By Michael Salfino
RotoWire Staff Writer
Kellen Winslow, TE, Browns: He looks all the way back from his injury problems. He's a prima donna who will make noise and cause problems when he doesn't get the ball. So there's a good chance he'll wrestle the alpha male role away from Braylon Edwards in the Browns passing game.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: Philly is throwing the ball 71 percent of the time in the first half of games. Brian Westbrook can't handle more than 10 or 15 carries a game.
Matt Leinart, QB, Cardinals: If you look at all the great QBs in recent NFL history, only one was good as a rookie starter: Dan Marino. Carson Palmer was viewed as just as ready when he came out of college, and he struggled when starting for the first time his SECOND year. But the receivers in Arizona are great. They will make plays no matter who is throwing the ball. But we have to see Leinart in action before we can assess his 2006 prospects - for now Warner's still starting, but he'll be on a short leash.
Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: The goal-line back, which shocks me given his size and lack of experience in the role. Why do small runners generally make lousy goal-line runners? In physics, the largest mass wins every collision (continues doing what it was doing). Parker won't be the largest mass in any, even adjusting for whatever velocity he can muster. So, he'll have to find open spaces, and that's very tough to do out of goal-line formations.
Maurice Drew, RB, Jaguars: One of the things I was right about. No, it doesn't make up for Mike Bell or Kurt Warner (though I told everyone in preseason after seeing Leinart that you MUST get the Leinart handcuff if you draft Warner). Drew has a low center of gravity and is very thick-legged. I like him. Fred Taylor will likely fade and/or miss at least a few games.
Maurice Morris, RB, Seahawks: I don't like him in an expanded role. I think the Seahawks will lineup four wides and use Mack Strong a lot as a one-back. I don't think Morris will get goal-line looks (and the goal line is the two-yard line, people, not the four or the seven; if you're in on the later and not the former, you are NOT the goal-line back).
Ron Dayne, RB, Texans: He's the man, now, for whatever that's worth in the Texans' pitiful offense (though David Carr is actually playing pretty well).
Doug Gabriel, WR, Patriots: Tom Brady attacked him late on Sunday like a fat housewife finding a long-lost box of chocolates. Maybe he hated himself afterwards, but Gabriel is looking the closest thing to a No. 1 receiver on the Patriots with Chad Jackson continuing to struggle with the bad hamstring.
Torry Holt, WR, Rams: Looked like his old self on those beautiful passing plays that are exquisitely timed with Bulger and, thus, unstoppable. He's the most polished route-runner in football and a joy to watch operate.
Brett Favre, QB, Packers: I wouldn't be a buyer, but you have to upgrade him off last week even though the Lions stink. The seasonal YPA is still mediocre and not supportive of a big passing TD number. But the Packers throw a lot in the first half and thus are very likely to throw a lot overall (because they stink, too).
David Carr, QB, Texans: He's in his own little world with Gary Kubiak, playing these blowouts like they're contested games. Taking only what the defense gives and thus piling up nice garbage-time numbers.
Alex Smith, QB, Niners: He's on the Eli Manning path, meaning he'll have his moments this year. But Eli has already been coronated even though he's still a work in progress; so don't expect Smith's season to be smooth.
Eric Johnson, TE, Niners: Vernon Davis (broken leg) is out, and there's a small chance that Johnson will recapture the success he had early in 2004.
Jon Kitna, QB, Lions: You can match him up against certain teams. But there's the risk that the Lions will bench him and take a look at a guy who has a chance of being on the next good Lions team (we can dream).
Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: He had his shoulder examined during the game on Sunday. Ladell Betts is looking good. That's two reasons for at least a semi-committee to continue. We'll upgrade him when he gets 80 percent of the carries in any game.
Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals: Palmer was sacked repeatedly, threw two picks and should have had at least two more. He also fumbled. Interestingly, he told Phil Simms that he feels "very rusty and unathletic." The receivers bailed him out, and that's very fairly part of his value. But this is not the Palmer of 2005, yet.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks: He hasn't been sharp. He'll throw more now with Alexander out, but does he need the running game? He's thrown the fifth most picks based on percentage of pass plays; Palmer is seventh.
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: The YPA last week stunk, and the Patriots still want to run on first down and in the first half. That's their plan every week.
Javon Walker, WR, Broncos: Those long bombs are a fluke. You can't make a fantasy living waiting for them unless you're in a distance scoring league.
J.P. Losman, QB, Bills: The Bills have exhibited extreme run tendencies on first down and during first halves.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills: I want him to be productive one week for four quarters.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: What are you waiting for? Dom Rhodes is averaging two yards a carry on first down, three yards per in the second half.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: DeShaun Foster isn't consistent enough to be the go-to back on a championship team. Maybe Williams is.
Ben Watson, TE, Patriots: It's tough to be the go-to guy as a tight end, where every line of the defense can chip you and slow you down.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Bucs: Where do you go from here? I officially can't downgrade him any more. Mike Alstott gets ALL the easy TD chances (and there won't be many more of those with Bruce Gradkowski at QB).
Donte Stallworth, WR, Eagles: Oh, right. He's always hurt. Sorry, forgot.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants: Yes, he is and forever will be a dog. He seemed to really care how he was angling his visor after he was benched. I guess he has street cred to protect.
Chris Henry, WR, Bengals: I guess the Bengals can keep playing without a tight end if they have absolutely no regard for protecting their still-crippled QB. But I wouldn't bet on it. You know the fullback is playing on normal downs. Are they benching Chad Johnson? T.J.? No way. Expect Henry to spend a lot of snaps on the sidelines now that Houshmandzadeh's healthy.
Article first appeared 9/26/06