Fantasy risers and fallers

With another week of the NFL preseason in the books, let's take a look at some of the players whose values have changed significantly over the past seven days.


Luke McCown. QB, Buccaneers -- McCown, who's now second on the Bucs' depth chart, completed 7-of-7 passes for 68 yards and a touchdown in Friday's preseason game, impressing coach Jon Gruden with his accuracy and mobility. Given Jeff Garcia's age, and his poor play in stints with the Browns and Lions, it wouldn't shock us to see the Bucs make a change if the offense were to struggle early on.

J.T. O'Sullivan, QB, Lions --If Mike Martz could take a former Arena League quarterback and turn him into a two-time NFL MVP, who's to say that he can't take the MVP of NFL Europe and turn him into a productive fantasy quarterback? Sure, Kurt Warner had Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt to throw to, but last we checked Detroit's receivers weren't too shabby, either. For now, of course, the job belongs to Jon Kitna, but does anyone really believe that Kitna's going to be at the helm the next time the Lions make the playoffs? If Detroit starts off 1-5, don't be surprised if Martz and coach Rod Marinelli make a change, and with Drew Stanton out for the year, O'Sullivan and Dan Orlovsky are the only other options. Right now, O'Sullivan is second on the team's depth chart.

Cadillac Williams/Michael Pittman, RBs, Buccaneers -- With Mike Alstott out for the season, there's a good chance that Williams will get most of the team's short-yardage and goal-line carries. While the Bucs offense is still a work in progress, this represents a huge upgrade for Williams as it's nearly impossible to be a top fantasy back without getting the easy scoring opportunities from in close. Just keep in mind that Pittman could also be in the mix.

Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs -- Call us naïve, but after watching interviews with Johnson and Chiefs' GM Carl Peterson on HBO's "Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Kansas City Chiefs," we get the feeling that the two sides will find some middle ground before the start of the season. Johnson sounds like a guy who's miserable being away from his teammates, and just wants to get into camp, and Peterson seems genuinely to like Johnson -- if the clips of him repeatedly encouraging the young running back on the sidelines the last couple years are any indication. While the lack of overt animosity isn't going to get the deal done, it's certainly better than openly hostile feuding that sometimes goes on between the parties in these situations.

Rudi Johnson/Kenny Watson, RBs, Bengals -- Between 2004 first-round pick, Chris Perry, who's never been able to stay healthy, and this year's second round pick, Kenny Irons, who tore his ACL last week, the Bengals sure have had bad luck with early-round running backs recently. This means Johnson will probably log another 340 carries, and Watson will be his immediate backup and spell him on third downs. While Johnson's role doesn't change, we're upgrading him because there was a chance that Irons might be good enough to warrant a larger role and eventually cut into some of Johnson's carries. That's less likely to be the case with Watson, who's a known entity and merely projects as a serviceable veteran change-of-pace guy.

Cedric Benson, RB, Bears -- Not only will Benson unquestionably be the Bears' workhorse back this year, but if the team's first preseason game is any indication, the Bears seem determined to get him involved in the passing game. Benson caught three passes in limited duty Saturday night, and coach Lovie Smith, who coached in St. Louis when Marshall Faulk was playing, has in the past stated a preference for running backs who fit into that Faulk-era Rams-style offense. Three or four hundred receiving yards often separate productive fantasy backs from the elite, so if Benson can catch 40-plus passes, his chances of being a top-10 back go way up.

LenDale White, RB, Titans -- White didn't do much in the team's preseason game on Saturday, but the team has been impressed with him in camp, and perhaps more importantly coach Jeff Fisher indicated that whoever wins the starting job would get about 275 carries, which rules out a 50/50 timeshare. Rookie Chris Henry ran fairly well in the second half Saturday, but keep in mind that was against and third-team defenders. If we had to pick a Titans' running back today, we'd go with White, who would be running behind a fairly stout Titans' offensive line.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings -- Peterson, who suffered a hip pointer last week, carried the ball 11 times for 33 yards Friday, establishing beyond any doubt that he's healthy. He'll compete with Chester Taylor for carries.

Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins -- With Clinton Portis' knee requiring a visit to Dr. James Andrews, Betts should at the very least see increased work. And Betts proved last year that he can carry the load effectively as a starter should Portis' injury require him to miss any time.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants --Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said that Jacobs, who's also shown some receiving ability early in camp, should get 20-25 carries per game. That would translate into 320-400 carries on the season, i.e., full-time feature back duty. Reuben Droughns appears to be slated for change-of-pace and third down duty to start the year.

Ronald Curry, WR, Raiders -- Curry's been impressive early in camp with acrobatic catches and excellent focus. At this point, he's probably the No. 1 target in the Raiders' passing game, and at 6-2, 220, he's got excellent size and the speed to make plays down the field.

David Boston, WR, Buccaneers -- With a strong early camp, Boston's played himself into contention for a starting wide receiver job opposite Joey Galloway. Maurice Stovall and the current incarnation of Michael Clayton are the only men to beat, so Boston's got a real shot. At 6-foot-2, 234 pounds, Boston's size might make a nice complement to Galloway's speed, and could provide Jeff Garcia with a credible red-zone target. Just keep in mind Boston hasn't been healthy and/or good since 2003.

Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos -- Scheffler, who broke his foot during Broncos' quarterback camp last May, was removed from the PUP list and hopes to play in the Broncos next preseason game on Aug. 18. Scheffler had a good rapport with second-year quarterback Jay Cutler down the stretch last season and is worth a late look despite the presence of newly signed tight end Daniel Graham, who's a serviceable receiver, but a terrific blocker.


Michael Vick, QB, Falcons -- He's been charged with operating a dogfighting ring on his Virginia property and the Commissioner has yet to make a decision about his fate in the NFL.

Kenny Irons, RB, Bengals -- Irons is out for the season with a torn left ACL.

Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins -- Knee tendonitis has prevented Portis from practicing this month, and on Saturday he went to legendary surgeon James Andrews to get a second opinion. Andrews concluded that the Redskins doctors are handling the injury properly by giving him anti-inflammatory medication and having him work to strengthen the joint. But just because the Redskins are doing the right thing doesn't mean it'll work. That Portis had an MRI (which came up negative other than tendonitis) and saw Andrews at all means the team is worried. Even in a best-case scenario, expect Ladell Betts to see a fair number of carries to keep Portis fresh.

Randy Moss, WR, Patriots -- Moss' strained left hamstring has severely limited him in practice, and he wasn't able to suit up for Friday's game. While a veteran like Moss doesn't really need the preseason reps, that yet another soft tissue injury is causing him problems doesn't bode well for his ability to stay on the field all season and play at full speed.

Devery Henderson, WR, Saints -- Henderson left Friday's game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Like Moss, Henderson relies on his explosive speed to beat defenses down the field, so this is a cause for some concern. On the bright side, assuming Henderson gets back to speed in the next week or two, he's unlikely to be overtaken for the No. 2 receiver job.

Drew Carter, WR, Panthers -- Carter was demoted from the No. 2 receiver job, which will end up going either to Dwayne Jarrett or Keary Colbert. Carter could even find himself as low as No. 4.

Alge Crumpler, TE, Falcons -- Crumpler experienced a setback with his surgically repaired left knee last week, and he'll be shut down at least until the middle of this week. That the Falcons haven't been forthcoming with information about the injury and that Crumpler's out indefinitely is worrisome.

L.J. Smith, TE, Eagles -- Smith apparently suffered a second sports hernia during Thursday's practice and is out indefinitely. Initially the team thought he aggravated a prior hernia that was surgically repaired this spring, but it turns out it was a separate and unrelated tear.

Adam "Pac Man" Jones, 187-pound weight class -- Jones verbally took on Ron "The Truth" Killings and lost.

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