By Dalton Del Don
Tim Hightower - No one's fantasy value took a bigger jump during Week 9 than Hightower, who has officially become Arizona's feature back. A fifth-round pick out of Richmond, 12 running backs were selected before the Cardinals chose Hightower in the 2008 draft. He doesn't have blazing long-speed, but his hard-nosed style has impressed the coaching staff ever since training camp. Hightower's season 3.4 YPC mark is deceptive since so much of his work came in short-yardage situations, and he was highly productive during his first start, gaining 5.0 YPC. He's an effective receiver, and his 24 red-zone carries rank ahead of big named backs like Brandon Jacobs, Marshawn Lynch and Clinton Portis. Edgerrin James didn't play a single snap Sunday, so Hightower is going to carry the load from here on out. With a fantastic passing game at his disposal, there's some serious upside.
Ryan Torain - After much hype, Torain's NFL debut was hardly impressive, as he gained just one yard on three carries. That effort came against a Dolphins front seven that has played well this season, and the attempts were near the goal line, so the lackluster effort in such a small sample size doesn't say much. However, news that Michael Pittman (neck) and Andre Hall (hand) have both been placed on IR means Torain has only a hobbled Selvin Young (groin) competing for touches. Mike Shanahan has been effusive in his praise of Torain, and although Denver's total rushing stats look subpar this season, the team's 4.4 YPC mark is tied for eighth best in the league. Backed by a high-powered passing attack, Denver will need to develop a ground game in order to keep its horrific defense off the field, so Torain possesses quite a bit of potential over the second half of the season.
Jamaal Charles - Charles isn't thought of as a true workhorse, but he's been Kansas City's most effective back even before Kolby Smith suffered a knee injury. With Smith done for the season, and Larry Johnson suspended for Week 10 and possibly much longer if he is found guilty in one or both of his December court cases, Charles is looking at most of the touches in the Chiefs' backfield for the foreseeable future. He has terrific explosiveness, can be an effective receiver out of the backfield and has averaged 5.7 YPC on the year. With a relatively soft schedule from here on out, Charles could be a major difference-maker down the stretch, especially since Tyler Thigpen has upgraded Kansas City's quarterback position.
Cedric Benson - Rushing for 104 yards against the Jaguars isn't as impressive as it used to be, but Benson's feat deserves note nevertheless. He has easily entrenched himself as the Bengals' feature back, and surprisingly, teammates have heaped nothing but praise upon him. Benson's upside remains limited since he doesn't catch many passes, has Ryan Fitzpatrick (4.8 YPA) holding the offense back and Cincinnati's upcoming schedule is brutal, but he still needs to be owned in all formats.
Ray Rice - Rice totaled 176 yards on just 24 touches against the Browns last week, showing nice moves and breakaway ability in the process. Willis McGahee's (ankle) health status remains a question mark, and Rice would possess significant value if McGahee were forced to continue sitting out. Either way, Rice has earned himself a role in Baltimore's offense, and he looks like the team's future at the running back position.
Sage Rosenfels - With Matt Schaub (knee) succumbing to yet another injury, Rosenfels will be Houston's starting quarterback for at least the next four games. Other than a four-minute stretch against the Colts, he's played well this season, getting 7.6 YPA while completing 67.7 percent of his passes. He's a drop off from Schaub, but it's not too steep, as Rosenfels was able to throw 15 touchdowns over nine games last year. The immediate schedule isn't ideal, but with plenty of weapons on offense and Gary Kubiak running the show, Rosenfels is a must-add in all fantasy leagues.
Greg Camarillo - Undrafted out of Stanford, Camarillo has quietly become one of the league's better possession receivers in 2008. He's only scored one touchdown on the year, but he's racked up 32 receptions over the last five games and is on pace to finish the season with 86 grabs, making him an extremely valuable PPR commodity. Chad Pennington has been terrific (8.2 YPA), and Camarillo has developed into his favorite target.
Willie Parker - Parker returned to action Monday for the first time since Week 3, gaining 70 rushing yards with a score against a stout Redskins defense. His 3.3 YPC mark left a lot to be desired, but the good news is that he received 21 carries while Mewelde Moore got just four totes, so he's clearly Pittsburgh's feature back moving forward. Parker is still looking for his first reception this season, but he's the Steelers' main option at the goal line, and the team remains committed to the run, especially if Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder injury causes him to miss more time.
Derek Anderson - Anderson's 80.2 QB rating and 2:1 TD:INT ratio against a tough Baltimore secondary last week wasn't bad, but Cleveland blew a 14-point lead to fall to 3-5 on the year, resulting in a switch to Brady Quinn at quarterback. Numerous drops by Braylon Edwards have contributed, but Anderson has really struggled dating back to the middle of last season, and he's completed just 49.8 percent of his passes with a 6.0 YPA mark this year. The Browns will have to swallow Anderson's big contract and see what they have in Quinn over the rest of their lost 2008 season.
Kyle Orton - Orton had been one of the most pleasant surprises this year, but a high-ankle sprain will sideline him for up to a month. Rex Grossman is a huge downgrade, so the entire Chicago offense takes a hit, especially Matt Forte and Greg Olsen. Orton had gotten 8.2 YPA with a 5:0 TD:INT ratio over the last four games, so his loss is significant.
Steven Jackson - Jackson suited up last Sunday, but he was still clearly limited by his quad injury, getting just 17 rushing yards (2.4 YPC) and dropping a wide open pass in the end zone in a favorable matchup. It's possible another week of rest returns him to full health, but this injury could linger, and coach Jim Haslett has stated he needs to see a full speed practice this week in order for Jackson to play in Week 10. The injury could potentially be devastating for Jackson owners if it lingers much longer.
David Garrard - Garrard managed just 6.0 YPA with a 0:1 TD:INT ratio against a beatable Cincinnati secondary last Sunday, which isn't anything new, as he's been a major disappointment all season long. Playing in four fewer games, Garrard has already taken as many sacks while committing two more turnovers this year compared to last. Additionally, his YPA has dropped a full yard, from 7.7 to 6.7. He's running more, but Garrard has passed for just six touchdowns over eight games, making him a poor option in fantasy leagues.
Matt Schaub - Schaub suffered a torn MCL last Sunday and will be sidelined for the next month. He was in the middle of a fine season, getting 7.8 YPA with 12 touchdowns while playing in just 6.5 games, but his inability to stay healthy has become a major problem. He missed five games last season, and even though he worked hard during the offseason in an effort to keep his body healthy in 2008, looks likely to miss at least as many this year.
Justin Fargas - With Darren McFadden dealing with turf toe on both of his feet, and Michael Bush not stepping up, Fargas appears to have Oakland's backfield all to himself. However, that resulted in just 23 yards rushing last Sunday against a suspect Falcons defense. The team got down big and largely abandoned the run, but that could be a trend moving forward with such holes on defense and a poor passing attack. Even when losing, the Raiders had a terrific ground game last season, but that just hasn't been the case in 2008.
Dan Orlovsky - Orlovsky will miss at least the next few weeks with a thumb injury, and it sounds like Detroit may immediately turn to the newly signed Daunte Culpepper. Orlovsky wasn't great as the team's starter, completing just 56.4 percent of his passes while getting 6.6 YPA. Although he's unlikely to impress, Detroit figures to give Culpepper a long look to see if he's an option at quarterback moving forward, so Orlovsky may not see the field again this season.
Ben Roethlisberger - Playing banged up seemingly all season long, Roethlisberger sat out Monday's second half with a shoulder injury. Preliminary tests revealed a bruised AC joint, and he's officially listed as day-to-day, but there's a chance he misses some time. Roethlisberger is often guilty of holding onto the ball too long, but there's no doubt Pittsburgh's offensive line has struggled in pass protection this year, leading to 26 sacks. He's taken 119 sacks over his last 38 games, so his long-term health is a major concern. Before going down with the injury, Roethlisberger had passed for only 10 scores and his YPA dipped to 7.1 this season. He's no doubt a fantastic quarterback, but on a run-first team like Pittsburgh, his fantasy upside is limited, and 2008 has been further proof last year's 32 touchdowns on just 404 pass attempts was unsustainable.
Article first appeared 11/4/08