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NFL fantasy football notebook: Russell Wilson named starter

  • By Marcas Grant NFL.com
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A baker's dozen games were played over the weekend in the NFL's all-important third week of the preseason. We'll run down some of the things we learned after "dress rehearsal".

Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs


» It appears Russell Wilson has taken Pete Carroll's "Always Compete" philosophy to heart. The Seattle Seahawks rookie posted another strong performance Friday, snatching the starting job away from the much higher-priced Matt Flynn. In three games, Wilson is 35-of-52 for 464 yards, five TDs and just one interception. He's also run 10 times for 150 yards and a score. He's currently being drafted in the 16th round in many NFL.com leagues, but that will certainly go up in the days to come...

» Wilson's receivers are still a mixed bag. Sidney Rice, who caught one pass in limited action, is going to be the No. 1 guy. Doug Baldwin, when he returns from injury, will probably battle with Braylon Edwards for the No. 2 slot. That puts a whole lot of unproven or inconsistent WR options on the field. Feel free to wait until the mid- to late-rounds before turning to the Pacific Northwest for pass-catching help...

» With Marshawn Lynch (back) being held out of action, Robert Turbin stepped in and ran the ball well. The rookie rushed for 93 yards and ripped off a 25-yard touchdown dash. He's also shown an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, adding to his value. If you subscribe to Michael Fabiano's "Beware the Magical Season" theory, Turbin becomes a must-have accessory to handcuff to Lynch...

» Dwayne Bowe returned to the field and looked rusty. He had one catch for nine yards while missing a few catchable balls. He's still the Kansas City Chiefs No. 1 receiver, but for now he's a prime example of how important training camp can be if you're looking for a fast start in Week 1. His average 6th round slot is about right, but temper your expectations until he's in game shape -- which hopefully happens soon...

» Kansas City's top receiver this preseason has been Dexter McCluster. In an era that is increasingly featuring the hybrid WR/RB (Percy Harvin, CJ Spiller, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps -- more on that later), McCluster fits the bill nicely. He's not being drafted in most leagues, but judging from how he's been used so far, he has waiver wire value...

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Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns


» Nick Foles looks locked in as the Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback. He had another good night Friday, throwing for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Considering Michael Vick's predisposition toward injury, keep Foles in mind as a waiver wire option...

» When it comes to fantasy football RB handcuffs, Dion Lewis won't see as much work as other backups around the league. But the former Pitt Panther has played well as LeSean McCoy Lite, showing an ability to both run and catch the ball effectively. Fantasy owners should be able to snag Lewis very late in drafts or off the waiver wire. If McCoy should ever be unable to fulfill his duties, Lewis is more than capable of sliding into his spot...

» Damaris Johnson is making a solid push to be the Eagles' third receiver. He's leading the team in receptions and yards through three preseason games and his speed makes him a big-play threat whenever he gets the ball in his hands. For leagues that include return yards, Johnson's projected role as Philly's punt returner gives him an added value. He should be waiver wire-ready in most leagues and is an intriguing name...

» It wasn't pretty for Brandon Weeden. He completed just 9-of-20 passes and was sacked three times against the Eagles. His numbers won't impress anyone, but he has looked like he has a clue in the pocket. The problem has been the Browns offensive line. Cleveland QBs have been sacked eight times in three games (Weeden was dropped three times on Friday night), which is even worse news when you factor in Weeden's fumbling problems. No matter how competent the QB looks, scrambling and fumbling won't lead to solid fantasy production. If you're looking at Weeden, you can wait until the late rounds...

» With Trent Richardson still working his way back for Week 1, the assumption had been that Montario Hardesty would be Cleveland's starter. But we all know what happens when we assume. After a strong performance this weekend, Brandon Jackson may have passed Hardesty on the depth chart. Whichever guy gets the job likely won't have it long since Richardson should take the gig back once he's ready. If you're looking for short-term help at RB or considering a Richardson handcuff, Jackson might be the back you're looking for...

» Greg Little only caught one pass for three yards, which is disappointing. The encouraging thing is that he was targeted five times and looks like a security blanket for Weeden. If the Browns can work out their offensive line issues, Little could be the sleeper many people thought he'd be last season...

New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers


» The New England Patriots have had a hard time protecting Tom Brady this preseason. Brady was 13-of-20 for 127 yards and a TD, but he was also sacked twice. That's bad news for Brady's health potential during the season, but could bode well for guys like Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and any of the running backs. If the Pats can't protect Brady, the short passing game might get a little more action...

» That running back will probably be Stevan Ridley. Ridley rushed for 87 yards and a TD in the same game that Shane Vereen left early with a foot injury. Keep in mind that Bill Belichick won't hesitate to rotate his running backs, but it's good to know who's likely to see the bulk of the carries to start the season. Take Ridley late and use him as a matchup based option...

» Jeff Demps could have some fantasy football value this season, even if it's only slight. The Olympic medalist made the most of his playing time the second half, running for 41 yards on three carries. He returned punts and kicks and even saw three targets. If he's able to work his way into New England's rotation, he could be a productive waiver wire pickup late in the season...

» First, we had Pocket Hercules (Maurice Jones-Drew) ... now say hello to the Muscle Hamster. Doug Martin has reportedly bested LeGarrette Blount for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting RB job. Martin is the team's leading preseason rusher and tied for the most receptions. Maybe the most encouraging news is that Martin plays for Greg Schiano, who did big things at Rutgers with a similarly-styled running back named Ray Rice. It's far too early to expect Rice-like production, but it does make me feel better about having him as No. 2 RB...

» Vincent Jackson has reportedly been the best Bucs player in camp this summer, but his preseason has been a microcosm of his entire career. He missed the first preseason game, had just one catch in the second and showed up big in the third. Jackson's big play ability has never been in doubt. It's his consistency that needs work and it will be hard to find that consistency with Josh Freeman at quarterback. Maybe the pair can help each other out, but until I actually see it, Jackson's a mid-level No. 2 option at best...

Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins


» Matt Ryan continues to be a sneaky candidate to take the next step. Ryan has looked very good in the preseason, throwing for 549 yards with three TDs and one INT in three games. He's spreading the ball around to some very dangerous weapons and looks very comfortable in the new Atlanta Falcons up-temp offense. By the end of the season, we could be talking about Ryan as a Top 10 fantasy football QB...

» Julio Jones continues to look like the most dynamic of Ryan's weapons. Even with Roddy White having a stellar preseason, Jones has far and away been Atlanta's best wideout. Both players are quality No. 1 receivers in fantasy football, but Jones is poised to finish the season as a Top 5 pass-catcher...

» The devaluing of Michael Turner continues. He's in no danger of losing his starting job, but 10 carries for 35 yards isn't going to inspire a lot of confidence from fantasy football owners -- especially with Jacquizz Rodgers closing the gap. Rodgers is going in the very late rounds in drafts, but he will have sleeper appeal before the year is out...

» It wasn't a great day for Ryan Tannehill. The Miami Dolphins starting QB struggled to an 11-of-27, 112-yard day. The Fish haven't scored much this preseason with Tannehill at quarterback. Then again, they haven't scored much at all. The rookie isn't the heart of the problem, but he's not offering many solutions either...

» I haven't been high on either Daniel Thomas or Reggie Bush this preseason. Bush projects as a No. 2 RB option and I'm still waiting to see what Thomas can do over a 16-game season. When they're rotating through the backfield, that value is diminished even more. There are worse options out there for fantasy reserves, but it'll be hard to feel good about your roster if you're forced into starting either of them...

» Davone Bess is the Dolphins best receiver right now. That tells you all you need to know about pass-catching fantasy value in South Florida...

San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings/a>


» A number of the San Diego Chargers top offensive starters sat this weekend, including Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates. That says a lot about the Bolts banged-up offensive line. With three starters missing, the unit struggled against the Vikings. Once those players are back, fantasy owners can feel more confident, but as long at the group remains patchwork, it will have an effect on the production of Rivers and Ryan Mathews (whenever he's ready to play)...

» Toby Gerhart still looks good as the early-season workhorse for the Minnesota Vikings. Adrian Peterson's knee is reportedly responding well, but he's been so limited thus far that it's hard to determine how he'll respond in a live game situation. If you're taking Peterson, grabbing Gerhart is a must...

» Percy Harvin has only caught three passes this preseason but he's made the most of them, racking up nearly 25 yards per reception. He hasn't seen a carry in the preseason and while it's possible that he could double as a situational running back during the regular season, he's likely to make the transition to full-fledged running back as long as Peterson and Gerhart do their jobs. As long as Christian Ponder keep progressing, it will only help Harvin's value as a No. 2 fantasy football WR...

Ron Chenoy/US Presswire
Russell Wilson is starting in Seattle, but should fantasy football owners get caught up in RussellMania? NFL Fantasy LIVE weighs in. (Click image for further analysis.)

Chicago Bears at New York Giants


» For last week's talk of Matt Forte and Michael Bush running for 1,000 yards apiece, that effort hasn't been reflected in the preseason. Forte will be the undisputed No. 1 back in Chicago and will see the most carries. The problem is that Bush could vulture many of the goal-line touches. Darren McFadden empathizes...

» Separate, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall been underwhelming. But together, they're starting to look like a dynamic duo. It's understandable that fantasy football owners hesitant to take one or both members of the Bears battery, but with Jeremy Bates pulling the strings as QB coach, this pair could surpass expectations in 2012...

» With Brandon Jacobs in San Francisco, David Wilson appears ready to fill the void. The rookie has had an outstanding preseason and should see plenty of opportunities behind Ahmad Bradshaw. With his skills as a pass catcher, Wilson is a quality No. 3 fantasy football RB option, even if you're not handcuffing...

» The Giants have talked about their No. 3 WR spot as a potentially revolving door. That door isn't slowing down any after Ramses Barden played big against the Bears. Barden made three grabs for 46 yards and a touchdown, remaining in the conversation with Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon. Any one of those guys could break out at any time. Good luck figuring out which one...

Indianapolis Colts at Washington Redskins


» Most fantasy football enthusiasts are agreed that this won't be the year to lean on Andrew Luck as your top QB starter. But his value as a backup and keeper league option is only growing with his work in the preseason. He will have his growing pains -- especially on a team that will need him to be great every week in order to win -- but over the long haul, there's no reason to doubt that Luck is the real deal...

» Indianapolis is still in dire need of a running game. Donald Brown isn't the guy to do it. Vick Ballard has looked good at times, but isn't ready to take the bulk of the carries. Neither is a good option outside of really deep leagues and even then, there are more compelling choices...

» It pains me to even write this, but there's a new running back of note for the Washington Redskins. Alfred Morris looked very good on Saturday and has vaulted into the lead for the team's top gig. That's one more mouth to feed in the running game along with Tim Hightower, Roy Helu and Evan Royster. That sound you hear is Adam Rank doubled over with laughter...

» The preseason is far from a perfect barometer of the regular season, but Pierre Garcon could lead the league in targets this season. Robert Griffin III has found a rapport with Washington's new wideout and looks to him whenever trouble is afoot. This is Garcon's first year as a bona fide No. 1 receiver, so he runs the risk of being another Alvin Harper, but as a 10th or 11th round pick, he has huge upside...

Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders


» The Detroit Lions haven't had a lot of success running the football this preseason and considering the lack of depth in the backfield, they might just give up trying. Kevin Smith left Saturday's game with an ankle injury and though he says it isn't serious, it's still one more Lions RB that's less than 100 percent. Jahvid Best will begin the year on the PUP list and Mikel Leshoure is suspended for the first two weeks of the season. That puts Keiland Williams front and center, but he should be left to the waiver wire...

» Nothing to worry about with Matthew Stafford's injury. The QB broke a blood vessel in his non-throwing hand and should be ready to go for Week 1...

» Carson Palmer looks to be as healthy as he's been in a long time. But the Oakland Raiders quarterback is struggling to figure out Greg Knapp's West Coast offense. Palmer threw two more picks this weekend and now has four in the preseason (with no TDs). He began the preseason as a No. 2 QB option in most fantasy football leagues, but he has now played his way further down the list...

» The Raiders' receivers are becoming as confounding a group as the Redskins' running backs. Juron Criner made a pair of big plays Saturday, including a 76-yard touchdown catch. Rod Streater has been outstanding in the preseason and played well again this week. The good news is that Criner probably won't see much playing time early in the year. But with Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford still in the mix, it might be tough for Streater to stand out...

Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills


» Mike Wallace says he's rejoining the Pittsburgh Steelers Tuesday. No word on whether Antonio Brown's big weekend helped Wallace make up his mind. Brown exploded for 108 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns to continue his big play preseason. At the end of 2011, Brown was pushing Wallace for the Steelers No. 1 WR job. Now his progression, combined with Wallace's holdout could give Brown the advantage...

» Chris Rainey is getting an audition while the Steelers wait on Rashard Mendenhall to return. The rookie from Florida has made the most of his chances. He won't push anyone for the starting job yet, but his skills as a runner and receiver -- combined with his ability to return kicks -- means he could be a worthwhile waiver pickup later in the season...

» Rookie lineman David DeCastro suffered ACL and MCL injuries and won't be available for quite some time. He's obviously not eligible to be drafted in any fantasy football leagues, but he was being counted on to bolster a patchwork Steelers offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked a ton in the past couple of seasons. If you're drafting him, you just hope the guys up front can keep him upright...

» Stevie Johnson is feeling supremely confident about his offense this season. He told NFL Fantasy LIVE that as long as he and Ryan Fitzpatrick are on the same page "I don't think anybody can stop us." I agree, but they'll need to be on the same page a little more consistently this season. With games against the Browns, Niners, Cardinals, Texans and Seahawks as well as two games against the Jets, there aren't a lot of gimmes for Buffalo's passing game. Johnson's a No. 2 WR in most leagues with the potential for upside if he can mind meld with the Amish Rifle...

St. Louis Rams at Dallas Cowboys


» Remember a couple of years ago when Sam Bradford appeared ready to take the NFL by storm? Now it's 2012 and Bradford hasn't come close to living up to that promise. He struggled again Saturday, completing just six passes for 64 yards. It could be the chronically sore ankle, learning a new offense or a lack of game-breaking wide receivers. But whatever it is, it means you should exhaust plenty of other options before drafting Bradford...

» Picking a Rams receiver to rely on is like choosing which Kardashian would win on Jeopardy!. No one caught more than two passes and no one in the group has separated himself from the pack. Danny Amendola and maybe Steve Smith have late round value. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and look elsewhere...

» I see plenty of people on Twitter trashing Tony Romo. If the question deals with postseason success, I get it. But when it comes to fantasy football, Romo's a winner. He's finished in the Top 7 among fantasy QBs in two of the past three seasons -- injuries limited him to just six games in 2010 -- and seems poised to turn the trick again in 2012. As long as Dez Bryant can abide by the rules and Miles Austin stays healthy, don't look down your nose at Romo...

» Most of the news around Felix Jones in the preseason has been dismal, but the back might have salvaged his standing as the Dallas Cowboys No. 2 with a strong game against the Rams. He's solidly behind DeMarco Murray on the depth chart, but as long as he remains in that spot, he's a worthwhile handcuff...

Houston Texans at New Orleans Saints


» Matt Schaub's injury late in the 2011 regular season had a huge effect on the playoffs. He's played the preseason as though he's eager to remind people how good he can be. Schaub has arguably been the NFL's best quarterback for the past three weeks. Currently he's hanging around the Top 10 of fantasy football signal callers, but he has potential as a low-end No. 1 or high-end No. 2 option in most fantasy football leagues...

» Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor an interim interim coach can keep Drew Brees from doing what he does. With Aaron Kromer calling the shots, Brees still threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns. It doesn't matter who's on the sidelines, Brees can run the offense without any help. Let this put to rest any fears of chaos in New Orleans affecting the Saints passing attack...

» It's getting crowded in the Saints backfield after Chris Ivory's 57-yard night. Pierre Thomas is listed first on the depth chart, but Darren Sproles is the most accomplished pass-catcher. Mark Ingram should see carries in short yardage, and then there's Ivory. It's hard to see him getting a lot of work, but any touches that go Ivory's way cuts into someone else's numbers. Thomas and Sproles are the only two sure things on the roster...

San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos


» The San Francisco 49ers have said they don't plan to limit how much Alex Smith throws the ball, but that's hard to believe with Smith having thrown just 16 passes in the preseason. Despite having his best season as a pro in 2011, Smith has no value on a team loaded with running backs if he's not throwing it consistently...

» If Smith isn't putting the ball up, it's affects the myriad weapons he has to throw to. Vernon Davis has just one catch in the preseason, Randy Moss has three and Mario Manningham has none. All of them have fantasy football draft value -- if they can actually get the ball...

» Last week I wrote that Peyton Manning would find a way to figure out his problems throwing to the right side. He looked pretty good slinging it on Saturday, tossing for 122 yards and two scores. Name value and past performance are good enough for Manning to creep into the Top 10, but if you're drafting him, be sure to add a quality backup as well...

» Keep the name Ronnie Hillman under your hat. The rookie won't be drafted, but the Broncos would like to use him as a Darren Sproles-type back. He's been banged up in the preseason, but if Hillman can get healthy and find a consistent role, he's worth a look later in the year...

Carolina Panthers at New York Jets


» The Carolina Panthers two-headed running attack is down a head for the time being with Jonathan Stewart expected to miss Thursday's preseason finale with an ankle injury. He walked off the field under his own power and hopefully will be ready for Week 1. As long as it's not a serious injury, Stewart's value holds steady. If it looks worse than expected, DeAngelo Williams moves up the board...

» Cam Newton has struggled with accuracy this preseason, hitting just 6-of-15 throws Sunday against the Jets. The Panthers don't want Newton to rack up another 14 rushing touchdowns -- much to the chagrin of fantasy football owners everywhere -- and have talked about trying to make him more of a pocket passer. I can only that this change doesn't completely overhaul his game (especially after drafting him with the ninth pick last weekend). Newton's numbers will have a dropoff after last season, but he's still a No. 1 option in all formats...

» I'll start with the good: Stephen Hill had his best game of the preseason, catching five passes for 68 yards. He's Gang Green's second receiving option behind Santonio Holmes. If you subscribe to the "at least he plays" theory of fantasy football drafting, Hill's worth a look (same goes for Shonn Greene). My advice: subscribe to something else...

» As for the rest of the Jets, it's same as it ever was -- and that ain't good. Mark Sanchez was better this week, but he hasn't done much to inspire confidence. Neither has anyone else in green. There's just not much fantasy value on this roster...

Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

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