RB Ray Rice (BAL) – Early indications suggest that Rice will be the go to guy in the running game for the Ravens in 2009. Yes, this does include goal line carries. Willis McGahee should continue to see a fair share of touches as well, but Rice is the overwhelming favorite between the two. As for Le’Ron McClain, he has been moved back to his original FB position and outside of the occasional carry; he should no longer present much of a challenge to Rice. Take this with a grain of salt as Raven’s Head Coach John Harbaugh is notorious for mixing up game plans with regard to RB’s throughout the season, often riding the hot hand, but Rice is certainly a more appealing fantasy prospect than he was a few weeks ago. UPDATE: Earlier reports suggested that Rice would be handling goal line duties, while a more recent report suggests that he has not yet locked up that role. Stay tuned.
WR Chris Henry (CIN) – He has been lighting it up this pre-season and while he has yet to officially surpass Andre Caldwell and Laveranues Coles on the Bengals depth chart, it is probably only a matter of time before Henry cracks the starting line up with his stellar play. That said, this is only pre season and Henry is not a lock for big numbers when it counts. He should continue to be drafted as a reserve and no better than a WR 3 in deep fantasy leagues. Henry is also a bit risky due to numerous off the field issues that have plagued him throughout his career.
WR Randy Moss (NE) – If the pre-season Brady to Moss air show is truly a preview of the regular season and we are fairly confident that it is, Randy Moss is capable of putting up numbers that could rival his monster 2007 season. We already have him ranked as the second best fantasy wideout for 2009, but the chemistry displayed between Brady and Moss thus far has him inching closer and closer to Larry Fitzgerald. In fact, you wouldn’t be out of line to take Moss ahead of Fitzgerald at this point. We do not typically lend a great deal of credence to pre-season stats for regular season fantasy projections, but as you know, this is a unique case.
RB James Davis (CLE) – Now, we aren’t saying that you should go out of your way to draft the former Clemson standout, but Davis is certainly making waves in the Browns backfield. Reports are that Jamal Lewis is looking sluggish and showing his age and sleeper pick Jerome Harrison can’t get over the injury bug. It has been suggested that Davis has already surpassed Harrison on the depth chart and is possibly closing in on the starting job. This is purely speculation at this point, but Davis’ has been very explosive and dynamic so far in pre season. At the very least, we would not be shocked if Davis cracked the Brown’s starting line up at some point in 2009. Maybe sooner than later?
TE Jermichael Finley (GB) – He could be one of the bigger surprises at the TE position for 2009. The Packers coaches claim that linebackers and even safeties can not cover Finley and he is proving just that so far in pre-season. He will be competing with Donald Lee for playing time, but Lee is expected to take on more of a blocking role and the Packers often run two TE packages anyway. At this point, Finley should not be drafted as more than a TE2 for your fantasy roster, but he appears to have elite potential.
WR Austin Collie (IND) – Chances are, you don’t even know who he is, so we are just going to tell you. Reports are that Collie has been the shining star in Colts camp so far and he appears to have the inside track over Pierre Garcon for Indy’s slot receiver position. Considering that the Colts offense utilizes a pass happy philosophy, Collie could be in for a decent season or better. We all know Anthony Gonzalez hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations and Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark are going to get special attention from opposing defenses. This could very well open some doors for Collie in ’09. At this point, we do not recommend drafting him, but he is definitely someone worth taking a flier on under the circumstances.
RB Carnell “Cadillac” Williams (TB) – All but forgotten in fantasy circles, Williams has emerged back on the scene late this pre-season. He has reportedly made a strong showing in practices and his surgically repaired knee appears up to the challenge. In addition, Cadillac has shown plenty of promise in pre-season action and all indications are that he has earned a role in the Bucs 3 man RB rotation this season. Considering that he will share carries with Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham, we don’t see him making a huge fantasy impact in ’09, but he is probably worth a look in deep leagues.
QB Aaron Rodgers (GB) – He is already one of the top ranked fantasy QB’s available, but Rodgers appears poised to exceed his already lofty expectations. He has been flawless in preseason and he is surprisingly fleet of foot for a so-called pocket QB. Rodgers will probably be a steal in your draft based on his Average Draft Position so far.
WR Donnie Avery (STL) – He started camp on everyone’s pre-season sleeper list and then a broken bone in his foot led to a significant drop in his fantasy value. Good news! Avery is back earlier then expected and appears to be good to go for week 1 of the regular season. We are still a bit weary of his overall fantasy potential for 2009 and we don’t suggest giving him a big boost up your draft board, but Avery should be a quality WR3 for your fantasy roster at the very least.
RB Glen Coffee (SF) – We want to start out by saying that Frank Gore is going to be the go to back for the Niners in the regular season. That said, few rookies, if any, have made as big a splash as Glen Coffee this pre-season. At the very least, Coffee has earned a few touches per game in the regular season and he certainly has the attention of the 49ers coaching staff. He makes for a great handcuff to the often banged up Gore and Coffee could develop into a top shelf fantasy prospect should Gore go down for an extended period of time (God forbid).
WR Troy Williamson (JAC) – Surrounded by plenty of hype out of college, Williamson has never quite lived up to expectations during his 4 season career. After 3 disappointing seasons in Minnesota and a lackluster back up role for the Jags in’08, the deep threat appears set on a breakout year. Williamson has had a monster preseason, he has developed a very solid rapport with QB David Garrard and he could be on his way to starting opposite Torry Holt for Jacksonville in week 1. While Williamson has yet to officially be assigned to that role, his stiffest competition for the job, Mike Sims-Walker has yet to challenge him due to injury. Walker (when healthy) is a great receiver in his own right, so this is not a done deal, but Williamson is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
RB Chris Brown (HOU) – He probably won’t be seeing significant action this season unless something happens to Steve Slaton, but Brown could have a significant fantasy impact in 2009 none the less. It appears that Brown has won the job as the Texans goal line back. If this pans out, Brown could be 2009’s version of LenDale White with Slaton playing the Chris Johnson role. This isn’t set in stone, but it appears highly probable based on what we have seen this pre-season and from practice reports. Chris Brown is a very draftable option for TD heavy fantasy leagues.
WR David Clowney (NYJ) – He will likely start opposite of possession receiver Jerricho Cotchery and if Clowney can maintain the great chemistry he has developed with rookie QB Mark Sanchez into the regular season, this deep threat could be in for a very solid season. He should be drafted as reserve at this point, but Clowney could easily develop into a starting fantasy option before long.UPDATE: An earlier report suggested that Clowney had locked up a starting spot, while a more recent report suggests that Chansi Stuckey will in fact start opposite of Jerricho Cotchery. You gotta love New York sports writers. It will likely be an ongoing battle throughout the season, but as of right now Clowney is probably not worth drafting.