What does every newbie or fantasy veteran want when they prepare for their draft? Obviously, the latest on players, specifically injuries that will affect a player's draft status. Since many of you have drafts this weekend, let's get you up to speed on the latest news regarding a number of key injuries (listed by position).
QB David Garrard, Jaguars
Fantasyland does not give Garrard much respect. However, this team goes through RB Maurice Jones-Drew and if head coach Jack Del Rio could get away with it, he would run every play. Though not seriously hurt, Garrard has tweaked his back and is not a given to play in Week Two of the preseason after sitting out the first preseason game. The injury is minor and he says he's better than 90 percent. Regardless, if he doesn't play, it leaves another opening for rookie Blaine Gabbert to continue to try to make an impression. Neither QB is worth consideration on draft day as there are better alternatives.
RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
Known as an injury-prone player, McFadden broke out in 2010 with 1,157 rushing yards, 507 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. Despite showing up in phenomenal shape after the lockout ended, McFadden was bitten by the injury bug, suffering a small fracture in his orbital bone. It was expected at the time of the injury that it would take approximately two weeks to heal and we're up against that timetable. He took part in noncontact drills and should be ready by Week One of the regular season. I love McFadden, and, barring injury, believe he can be an elite back because of his incredible speed and great hands. I agree that he has Priest Holmes and Marshall Faulk qualities with health his only concern. He's worthy of being your No. 1 fantasy back but grab the talented Michael Bush as the handcuff to cover yourself.
RB Peyton Hillis, Browns
Hillis is every fan's hero for his workmanlike ability and for personifying the American dream by going from NFL scrub to starter. Right now, Hillis has a tweaked hamstring but we don't know much more. Hamstrings are tricky, so you need to monitor the news. If you're drafting this week you're stuck and have to go with head coach Pat Shurmur downplaying the injury. More news will come out within days so don't fret, but just be aware. I view Hillis, when healthy, as a quality No. 2 fantasy running back. However, he will be overvalued despite the potential for fewer touches and receptions in 2011. I saw a report stating he will see an increase in his role but I don't believe that. While he was the only effective back on the team last season, now he has Brandon Jackson, a solid pass receiver, and Montario Hardesty, a 2010 second-rounder, sharing time with him.
RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
Has Stewart (Achilles) ever been healthy through a training camp? I would say not and here he goes again. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera revealed that Stewart was held out of practice Wednesday as a precaution because of pain in his left Achillles tendon. That's good news, and while he'll be day-to-day and limited, he should be fine with rest for Week One. Remember, Stewart is known as a player who doesn't practice much, so theoretically this should not affect him. I say theoretically because there was no offseason team workouts because of the lockout. I still view Stewart as a weak No. 2 fantasy back because the team re-signed DeAngelo Williams. He's a solid No. 3 in smaller leagues.
RB Mikel Leshoure, Lions
While old news, I know there are many fantasy owners who don't pay attention until the week of their draft. This note is for you. Leshoure tore his Achilles and is out for the season. Obviously, this increases the value of Jahvid Best. If healthy, I love Best as a quality No. 2 fantasy back. As for Leshoure, if you're in a dynasty league and have the room stash him, go ahead.
WR Kenny Britt, Titans
Britt is back practicing this week after missing most of training camp, and the first preseason game, to date, but said his hamstring is not 100 percent. He says he's holding back a bit but reports indicated that he was moving and looked recovered while making some catches. Though solid news, he's not a given to play in Week Two of the preseason. His practice performance this week will dictate his playing time. By being on the field, he can develop chemistry with new QB Matt Hasselbeck a key to his success and that of the Titans this season. A healthy Britt, regardless of the quarterback, has the potential to be a quality No. 2 fantasy wideout.
WR Plaxico Burress, Jets
Burress' owners got good news this week as he returned to practice and said he's feeling great. Hitting the practice field was his first foray back into football since November, 2008. Reports said he took part in about 55-65 percent of team drills, including 11-on-11 drills, running routes and even making a great catch by outleaping a defender. He expects to play in Week Two of the preseason and said the reason why he missed Monday night's game against the Texans was precautionary. He just needs to get into football shape and develop chemistry with Mark Sanchez, which is no different than any other free agent. However, barring injury to Derrick Mason or Santonio Holmes, I see Burress as nothing more than a No. 3 fantasy wideout with upside.
WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
More great news as Maclin, who has not participated in training camp after a scan in May showed his lymph nodes were enlarged and hot — a possible symptom of lymphoma — has been cleared to run and lift. If there are no setbacks, he will return to practice in 7-10 days. Maclin has to get in shape and might be overvalued on draft day. If so, let him go as I don't see much production from him early on considering that he needs to get back into football shape as well as build up the mental toughness needed as a player. Low production early on might make him an early-season trade candidate in your league. I eventually see him as a solid No. 3 fantasy wideout.
TE Chris Cooley, Redskins
Cooley has had problems with his left knee since undergoing surgery on the knee in early January. He even visited the world-renowned Dr. James Andrews recently. The surgeon to the stars has recommended rest and rehab for the knee and Cooley is not practicing. As a result, head coach Mike Shanahan doesn't know if Cooley will be ready by Week One. I would bypass Cooley in your draft, as Fred Davis is a solid pass-receiving tight end. Davis reportedly came into camp in great shape and, if he gains a foothold on the job, he might not give the starting job back to Cooley. In fact, while speculating, I could see the team looking to trade Cooley. I like him, and he's a fan favorite, but I'm not looking at him this season with plenty of better and healthier choices out there.