By Dalton Del Don
Ronnie Brown, RB, MIA - Considering four of his 10 touchdowns last season came in one game when Miami caught New England off guard using the Wildcat, Brown's 2008 season wasn't quite as good as it appeared on paper. The main problem was his use, as the team implemented a straight committee. In fact, Brown received more than 17 carries in a game just twice. He also had fewer receptions and receiving yards than the year before despite playing in nine more games. However, Ricky Williams, who is now 32 years old, which is ancient for the running back position, has shown his age during training camp, so don't expect another timeshare in Miami's backfield moving forward. Brown, meanwhile, has looked terrific, and it's clear more explosion is back now a full year removed from knee surgery. Don't forget Brown totaled 991 yards in just seven games two seasons ago, so if the team starts throwing him the ball more, there's quite a bit of upside. Brown's ADP (30.15) is too low - he's a legitimate second round pick.
Matt Schaub, QB, HOU - Schaub has missed 10 games over the past two seasons, but each injury resulted from an illegal hit that was flagged and later fined. Durability remains a concern, but over his final eight games last year, he got a whopping 8.7 YPA, which would have easily led the NFL over a full season. And since Houston's defense figures to remain a weakness, the Texans will be throwing frequently, so there's 30-touchdown potential here. Only health can prevent Schaub from finishing as a top-five QB this year.
Darren McFadden, RB, OAK - If you saw McFadden's 45-yard run during Oakland's preseason opener, you know why Justin Fargas isn't long for the starting job, which even coach Tom Cable has finally admitted. It remains to be seen how many carries McFadden can withstand, but the team will certainly give him as many touches as he can handle after making him the fourth overall pick last year. The fact McFadden was able to manage 4.4 YPC last season playing for a bad team and with two turf toe injuries reveals huge potential now that's he's fully healthy. Since he should also be heavily involved as a receiver, McFadden shouldn't last past the third round of fantasy drafts.
Brett Favre, QB, MIN - Well, he's officially a Viking, so he's back on the fantasy radar, at least in deep or 2-QB leagues. With a strong defense and terrific ground game, Favre won't be throwing frequently, and at age 39, his fantasy value is obviously quite limited. With Bernard Berrian, a healthy Sidney Rice and the explosive Percy Harvin, Minnesota's options in the passing attack could actually prove dangerous, but Favre is a long-shot to play in all 16 games at this stage of his career. Enjoy the circus but don't consider Favre a top-20 fantasy QB.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, NYG - Bradshaw is clearly the No. 2 back for the Giants with Andre Brown (Achilles) out for the season, and he solidified that position with a dominant performance during the preseason opener, which included him running over an unsuspecting Carolina defensive back. Bradshaw is also the team's best option as a receiver out of the backfield, and two years ago he had the longest run of the NFL season at 88 yards, so his breakaway speed is legit as well. Brandon Jacobs remains a big injury risk, and New York fields quite possibly the best run-blocking offensive line in the NFL, so Bradshaw could explode if Jacobs goes down. But unlike other backups who rely on injuries, Bradshaw should see 10-15 touches each week even if Jacobs stays healthy, as second-stringer Derrick Ward totaled more than 1,400 yards last season.
Jeremy Shockey, TE, NO - Shockey looked sharp in the Saints' first preseason game against Cincinnati, catching three passes for a total of 61 yards and a touchdown. It's obviously just one game in the preseason, but Shockey's current ADP is 121.76 - typically the 11th tight end off the board, so his value is at an all-time low. Remember, he's usually been pretty productive when on the field in between injuries, and the Saints' passing offense ranked No. 1 in the league last year.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR - Jonathan Stewart's Achilles' injury continues to sideline him, and considering it stemmed from a foot problem last year, it's become a huge concern. There's no way Carolina could maintain last season's record-setting pace running the football, but don't forget Williams rushed for 1,515 yards and scored 20 touchdowns on just 273 carries last year. If Jonathan Stewart weren't in the picture, Williams would be worth the No. 2 overall pick, at a minimum.
Matt Cassel, QB, KC - It's still early, but signs are pointing more to Cassel being a product of New England's environment rather than the next star quarterback in the NFL. In fact, rumors have swirled he hasn't even locked up the starting job in Kansas City. Of course, the team gave him a $63 million contract, so he's the heavy favorite, but Cassel has struggled mightily in camp. Considering Tony Gonzalez was traded, and Dwayne Bowe continues to disappoint, Cassel's stock is falling.
Donovan McNabb, QB, PHI - It's certainly not a huge deal, but it appears McNabb will miss out on 5-10 plays per game this year after Philadelphia acquired Michael Vick. McNabb remains a QB1 option, but that lost playing time won't help. Don't buy into the "both will be on the field at the same time" talk.
Chaz Schilens, WR, OAK - Schilens is expected to miss at least one month after breaking a bone in his left foot during Tuesday's practice. Specifically, he broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot while making a cut during a route, and this is an injury that could linger well into the season. He'd been the Raiders' most impressive receiver thus far in camp, so it's an untimely injury for everyone's favorite PPR sleeper.
Kyle Orton, QB, DEN - While patience should be preached, it was disconcerting to say the least watching Orton get picked off on each of his first three preseason drives against a mediocre 49ers defense. Orton was fine on the dink-and-dunk throws but ran into trouble any time he tried to make something happen down the field, so prospective Eddie Royal and/or Brandon Marshall owners take note. Because of the talented receivers on the roster and Josh McDaniels' playcalling, Chris Simms becomes a deep sleeper if Orton's struggles continue. Trading Jay Cutler remains mind-boggling.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, ATL - Coming to Atlanta, Gonzalez has a much better chance of finally winning his first playoff game than if he stayed in Kansas City, but his numbers are also more likely to drop. Even at age 32, Gonzalez proved he's hardly done with a big year last season, but the Falcons ran the ball a staggering 181 more times than the Chiefs did. Roddy White should also remain the No. 1 option in the passing game. Gonzalez will remain plenty valuable, but Greg Olsen is probably the better fantasy pick.
Marc Bulger, QB, STL - Bulger suffered a small fracture in his right pinkie and will miss at least two weeks of action. He's since admitted that the injury could affect him into the season, though he is targeting a Week 1 return. The team is learning a new offensive system and already lost Donnie Avery to a foot injury, so expect a slow start in St. Louis. Bulger was barely a QB2 option anyway, but this news further drops him down the cheat sheet. The Rams could have the worst offense in football in 2009.
Brandon Marshall, WR, DEN - The good news is he was found not guilty during his most recent trial, avoiding a potential lengthy suspension from the league. However, that was just one of Marshall's many concerns, as his lingering hip injury remains an issue as well as his displeasure with the organization. He's repeatedly asked to be traded and recently proudly admitted to being Ònot closeÓ to learning the playbook. He wants a new contract but is also upset with a public-relations staffer allegedly telling Broncos players not to act too happy for Marshall after he was found not guilty of a misdemeanor battery charge in Atlanta. It's a circus with too many unknowns.
Article first appeared 8/19/09