By Dalton Del Don
Larry Johnson - Johnson ended his holdout last Tuesday, signing a five-year, $43.2 million contract. He's unsure if he'll be able to carry the full load Week 1, but Johnson should have ample time to get his body prepared, and the Chiefs will give him plenty of touches against Houston.
Eli Manning - Manning has completed 30 of 43 passes for 287 yards with a 3:0 TD:INT ratio so far this preseason. He's shown signs of progression before, only to disappoint with continued inaccuracy. However, he's still just 26, so there's at least a chance his early success translates into the breakout year most expected from him.
Laurence Maroney - Maroney eased concerns over his shoulder injury by returning to action in New England's third preseason game. In fact, he carried the ball on eight of the Patriots' first 10 plays from scrimmage, so clearly coach Bill Belichick is confident in Maroney's ability to take on contact. Maroney, though, failed in short-yardage situations and could lose those touches to Sammy Morris, at least early on.
Vincent Jackson - All signs point to Jackson breaking out in his third year in the NFL. He's hauled in three touchdown passes in the last two preseason games, and going back to last year, he's reached pay dirt six times in his last four games. He's still only the third option in San Diego's offense, but the unit is potent enough to provide plenty of scoring opportunities to go around. Jackson has the rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 241 pounds) and speed, making him a terrific value in the mid-rounds of fantasy league drafts.
Matt Leinart - New coach Ken Whisenhunt adjusted Leinart's footwork during training camp, and so far the results have been positive. In the last two preseason games, Leinart is 17 of 23 for 266 yards with a 2:0 TD:INT ratio. He's not going to maintain an 11.6 yards-per-attempt average, but Leinart could be set to take a major step forward after an up and down rookie season. With Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin at his disposal, Leinart could put up some gaudy stats this season.
LenDale White - White (swollen left ankle/knee) started for the Titans and had 11 carries for 51 yards last Friday. He was also targeted often as a receiver, catching three passes for 23 yards. White will split carries with Chris Brown when the regular season begins, but he should get the goal-line work and possesses the most upside of any Titans running back.
Warrick Dunn - After surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back knocked Dunn out for most of the preseason, the 32-year-old has now been named the frontrunner for the starting running back job by coach Bobby Petrino. Jerious Norwood, who led all running backs in yards per touch last season and is a much better fit for Petrino's power running game, is dealing with a mysterious stomach ailment. Dunn looks like more of a fantasy factor than he did a week ago and can't be forgotten in fantasy leagues.
James Jones - There's a joke somewhere involving James Jones and drinking the Kool-Aid, but it's probably tasteless so we'll avoid it for now. Anyways, Jones has impressed throughout camp, and the third-round pick out of San Jose State looked like a major sleeper when Donald Driver went down with a foot injury. Jones' fantasy value took a hit when news broke that Driver's injury wasn't serious, but Jones still could beat out Greg Jennings for the No. 2 receiver spot in an offense that throws the football a lot.
Leon Washington - Thomas Jones has a calf injury that might have stemmed from an Achilles' problem that coach Eric Mangini hid from the press. One cannot trust the Jets with injury information, so Jones' status has to at least be questioned -- and it's not like he's anything more than an average runner anyway. Washington, on the other hand, is explosive, evidenced by his 79-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the Jets' third preseason game. Washington would probably split work if Jones were to go down in the regular season, but he's effective enough as a receiver that he'd only need 15-20 touches to be productive. With Cedric Houston out of the league, there might be ample opportunity to produce in an offense with an emerging offensive line.
Brady Quinn - He's not going to start right away, but it's becoming clear Quinn will get a chance sooner rather than later this season. He's 13 of 20 for 155 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions during the preseason, and this was after a holdout cost him 16 practices. After just three weeks in camp, he might already be the Browns' best quarterback.
Cecil Sapp - Sapp ran for 54 yards on 11 carries in Saturday's preseason game, establishing himself as the Broncos' clear No. 3 running back. If Mike Bell (hip) is forced to miss some regular-season time, Sapp would be worth owning in all fantasy leagues, as Travis Henry (knee) is also banged up and unknown running backs have frequently become household names in Denver's running system.
Damon Huard - The Chiefs didn't want to, but Huard was named the team's starting quarterback after Brodie Croyle failed to impress. Huard hasn't played particularly well during the preseason and is dealing with a calf injury. However, he did register 7.7 yards per attempt last season, so he shouldn't be completely ignored.
J.T. O'Sullivan - With Jon Kitna (back) sitting out, O'Sullivan was the only quarterback used by the Lions during the team's third preseason game. He's established himself as Detroit's clear backup quarterback, and with Mike Martz so pass-happy, any signal caller in that system should be on the fantasy radar, especially with the upgrade at wide receiver in Calvin Johnson. Is O'Sullivan the next Kurt Warner? Probably not, but it's worth a gamble if Kitna ever goes down, something entirely possible with Martz's utter lack of emphasis on protecting the quarterback and a shaky offensive line.
David Boston/Maurice Stovall/Ike Hilliard - Boston has dealt with off-field issues, but it looks like he might be out of the woods. Still, it's another black mark on someone who's dealt with legal issues before. As for Stovall and Hilliard, neither has stood out in the battle to become the second wide receiver for Tampa Bay.
Jon Kitna - A back problem forced Kitna to sit out Detroit's third preseason game, but the injury isn't considered serious.
Jason Campbell - Campbell suffered a bruised left knee and claims he's ready to go for the final preseason game against Jacksonville, but it could be serious enough to knock him out until the regular season begins. Still, he should be ready to play once the games count.
Tatum Bell - Bell suffered a shin injury Saturday, but coach Rod Marinelli said the running back would be fine and the injury is not serious.
Devin Hester - He suffered a bruised shoulder Saturday but is expected to be healthy once the regular season starts. Hester, though, is unlikely to have much fantasy value as a receiver this year.
Plaxico Burress - First, an ankle injury sidelined him for the first three weeks of camp, and then Burress missed Saturday's game with the flu. These minor ailments shouldn't affect Burress' fantasy value, but it would be nice to see him on the field at some point.
Donald Driver - The news on Driver's foot sprain has been positive, especially after it looked potentially season-ending when it occurred. Additional tests are in store, and Driver is questionable for the regular season opener. He should be moved down draft boards, but not drastically.
Torry Holt - Holt experienced some swelling in his knee last week and was forced to miss the Rams' game against the Raiders. He had surgery on the knee during the offseason, and there's concern whether he'll be 100 percent by Week 1. He's 31 years old, so Holt's best days might be behind him.
Cedric Benson - Benson has the Chicago backfield to himself, but whether he can take advantage of the opportunity remains unclear after a lackluster preseason. In the last two games, he's run for 57 yards on 29 carries. That's 1.9 yards per carry against the likes of the 49ers and Colts. At least he's being featured in the passing game more and is in line to receive all of the goal-line work.
Ronnie Brown - New coach Cam Cameron has publicly challenged Brown, saying the running back job is still open for competition. When you consider Brown's main competitor, Jesse Chatman, was out of football for two years, you have to wonder just how unimpressive Brown must be in practice. He's still likely to win in the end, but Brown should be lowered on draft sheets.
Darrell Jackson - After missing all of minicamp with continued turf toe issues, Jackson is now dealing with a hamstring injury. He's been extremely injury prone the past couple seasons, missing 13 games in that timespan. The missed preseason work is especially worrisome considering he's learning a new system in San Francisco. So, at minimum, expect a slow start from D-Jax once the regular season opens.
Jerious Norwood - Norwood is dealing with a stomach ailment that is clearly more serious than the team is letting on. He also has been passed on the depth chart by Warrick Dunn, though that pecking order might be short-lived if Norwood can return at full strength soon enough.
Chris Henry - He hurt his hamstring during the Titans' third preseason game and looks no better than third on the running back depth chart.
Brandon Jones - Jones has struggled during camp and has apparently lost his starting role to Roydell Williams.
Michael Turner - A high ankle sprain has sidelined Turner. However, the team is hopeful he'll return for Week 1.
Edgerrin James - James was held out of Saturday's preseason game with a minor hamstring injury, but the bigger worry is that he'll likely lose goal-line work to Marcel Shipp.