RB Derrick Ward (TB) – All the rage in fantasy circles early this pre-season, Ward’s fantasy stock soared upward. Unfortunately, that may be short lived. While we still like his potential overall, the recently announced plans for Tampa Bay to use a 3 man RB rotation including Earnest Graham and Cadillac Williams have certainly put a damper on Ward’s fantasy potential this season, especially if Graham gets the goal line touches as expected. Ward is still very much draft worthy, but we wouldn’t touch him before round 8 at this point.
WR Brandon Marshall (DEN) – You probably already know most of the details of the ongoing saga between the Broncos and Brandon Marshall, so we will spare you the details. Our biggest concern with Marshall is the fact that he, himself, admitted that he did not know the new Broncos playbook and was not in “game” shape. For a player to say something like that about himself, it truly speaks volumes. That said, we feel fairly confident that Marshall will catch on eventually and it is a long season. While Marshall’s fantasy stock continues to plummet and many owners are avoiding him like the plague, this could actually prove beneficial to you as he could be a steal if he falls past round 5. Marshall is risky at any spot, but he maintains top flight potential.
RB Jamal Lewis (CLE) – Not that people were going out of there way to grab him this season anyway, Lewis’ fantasy value may be further on the decline with recent news out of camp that he is sluggish at best and possibly in danger of losing his starting job. The one thing that Lewis has going for him is his role as a feature back. Lewis is one of the very few RB’s in the NFL that doesn’t really share carries and that alone gives him value, even in a mediocre Browns offense. Now that isn’t even a certainty. We aren’t saying to steer clear of Lewis all together because he will continue to see the field often if healthy, but you should definitely lower expectations.
WR Nate Washington (TEN) – After riding the pine for the most part in Pittsburgh, Washington appeared poised to become the go to guy in the Titans passing attack in 2009. Fantasy owners took notice and Washington quickly started to shoot his way up draft boards. That is until the injury bug struck this pre-season. Reports are that Washington’s recently strained hamstring is more severe than initially thought and he could miss several weeks of the regular season. He is probably still worth drafting in a later round, but it would not be wise to go out of your way to get him. On a positive note, this is good news for those of you who already drafted Justin Gage and Kenny Britt in late rounds. UPDATE: New reports suggest that Washington could be ready to play as early as week 2, but that is probably a kind estimate and not a certainty by any stretch.
RB Steve Slaton (HOU) – While Slaton remains a top 15 pick in any fantasy football draft, he may not be quite as desirable as he was a few short weeks ago. Why you ask? Well, reports from practice and evidence from preseason overwhelmingly suggest that backup Chris Brown will handle the goal line and short yardage duties for the Texans in 2009. Slaton will likely still make his way to the end zone on occasion, but expectations should be lowered to some degree if this pans out.
RB Julius Jones (SEA) – He doesn’t have elite potential in the first place, but the recent news that goal line back T.J. Duckett was released by Seattle briefly made Jones a more appealing fantasy prospect. Then, Seattle offensive lineman started dropping like flies with injuries followed by the announcement that the Seahawks had signed free agent back Edgerrin James. The coaching staff claims that Jones will remain their primary RB, but the offensive line situation alone is enough to scare off prospective fantasy owners. He is still worth a look in a reserve role, but nothing more.
RB Le’Ron McClain (BAL) – He still possesses some fantasy value as he may continue to see the occasional goal line carry and he could see an increased role as a receiver out of the backfield, but with news that he has been moved back to his original full back position, McClain’s fantasy stock has tumbled significantly. This could change at some point during the season, but it doesn’t look like McClain will have near the impact that he had in 2008. Ray Rice is the back to have out of Baltimore.
RB Brian Westbrook (PHI) – It is only the third week of pre-season and already his surgically repaired ankle is causing him to miss games. Not a good sign. If you do take a chance on him, be sure to grab Eagles back up RB LeSean McCoy for insurance purposes.
WR Mike Sims-Walker (JAC) formerly Mike Walker – We actually had high hopes for him this season, but our outlook for Sims-Walker is growing dimmer by the day. After snagging the starting WR job last season in Jacksonville with very positive results, he spent the better portion of the end of the season on injured reserve with a knee injury. Considered a virtual lock to start opposite Torry Holt in 2009, Sims-Walker again came up lame with an ankle injury that has caused him to miss all of pre-season so far with no clear cut return date scheduled. In the meantime, back up Troy Williamson has been lighting it up in his place. We don’t know for sure how this situation will turn out, but Sims-Walker is no longer safe to draft.
RB Jonathan Stewart (CAR) – He has a ton of potential, even in a platoon role with DeAngelo Williams, but if he can’t shake the injuries once and for all, he is no good to anyone. If you can get Stewart past round 6, he is certainly worth the gamble and probably a steal, otherwise the risk outweighs the reward. Stewart has a laundry list of injuries dating back to college and has proven to be a very slow healer. That said, if he can stay healthy, Stewart could produce big numbers this season.
WR Devin Hester (CHI) – While the converted defensive back and star return specialist has all the tools necessary to become a great WR, we have yet to see evidence that he can get the job done, at least not on a consistent basis. He will probably have the occasional big game this season, but Hester is not worth his average draft position, and we think he is slightly overrated. He has yet to develop a solid rapport with QB Jay Cutler in practice or pre-season games and based on some words exchanged between the two through the media, it may not ever happen. Hester’s potential (especially for leagues that account for return yards) is still solid, but until he proves otherwise, it is just that, potential. He is certainly worth drafting, probably as a WR3 in deeper leagues, but we see him as a better fit in a reserve role as a spot starter.