug. 27). He might miss some practice time, but that should be about it.
Malcolm Kelly, Redskins (hamstring). Kelly finally participated in a preseason practice Aug. 30 and promptly pulled his hammy again.
Kerry Meier, Falcons (knee). The Falcons placed Meier on injured reserve, ending his rookie season.
Sidney Rice, Vikings (hip). Rice had hip surgery and could miss half of the season — or more. At the very least, he’ll start the season on the PUP list and miss at least six games.
Chaz Schilens, Raiders (foot). Schilens has yet to play in a preseason game, has missed several practices and recently had his knee scoped. He is out indefinitely and seems unlikely to be ready by Week 1.
Steve Smith, Panthers (arm). Smith is unlikely to play in any exhibition games but is very likely to be ready for Week 1. He returned to full practice Aug. 23.
Donte' Stallworth, Ravens (foot). Stallworth broke a foot in Baltimore's Aug. 28 preseason game and will be sidelined for two months.
Maurice Stovall, Bucs (ankle). Stovall will finish the preseason without playing in any exhibition games following the opener, in which he suffered what is believed to be a high ankle sprain.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos (foot). Thomas returned to practice Aug. 24 after missing more than two weeks, but then came reports of a loose screw in his surgically repaired foot and he still has not played in a preseason game. Coach Josh McDaniels played down the setback, but it's hard to get a handle on the extent of the injury.
Wes Welker, Patriots (knee). Welker’s miraculous comeback appears to be cruising along. Seven months after blowing out his knee in New England’s season finale, he made his preseason debut Aug. 19 and was targeted three straight times by Tom Brady, catching two passes for 20 yards. He caught two more passes in New England's next preseason game.
Kevin Boss, Giants (hamstring, ankle). Boss returned to practice Aug. 18 after missing most of camp to that point with multiple injuries. He started New York's Aug. 28 exhibition game and did not catch the only pass thrown his way.
Dallas Clark, Colts (leg). The Colts have been mum about the nature of the injury that had sidelined Clark from Aug. 13 until he practiced Aug. 28, but he says he’ll be good to go for the regular-season opener.
Owen Daniels, Texans (knee). Daniels says an MRI revealed his knee is fully healed and he is on schedule to be ready for the season opener. He won't play in any preseason games, but he should return to the practice field soon. He might not plays as many snaps as usual early in the season.
Vernon Davis, 49ers (knee). Davis injured his knee in the 49ers' first preseason game and could well remain on the sideline through the rest of the preseason. However, the team likely is just being careful with Davis. He should be back in action by Week 1.
Jimmy Graham, Saints (ankle). A high ankle sprain kept the rookie on the sideline since the Saints' first preseason game until Aug. 30, when he returned to practice.
Zach Miller, Jaguars (foot). Miller returned to practice Aug. 25 and played in the team's Aug. 28 preseason game. He has battled foot problems since April, and the potential TE sleeper is a question mark in terms of being ready for Week 1.
Ben Patrick, Cardinals (knee). Patrick is expected to sit out all or most of the preseason.
Derek Schouman, Bills (knee). Schouman will be out 3-6 weeks after hurting his knee in Buffalo’s second preseason game (Aug. 19).
Kellen Winslow, Bucs (knee). After missing two exhibition games, Winslow made his preseason debut Aug. 28 and caught one pass for five yards.
Jason Hanson, Lions (knee). Hanson had arthroscopic surgery in early August but is expected to be ready by Week 1.
For some strange reason, fantasy owners still aren’t buying into Brett Favre this season. He’s back in uniform, cracking jokes on the sideline, but fantasy owners are acting as though Favre may as well still be in Mississippi.
In most drafts I’ve witnessed lately, Favre has been picked as the No. 10 quarterback on average (as high as No. 7). But in one draft he lasted until Round 11 — the 130th player drafted overall and 13th quarterback. I rarely pick a backup quarterback that early, but I just couldn’t help myself!
David Garrard provides more fantasy scoring than most owners realize.
QB sleeper: David Garrard, Jaguars
If you read last week’s Scope, you’re probably thinking, “This dude likes the Jacksonville offense way too much.” That’s not the case. There might be several individuals I like better than many others do, but I’m not hosting pep rallies for the Jacksonville passing offense. I am, however, pointing out that it’s ridiculous to see Garrard being drafted after players such as Sam Bradford, Jason Campbell and Mark Sanchez. At least he has passed Tim Tebow, I guess.
Let’s start simply: In his two full seasons as a starter, 2009 and 2008, Garrard has finished 12th and ninth among fantasy quarterbacks, according to RapidDraft scoring. (That includes three-point passing touchdowns. Increase that to the more typical four, and he ranked 15th in 2009.) That’s fantasy-starter range, or at least a solid platoon candidate. The tiny touchdown-pass totals — just 15 each of the past two years, 18 the year before — likely scare off many owners, but what they fail to realize is the rushing upside. Garrard led his position in carries last year and tied for first the year before. He was the only quarterback to reach 300 yards in both seasons. His combined five rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons place well without separating him from the crowd, but the whole rushing package pushes him ahead of plenty of guys with 20-plus scoring throws.
Garrard also ranks second among active quarterbacks behind only Aaron Rodgers in lowest interception rate (percentage of pass attempts that have been picked). That means relative safety from your backup, which is about the best thing many of us can ask for at that position. How comfortable do you feel that Matthew Stafford, Matt Leinart or even Jay Cutler, for that matter, won’t serve up a three-INT game in a given week? Factor in the 2010 upside that comes from Garrard rededicating to his preparation and finally seeing improvement in his receiving options, and I see a guy who I’m starting to realize I haven’t drafted enough.
Going too early: Philip Rivers, Chargers
It’s hard to argue with drafting a quarterback who has thrown about 2.4 touchdowns for every interception as a starter and only once been worse than 2:1 with that ratio, but it’s boring to take on only easy arguments.
Antonio Gates led the team with 114 targets last year, just seven more than Vincent Jackson — who led the Chargers in receiving yards and touchdown catches. LaDainian Tomlinson saw just 30 targets last year but garnered 77 the year before and 86 in 2007. My point: Tomlinson is gone, and Jackson very well might be. At the least, we know Jackson will miss the first three games, and there is precedent for a disgruntled receiver carrying through on his threat to sit out through regular-season weeks. (San Diego itself picked up Keenan McCardell in trade in 2004 after he skipped the Bucs’ first nine games during a similar contract squabble.) Breakout favorite Malcom Floyd, meanwhile, has been around for six years (one on IR) and only once reached 30 catches and never scored more than four times.
Running back Ryan Mathews has folks optimistic, but the bottom line in the passing game is that there’s much more uncertainty than I’d like with a late-fourth or early-fifth-round quarterback — especially when I can wait two to three more rounds and get Brett Favre, whom I’ll take over Rivers straight up this season.
Playing behind injury-prone Cedric Benson makes Bernard Scott intriguing.
RB sleeper: Bernard Scott, Bengals
When you consider that Cedric Benson was one of just six NFL runners to reach 300 carries last season, it might be easy to forget that he did so despite missing three regular-season games. Although one of those came in Week 17 as a post-clinching rest, the other two continued an all-too-familiar trend.
In five pro seasons, Benson has missed 20 total games. Now, my abacus just broke, so I’ll have to guess, but I’m pretty sure that averages out to four a year. With that in mind, I don’t think it takes a whole lot more to explain Scott’s sleeper value. After Round 10 or so, you’re basically drafting backup running backs who won’t realize regular value without an injury to or bust performance from the guy ahead of them. Otherwise, you’re getting a part-timer who at best sees inconsistent use.
Scott’s long speed and quickness make him a dangerous offensive weapon that will be used some even when Benson is in there. Benson’s past makes Scott a good bet for at least a couple of starts. A starting Bernard Scott looks better to me than a starting Darren Sproles.
Going too early: Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Stewart enjoyed an excellent finish to 2009, putting up four big games over the final five weeks after DeAngelo Williams went down with an ankle injury. However, opponents in these outings included a Tampa defense that struggled against the run all year, a Giants team that had packed it in and a Saints squad resting starters in Week 17. It’s also well worth noting that before Williams’ injury, he was actually on pace to increase his carries over 2008, while Stewart was on track for the opposite.
Stewart’s 2009 finish will probably close the gap a bit this year, and I think he’s a fine fourth-rounder in non-PPR formats. He doesn’t, however, make much sense to me in a PPR fourth round. Despite what some will tell you, Stewart isn’t the goal-line back. Williams led the league in touchdown runs in 2008 and actually outperformed Stewart last year in goal-line situations. Stewart also won’t catch too many balls and has been constantly nagged by injuries, even when in the lineup. He has basically not practiced in the pros. That hasn’t been a big issue for his production, but it’s at least worrisome. For what it’s worth, he has appeared in just three exhibition games in three seasons, including none so far this year.
I’ll take Williams as early as late Round 1, but I’m not interested in Stewart until sometime after someone else inevitably has drafted him.
WR sleeper: Bernard Berrian, Vikings
Sometimes it’s good when people aren’t talking about you during training camp. Think of the headlines that Berrian’s more-hyped mates have generated: Sidney Rice is making an impact only by his absence as he tries to work through a hip injury. Percy Harvin has been on the field, just not as much as he’s been off it while dealing with migraines dubbed “debilitating” at times. That leaves Berrian as the position’s only returning starter currently available.
Never mind that Berrian has been targeted just once in each of the first two exhibitions. The only Viking to be targeted more than three times Sunday night was rookie Marquis Hamilton. (Yeah, I had to look him up, too.) Try to look past Berrian’s 2009 as well, which started at a disadvantage thanks to hamstring issues that limited him in camp — thus limiting his time with his late-arriving quarterback — and also included a midseason edition of the minor injury. Berrian didn’t miss any games, but that’s the kind of thing that can easily limit a wideout, especially one so reliant on downfield speed. Thus, it’s no surprise that 2009 featured Berrian’s career low for yards per catch.
In 2010, Berrian is relishing the extra time with his again-late quarterback and is ready to flash the big-play speed that made the Vikings throw free agent money at him in the first place. In 2008, for instance, Berrian scored five of his seven touchdowns from more than 40 yards away. That quarterback of his finished two of the past three seasons with at least 13 throws of 40-plus, a mark matched by five other QBs last year but by no more than three in any other season for which NFL.com has tallied the stat (going back to 1991). Throw that stuff in with the uncertainty surrounding Rice and Harvin, and it’s not hard to see Berrian reaching at least 60 catches, which he has done just once so far. Should he get there, it is hard to imagine fewer than six of those being touchdowns — pretty big numbers for a guy going in Round 13 or later.
Going too early: Anquan Boldin, Ravens
Boldin is a terrific player, but I have to think people are looking at him and still seeing the Boldin in a Cardinals uniform. That’s the only explanation for drafting him in Round 3 as a borderline WR1 across fantasy formats. There are pretty clear reasons not to like him at that level, though.
For starters, Boldin has finished only three of his seven pro seasons at WR1 level: 2003, when the outstanding rookie was all the Cards had going (TE Freddie Jones’ 55 catches ranked second on the team behind Boldin’s 101); 2005, when Arizona attempted 670 passes; and 2008, when the team put it up 630 times. Baltimore is bound to keep increasing its pass attempts, but not by 100-plus. As for competing targets, Derrick Mason has been THE guy through both of Joe Flacco’s pro seasons. Just because the new guy is more talented doesn’t mean he’ll suddenly steal a dominant share of targets.
Another key factor in Boldin’s uneven production has been injuries, which are basically guaranteed to appear. Only twice in seven years has he made it to 16 games. Three times he has played in 12 or fewer. Let someone else take Boldin in Round 3, and then laugh while you’re picking Mason six rounds later.
TE sleeper: Greg Olsen, Bears
The reason to dislike Olsen this year in fantasy seems obvious: Mike Martz. His tight ends have always accomplished little as receivers. Of course, that ignores the fact that outside of Vernon Davis for a year in San Francisco, Martz hasn’t coached a lot of receiving talent at tight end. Even Davis had yet to get the Mike Singletary kick-start in his brief Martz phase. Otherwise, a review of Martz tight ends will return plenty of Ernie Conwells, Dan Campbells and other such luminaries.
Then again, the other side could point out that Martz had plenty of time to get a better receiving tight end with the Rams and never drafted a player at that position earlier than Brandon Manumaleuna in 2001’s fourth round. At the least, everyone must acknowledge that Olsen presents the most ability of any tight end under Martz who has already proven himself as a pro. Now all we need is some actual evidence that he’ll get used.
Well, the closest thing we have so far is the breakdown of Jay Cutler’s training camp targets recently released by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. According to that article, Olsen saw nine more passes than anyone else through training camp. In addition to that came the report of red zone drills that produced five touchdown grabs for Olsen in a single afternoon.
I’m not grasping at that stuff and telling you to draft Olsen as you would have last year (or based on his top-10 fantasy numbers of 2009). I am saying that it makes plenty of sense to give him a shot when you can draft Olsen in the middle of backup range. At worst, the Martz fears come true and you easily dump your second tight end for a more worthwhile player. At best, you get a guy with potential to score eight to 10 touchdowns and be at least a flex option.
Going too early: Owen Daniels, Texans
I understand. Daniels was performing as a top-three fantasy tight end when he tore an ACL in the middle of last season. He returns to an obviously potent offense still without a clear second receiving option behind Andre Johnson. Still, a draft spot among the top eight at his position for a guy who still hasn’t gotten on the field since Nov. 1?
While he has been out, good things have been said in Houston about fellow tight ends James Casey and Garrett Graham. Arian Foster has seemed to emerge as a go-to runner. Perhaps the final piece to WR Jacoby Jones breaking through (maturity) has arrived. Also, just behind Daniels in ADP lists sit fairly safe PPR options such as Kellen Winslow and Oakland’s Zach Miller — each likely to be his quarterback’s top option or close to it — and a decently safe pick with upside in John Carlson.
If his knee is good by Week 1 and Daniels picks up where he left off, those drafting him will look very good. I’m just not taking the chance in the range at which I can still pull starters at receiver, running back or quarterback.
D/ST Sleeper: Atlanta
DE Kroy Biermann has been awesome through two exhibition games. That might mean absolutely nothing to you, but it could also be the key to this defense realizing some fantasy value.
The Falcons tied for just 26th in sacks last year, but that belies a team with much more pass-rush potential. DE John Abraham continued to bring the kind of pressure last season that resulted in 16.5 sacks in 2008, but with no other real, consistent threat on the line, potential sacks instead showed up as mere pressures or QB hits. Those still help a defense but won’t do anything for the stats.
If Biermann can build on the promise he showed last year and continue with the play he has displayed this exhibition season, he’ll prove plenty threatening from his left end spot. DT Jonathan Babineaux can push the pocket inside as well, and the team plans to have 2009 first-round pick DT Peria Jerry ready for the regular season as well. All of that could mean 40 sacks or more for a team that dipped from 34 sacks to 28 last year. Behind that promising group of pass rushers sits some playmaking potential in the form of rising safety Thomas DeCoud and CB Dunta Robinson, who at least improves on what the team had at the position. LB Curtis Lofton also made some coverage plays back in college, and rookie LB Sean Weatherspoon is athletic enough to make an impact if he can find a starting spot. Atlanta will also be helped by a schedule not as lethal as the 2009 version that followed a playoff berth — as well as an improving offense that should score enough to pressure opposing offenses.
Don’t draft the Falcons as your top unit, but keep an eye on Atlanta as a matchup play and a defense that could emerge in 2010. Having Eric Weems returning kicks — he finished eighth in kick-return yards and 12th on punts last year — doesn’t hurt the special teams, either.
Going too early: Baltimore
At this point, it makes sense to look at the Baltimore defense and see a safe fantasy play. When I look at the 2010 version, however, I see danger.
Would it surprise you to hear that over the past three seasons, Baltimore has tied for 19th, 11th and 18th in sacks? That’s not too big a deal when you combine it with a strong scoring defense and playmaking secondary, but it’ll be a lot tougher to count on those things in 2010. Domonique Foxworth and Lardarius Webb would form the team’s best corner duo, but Foxworth tore an ACL in camp and is done for the year, while Webb is returning from a 2009 ACL tear — meaning we shouldn’t count on 100 percent from him this year. Webb, at least, is in better shape than All-Pro safety Ed Reed. The veteran has yet to practice since camp began and remains a question mark for Week 1 with a hip injury. That following a season in which Reed was hampered by a significant shoulder injury even when he did play, also a season in which six opponents topped 20 points against the Ravens.
Baltimore’s defense has earned the benefit of the doubt over time, staying relevant as coordinator after coordinator moved on to a head coaching gig. There’s plenty to dislike right now, though, and plenty of potential in the units going in the few rounds after the Ravens’ average position. Draft your defense on potential rather than reputation.
Life after death? Rarely happens in pro football. It’s possible, though, that Seattle wide receiver Mike Williams might be ready to rise after his career crashed in such cities as Detroit and Oakland. Newly reunited with his USC coach, Pete Carroll, Williams looked terrific in the team’s preseason contest Saturday. He caught four balls for 44 yards. On one catch, Williams came back to the ball, securing it just before touching down near the sideline. In the team’s first preseason game, Williams’ only catch was a 51-yard touchdown.