A month ago, we didn't even know if there was going to be a 2011 season. Now we're dealing with a constant flurry of player movement, camp battles and other NFL news. However, let's focus on some player injuries — how players are recovering and how their injuries are impacting depth charts. Here's everything you need to know so you're not the guy who hollers out "RB Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals" come draft day!
Peyton Manning, Colts — Manning is off the PUP list, which means we can stop avoiding the other Colts' skill-position players now that he's back. Manning's practice will be limited, so don't get too comfortable. He has yet to practice this season and is a year older. His status for Week One is still unknown, but the signing of backup Kerry Collins was a huge move for a team built around it's quarterback. For the record, Manning is optimistic about playing Week One. I will suggest you avoid him early unless he drops.
Byron Leftwich, Steelers — A broken arm may end his season, as the Steelers were in a quarterback quandary anyway. Look for Dennis Dixon to back up Ben Roethlisberger, with 36-year-old veteran Charlie Batch as the No. 3. This week's preseason game will officially settle the backup situation, but it's Dixon's gig to lose. Leftwich may be able to return this season, but he has no fantasy value.
Arian Foster, Texans — Everyone's on pins and needles after this year's top fantasy prospect aggravated his hamstring in the Texans' third preseason game. The team says it's a "mild" injury, and he was able to jog with it. Don't look for him in the final preseason game. Derrick Ward was the first running back off the bench to replace him, but don't hesitate to draft and stash Ben Tate, who's younger and stronger. Foster's draft status will not change, but I still like RB Adrian Peterson more — he's a safer pick.
Javon Ringer, Titans — Ringer (hip) is not going to play in the final preseason game. Part of the reason why is the team needs him healthy for the regular season with Chris Johnson holding out. If you plan to take C.J., you have to take Ringer. Since we don't know how long this hold out will last, I'm looking to draft Ringer — he has an ADP (average draft position) of 190 (Round 16) in a 12-team league. In larger leagues, draft and stash Jamie Harper who — at this time — will be backing Ringer up. If it changes, just waive him. There's no risk for someone going in less than 2 percent of drafts.
Brandon Jackson and Montario Hardesty, Browns — While still not 100 percent, Hardesty is now the team's No. 2 back, as Brandon Jackson is out indefinitely with turf toe. Jackson will be the third-down back when he returns, and Hardesty will merely back up starter Peyton Hillis. Hardesty has an ADP of 205 (Round 18) in a 12-team league. As the No. 2, he's worth a flier pick.
Marion Barber, Bears — Barber tweaked his calf in the third preseason game, and the team will be cautious with the big bruiser. When hurt, he's not effective. The Bears need him, as he's been their most productive rusher this preseason. He'll back up Matt Forte, as I expect Chester Taylor will be cut. Barber's ADP is 163 (Round 14) in a 12-team league, giving him great value. Barring a setback, expect Barber to be ready by Week One. Injury or not, target him.
Rashad Jennings, Jaguars — Jennings (knee) is already questionable for Week One, and he's the primary backup to Maurice Jones-Drew. Keep an eye on this situation. Next in line is Deji Karim, who has a concussion to deal with. Until more is known, don't make any moves with Jennings.
Ryan Torain, Redskins — Torain has returned to practice after missing time with a broken hand, but this is now Tim Hightower's job to lose. Torain is the handcuff, but Roy Helu will take some of his touches, as the team uses him in a variety of ways to take advantage of his playmaking ability. Torain is merely a handcuff to Hightower at this point.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers — It turns out Crabtree had surgery on his foot in June after injuring during player-only workouts. He should be ready for Week One, but he won't be in game shape. Crabtree — with an ADP of 72 (Round Six) in a 12-team league — is going too early and you should pass on him. He's not in any type of shape and will not be effective early on.
Mohamed Massaquoi, Browns — There's been good news for Massaquoi, as he not only returns to practice from a chipped bone in his foot, but he does so as a starter, sending rookie Greg Little back to work with the second team. Massaquoi is behind the learning curve but is working hard to figure it out. His ADP is 210 (Round 19) in a 12-team league. Obviously, you can grab him late in larger leagues, but he's more of a waiver-wire pick up barring a lights-out final preseason game.
Lance Moore, Saints — It turns out Moore does not need surgery for his groin. While his return is not yet set, if he misses any regular-season games, it won't be many. He's currently questionable for Week One. His ADP of 158 (Round 14) in a 12-team league is outstanding value, and I'm going to make sure to target him. The offense is superhigh-powered and QB Drew Brees values Moore and trusts him on the field. He has a chance to improve on the 66 receptions, 763 yards and eight touchdowns he posted last season.
Greg Jennings, Packers — There are no worries about Jennings' knee, as it's just a bruise and he'll be ready for Week One. I'm not a big fan of the receivers in Green Bay outside of TE Jermichael Finley. There just aren't enough footballs to go around, so I'll stick with the freak that could change the tight end position. I won't argue with those who take Jennings, as he's coming into his own and he has the trust of QB Aaron Rodgers.
Lee Evans, Ravens — Evans was seen with a protective boot on his left foot and has not practiced the last couple of days. He's having a solid preseason despite going through a crash course in the offense, so this will set him back. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron says Evans is day-to-day and expects the ex-Bill back soon. He has an ADP of 183 (Round 16) in a 12-team league. That will continue to move up, so grab him now while he's a great value pick.
Miles Austin, Cowboys — The team does not seem too concerned about Austin's hamstring injury. They're being cautious and list him as day-to-day. I would imagine his camp is done so the team can have him ready for Week One. Austin is a beast, but hamstrings are scary because they can easily be reaggravated if a player comes back too soon. If he drops from his ADP of 27 (Round Three) in a 12-team league, then I'll target him. But for right now, watch the injury before assuming he's healthy enough to play.
Arrelious Benn, Buccaneers — Benn made his return from an ACL injury and is in line to start along Mike Williams. I don't see any value in a receiver like Benn, who has not shown much and has to work his way back, so I'll avoid him. Not because of a lack of talent, but I want to see him in action, as he wasn't overwhelming in his first preseason action. His ADP of 173 (Round 15) in a 12-team league makes him a solid flier in larger leagues. I just prefer someone ready to break out, not prove himself.
Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith, Eagles — Maclin and Smith are now practicing, and Maclin will be ready for Week One. Sadly he won't be in game shape. He'll start out slow but come around and be good enough to be a high-end No. 3 fantasy receiver. That still doesn't thrill me with an ADP of 41 (Round Four) in a 12-team league. That's too high for me so I'll avoid him. When will Smith be ready to play? Only the coaches know. Right now, his ADP of 84 (Round Seven) in a 12-team league, is more attractive than Maclin's, but it's still too rich for me. Until I know how the team spreads the ball around and who QB Michael Vick will favor, outside No. 1 DeSean Jackson, I'll stay away from the rest.
Brandon Lloyd, Broncos — Lloyd was able to play and showed no ill affects with knee injury during practice. He played in the preseason game against the Seahawks and will be ready for Week One. I like Lloyd and what he's done, but with an ADP of 44 (Round Four) in a 12-team league, I'm avoiding him because he's injury-prone and best-suited for the slot position. I believe Eric Decker can overtake him during the season.
Randall Cobb, Packers — Cobb (knee) is back at practice and will be ready for Week One. He doesn't have much value considering how deep the receivers are in Green Bay, but he has talent and is someone to watch in-season. Let's see how the team uses him or how injuries affect depth-chart movement. He's currently going in only 2 percent of leagues.
Jermichael Finley, Packers — Finley has looked sharp, but he did suffer an ankle injury, although it's not considered serious. Look for him to go in Week One, and I believe he'll be the Packers' top receiving threat this year. He is that good and may redefine the position.
Brent Celek, Eagles — Celek didn't practice last weekend because of what was termed a minor hip injury. According to reports, Celek and Michael Vick have worked together to build chemistry, and Celek will be more involved this season. I don't believe it. You have receivers DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith to feed. Add LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown at running back, and there aren't enough footballs to go around. I'm sorry, but I'll avoid him on draft day and suggest you do the same.
Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers — Winslow has been relatively healthy the last two years after knee injuries and off-the-field issues highlighted the early portion of his career. He left last weekend's preseason game with an ankle injury, but it will not set him back and he'll be ready for Week One. I like Winslow, but as the young Bucs grow with their receivers, his numbers will decrease. Winslow's ADP of 156 (Round 13) in a 12-team league is a fair spot for him. I just believe there are other more worthy starting fantasy tight ends. Why risk a pick on a player with diminishing returns?
Garrett Hartley, Saints — Hartley has a "tweaked" hip, whatever that means. I say that because the team is not forthcoming with how badly hurt he is. Hartley's situation is worth watching, though, as reports have surfaced that the team will sign ex-Panthers PK John Kasay. I'll still consider grabbing Hartley, as he's on a high-powered offense and is worth holding for a week or two. I use the draft to find sleepers and will wait until the final few rounds for my defense and kicker. After over a dozen years in this industry, you learn a few things — one being kickers are not a dime a dozen, but close to it!