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Washington's fantasy draft stock on the rise with strong preseason

When the New York Jets hired coach Rex Ryan this past offseason and took Mark Sanchez in the first round of the NFL Draft, it was apparent that the franchise was going play strong defense, and run the ball on offense.

Running back Leon Washington looks to be one of the stars of the offense after the first two weeks of the preseason.

Washington opened eyes on Monday Night Football, rushing for 48 yards on eight carries. He also hauled in two passes for 35 yards and caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez. Washington also posted 93 kickoff return yards Is there anything he can't do?

Washington recorded the best fantasy numbers of his three-year NFL career last year, rushing for 448 yards on 76 attempts with an impressive average of 5.9 yards per carry. He also had career bests in receptions (47), receiving yards (355) and total touchdowns (8).

With Ryan at the helm, Washington will now have even more opportunities to showcase his skills as a runner and receiver, rather than being used primarily as a return man.

That makes Washington an attractive sleeper in fantasy circles.

Whether it's Sanchez or Kellen Clemens under center, the Jets will open this season with an inexperienced quarterback. While coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will look to create as much balance as possible, he isn't going to lean on either signal-caller to be the centerpiece of his offense. That role will be shared between Thomas Jones, Washington (and to a lesser degree) rookie Shonn Greene.

Jones remains the top fantasy back on the team's roster. While he'll be hard pressed to duplicate his career-high 2008 totals, Jones will continue to start and should see his share of goal-line carries as well. That will make him worth a middle-round pick as a No. 2 fantasy back.

But the real riser in Ryan's potential three-headed monster is Washington who is the team's biggest playmaker.

While a player in a backfield committee comes with some risk due to what can be an inconsistent level of production, shared workloads aren't statistical death sentences in all cases. Just ask anyone who owned one of the Carolina duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart or the Tennessee pair of Chris Johnson and LenDale White last season.

Washington, who should be motivated to produce in what is a contract year, will have a chance to further prove that point in 2009.

The Jets should be in position to find success on the ground with a schedule that includes 12 games against teams that finished 15th or worse against the run last season (that includes eight contests against teams that were 20th or worse).

Washington will be well worth a middle-round pick across the board. With the potential to catch around 40-50 passes, he'll also have additional value in leagues that reward points for receptions.

Washington's stock soars even further if your league offers players points for return yards and touchdowns.

News and notes

  • » Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson has rushed for just 28 yards on 12 preseason carries while averaging an awful 2.3 yards per carry. That might say more about the team's offensive line than it does about L.T., who has an ADP (average draft position) of 12.81 on At the age of 30 and with a boatload of carries on his body, not to mention questions about his line, Tomlinson is no lock to return to his 2007 form.
  • » The Tampa Tribune reports Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Bryant (knee surgery) could begin practicing next week and has a chance to play in the team's preseason finale (Sept. 4 vs. Houston). While changes to the offense and at quarterback are cause for some concern, it looks like Bryant will at least be back in time for Week 1. Fantasy leaguers should look to draft him as more of a No. 3 fantasy wideout if at all possible.
  • » The Seattle Seahawks made two major moves to their backfield this week, adding veteran Edgerrin James and releasing T.J. Duckett. Julius Jones remains the favorite to open the season atop the depth chart, but this has the look of a full-blown committee situation with Justin Forsett also in the mix. James would have some added value if he earns the goal-line work, but none of this trio warrants more than a reserve role in most leagues.
  • » The Nashville Tennessean reports Titans wide receiver Nate Washington will miss the team's final two preseason games due to an injured hamstring. A viable sleeper in fantasy circles, Washington was having a great training camp but could now be a question mark for Week 1. Rookie Kenny Britt will start opposite Justin Gage as long as Washington is out. The former Steelers wideout is still worth a middle- to late-round selection.
  • » The Akron Beacon-Journal is reporting that Browns running back Jamal Lewis looked "decidedly unquick" in Saturday's preseason game against the Lions. Lewis, who is coming off ankle surgery, remains atop the depth chart but could find him in a committee situation with Jerome Harrison and rookie standout James Davis. It's best to avoid Lewis as anything more than a possible No. 4 fantasy back and take a late-round flier on Davis.

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