RotoWire Partners

2009 Job Battles-Week 7

Kenn Ruby

Kenn has been writing and editing for RotoWire since 2003. Though he attended Northwestern with the co-founders of RotoWire, he is not considered a made member of the RotoWire Northwestern mafia, as he can't trace back all of his ancestors to Dan Okrent.

Preseason Job Battles
By Kenn Ruby
RotoWire Writer

BEARS RB: Matt Forte is a top-five running back this year, but thanks to a season-ending ankle injury to backup Kevin Jones, Forte's hold on the starting job is as strong as ever. Garrett Wolfe and Adrian "The Other" Peterson are now Forte's primary backups.

BILLS RB: The Bills surprisingly cut backup Dominic Rhodes over the weekend, meaning Fred Jackson won't have to share carries with any experienced backs while Marshawn Lynch sits out the first three weeks with a suspension. Xavier Omon will back up Jackson until Lynch returns.

BRONCOS QB: This time last year, the Broncos had star-in-the-making Jay Cutler. Then they traded him for Kyle Orton. Well, thanks to a dislocated finger on his throwing hand, Orton's status for Week 1 is in doubt, meaning Tom Brandstater or castoff Chris Simms may start instead. How the mighty have fallen.

BRONCOS RB: Knowshon Moreno is now healthy enough to play, but he's a bit behind Correll Buckhalter in both overall experience and 2009 experience, so he'll probably not see a whole lot of action in the regular season opener. One name to watch out for, however, is Peyton Hillis. Although it's doubtful he'll break through as a starter this year, he could carve out a nice Kevin Faulk-type role in the Denver offense.

BROWNS QB: Although the Browns still haven't decided between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, they surprisingly held both out in the preseason finale. Coach Eric Mangini knows who he chose, but as of Monday he hadn't even told Anderson or Quinn yet. The cat will probably be let out of the bag in the next few days, but for now it's still a mystery.

BROWNS RB: One of the fastest-rising sleepers this season is James Davis. In fact, one Cleveland beat writer even suggested that starter Jamal Lewis was in danger of being cut. Lewis is still the starter in name, but Davis will be taking over the job eventually, and if Lewis gets off to a rough start, it might be sooner than you think. Jerome Harrison is now a distant third in this race.

BROWNS WR: Although there is still no clear No. 2 receiver, Cleveland cut veteran David Patten, which cleared things up a tad. Braylon Edwards is obviously the top dog, but the Browns will use Mike Furrey, Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Brian Robiskie behind him. Furrey or Cribbs is likely to get the nod as starter in the opener, but any of that quartet is a candidate to start this season.

BUCCANEERS QB: Byron Leftwich was announced as the starter a couple of weeks ago, so the Bucs felt confident enough to trade Luke McCown to Jacksonville, freeing up rookie Josh Freeman to be the top backup. Considering that Leftwich is not exactly John Elway, Freeman could be in line for some starts in 2009.

BUCCANEERS RB: The surprising Labor Day news was that Cadillac Williams is atop the official Tampa Bay depth chart. The Bucs will go with a three-headed monster with Derrick Ward at No. 2 and Earnest Graham at No. 3, but it's far more likely that one back will emerge and steal carries from the other two. Most RotoWire writers are still endorsing Ward as the back with the most upside in Tampa, but fantasy owners may want to take the Cadillac for a spin.

BUCCANEERS WR: Starters Antonio Bryant (knee) and Michael Clayton (hamstring) were hurt most of the preseason, but none of the other receivers in Tampa stepped up this summer. Brian Clark and Maurice Stovall are the backups, and they could see significant action this season if Bryant's or Clayton's injuries linger.

CARDINALS RB: Tim Hightower will open the season as the starting running back, but rookie Beanie Wells will be on his heels right from the start. Given Arizona's propensity to throw the ball as well as Wells' presence, Hightower is nowhere near the top tier of starting running backs in the NFL. Wells is probably the safer draft choice right now.

CHIEFS QB: Matt Cassel (knee) was on the practice field Monday, but it's not known if he'll be able to play in the opener. With Tyler Thigpen struggling in the last preseason game, it looks like Brodie Croyle will get the first crack at the Ravens if Cassel can't go.

CHIEFS WR: There were a number of receiving candidates in Kansas City this summer, but the list has been whittled down due to the release of Ashley Lelie and Amani Toomer and the season-ending knee injury of Devard Darling. Mark Bradley, Terrance Copper, and Bobby Engram are the last receivers standing in the battle to start opposite Dwayne Bowe. Bradley will probably start the opener.

DOLPHINS WR: Brian Hartline almost had a starting job, but he fell on his face in preseason finale, dropping the first pass thrown his way. Davone Bess appears to have stolen his job and will start opposite Ted Ginn. Greg Camarillo will also be on hand, but he's coming back from a torn ACL from last November.

GIANTS WR: Although this situation is still muddled, the Giants cut Super Bowl hero David Tyree and then elected to keep seven receivers. Some combination of Hakeem Nicks, Domenik Hixon, Steven Smith, and Mario Manningham will start in the opener, while Sinorice Moss, Ramses Barden, and Derek Hagan will be the backups. Expect the Giants to mix and match in the early part of the season until they find a lineup that works for them.

JAGUARS WR: Thanks to a strong preseason, Troy Williamson officially beat out Mike Sims-Walker for the No. 2 job. Nate Hughes and Jarrett Dillard made the team as backups. Meanwhile, Mike Thomas could be a candidate for the IR with a hamstring injury.

LIONS QB: A bizarre toe injury to Daunte Culpepper paved the way for Matthew Stafford to take the reins of the Detroit offense. Stafford was announced as the starter on Monday, and the No. 1 overall draft pick will make his regular-season debut Sept. 13 against the Saints.

PATRIOTS RB: New England rested their top four backs (Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, and Kevin Faulk) in the preseason finale. Benjarvus Green-Ellis took advantage of the playing time with 29 carries for 125 yards and three scores, but he doesn't figure to crack the New England rotation this year unless injuries strike. Maroney figures to head the pack this year, but it's not worth rolling the dice with any of them until one back clearly emerges.

RAIDERS RB: The final preseason game revealed nothing, as none of the contenders carried the ball more than once, but this one still looks like Darren McFadden's job. Michael Bush and Justin Fargas will be capable backups (though Fargas has been sidelined with a hamstring injury the past two weeks), but Run DMC looks like the man in Oakland.

RAIDERS WR: Right now it looks like Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey will be in the starting lineup for the opener, but Javon Walker is currently healthy and Chaz Schilens (foot) hopes to be back for Week 2, so the situation is still fluid. Johnnie Lee Higgins is also still in mix.

RAMS WR: The Rams were confident enough that Donnie Avery (foot) would be ready for the opener that they decided to part ways with Ronald Curry and Tim Carter, both potential contenders for a significant role on the team as recently as a few weeks ago. Laurent Robinson will start opposite Avery, with the backup jobs going to Keenan Burton and return man Derek Stanley.

RAVENS RB: Although it looks like Willis McGahee was unable to beat out Ray Rice as the workhorse this season, he got most of the goal-line carries during the preseason, indicating that he could be in line to vulture some TDs. Le'Ron McClain had that role last season, but he figures to be used more as a blocking back this year.

RAVENS WR: The pecking order in Charm City looks clear: Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton, Kelley Washington, and Demetrius Williams. Clayton has been dealing with a hamstring injury all summer, so Washington could steal a few reps from him in the opener. He's probably Baltimore's best deep threat.

REDSKINS WR: Malcolm Kelly beat Devin Thomas in the back-and-forth battle for the No. 2 job. Thomas reportedly checked out mentally halfway through the preseason, which probably was what cost him the job. With Santana Moss as the go-to receiver, Antwaan Randle El and Marko Mitchell make up the rest of the staff.

STEELERS RB: Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that Willie Parker will be the main weapon in the backfield this season. Although Rashard Mendenhall had a strong exhibition season, he's not slated to take significant carries away from Parker in the near future.

TEXANS RB: While Steve Slaton is a popular pick to be one of the top backs in the NFL this year, his fantasy value took a hit recently when it was determined that Chris Brown will be used as the short-yardage back. Slaton can score from anywhere on the field, so he'll get his points, but this news makes Brown an intriguing fantasy option in what could be a high-scoring offense.

TITANS WR: Nate Washington hasn't practiced since Aug. 24, thanks to a hamstring injury, and his status for the opener is in doubt. Given that his team is playing Thursday, it's best not to play him this week. Justin Gage and Kenny Britt will probably be the starters for what could be the worst receiving corps in the league.

VIKINGS WR: Bobby Wade recently restructured his contract, which could be an indication that he was nearly on the chopping block. He'll have a smaller role in the offense than originally expected. Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice will start, and rookie Percy Harvin will probably also see more action than Wade this year.

Article first appeared 9/8/09