McGahee sidelined two to four weeks with problematic knee

Willis McGahee's left knee has been a problem throughout training camp.

So when word came down that he needs an arthroscopic procedure to "clean out" the knee, it wasn't much of a shock for fantasy football owners.

McGahee has missed time in camp due to the tender left knee (it's the same knee that he shredded almost every major ligament during the Fiesta Bowl while at the University of Miami) , but it's not expected to keep him out for long if swelling isn't an issue. In fact, head coach John Harbaugh expects McGahee to be back in time for Baltimore's regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"We're going to go in there and scope and clean it up just to make sure he's going to ready to play opening day and make sure we know exactly what's going on in there," Harbaugh told the Carroll County Times.

However, the new coach also acknowledged that there are scenarios where McGahee could miss Week 1. That would create a chance for rookie Ray Rice to start.

"There's always a possibility," Harbaugh said. "You never say never on those things, but we're confidence without the scope he would've been ready. We just feel like this is kind of a cautionary procedure to make sure we're right."

Harbaugh's confidence that McGahee won't miss regular-season time is positive news. But what might be of greater concern than his knee is his offensive line.

The Ravens lost OT Jonathan Ogden to retirement in the offseason, so the line entered camp at a disadvantage. Then OTs Adam Terry and Jared Gaither went down with injuries. Neither is considered serious, but time missed in camp can hurt the line's cohesion.

It's also important to remember that the entire line was reshuffled in offseason minicamps.

The interior line now consists of LG Ben Grubbs, C Jason Brown and RG Marshal Yanda. That trio can be solid, but Terry and Gaither are question marks on the end.

It should also be noted that the team's quarterback position is far less than stable.

Kyle Boller hasn't been overly impressive in camp. Troy Smith has received mixed reviews, and rookie Joe Flacco might not be ready to take over the reins of the offense in Week 1. Plenty of running backs have had solid seasons with less-than-stellar signal-callers, but the scenario almost guarantees that defenses will put an extra defender in the box in an effort to limit the run.

More to the point, defenses will focus on stopping McGahee.

Barring setbacks, McGahee should still be seen as a viable second-round selection as a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy back. After all, he's a featured back at a time when backfield committees have become the norm around the league. But because of his knee and questions about his line and the quarterback position, he could be in for a difficult start of the season.

If you do draft McGahee, be sure to also take Rice as insurance in the middle to late rounds.

Preseason news and notes

» Marvin Harrison caught three passes for 22 yards in his preseason debut against the Carolina Panthers. He looked no worse for wear in limited time and seemed to be back at 100 percent recovered from last season's knee problems. Harrison remains a risk because of his age, but his past success and a great rapport with Peyton Manning will make it hard to pass on in the middle rounds. He should now be seen as a viable No. 2 fantasy wideout in most leagues. His presence makes Anthony Gonzalez less of a sleeper.

2007 Statistics:
Rec: 80

Yards: 1,289

TDs: 16

» Braylon Edwards sustained a gash on his right foot in a recent practice, the result of Donte Stallworth accidentally stepping on him with his cleat. Edwards had to be hospitalized, and his foot required stitches to close to wound. While it appears that he could miss Cleveland's next two preseason games, Edwards is expected to be back in time for the team's regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. Barring setbacks, he should still be worth a second- or third-round selection in all fantasy drafts.

» If Jonathan Stewart is the starting running back in Carolina, DeAngelo Williams didn't get the memo. Williams rushed for 55 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries in his preseason debut against Indianapolis, and OC Jeff Davidson told the Rock Hill Herald that he's "become a major player in our offense." While he will lost carries to Stewart, especially near the goal line, Williams is still seen as the favorite to start. He's well worth a middle-round selection as a fantasy reserve in most formats.

» Chris Johnson had an eye-opening preseason debut for the Tennessee Titans. The rookie rushed for 77 yards and scored one touchdown in a 34-13 win over the St. Louis Rams. The score came on a 66-yard run against the Rams' second-team defense that showed his incredible speed. Johnson, who is also an effective receiver out of the backfield, is stating his case to be prominent in the team's offense. LenDale White will remain the starter, but Johnson has become a player that fantasy footballers need to watch.

» In what should be a shock to no one, Ahman Green is hurt (again). The veteran injured his groin against the Denver Broncos and is now in danger of missing Houston's next preseason game. While he has worked hard in the offseason, it's apparent that Green is just far too brittle to trust in fantasy circles. With Chris Brown and Steve Slaton also on the roster, the Texans are guaranteed to have a committee in 2008. It should also be noted that low-end sleeper Chris Taylor came off the bench to replace Green.

» Seattle coach Mike Holmgren started Maurice Morris ahead of Julius Jones in the team's preseason opener. Morris rushed for a solid 62 yards on six carries in a 34-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings, while Jones finished with 15 yards on four carries. Jones will start the Seahawks' second preseason contest, but it's evident that he has no chance to be a featured back with his new team. It can be argued that Morris will be a far better value as a late-round pick in drafts than Jones as a middle-round selection.

» Willie Parker looked healthy in his return from a broken fibula in Pittsburgh's preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. He rushed for 20 yards on three carries and had that same burst and explosiveness coming out of the backfield. While he's safe to draft in all formats, Parker is almost certain to lose carries to Rashard Mendenhall. The rookie recorded 34 yards on seven carries against the Eagles and showed some real strength and upside. He'll be worth a middle-round pick in seasonal leagues.

» Chad Pennington didn't stay on the free-agent list long, as the veteran signed with the Miami Dolphins shortly after being released by the New York Jets. While coach Dolphins coach Tony Sparano won't hand him the top spot on the depth chart, it's hard to envision a scenario where Pennington isn't the starter in Week 1 (against the Jets). He still won't warrant much attention in drafts, but Pennington's presence does help the sleeper value of Ted Ginn Jr. The Ohio State product is well worth a late-round selection.

» Ricky Williams is having a terrific training camp, and it showed in his preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He rushed for 31 yards on five carries, showing that same elusiveness and burst that made him a fantasy star just a few seasons ago. The Dolphins are bringing Ronnie Brown back slowly from ACL surgery, so Williams could see quite a few carries this season. He's a candidate to become a nice draft value and should be seen as a must-have handcuff for owners who land Brown in drafts.

» J.T. O'Sullivan appears to be a major player in the battle for the top quarterback spot on San Francisco's depth chart. He started in the team's preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, but O'Sullivan was unimpressive (5-for-8, 71 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT). Alex Smith still has a chance to start, but he's done little to earn the spot in training camp. Shaun Hill seems to have fallen out of the race. With more questions than answers, none of these quarterbacks warrants serious draft consideration.

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