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Preseason Week 3 tells some tales for fantasy owners

The NFL preseason isn't going to significantly alter the fantasy value of most players. If there's one week you should have watched, however, it's Week 3, which is considered a virtual "dress rehearsal" for the regular season starters. With that in mind, here's a look at the most fantasy-relevant events that occurred in Week 3 of preseason action.

Arian Foster tweaks his hamstring: A top-three pick in most drafts, Foster aggravated a previous hamstring ailment against the 49ers and was unable to finish the contest. That has "sick" fantasy owners on pins and needles, but Foster tweeted that he expects to be ready for Week 1. Hamstring injuries can be tricky, but right now it doesn't appear that the ailment is serious enough to pass on him in Round 1. As for his handcuff, Texans coach Gary Kubiak confirmed that Derrick Ward is No. 2 on the depth chart, at least for now.

Felix Jones looks good for Dallas: A preseason sleeper on NFL.com, Jones has been impressive in preseason work. Against the Vikings, he racked up 20 yards on five carries while showing the type of explosiveness and elusiveness that made him such a prominent selection in the 2008 NFL Draft. With Marion Barber out of the mix, Jones also saw work in the red zone. That's huge for the value of the former Arkansas standout. Right now, he's a solid flex starter with the upside to be a superb No. 2 runner.

The handcuff for Chris Johnson is?: With no end to his holdout in sight, Johnson's status for the start of the regular season is in question. But who do fantasy owners who land him in Round 1 grab as his handcuff? That's a good question. Right now, Javon Ringer is listed second on the Titans official website. However, he's been unable to see preseason work with a hip ailment. That could leave rookie Jamie Harper to see a bigger workload in Week 1, assuming Johnson's holdout continues.

Ray Rice is primed for a big year: If you're looking for a running back to target in the first half of Round 1 who isn't named Adrian Peterson, Foster or CJ2K, Rice is the perfect option. He looked great against the Redskins, rushing for 72 yards on 13 carries. He is also clearly in the mix for goal-line carries, scoring on a three-yard run in the second quarter. In an offense that will lean on the run and now fields Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, Rice's stock is on the rise in fantasy land.

Tim Hightower continues to impress: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan can cause headaches for fantasy owners when it comes to his backfields, but it's hard not to like what we've seen from Tim Hightower. The former Cardinal rushed for 56 yards on nine carries, scored on a 37-yard run against a tough Ravens defense and has averaged a ridiculous 8.4 yards per carry in his last two preseason contests. If you can land Hightower as a flex starter, especially in PPR leagues, he's well worth a look.

Matthew Stafford's stock is rising: If I were to pump up Stafford any more than I already have this preseason, people might mistake me for his agent. The Georgia product continued to shine over the weekend, throwing for 200 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout win over the Patriots. He's now tossed multiple touchdowns in two of his three preseason starts and looks primed to have a breakout season. If you can land him in the middle rounds as a high-end No. 2 fantasy option, don't hesitate.

Aaron Hernandez has sleeper appeal: Have you seen Hernandez's numbers this preseason? He posted a combined 14 catches for 156 yards with a touchdown overall, and is drawing rave reviews from his coaches in camp. By comparison, Rob Gronkowski has just one catch for seven yards in his preseason work. While both have plenty of fantasy appeal, don't be shocked if it's Hernandez, not Gronkowski, who ends up having the better fantasy season in 2011. He's well worth a late-round look in drafts.

Jermichael Finley injured again? Finley posted four catches and his first touchdown of the preseason against the Colts, but he also suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of practice on Sunday. The ailment doesn't appear to be serious, but it is a reminder that Finley is still a bit of a risk despite his immense upside. He missed most of last season with an injured knee, so durability is clearly not his strong suit. Still, he's well worth a middle-round look as a No. 1 tight end.

Mark Ingram the goal-line runner: The Saints are going to use a backfield committee with Ingram, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, but I still like the star rookie to lead the backfield in carries. It's also important to note that he's the clear-cut goal-line runner, which is evidenced by his three preseason touchdowns. Two of those scores came from one-yard out, while the third was on a 14-yard run. As it stands, Ingram is coming off the board in Round 7 on average in NFL.com drafts.

Knowshon Moreno set to break out?: I'll be the first to admit that Moreno lost some fantasy luster when the Broncos added Willis McGahee, but some of the alternatives (like adding DeAngelo Williams) would have been far worse. The team's faith in Moreno is starting to pay dividends in the preseason, as he's averaged close to five yards per carry and looks better than ever. While McGahee is going to see his reps, some of which will be in the red zone, Moreno is still in line to post his best NFL season.

Beanie Wells continues to look good: With Hightower in Washington and Ryan Williams out for the season, Wells is now the unquestioned No. 1 runner in Arizona. He's looked good in the preseason, rushing for a combined 107 yards on 21 carries (5.1 YPC) in his last two starts. While his proneness to injuries is a cause for concern, it's going to be tough to pass on the young runner as a potential No. 2 runner or flex starter in the middle rounds. He could be one of the season's top breakout players.

Roethlisberger underrated in fantasy?: It remains to be seen if he can emerge into an elite fantasy quarterback, but Ben Roethlisberger is a great middle-round choice if you take runners and wideouts early in drafts. He's looked great in the preseason, completing better than 66 percent of his passes and throwing for a combined four touchdowns in his last two starts. Also keep in mind that if you project the numbers from his 12 starts last year over 16 games, he would have outscored Drew Brees.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com or tweet it at Michael_Fabiano!

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