Fantasy Buzz

Posted Aug. 22, 2011 @ 3:05 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Through two weeks of preseason games there is no shortage of news for all 32 teams. We contacted our sources from around the league to get the inside scoop on a noteworthy piece of news for each team, organized by division, as it relates to fantasy football. The crucial news and insights that follow are sure to help you prepare for your fantasy draft.

AFC East

For everyone else, it's just preseason, but for JETS WR Plaxico Burress, Sunday night's game was his first NFL game since 2008, and he produced three catches for 66 yards and one touchdown. Burress should be considered as a No. 3 WR in fantasy leagues, especially considering Mark Sanchez will love targeting him in the red zone. Sunday should have quelled most, not all, fears about the 34-year-old Burress' return.

Last Friday night's DOLPHINS game is another reminder that you have to pay close attention to how Tony Sparano divides carries between Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. Bush looked great in his first game with Miami, while Thomas struggled near the goal line. The interior O-line certainly looked improved — a positive for both backs, but it is still unclear how either back will fair in fantasy.

PATRIOTS TE Aaron Hernandez has proved thus far in the preseason that you shouldn't have to worry about drafting him, even with Rob Gronkowski being a better red-zone target. Hernandez is one of Tom Brady's favorite targets between the 20s and he has 110 yards receiving and one TD through two preseason games. In PPR leagues, Hernandez might be a better choice than Gronk.

As sexy as it has seemed to peg C.J. Spiller as a breakout candidate, his performance against Denver (six carries for 10 yards) has to temper those expectations. The BILLS' offensive line is still a weakness, which will hamper both the run and the pass. Spiller is oozing with potential, but he is clearly the No. 2 back in Buffalo and the O-line doesn't look improved.

 

AFC North

BROWNS TE Evan Moore, who had two TD catches against Detroit last Friday, suffered what head coach Pat Shurmur called a "mild concussion." Moore, who could be considered a sleeper in deeper leagues because of a strong summer, also suffered a concussion last season. A converted wideout, Moore runs well and is an intriguing player in an offense that has an improved passing game.

In two preseason starts, BENGALS rookie QB Andy Dalton has thrown zero TD passes and three interceptions while completing 19-of-34 passes for 155 yards. At best, he merits late-round consideration in bigger leagues until he shows more. … Through two games, rookie WR A.J. Green has been targeted a team-high 10 times, catching 5-37-0 (long of 11).

STEELERS RB Isaac Redman has rushed for a team-high 68 yards on 13 carries through two preseason games and is a reasonable late-round pickup for owners who invest in Rashard Mendenhall early.

So far, so good for new RAVENS WR Lee Evans. He caught all three passes thrown to him in his preseason debut with Baltimore, including one that ended in a 43-yard gain. Evans will start for the Ravens, and he's going to get some chances to stretch the field.

 

AFC South

With each passing day, the health of QB Peyton Manning's neck becomes a greater mystery. And, as a result, the fantasy outlook for usual COLTS heavy hitters like Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne takes a hit. Owner Jim Irsay said this weekend the team was evaluating the QB position, but it's hard to imagine that anyone other than Manning starting Week One will make potential Clark and Wayne owners rest easy about their 2011 prospects.

TEXANS RB Ben Tate on Saturday night, in his first NFL action in more than a year, flashed the big-play ability that convinced Houston to make him its second-round selection in 2010. Tate carried the ball nine times for 95 yards, also holding up well as a blocker and receiver. The performance boosted his chances of being Arian Foster's top backup.

With the TITANS' top two running backs — Chris Johnson continues his ugly holdout and backup Javon Ringer was sidelined with a hip injury — out last Friday night against the Rams, fourth-round rookie Jamie Harper excelled. He carried the ball 11 times for 83 yards, and found paydirt for the second week in a row. Harper, who has been very sharp this preseason, continues to see his fantasy value increase the longer Johnson's spat with the team continues.

With both JAGUARS signalcallers, David Garrard and Blaine Gabbert, failing to grab hold of the starting QB battle, one of the few bright spots for the offense has been fourth-round rookie WR Cecil Shorts. Although Shorts' five grabs for 52 yards are fairly pedestrian, he continues to stand out among an unremarkable receiving corps.

AFC West

Perhaps no player around the league is primed for a big season more than CHARGERS WR Vincent Jackson. After a couple of rocky offseasons where he was unable to negotiate a long-term contract, the receiver is finally set to hit the open market next spring. From the looks of his play during the preseason, he will be in great demand from teams looking for an elite pass catcher. Jackson and QB Philip Rivers have shown no lockout rust, and through two games, the wideout is gaining 20.6 yards per reception (five catches, 103 yards). With an elite QB launching him passes and the drive for a new contract supplying motivation, Jackson will be tough to stop.

Fantasy owners expecting new RAIDERS TE Kevin Boss to come right in and duplicate the statistics of Zach Miller, who left in free agency for the Seahawks, will be in for a rude awakening. Boss is a solid receiver, but his career-high in receptions (42 in 2009 for the Giants) is less than Miller's career-low. The new tight end is not as fast or athletic as Miller, and it will be a challenge for Boss to be the downfield threat that Miller was. Also, Boss suffered a knee injury during Oakland's second preseason game and might be limited in practice the rest of the preseason.

It's now or never for RB Knowshon Moreno in Denver, and the former first-round pick is playing like a man who wants to save his job. Moreno has seen limited playing time during the preseason, as BRONCOS coaches want to keep their starters fresh for the regular season, but he has taken advantage of his time on the field. The starting back is gaining more than five yards per carry (10 carries, 51 yards) and has earned praise from his teammates this summer. Head coach John Fox's offense has served running backs (and fantasy owners) well in the past, and it could do the same for Moreno.

There is lots of confusion surrounding the CHIEFS' receiving corps. Rookie Jonathan Baldwin was drafted to be a starter, although a (hand/wrist) injury suffered in preseason will keep him out for an unknown length of time. That could leave Jerheme Urban starting across from Dwayne Bowe, with Steve Breaston in the slot. Even if Urban is starting Week One, don't expect him to provide much of a jolt to a fantasy lineup. The journeyman is a favorite of K.C. head coach Todd Haley, but he has had only two career games with more than 80 receiving yards and none since 2008.

 

NFC East

COWBOYS observers continue to insist that there are only three true pass catchers on the roster worth drafting: WRs Miles Austin and Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten. Although it could be a prolific passing game, those three and the running backs (led by Felix Jones) will be the primary receivers. TE Martellus Bennett has been a disappointment, and no one clearly has stepped forward at the No. 3 WR spot.

EAGLES WR Jeremy Maclin is still on track to play in the regular-season opener. The team believes his stamina won't take too big a hit, even though he essentially has been inactive much of the offseason, but the coaches will work him back into the rotation until then and not ask too much of him. In the grand scheme of things, Maclin's fantasy value should remain high when you take what he should produce over the course of the entire season into account.

REDSKINS QB John Beck led an efficient game (14-of-17 passing, 140 yards) in a 16-3 win over the Colts last Friday night, parrying Rex Grossman's move in the first preseason contest. The battle remains open, but our sources still think Beck has the edge as long as he stays healthy. Is he a draftable fantasy quarterback? Maybe not, but don't rule out decent production.

Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon are battling hard for the GIANTS' No. 3 WR position, and with the losses of Steve Smith and TE Kevin Boss, the winner could end up seeing 5-7 passes thrown his way per game.

 

NFC North

LIONS RB Jahvid Best reportedly suffered a concussion at Cleveland on Friday night. Best suffered a pair of concussions in 2009, his final season at Cal. "We'll take it slow with him," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said on Sunday, according to the club's website. "Based on his situation from a couple years ago, we'll be very, very cautious with him." However, Schwartz also said, according to DetroitLions.com, that once medically cleared, Best would return to action.

VIKINGS QB Donovan McNabb elicited more positive reviews for his second preseason performance than his first. He checked down and used his running backs and tight ends a lot, which is what he always has done, so there is a thought that he could be productive in this system at those two positions of strength, as could WR Percy Harvin.

It certainly looks like the deadly Aaron Rodgers-Greg Jennings connection remains in perfect synch for the PACKERS. In each of Green Bay's first two preseason games, Jennings was on the receiving end of a TD pass from Rodgers on a back-shoulder fade route.     

A strong preseason from BEARS RB Marion Barber is not a good development for Chester Taylor, who is battling for a roster spot, but it's also bad news for Matt Forté's fantasy stock. Barber is in line for a role as a short-yardage and goal-line back, and he could limit Forté's touchdown opportunities. Forté has rushed for only 10 TDs in the past two seasons, so owners might want to supplement him with another back who is going to get the vast majority of his team's goal-line touches.

 

NFC South

The BUCCANEERS are hoping WR Arrelious Benn will make his preseason debut Aug. 27 against the Dolphins. He's been sitting out, as the team does not want to rush his recovery from surgery to repair a torn ACL, but it's expected that a starting job is awaiting him, even though his fellow WR Dezmon Briscoe impressed in training camp. Benn is worth considering with a late-round pick in deeper leagues.

PANTHERS WR Steve Smith returned to practice last week after missing a week with a dislocated finger, but he has yet to play in a preseason game. It's a mild concern that he and QB Cam Newton, who is the front-runner to start in Week One, haven't had the opportunity to work together in a game situation yet, but fantasy owners should view Smith as a No. 3 receiver in most formats. Smith could have some very quiet weeks, however, as Newton goes through growing pains. … In both preseason games, the Panthers had two tight ends — Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey — in the starting lineup, and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski wants to have both players involved. Although they eat into each other's fantasy value, Olsen is the better option and our sources predict he will get the lion's share of the touches. He's worth considering as a No. 2 tight end in deeper leagues after being traded from the Bears, where he was underutilized as a receiver in Mike Martz's offense.

Owners considering QB Drew Brees should be encouraged to hear Brees emphasize the importance of reestablishing balance between the pass and run, even though it's an indication his passing attempts will drop from last year's career-high 658. Brees was at his best in 2009, when the SAINTS ranked fourth in passing and sixth in rushing. They ranked third in passing and 28th in rushing in '10, but Brees threw twice as many interceptions as he did the previous season and one fewer touchdown.

FALCONS WR Harry Douglas is among the preseason leaders in receiving yards (134) and he has scored a touchdown, including a 76-yarder on a short crossing route against Jaguars, in each of the first two exhibitions. The Falcons are excited about the third-year slot receiver, but fantasy owners shouldn't get caught up in the preseason hype. Douglas is worth considering with a flier late in deep-league drafts, but he still is competing with Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez for targets, and Atlanta is going to stay pretty balanced on offense with RB Michael Turner carrying the load.

NFC West

In the wake of CARDINALS second-round rookie RB Ryan Williams' season-ending ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee suffered in the third quarter of Arizona's preseason loss to the Packers, it goes without saying that fellow RB Beanie Wells' fantasy stock rises significantly. All signs pointed toward Wells and Williams — who we hear couldn't have been looking more impressive before his injury — sharing the rushing load this season. As it now stands, though, Wells shapes up as the team's rushing workhorse. LaRod Stephens-Howling temporarily moves up the depth chart to serve as Wells' primary backup, but the odds are strong that the Cardinals will scour the waiver wire in search of an experienced back who could make his presence felt quickly. For those of you in keeper leagues, it's worth noting that the very promising Williams is expected to make a complete recovery in time for next season.

It appears the RAMS' logjam at wide receiver is no closer to being unraveled through the first two preseason games, with slot specialist Danny Amendola looking like the only sure thing. The best guess for now is that the front-runners for starting roles are the same as they were entering the preseason — Brandon Gibson, who scored an 83-yard TD on the opening play of the Rams' preseason win over the Titans, and Donnie Avery, who had a 19-yard TD later in the game in his first action of the preseason.

It looks like 49ERS newly acquired WR Braylon Edwards could be making a case for the No. 1 wideout spot over the injured Michael Crabtree. Edwards raised eyebrows in the Niners' preseason victory over the Raiders with a one-handed, 32-yard reception of a pass thrown by Alex Smith.

The SEAHAWKS' offense has left a lot to be desired so far this preseason, and that's especially the case with second-year WR Golden Tate, who the team is hoping will develop into a consistent big-play threat this season after a very uneven rookie campaign. Tate looked anything but golden in the Seahawks' preseason loss to the Vikings when a third-down strike by QB Tarvaris Jackson bounced off Tate's hands and was subsequently returned for a 64-yard TD by Vikings defender Marcus Sherels.