RotoWire Partners

Depth Chart Watch: Competitions Remain

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.

BEARS RB: Chester Taylor was cut, so the pecking order has been set: Matt Forte will start, Marion Barber will back him up, and Kahlil Bell will be third string. Both Barber and Bell are a little banged up right now, so it looks like Forte will be the workhorse from day one.

BEARS WR: The Bears havenít come to their senses yet - Roy Williams is still officially ahead of Johnny Knox on the depth chart - but with Knox making a nice TD grab in the preseason finale, itís only a matter of time before he has the job. Still, Knox should outproduce Williams this year regardless of who is starting. Devin Hester will be the flanker and Earl Bennett will be in the slot, and the quartet could all catch a lot of Jay Cutler passes this year.

BILLS WR: Donald Jones' second career concussion kept him out of the preseason finale, but Marcus Easley and David Nelson werenít able to beat him out for the #2 receiver job. The only other contender for the spot was Craig Davis, who got cut despite totaling six receptions in the last game. The Bills will start Steve Johnson and Jones on the outside, with Roscoe Parrish in the slot. Easley and Nelson will fill out the depth chart at wide receiver.

BROWNS RB: Brandon Jackson was placed on the IR with a toe injury, cementing Montario Hardestyís spot as the top backup to Peyton Hillis. Given how much Hillis wore down at the end of last year, itís possible the Browns will give Hardesty enough reps to keep Hillis fresh. Armond Smith, who had an excellent summer, moves up to #3.

BROWNS WR: We may have to wait until Week 1 to see who the Browns throw out there. It looks like the starters will be Mohamed Massaquoi and Greg Little, but Josh Cribbs, Brian Robiskie, and Jordan Norwood have all been rumored as starters in the last month. The Browns will probably have more of a running offense this year, so unless one wideout truly emerges as a go-to receiver, itís doubtful any of them will have value in all but the deepest of fantasy leagues.

CARDINALS RB: Should Beanie Wells owners be worried about the Cardinals signing Chester Taylor to be his backup? In a word, no.

CHARGERS RB: Ryan Mathews played in the preseason finale and played well, while Mike Tolbert didnít play at all. Itís hard to take much from that, but Mathews has looked good the last several weeks and has a hold on the starting job. Tolbert will be a good change-of-pace guy and goal-line back, but Mathews should excel between the 20s.

CHIEFS TE: Not that this will affect many fantasy teams other than mine, but expected starter Tony Moeaki tore his ACL and will miss the season. Leonard Pope gets the starting job by default.

COLTS QB: Peyton Manning is now dealing with back issues (which may have stemmed from his neck injury) and appears to be very doubtful to play in the opener. There were plenty of conflicting reports on Manning's status over the weekend, including some speculation that heís headed for more surgery, but for the time being, fantasy owners should expect him to be back within a few weeks. Kerry Collins is ready to play, and the Colts already dropped Dan Orlovsky, so theyíll likely roll with just Collins and Curtis Painter in Week 1.

COLTS RB: Donald Brown made the team as Joseph Addaiís backup, but he had a lackluster preseason and could soon cede the role to Delone Carter. Given Addaiís injury history, it would not be a surprise to see Carter get significant action this season.

COWBOYS RB: Tashard Choice somewhat surprisingly made the team, but heís already behind rookie DeMarco Murray, and fourth stringer Phillip Tanner looked better this summer. Felix Jones doesnít have the look of a 25-carry-a-game back, so Murray Ė and not Choice Ė looks like the backup to own in Big D.

COWBOYS K: The Cowboys auditioned plenty for the kicking job, mostly because incumbent David Buehler had a hip injury. Buehler is still on the roster, but so is Dan Bailey. Buehler is expected to start the year as a kickoff specialist, with Bailey kicking extra points and field goals. Bailey will obviously have far more value than Buehler, but Buehlerís presence means Bailey will have a shorter leash. You may want to stay away from this one.

DOLPHINS RB: Daniel Thomas appears to be falling further out of favor in Miami, and Tony Sparano indicated last week that he thinks that Reggie Bush will have more touches (not a surprise) and carries (quite a surprise) than Thomas this year. Larry Johnson's release puts Lex Hilliard next in line, but he wonít have much value behind Bush and Thomas.

EAGLES QB: You probably heard about that huge contract Michael Vick signed, and while that should cement him as Philly's starting quarterback for some time, his score-first/worry-later style leads to a numerous dings and increases the importance of his backup. Vince Young suffered a mild hamstring strain in the last preseason game and wasnít able to practice as recently as Labor Day. Mike Kafka, the former Northwestern star, is a bit banged up himself, but some speculate that heís next in line - and not Young. This is just something to keep in mind if youíre banking on Vick this year.

JAGUARS RB: Deji Karim was already a pretty good sleeper in deep leagues, but with Rashad Jennings' knee injury landinghim on IR, Karim becomes the top caddy for the oft-injured Maurice Jones-Drew. Karim and Jones-Drew are the only two tailbacks on the roster, so if youíre already hitching your wagon to MJD, you should invest in Karim as well.

LIONS RB: Jerome Harrison secured his spot on the roster with a strong final preseason game. Aaron Brown was not so lucky. Meanwhile, Maurice Morris is practicing again and the Lions picked up Washington castoff Keiland Williams. Starter Jahvid Best is not the most durable player around, so Harrison or Morris could have value this year, depending on who ends up higher on the depth chart.

PACKERS RB: James Starks has been better in practice, but Ryan Grant has been better in games. That trend should continue into the regular season - at least early. Itís possible that the Packers will try to turn Starks into a third-down back just to see how he does in the role, but there's a possibility he could turn into an every-down back once Grant is gone.

PANTHERS QB: Cam Newton officially won the starting job, but he had a shaky preseason and Jimmy Clausen could see some time this year. Derek Anderson is the #3, but with two inexperienced players ahead of him, he should see some time behind center this year.

PANTHERS WR: Perhaps itís because the only sure thing in the Carolina wideout corps is the spelling of Steve Smith's name, but the Panthers have gone out of their way to find guys with hard-to-spell names to pair with him. Preseason frontrunner Legedu Naanee has done nothing to earn the #2 job, but Brandon LaFell (the ĎFí is capitalized!) and Armanti (donít forget the Ďtí) Edwards have done nothing either. The Panthers picked up Seyi Ajirotutu just to mess with all of us, and Kealoha Pilares is not expected to be ready for another month due to a high ankle sprain. By the way, Smith is the only name you need to remember - and know how to spell.

PATRIOTS RB: The New England running back situation might be a mess again this year, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still at the head of the class. Danny Woodhead figures to be the chief change-of-pace back, while talented rookies Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley will back them up. Ridley has been a little hurt, so some of his shine has worn off after his big performance in the preseason opener.

RAIDERS WR: Jacoby Ford finally played, but who are the starters? Itís anyoneís guess, even today. Is it Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey? Is it Derek Hagan and Denarius Moore? Chaz Schilens? All should play in the opener on Monday night, but none are fantasy stalwarts yet. Our money is on Ford and Heyward-Bey, with Moore as the sleeper.

RAMS WR: This situation was somewhat cleaned up when the Rams surprisingly cut Donnie Avery and Mardy Gilyard. Not that Gilyard was slated for much more than special teams play, but he was taking up space. Averyís release means the Rams are willing to roll the dice on Danario Alexander, at least until Mark Clayton is ready. Clayton was signed and put on the PUP list, so Alexander has six weeks to prove he belongs. Oh, and the starters look to be Mike Sims-Walker and Brandon Gibson on the outside with Danny Amendola in the slot. Rookie Austin Pettis should see a few balls thrown his way as well.

RAVENS TE: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron says there is not much separating Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta at the moment. Dickson probably has a bit more fantasy upside, and heís probably going to be the starter, but neither one should be a strong fantasy play in 2011.

REDSKINS QB: Rex Grossman was named the starter for the opener, but he didnít seem to win the job as much as John Beck didnít win it. Grossman should be on a very short leash, but at least he has experience on his side. We wouldn't say it was a good experience though.

REDSKINS RB: Evan Royster had a decent finale before leaving with a mild concussion, possibly making it a bit easier for the Redskins to slip him onto their practice squad. Ryan Torain played well also, rushing for 73 yards on 17 carries, though all of that production came in the second half and Tim Hightower and Roy Helu didnít even play. Hightower remains the starter, but itís possible that Helu is also ahead of Torain at this point.

SAINTS K: Garrett Hartleyís hip injury will put him on the shelf for 6-to-10 weeks, so the Saints went out and got veteran John Kasay. Kasay can still boot a few if needed, and playing with the New Orleans offense will be a far cry from the awful Carolina offense he was part of last season.

SEAHAWKS TE: John Carlson has a torn labrum and will miss the entire season. The Seahawks fortunately saw this in their crystal ball weeks ago and signed Zach Miller away from the Raiders. Miller could be a top-ten tight end with Carlson out of the way, and with Sidney Rice a bit banged up right now, donít be surprised to see Miller lead Seattle in receiving in the early going.

TEXANS RB: Arian Foster may have a hamstring tear, but itís not clear if thatís rumor - the Texans arenít saying, though Foster himself says itís a minor tear. Regardless of the seriousness of the injury, the Texans figure to give the ball to Derrick Ward and Ben Tate some in Week 1, and they even kept whipping boy Steve Slaton around. They must be nervous about Foster's status. Chris Ogbonnaya would probably be ahead of Slaton on the depth chart now due to a good summer, but the Texans were able to add him to the practice squad. The speculation is that once the Texans know Foster is good to go, Slaton will be gone.

TITANS RB: Chris Johnson finally signed, so thatís it for Javon Ringerís and Jamie Harperís value. While Johnson may be a bit rusty in the early going, heíll still get the ball a lot, and heíll justify his lofty cheat sheet ranking before long.