With Sunday's games in the books, here's a brief list of the most significant depth chart changes affecting fantasy leagues, including the emergence of three rookie running backs:
ARIZONA RB - RISING: Tim Hightower. FALLING: Edgerrin James. This one has been coming for a long time, but few could have expected the drastic reversal we saw on Sunday. Hightower had been steadily taking carries away from James, first in goal-line situations and later at other points on the field. There were some reports last week that he was about to steal the starting job from Edge, but James didn't appear to be in danger of disappearing completely. Then came Sunday, when Hightower not only started and got 22 carries, but James never touched the ball once. No injury. No disciplinary action. Just a flat-out benching. Even J.J. Arrington had six carries and five receptions. Whether or not James has fallen behind Arrington is anyone's guess, but it's clear that Hightower is the #1 back for now.
CHICAGO QB - RISING: Rex Grossman. FALLING: Kyle Orton. One of the most pleasant surprises this year, Orton entered week nine with a 91.4 quarterback rating and 10:4 TD:INT ratio. Bears fans thought the horrors of the Rex Grossman era were behind them for good. Thanks to a high ankle sprain suffered by Orton on Sunday, Grossman was back on the Soldier Field turf, leading the Bears to a come-from-behind victory over Detroit. Orton is expected to be out for at least a month, so expect to ride the Grossman Turnover Express for four or five more games.
HOUSTON QB - RISING: Sage Rosenfels. FALLING: Matt Schaub. Schaub's been rolling lately, throwing for nine touchdowns and 1,233 yards over his last four games. Unfortunately, he was sidelined with a knee injury Sunday and didn't return after halftime. Rosenfels threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns, nearly bringing the Texans back against the Vikings. Schaub is expected to miss at least four weeks with a torn MCL, so Rosenfels is a must pickup for those in need of help at quarterback given the talent in the Houston receiving corps.
KANSAS CITY RB - RISING: Jamaal Charles. Falling: Kolby Smith. Larry Johnson has missed the last three games due to various infractions, and will miss next week's game as well. Smith hadn't faired well the first two games as starter, but things were going much better Sunday until he suffered a knee injury. With 46 yards on 10 carries, including a touchdown, Smith was on his way to the best game of his career. Instead, his season is over. The rookie Charles took over, gaining 106 yards on 18 carries. The job is his until Johnson returns, which could be as early as Week 11, but it may never happen at all.
BALTIMORE RB - RISING: Ray Rice. FALLING: Willis McGahee. Three weeks ago, we talked about Rice finally passing Le'Ron McClain on the depth chart, and now it looks like he could be ahead of starter McGahee as well. McGahee was officially active Sunday, but stayed on the sidelines with a sore ankle. Rice ran wild against Cleveland, gaining 154 yards on 21 carries. With McClain stealing short-yardage carries and Rice coming into his own, the injury prone McGahee may find getting carries a bit harder in the near future.
COWBOYS QB - RISING: Brooks Bollinger. FALLING: Brad Johnson. We're contractually obligated to discuss the Dallas quarterback situation, but it's clear that when Tony Romo goes down, so goes the team. Once upon a time, Johnson was a pretty good quarterback, even topping 4,000 yards once. That was a long time ago, and it's clear that he can't throw the ball downfield any more. Bollinger isn't much better, but is 11 years younger than Johnson, so the Cowboys might benefit from having him at the helm. Of course, Bollinger's first pass Sunday was intercepted, so maybe he's not better. The Cowboys are off next week, so the hope is that Romo will be ready by Week 11. If not, Bollinger will probably get the start after he took over in Sunday's loss to the Giants..
EAGLES TE - RISING: Brent Celek. FALLING: L.J. Smith. Smith missed Sunday's game with a concussion, and Celek made the most of the opportunity, catching six passes for 131 yards. Concussions have a tendency to linger, so if Celek continues to play well, the Eagles will be in no hurry to rush Smith back.
Article first appeared 11/3/08