With Sunday's games in the books, here's a brief list of the most significant depth chart changes affecting fantasy leagues:
New England QB - RISING: Matt Cassel. FALLING: Tom Brady. You might have heard about this one. Brady, the 2007 MVP, reportedly suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter of the opener, effectively ending his season. Rod Woodson and Jerry Rice both suffered the same injury in season openers and were able to return late in their respective seasons, but it's doubtful that we'll see Brady again this year. The little-known Cassel gets the keys to the franchise, but it should go without saying: he's no Brady. There's already speculation regarding potential roster additions, while Chris Simms was set to visit the Pats on Monday. As it stands now, you can expect Cassel to be picked up in every fantasy league in the world.
Seattle RB - RISING: Julius Jones. FALLING: Maurice Morris. The Seahawks signed Jones to a big contract during the offseason ostensibly to be the starter. However, Morris passed him on the depth chart early in camp and started against the Bills on Sunday. Seattle got behind early, so Morris only had six carries before he went down with a knee injury in the third quarter. Jones played the rest of the way, and if Morris' injury is serious, Jones should have the job all to himself. Jones had 13 carries for 45 yards, with a long of 24, but with a week of practice with the first team and more touches in Week 2, he should be able to improve upon those numbers.
Tennessee QB - RISING: Kerry Collins. FALLING: Vince Young. Young entered 2008 wanting to prove the naysayers wrong, and although he got a nice win against Jacksonville, he only threw for 110 yards and had two picks. In other words, it looks like the same Young we saw last year. Collins completed two passes for 65 yards in relief after a torn MCL knocked Young out of the game. Young is currently facing a 2-4 week absence with an MRI scheduled for Monday. He is the face of the franchise, so his presence will be missed.
Seattle WR - RISING: Jordan Kent. FALLING: Nate Burleson. At first glance, Kent doesn't exactly look like a riser. He was shut out Sunday and wasn't even targeted until the fourth quarter. However, Matt Hasselbeck went to him three different times in the end zone during one drive (although it should be said that the game was already out of reach by then). Kent had a nice preseason, but inexplicably couldn't beat out the unproven Courtney Taylor or Logan Payne for a starting job. With word that Burleson has a sprained knee, Kent may get an opportunity to start this week against San Francisco.
Kansas City QB - RISING: Damon Huard. FALLING: Brodie Croyle. The chances of a Kansas City quarterback leading anyone to fantasy glory is next to nothing, but Croyle's mistake-free football kept the Chiefs in the game against the mighty Patriots. Kansas City was down just 7-3 in the third quarter when Croyle separated his shoulder. Huard came in and threw for 118 yards and a touchdown, and is likely to be the starter for the next couple of weeks. The Chiefs draw a tough secondary in Oakland for Week 2, but in extremely deep leagues, Huard still might be worth playing.
Jacksonville WR - RISING: Matt Jones. FALLING: Jerry Porter and Reggie Williams. What a difference a year makes. A year ago, Matt Jones was in the Jaguars' doghouse and only caught 24 passes despite his 6-6 frame. Jones, with a strong camp behind him, earned a spot in the Week 1 starting lineup and didn't disappoint, catching six passes for 80 yards. Porter, the presumptive No. 1 receiver, missed the game with a hamstring injury, but is expected to return this week. It was assumed that when Porter got healthy that Jones would go back to being a third or fourth receiver while Porter and Williams served as the two starters. Now Williams' starting role is in jeopardy and even Porter might be looking up at Jones on the depth chart.
New Orleans WR - RISING: Devery Henderson. FALLING: Robert Meachem. Meachem was a very trendy sleeper pick at RotoWire headquarters, but he was surprisingly inactive in the opener. The Saints looked smart in going with Henderson, as he hooked up on an 84-yard scoring strike with quarterback Drew Brees while Meachem watched from the sidelines. The Saints already have plenty of other offensive weapons, so Henderson - who didn't have any other receptions - will need more performances like this to have a sniff of fantasy relevance. In the meantime, Meachem will have to impress his coaches on the practice field if he hopes to play - and contribute - on Sundays.
Article first appeared 9/8/08