NFL fantasy football notebook: Adrian Peterson carries risks

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The Minnesota Vikings continue to take a very cautious approach with running back Adrian Peterson. Thursday, coach Leslie Frazier told reporters that Peterson will be a game-time decison for Week 1 against the Jaguars. It's not a major surprise considering how slowly the Vikings have brought A.D. along this preseason. He had major knee surgery in late December and wasn't allowed to have any contact in practice until earlier this week.

But it does present an interesting dilemma for fantasy football owners. A player's draft ranking is based on a number of things, including past performance. In that case, how do you ignore a player who has averaged 4.8 yards per carry and nearly 13 touchdowns over the course of his career? Even in an injury-shortened season, Peterson still ran for 12 scores. That kind of production is hard to overlook.

Then again, there's the flipside. Running backs returning from major knee surgery generally need a full calendar year to regain their previous form. Plus, with so little work in practice -- and no game action -- it's only a couple of steps beyond holding out ... and we all know how well holdout RBs fare. I'm looking at you, Chris Johnson.

Peterson is coming off the board in the third round of most NFL.com drafts, though I'm in favor of waiting a little longer if at all possible. Regardless of what happens in Week 1, Toby Gerhart is a name you need to remember on draft day. He was already trending as a great handcuff pick, and as long as Peterson is getting his legs underneath him (pun intended), Gerhart is a valuable fantasy RB...

Jonathan Dwyer climbing the charts

Throughout the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have juggled their running back rotation, mostly because of injuries to Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman. While Redman has been able to play, he should be looking over his shoulder at Jonathan Dwyer. Dwyer, the third-year back from Georgia Tech, started the final preseason game and ran effectively, gaining 63 yards on 13 carries. It's led some to believe that he could be Pittsburgh's No. 1 back to open the season -- or at least No. 1A.

Dwyer's emergence could put a wrinkle in the plans of lots of fantasy football owners. The Steelers took Mendenhall off the PUP list two weeks ago, giving hope that he could be ready a week or two into the season. Instead, he appears to be [nowhere near ready to go](http://www.timesonline.com/sports/steelers-notes-new-i-r-rule-may-allow-decastro-to/article_17818854-f36d-11e1-9d13-001

a4bcf6878.html#.UEC8aWL5xso.twitter) while Redman admitted that his hip could be a problem all season long. Even Dwyer has battled shoulder issues, but he seems to have come through them pretty well.

There aren't any game breakers in the Steelers backfield right now, but if it turns out that Dwyer is going to carry a significant part of the load, he'll have value as a No. 3 fantasy football option...

Quick Outs

» Tim Hightower is reportedly set to be released by the Washington Redskins. The combination of a recovery from ACL surgery and the emergence of rookie Alfred Morris have conspired to put Hightower out of a job in the nation's capital. With Evan Royster and Roy Helu still in the mix, Hightower's release won't solve the problem of Shanahanigans, but it is still one less mouth to feed in the backfield. I still believe that friends don't let friends draft Redskins RBs, but if you feel compelled to make the move, they should be no better than a fourth running back on your roster...

» The final preaseason numbers are in for Oakland Raiders QB Carson Palmer and they're not good: 17 possessions, one touchdown and four interceptions. Palmer has looked out of sorts in Greg Knapp's offense and he hasn't had any real chance to work with top receiving options Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey. This isn't so much an evaluation of Palmer -- he's not likely to be drafted in many leagues -- but Moore and Heyward-Bey do have some mid- to late-round fantasy football draft value. That value dissipates if their quarterback can't get them the rock...

» Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur was coy Thursday about who would be the team's starter at running back in Week 1, saying Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson"both had a few good runs." It was presumed that Hardesty would be the primary back in Trent Richardson's absence, but fumbles in the last two games have opened the door for Jackson, who has run very well. Either back has limited value since Richardson is expected to claim the starting job when he returns. But if you're in need of short term help at the No. 3 RB spot, the winner of this competition is worth consideration...

» The Green Bay Packers really like Cedric Benson, except for one thing -- his struggles in pass protection make him a liability on third down. Because Benson gives Green Bay the viable running threat they've been searching for, he has plenty of value. But if he's not on the field every down, it's worth downgrading him from a low-end No. 2 RB to a high-end No. 3 option...

» Needing help at the wide receiver spot, the Miami Dolphins are reportedly trying out pass-catchers, including Donte Stallworth and Mike Sims-Walker. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a new face jump toward the top of the receiving depth chart in South Florida, but until I see otherwise, there's just not a lot of fantasy potential there...

» Now that Kenny Britt knows his suspension will only be one game, we know when to expect him back in action for the Tennessee Titans. Just expect that he'll be eased back into action. Coach Mike Munchak says Britt should play 12-15 snaps when he's ready to go. I've argued that he has huge upside, especially late in drafts. Giving him a week to rest (albeit not by his own choice) and a slow workup to a full workload should only serve to boost his value.

» With Ryan Mathews still likely a couple of weeks from returning to action, the San Diego Chargers are expected to turn to a swarm of "B's" -- Jackie Battle, Curtis Brinkley and Ronnie Brown. However, there are reports that Brown could have the most opportunity to sting opposing defenses. Mathews probably won't be out too long and there's not much reason to get super excited about the underachieving former Auburn star. If you are desperately trying to fill a roster spot, give him a look. Otherwise, just wait on Mathews to get back...

Follow Marcas Grant on Twitter @MarcasG

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