NFL fantasy football notebook: Andrew Luck's got skills

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With 13 preseason games played over the weekend, here's a recap of some of the highlights and what it fantasy impact it could have.

» Andrew Luck took another step toward justifying his selection as a No. 1 overall pick with his 175-yard performance on Sunday. Yes, he threw two interceptions, but only one can reasonably be blamed on him. After giving up a pick six to Ike Taylor, Luck bounced back to lead three scoring drives (two TDs and a FG). Looking good against the Rams is one thing. Looking good against the Steelers will turn some heads. Luck can easily fit into Adam Rank's category of "elite backups"...

» The Indianapolis Colts haven't had a consistent fantasy football running back since the days of Edgerrin James. The hope was Donald Brown could be that guy. Maybe he can, but for the time being, he should be more concerned with holding off Vick Ballard. Ballard has shown some good things in the first two preseason games. The starting job belongs to Brown, but Ballard could earn some extra touches as the season progresses...

» Austin Collie left last night's game early and was being [tested for concussion symptoms](http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000052133/article/austin-collie-of-colts-tested-for-conc

ussion-symptoms). Sadly, this would be Collie's fourth concussion in 15 months and could signal the end of his professional career. If he's unable to get back on the field, it opens up the competition for Indy's No. 2 receiver spot. Veteran Donnie Avery is the leading candidate, but in the short term, it could mean more targets for tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen...

» Antonio Brown had been pushing Mike Wallace for the Pittsburgh Steelers' No. 1 receiver job. He could claim it if Wallace's holdout persists and Brown keeps playing like he did Sunday. Brown had a pair of catches -- including a winding, weaving 57-yard catch-and-run for a score. Brown shares Wallace's ability to stretch the field for big plays and was already moving up fantasy football draft boards. That rise should continue the longer Wallace stays away...

» The Steelers had to be holding their collective breath when rookie Chris Rainey briefly left the game after taking a big hit. We've written repeatedly about the [injuries](http://www.nfl.com/fantasyfootball/story/0ap1000000051412/article/nfl-fantasy-football-notebo

ok-rashard-mendenhall-off-pup-list?module=Fantasy_CP) plaguing Pittsburgh's backfield, so losing Rainey would have been a borderline disaster. In better news, Jonathan Dwyer has run well in the preseason and could be a short-term solution for fantasy football owners until Rashard Mendenhall is ready to go...

» Overall, the Steelers offense is still a work in progress. Ben Roethlisberger used plenty of no-huddle and made lots of short throws Sunday. If this is Pittsburgh's new offensive direction, it might not be a bad thing. With Brown (and presumably Wallace) on the outside, the potential is there to take short passes and turn them into long plays. More importantly, getting the ball out of Big Ben's hands quickly could help keep him upright behind an offensive line that's struggled in recent seasons. Consider him to be another of those "elite backups"...

» Okay, I feel better about Chris Johnson's "Lol preseason" after the way he ran Friday night. Seeing his most extensive work of the preseason, Johnson looked like his old self, running for 46 yards and two touchdowns. Hopefully this is the start of his return to the upper echelon of fantasy football running backs...

» Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak named Jake Locker as his [starting quarterback](http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000052160/article/jake-locker-named-titans-starting-quar

terback?module=HP11headlinestack). Not that Locker did anything to justify the selection. His 4-of-11, 21-yard, two interception day was punctuated with some questionable decisions. He was slightly better in the preseason opener and played well in limited opportunities last season. Hopefully that's the Locker that shows up during the regular season. Either way, he's a bye-week replacement in most leagues...

» Big things are expected of rookie Doug Martin this year and so far he's been steady, if not special. LeGarrette Blount's [groin injury](http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000051552/article/legarrette-blount-says-groin-injury-is

-not-serious) doesn't appear to be serious, so Martin won't be asked to carry a full load yet, but there's no reason to believe he won't be a capable handcuff for anyone taking a chance on Blount...

» Dear Josh Freeman, 21 passing yards on 10 attempts isn't going to win you many friends among fantasy football enthusiasts. Especially not after a season where you averaged 239 passing yards per game and threw more interceptions (22) than touchdowns (16). It also makes me more skeptical about the fantasy football cryptogram that is Vincent Jackson. Jackson is a mid-round selection while Freeman is worth a late round look. But temper expectations for both of them...

» This just in: Calvin Johnson is good at football. The Detroit Lions star receiver stopped by NFL Fantasy LIVE Monday and told Matt "Money" Smith that the Lions offense is capable of ["pretty nasty things"](http://www.nfl.com/videos/detroit-lions/0ap2000000052211/NFL-Fantasy-Live-Calvin-Johnson-Inte

rview). Megatron was pretty nasty this weekend with five catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. I'm not in the habit of recommending wide receivers in the first round, but if there's one that fits the bill, it's Johnson...

» Detroit's high-wire act has obscured the fact that the team isn't really trying to run the football. Whether it's an unwillingness (because of the passing game's success) or an inability (because of a lack of healthy backs, which wasn't helped with Stefan Logan's ankle injury) to run the ball can be debated. The end result is the same -- it's hard to target a Lions RB. Kevin Smith remains the man atop the depth chart but is beign pushed by Keiland Williams. The deciding factor over who sees the most playing time will likely be which back performs the best as a pass catcher and in blitz pickup...

» Another heavy night of no-huddle for the Baltimore Ravens offense led to another night of relative success. Joe Flacco has been an unabashed supporter of the change to the offense and looked comfortable yet again. Flacco has yet to throw a touchdown pass this preseason, but that's not of any real concern -- those will come. He's still a No. 2 option in most fantasy football leagues, but he should move up draft boards slightly...

» Flacco's TD numbers should be helped by the return of Torrey Smith. Smith sat out Friday's game with a gimpy ankle, but he remains Baltimore's bggest playmaker on the outside. It's not fair to stick Anquan Boldin with the "possession receiver" label, but it is fair to say that his days as a No. 1 fantasy wideout have passed him by...

» Ryan Tannehill wasn't great on Friday, completing just 11-of-23 passes. But the Miami Dolphins rookie has [earned the nod](http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000052374/article/ryan-tannehill-named-miami-dolphins-st

arting-quarterback?module=HP11breakingnews) as the team's starter since Matt Moore was even worse, going 5-of-15 for 57 yards. Tannehill will have the typical rookie growing pains, but he's earned rave reviews throughout camp. That's nice and all, but until his top target is better than Davone Bess, it's best to leave him until the very late rounds...

» Of course, Miami's struggles throwing the ball will naturally have an effect on its running game. Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas are expected to handle much of the heavy lifting in the backfield, but through two preseason games, the team's leading rusher is ... Steve Slaton. I don't expect that to mean much for the depth chart, but it is concerning for the production potential of Bush and Thomas...

» Ask around our crew of fantasy football analysts and plenty of them will tell you they don't expect Cam Newton to repeat his video game-like rookie season. That doesn't mean he won't be good. In three possessions, he led the Panthers to 17 points, threw for 119 yards and had just three incompletions. The Carolina Panthers would like to get their running backs more involved, so Newton won't have 14 rushing TDs this season. He should partially make up for it with a couple more TD passes. Feel safe taking him in the first couple of rounds...

» Jonathan Stewart left the game early with a calf injury, but tweeted that it was nothing more than "a little Scare". If there's anything that should scare fantasy footbal owners, it's the prospect of him not producing after signing a healthy contract extension. I don't expect it to be a problem and he should be the same back he's always been. However, I'm not sure there's a more crucial handcuff in the league that Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. If you draft one, you almost must draft the other since it's nearly impossible to predict which one will land in the end zone...

» In his first action of the preseason, Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson took a step toward establishing himself as the undisputed No. 1 back. C.J. Spiller hasn't had much work in the preseason, but has earned praise with his work in practice. For the time being, it looks like Jackson will be the main ball carrier while Spiller sees time as a hybrid RB/WR option. Jackson is a high-end No. 2 fantasy football RB while Spiller can be a productive flex option...

» It's been hard to put a finger on Ryan Fitzpatrick's preseason. Fitzpatrick was very accurate this weekend, completing 8-of-11 passes, but he never took any shots down the field. His lone touchdown toss was a five-yard pass that turned into a 31-yard scamper by Donald Jones. That's been par for the course this preseason. Buffalo's offense has big scoring potential, but it will need Fitzpatrick to be the Amish Rifle, not the Amish Pop Gun. If Buffalo is relying on a short passing game and sustained drives, it's hard to see big things from Fitzpatrick and his receivers...

» The best thing about rookies? They become second-year players. Minnesota Vikings QB Christian Ponder is a walking epitome of that adage through two preseason games. Ponder played well again Friday, throwing for 136 yards and a touchdown. Considering he also moved the ball well against the vaunted 49ers defense (even if the Vikings settled for two field goals), Ponder could be making a run at deep sleeper status in some fantasy football leagues...

» For the moment, the Vikings top tight end spot might belong to rookie Rhett Ellison. Presumptive starter John Carlson is still on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury in practice last month. Meanwhile, Kyle Rudolph was held out of practice Monday with concussion-like symptoms. Ellison had one unmemorable catch for eight yards, but has played step-for-step with Rudolph overall. With the fantasy football tight end position loaded, none of the Vikes' TEs are likely to push their way up draft boards...

» Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert recently [took shots at his critics](http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000051442/article/jaguars-blaine-gabbert-critics-couldnt

-do-my-job) through the media. Friday, he did it on the field by throwing for 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Through two games, Gabbert's tossed three TDs and has yet to throw an interception. I know it's only preseason, but if we're going to hammer a guy when he's playing poorly, he deserves love when he's playing well. That being said, he's still a late round pick in most leagues...

» If Gabbert sees any boost in draft value, it will likely be attributed to Justin Blackmon. The rookie saw his first preseason action and made the most of it, snagging four passes for 48 yards and a touchdown. Right now, Blackmon is a low-end No. 2 or high-end No. 3 WR option, but if he and Gabbert gain some type of rapport, that could change...

» As Maurice Jones-Drew's holdout persists, Rashard Jennings is gaining favor in a lot of fantasy football leagues. Jennings again showed that he's ready to step in for Pocket Hercules with his 11-carry, 62-yard outing. On average, Jennings is coming off the board in round 16 in most NFL.com fantasy football drafts. As long as MJD isn't in uniform, that average should start moving up...

» After a lackluster first game, Drew Brees was back to being Drew Brees again -- 10-of-13 for 133 yards and a touchdown, to be exact. You can exhale...

» Another thing hasn't changed about the Saints offense ... predicting where the passes will be going. In less than two quarters, Brees targeted six different pass catchers (including Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram), connecting with five of them. You know Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham will do what they do, but the rest of the pass catching brigade will be a week-to-week mystery...

» Two guys making names for themselves in the preseason are Travaris Cadet and Joe Morgan. Cadet, an undrafted free agent running back has 19 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns, although he's likely to see the field in a crowded running back group. Morgan (not to be confused with the Hall of Fame second baseman or former Boston Red Sox manager) could play his way into the receiver rotation thanks to a couple of nice games this preseason. Keep an eye on him as a potential mid-season waiver wire pickup...

» Carson Palmer wasn't expected to be a fantasy football stud this year, but he's sinking his already unstable draft value with a couple of preseason clunkers. It could be a tough transition to Greg Knapp's new offense or it could just be a gradual erosion of skills. Either way, Palmer's projected status as a No. 2 QB choice is worth serious re-evaluation...

» One thing's certain, Rod Streater has become Palmer's favorite target. Streater had another seven catches for 43 yards last weekend and could elbow his way up Oakland's receiving depth chart. That's bad news for an inconsistent producer like Jacoby Ford...

» The John Skelton-Kevin Kolb QB battle continues with no clearly defined leader. Skelton's night was slightly better if you consider he was 3-for-3 with a touchdown (compared to Kolb's 3-for-6 with no scores). This thing might go all the way through the preseason. Stay tuned, if you care...

» Ryan Williams was a bright spot for the Arizona Cardinals. After missing all of last season, Williams ran five times for 25 yards and a touchdown. With Beanie Wells still on the shelf (and sporting a dubious injury history), Williams should get plenty of chances to prove himself and could be a solid handcuff pick for many fantasy football owners...

» Facing the vaunted Jets secondary and without Hakeem Nicks on the other side, Victor Cruz caught five passes for 51 yards. Plenty of people fear that he won't be able to match last season's totals, a valid concern. However, it would be foolish to completely dismiss Cruz this year. He might not score nine touchdowns, but he's still worth a look as a low-end No. 1 WR...

» All signs point to Ahmad Bradshaw as the feature back for the New York Giants this season, but rookie David Wilson could push D.J. Ware for the team's No. 2 spot. Wilson has run the ball well in preseason and could earn a few more touches. Tom Coughlin isn't shy about rotating his RBs, so Wilson could have sleeper value in many leagues...

» Tim Tebow outplayed Mark Sanchez Saturday, which will only rile up the circus that's been New York Jets training camp. Because of his ability to scramble, Tebow has a little more fantasy value than his QB competitor. But without any real weapons to throw to (I'm also including you, Antonio Cromartie) and a suspect running game, it's hard to recommend either of them as anything more than a mid- to late-round pick...

» Turns out, Robert Griffin III is human after all. Behind a questionable offensive line, RG3 struggled Saturday, throwing for just 49 yards. As talented as Griffin is, it's a reminder that no QB can be successful if he has to spend more time watching the rush than checking out coverages. Don't let it scare you away from RG3, but don't start thinking he's ready to be a starting fantasy option...

» You know what the Washington Redskins' running back situation needs? More chaos. Roy Helu (Achilles) missed the game and the 'Skins are still waiting on the return of Tim Hightower. Before the game, Mike Shanahan said Evan Royster would see significant time but he only had two carries. If it wasn't so frustrating, it would almost be funny...

» Jay Cutler had a solid evening with 122 yards passing. Included in that were a pair of completions to Brandon Marshall for 61 yards. Opinions have varied widely about how this duo will perform this year, but I think they could be a quite successful tandem this year, especially with the pair being reunited with QB coach Jeremy Bates. It won't be Stafford-Johnson good, but it could suprise some people...

» Speaking of duos, Michael Bush is looking even more valuable in his platoon with Matt Forte. Bush scored two touchdowns Saturday and appears to be Chicago's goal-line back of choice this year. As a solid No. 3 RB, Bush is a must-have handcuff pick this season...

» The 49ers saw Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James go down with injuries on Saturday. If there's any team that can afford it, it's San Francisco. The Niners can still line up with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, which is still better than what many other teams can boast. Both Jacobs and James are expected back soon, which will again create a logjam in the backfield. Look for Gore and Jacobs to carry the bulk of the load...

» Randy Moss made his preseason debut and caught three passes for 24 yards, that's bad news for A.J. Jenkins. The rookie has had an unimpressive preseason and with coach Jim Harbaugh saying the team has five No. 1 WRs, Jenkins could be inactive to start the season. That would leave Moss, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams to fight it out for targets, although Ginn and Williams figure to be more busy on special teams...

» The Texans dynamic running duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate were solid in the team's second preseason game. Foster accounted for 62 total yards (46 rushing) while Tate rushed seven times for 26 yards. All seems status quo here...

» Speaking of status quo, Matt Schaub connected with Andre Johnson twice for 49 yards. As long as Johnson stays healthy, they'll once again be one of the more productive fantasy football pitch and catch duos this year...

» Matt Cassel has been coming off most draft boards in the late rounds, but he's reminding people that he might be worth a look a few rounds earlier. He threw for 142 yards against the Rams, which might immediately impress anyone. But with healthy pieces around him (Jamaal Charles, Tony Moeaki) and the return of Dwayne Bowe, Cassel has some sleeper appeal...

» Eric Berry had a team-high four tackles as he battles back from missing nearly all of last season. Flashing back to his solid all-around play as a rookie in 2010, a healthy Berry for 16 games is a quality IDP selection...

» With talk about possible ankle surgery looming for Sam Bradford, the St. Louis Rams QB shook it off to throw for 102 yards and two TDs. It looks like he's getting the hang of St. Louis' new short passing game. That's adds confidence for anyone considering Bradford as a backup QB choice...

» Steven Jackson backed up a solid night in the preseason opener with another on Saturday. Jackson's been a slow starter the past couple of regular seasons, so here's hoping this helps him get out of the gate quickly. He still has No. 1 RB-type skills, and if he produces early, he'll reward plenty of fantasy football owners...

» In case you haven't heard, Terrell Owens made his debut Saturday. It wasn't good. He was targeted five times and didn't make a catch. He also dropped a pass in the end zone. Drops are nothing new for Owens, but when you're 38-years old and have been out of the league for a year, it doesn't bode well for your roster spot. It also fits with a long-running theme of big name receivers going to Seattle and catching a case of fumblethumbs...

» Matt Flynn's numbers didn't look good (although he was hurt by Owens' drop), but he is likely on track to be Seattle's starter in Week 1. Russell Wilson has played well, but it's hard to see him passing up a guy who commanded a hefty offseason salary. It's good to think this competition may be settled soon, but since I don't believe in any of Seattle's WRs, it doesn't really matter who's slinging the rock...

» Peyton Manning threw two interceptions which is cause for concern. Overall, his numbers were uglier than his peformance, but his attempts to get the ball down the field weren't particularly encouraging. Manning may have a rocky year as he gets his strength and accuracy back, but he's still Peyton Manning -- and that's better than plenty of other guys around the league...

» With so much focus on Manning, Willis McGahee might be getting overshadowed. The veteran RB has run well in the preseason and looks ready to contribute as a fantasy football No. 2. If you believe in the dangers of 30-year old RBs, you should consider a solid backup option, but McGahee should have another productive season in Denver...

» Cole Beasley is fighting for the Cowboys' No. 3 WR job and a seven-catch, 104-yard performance could help. Dallas is going to throw the ball quite a bit this year and Beasley could see some targets if he lands the job. He shouldn't be drafted outside of the deepest leagues, but could be a nice waiver wire addition...

» So far, the Cowboys first-unit defense has tossed a couple of shutouts. Granted, it's been against the Raiders and Chargers -- two teams with offensive issues -- but it's certainly worth noting when heading into your draft...

» With Vincent Jackson in Tampa Bay, this was the year for Vincent Brown to step up. Unfortunately, he'll be gone for at least eight weeks after breaking his ankle. That puts Malcom Floyd and Robert Meachem as next up in the rotation. Neither has been consistent historically, so don't reach for them in drafts...

» Without Ryan Mathews, San Diego's running game is still in need of help. Ronnie Brown had an unimpressive 16 yards on six carries, yet he remains the presumptive go-to guy. Take a chance on him late, if you must. Otherwise, there are better options out there...

Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG

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