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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fantasy football: Steven Jackson update and more injuries

Steven Jackson has missed practice this week with a groin injury.

Those surprised, raise your hand. If you selected Jackson among the top four picks, scared off by Maurice Jones-Drew's preseason injury or Ray Rice's ability to sustain his production, you might be pounding your head on your desk or repeatedly yelling "Frank Gore!" instead of raising said your arm.

"The leg's still tight, the groin's still tight, so it's just one of those injuries where just time is what's really going to heal the injury," Jackson told reporters Thursday.

Just a guess: He's not playing this week.

Jackson missed four games in both 2007 and '08, and in the 42 games he's played since 2007, he has a mediocre total of 19 touchdowns.

Sunday's opponent, the Seahawks, rank fifth against the run and are allowing only 2.6 yards per carry.

If Jackson is active, you have to play him. If he's out, backup Kenneth Darby -- who had 14 carries for 49 yards and one TD last week -- should get most of the work, since No. 3 back Keith Toston is also nicked up.

If Jackson is inactive, Darby is a decent flex play in PPR formats. He had a combined 37 receptions in 2008 and '09.

Jackson might be resting up for Oct. 10. In Week 5, the Rams will play at Detroit, the league's worst run defense.

Let's look at four more running backs who have had injury issues (note: We'll address Ray Rice's knee bruise in a column for Friday's print and online editions):

-- Chargers rookie Ryan Mathews returned to practice after sitting last week because of an ankle injury. If he plays Sunday against Arizona, as he should, he should be in your lineup. The Cardinals rank 31st against the run and are allowing 146.3 yards rushing per game.

-- Clinton Portis, who shared carries with Ryan Torain last week because the former has a wrist ailment, seems to be a go for Week 4. Sunday's opponent, the Eagles, have struggled against the run (No. 23, 128.7 yards per game, three touchdowns). Portis is a low-level No. 2 back at best, though, after rushing for all of 634 yards in 11 games since the start of last season.

-- The Broncos haven't ruled Knowshon Moreno out, but he isn't practicing because of a hamstring injury and seems certain to miss Sunday's game at Tennessee. If Moreno is out, Laurence Maroney is a better play than Correll Buckhalter, but neither is a top-25 back this week.

-- Just when it seemed Pierre Thomas had the Saints' rushing workload to himself, he injured his ankle last week and will be a game-time decision Sunday against Carolina. If Thomas sits, rookie Chris Ivory, who had seven carries for 13 yards last week, is a flex play vs. the Panthers (No. 14 vs. the run).

Stat of the week

8.5: Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles' average yards per touch this season. He has 34 carries for 238 yards and one touchdown, and five catches for 92 yards. Meanwhile, starter Thomas Jones, who has 18 more carries than Charles, is averaging 4.1 yards on 54 touches.

The Chiefs are 3-0, so obviously it's working. But the fantasy geek in many of us wonders if Todd Haley and Charlie Weis have forgotten that Charles held up just fine with an increased amount of touches in the second half of 2009.

Programming note: Check back late Thursday night or Friday morning for a column in the N-H's online Sports section that will break down five of the most disappointing players from a fantasy perspective in the first three weeks.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fantasy football: Week 4 waiver-wire picks

If you're looking into acquiring Matt Hasselbeck on the waiver wire, one or two things have happened.

1. You're desperate.

2. You drafted Brett Favre as your starting quarterback. If this is the case, No. 1 also applies.

If you have Favre and didn't draft a quality backup, Hasselbeck is a decent one-week option with Favre on a bye.

The Seahawks play Sunday at the Rams, who rank 24th against the pass, allowing 730 yards in three games.

All of which brings us to our free-agent selections for Week 4. The picks are available in more than 50 percent of the leagues on -- this week, they are available in at least 66 percent.

QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks (25.3 percent)

Mark Sanchez is available in 53 percent of the ESPN formats, but I'd rather have Hasselbeck this week. He hasn't been very good since 2007, but he's averaging 208 passing yards per game this season and could throw for a couple of scores vs. St. Louis.

RB: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots (28.7 percent)

Someone has to get the carries in New England -- and fortunately for Green-Ellis, Fred Taylor left last week's game with a toe injury and missed practice Wednesday, Kevin Faulk is on injured reserve and Laurence Maroney is in Denver. Green-Ellis had 16 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown last week. Sunday, he'll face a Dolphins defense that is allowing 117.3 rushing yards per game, 4.5 yards per attempt and has given up two rushing TDs this season.

WR: Brandon Lloyd, Broncos
(33.6 percent)

He's been Denver's best receiver, and I have reluctantly jumped aboard the bandwagon after a three-week stretch in which he's had two games with at least 117 yards. Lloyd has 14 receptions for 339 yards and a score. Don't expect a huge game Sunday at the Titans, who are the league's fifth-best pass defense and have given up only one TD toss (compared to three interceptions).

WR: Lance Moore, Saints (12.2 percent)

He caught six passes for 149 yards and two scores last week, and as I wrote late Sunday night, he should get a lot more chances with Reggie Bush out. Moore, who had three catches in New Orleans' first two games, was productive in 2008 (79 receptions, 928 yards, 10 TDs), and his Week 3 was better than the three-game totals for both Devery Henderson (seven catches, 89 yards) and Robert Meachem (four catches, 38 yards).

Of the three receivers on this list, Moore has the best Week 3 matchup. The Panthers have allowed six touchdown passes (the fifth-most) in three games.

WR: Jabar Gaffney, Broncos (19.0 percent)

That crafty Kyle Orton is spreading the ball around in Denver -- Gaffney has 26 targets, Eddie Royal 24 and Lloyd 22. Gaffney has 17 receptions for 189 yards, but because of the matchup at Tennessee, is the worst play of the three wideouts in this space.

TE: Aaron Hernandez, Patriots (23.5 percent)

The rookie has 12 receptions for 166 yards the last two weeks, and he is averaging 16.2 yards per catch on the season. He has 13 receptions on 15 targets (the erratic Randy Moss has nine on 21 targets), and he could be a top-10 tight end in PPR formats. Monday, the Pats play at Miami, which ranks ninth against the pass.

TE: John Carlson, Seahawks (27.1 percent)

He's surprisingly undervalued after averaging 53 receptions and six touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons. Carlson has 10 catches the last two weeks, and he had five for 61 yards and a TD in Week 3. His 24 targets are eight more than any other Seattle receiver.

Carlson also has a much more favorable Week 4 matchup than Hernandez. The aforementioned Rams are allowing 243 passing yards per game.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Fantasy football: Quick snaps from Week 3

Peyton Hillis is the Browns' featured back, Roy Williams is alive, Darren McFadden is for real, Lance Moore is back, and Eric Wright is still chasing Anquan Boldin.

Just another week in (cue Mark Schlereth) the National Football League.

Let's take a trip around the field from a fantasy perspective after Sunday's games:

-- I know the Browns' Hillis won't keep this going, especially once Jerome Harrison is healthy, but his Week 3 performance against a Ravens defense that didn't allow a rushing touchdown in the first two games and ranked fifth against the run in 2009 was much too impressive to ignore. Hillis, who ran for 144 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and caught seven passes for 36 yards, has to be considered a low-level No. 2 back when Harrison doesn't play. Once Harrison returns, Hillis could still be a flex play in deeper leagues, depending on the matchup. He has 14 receptions in three games.

-- At this point, we should at least be a little concerned with Andre Johnson, who had four receptions for 64 yards and reaggravated his sprained ankle. The Texans receiver has had two poor games and one huge (a 12-catch, 158-yard, one-TD performance in Week 2) contest.

-- Hey, Steven Jackson is hurt. Didn't see that coming.

-- Beanie Wells returned for the Cardinals and, as expected, Tim Hightower wasn't worth a starting spot. Wells had 14 carries for 75 yards, and Hightower had 12 touches (11 rushes for 40 yards, one catch for zero yards). It's simple: If Wells is active, Hightower (who had 218 total yards and two TDs in the first two weeks) should be a fantasy reserve.

-- Maybe it is OK to play Mike Wallace before Ben Roethlisberger returns.

-- Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd (nine receptions for 192 yards and two TDs in the last two weeks) is now a must-start. Thank Vincent Jackson (or the stubborn A.J. Smith).

-- Boldin has crushed Derrick Mason's value. The latter has seven receptions for 82 yards and one TD in three weeks. That's a decent half for Boldin against Wright.

-- Start 'em: Raiders receiver Louis Murphy (11 catches for 210 yards and a TD in his last two games), Texans receiver Kevin Walter (one TD in each game, 16 receptions on the season), Chiefs rookie tight end Tony Moeaki (12 catches, two TDs in three games) and Patriots rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez (12 receptions for 166 yards the last two weeks; 16.2 yards per catch on the season)

-- Sit 'em: Bucs running back Cadillac Williams (139 yards, 2.5 yards per carry, zero TDs in three games) and 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree (six catches, 81 yards, zero TDs on the year).

-- Drop 'em: Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (three receptions for 55 yards in three games), Bills running back Fred Jackson (no longer a factor with Marshawn Lynch getting most of the carries and C.J. Spiller as the electric change-of-pace), Giants running back Brandon Jacobs (eight carries for 25 yards the last two weeks), Jaguars quarterback David Garrard (278 yards, two TDs, five interceptions in his last two games) and Chargers running back Darren Sproles (had two touches, to Mike Tolbert's 20, with Ryan Mathews sitting because of an ankle injury).

-- I wouldn't bench Kellen Winslow Jr. yet, but I'm getting close. The Bucs tight end with the messed-up knees and the eventful past has 11 receptions for 139 yards and zero scores. He hasn't had more than four catches in a game.

-- I can understand if you bench Terrell Owens, who hasn't scored as a Bengal and is averaging only 10.9 yards on his 14 receptions.

-- If you need the roster spot, it's OK to cut Carson Palmer, whose mediocre numbers (three TDs, three interceptions) don't indicate how poorly he's played.

-- A popular waiver-wire pickup this week will be the Saints' Moore, who had six receptions for 149 yards and two TDs after catching three passes for 23 yards the first two games. With Reggie Bush out, Moore will get more looks, and remember, he was effective in 2008 (79 receptions, 928 yards, 10 TDs).

-- That sound you just heard was Panthers receiver Steve Smith telling someone how he feels about the start of the Jimmy Clausen era.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fantasy football: Mike Tolbert, fantasy starter

Prior to the season, the last four words of the headline above would have seemed about as likely as Shonn Greene getting outplayed by LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamaal Charles getting 11 carries per game, John Kuhn being a factor in Green Bay's featured back equation and Felix Jones and C.J. Spiller being less exciting than the WB's prime-time lineup.

Wait, all of that has happened? Let's just move on.

Tolbert, a 5-foot-9, 243-pound fullback and special-teamer in his first two seasons with the Chargers, might be the featured back Sunday at Seattle.

Rookie Ryan Mathews was limited to five carries last week because of a high ankle sprain, and he's missed practice this week because of the ailment. Thursday, reported it was unlikely he would play against the Seahawks.

Enter Tolbert, who had 16 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2 -- pretty impressive for a back who had 38 rushing attempts in 29 games in his first two NFL seasons.

The Seahawks rank fifth against the run, but since Tolbert, and not Darren Sproles, should get the goal-line carries, I'd consider the former a No. 2 fantasy back this week.

Sproles is most effective in point-per-reception leagues. He had 45 catches, compared to 93 rushing attempts, last season. In Week 2, even with Mathews missing most of the game, he had only five rushing attempts, but piled up 100 total yards (37 rushing, 63 receiving) and caught four passes.

Sproles is a decent flex play in deeper leagues this week if Mathews sits.

As for Tolbert, should Mathews miss more than one game, San Diego's schedule is very favorable in Weeks 4, 5 and 6. The opponents -- the Cardinals, Raiders and Rams -- rank 31st, 29th and 30th, respectively, against the run this season.

I believe in Mike.

In our News-Herald PPR league, six of the top seven backs thus far are Jahvid Best, Arian Foster, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Darren McFadden and Jason Snelling.

Tolbert should fit right in.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fantasy football: Michael Vick could be a top-10 QB

"Let me say it again," Andy Reid said on Sept. 13. "I know I'm using poor English. Kevin Kolb is the No. 1 quarterback."

Coach, we're not worried about your English, although your sense of sarcasm seems to be on point.

Poor clock management? Yes. Flip-flopping on your team leader and quarterback of the future? Certainly.

More Reid: "Michael Vick is playing out of his mind right now, and that's a beautiful thing. What a lucky franchise and a lucky head coach I am to have two quarterbacks that I feel that way about. I mean, it's unbelievable."

The latter comment was made Tuesday, when Reid had a change of heart -- or had his mind changed by someone higher up, depending on which rumor you believe -- and made Vick his starting QB over Kolb, who missed last week's game because of a concussion he suffered in the first half of Philly's Week 1 loss to Green Bay.

By now, it's too late for you to acquire Vick on the waiver wire. If you have Kolb -- who some, not to name names, thought was a top-eight fantasy quarterback entering the season -- it's OK to drop him if you need the roster space for help in the upcoming bye weeks.

If you have Vick on your roster, you might have been fortunate enough to acquire a top-10 QB on the waiver wire.

Vick has led the Eagles to 62 points in the last six quarters. He's 37-for-58 for 459 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating is 105.5, and he's rushed for 140 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per carry.

He's a must-play the next two weeks, when Philly plays at Jacksonville and at home against Washington.

The Jags ranked 27th against the pass last season and are at No. 29 in the first two games of 2010. They are allowing 300 passing yards and two passing TDs per game.

The Redskins have been even worse, yielding 745 yards and four TD tosses in two games.

Kolb could regain value later in the year should Vick be ineffective or should the 2007 second-round pick be traded. But if the latter situation occurs, it likely would be to a team such as the Browns.

Translation: A struggling team on which Kolb would not be throwing to DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek, Jason Avant and LeSean McCoy.

A "beautiful thing?" Only if Vick is on your team and you were starting the likes of Eli Manning, Tony Romo or Matt Ryan.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fantasy football: Quick snaps from Week 2

In fewer than seven quarters, Michael Vick has thrown for 459 yards and three touchdowns, rushed for 140 yards and averaged 7.8 yards per carry.

It would seem he's a fantasy starter for the first time in four years, but Kevin Kolb is ready to return from a concussion, so Vick will reassume his role as Wildcat threat and backup quarterback for the Eagles.

If you have Kolb and wisely acquired Vick on the waiver wire last week, the choice is simple: Play Kolb on Sunday against Jacksonville, which ranks 29th against the pass and is allowing 300 yards passing and two TDs through the air per game.

If Kolb is your backup, I'd leave him as such, unless you have a lower-echelon starter with a poor matchup -- say Matt Ryan at the Saints in Week 3. In that case, I'd take the chance that Kolb is as good as Andy Reid believes.

In any case, don't drop Vick unless you really need the roster spot. He could be a factor in the coming months.

-- Jason Snelling, who carried 24 times for 129 yards and two scores, and caught five passes for 57 yards and a TD on Sunday, likely vaulted to the top of the waiver-wire wish list in Week 3. Michael Turner left with a groin injury and backup Jerious Norwood exited because of a knee ailment, leaving Snelling as Atlanta's featured back.

Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday that Turner was cleared to re-enter the Week 2 game, but durability is certainly an issue after the first-round fantasy pick missed five games last year and failed to rush for 900 yards.

If Turner is out this week, Snelling (who ran for 613 yards and four scores, and caught 30 passes for 259 yards and one TD last season) is a must-play against the Saints.

-- That sound you heard was every fantasy owner who has Tim Hightower urging Beanie Wells to take his time coming back from a knee injury.

-- Broncos receiver Eddie Royal, who has 13 catches for 163 yards and a TD in two games, should have regained our trust. Start him.

-- I wouldn't make the same move with Broncos rookie Demaryius Thomas, who had eight catches for 97 yards and a TD last week, but was shut out in Week 1.

-- Welcome back, Mike Sims-Walker.

-- Kurt Warner, are you sure about this whole retirement thing?

-- I believe in Rams receiver Mark Clayton.

-- I don't believe in any Patriots running back. Same goes for the Cowboys' backfield.

-- Stock up: Chiefs rookie tight end Tony Moeaki (although I would only start him in very deep leagues), Pats rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez (see Moeaki), Jets tight end Dustin Keller (I'd put him a level above the two rookies) and Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis (see Keller).

-- Stock down: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (one TD and five interceptions), Eagles tight end Brent Celek (five catches for 59 yards; is he waiting for Kolb?), Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (four catches for 54 yards) and Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald (post-Warner).

-- Start 'em: Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (602 yards, three TDs, one pick), Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw (he's clearly the featured back, surpassing Brandon Jacobs) and Raiders running back Darren McFadden (303 total yards).

-- Sit 'em: Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe (five catches for 58 yards), Steelers receiver Mike Wallace (until Ben Roethlisberger returns), Colts receiver Pierre Garcon (two catches for 54 yards). You, too, Brett Favre.

-- Drop 'em: Ravens receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (one catch for 27 yards in his first two games with Baltimore), Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (three catches for 55 yards) and Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.

-- Michael Crabtree, our patience is running as low as that of Vernon Davis and Mike Singletary.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fantasy football: Shonn Greene's declining value and more running back analysis

I assumed Shonn Greene -- with or without LaDainian Tomlinson in green and white -- would be a top-12 running back this season.

You might have, too.

After Monday night, when Greene had five carries for 18 yards and fumbled twice on six touches, we're left to wonder how much of an impact Tomlinson's signing might have on Greene, who caught our attention by rushing for 304 yards and averaging 5.6 yards per carry in the Jets' three playoff games last season.

Tomlinson, in the first game of his post-Chargers career, had 78 yards on 13 touches, looking surprisingly spry against the Ravens' stingy defense.

This week, the Jets will play host to the Patriots, who ranked 13th against the run and allowed only six rushing TDs last season.

You never want to overreact because of one game, but I wouldn't play Greene or L.T. against the Pats.

Around the league

Let's take a quick look at some of the more muddled backfields from a fantasy perspective:

-- Buffalo: C.J. Spiller was a preseason darling, and he might be a future stud, but right now, this looks like a mess. Spiller had 11 touches for 12 yards last week, and Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch will get work. Together, the three combined for 46 total yards on 22 touches. I'd sit Spiller against Green Bay. The other two shouldn't be starting options unless an injury or poor play knocks someone out of the equation.

-- Carolina: DeAngelo Williams had 16 carries to Jonathan Stewart's five in Week 1. I wouldn't read too much into that yet. Stewart should be a flex option Sunday vs. the Buccaneers.

-- Chicago: Is Matt Forte back? We can only hope. Almost as encouraging as the second-year running back's receiving stats last week was the fact he received 24 touches to Chester Taylor's 12.

-- Cleveland: For now, it's a tandem. But I'd expect Eric Mangini to wise up and give up Jerome Harrison, not Peyton Hillis, the lion's share of the load.

-- Dallas: More sharing, more frustration. Marion Barber and Felix Jones each had 10 touches last week, and Tashard Choice seven. Long term, Jones should be the best play, but Barber is the most enticing starting option Sunday at home against the Bears.

-- Denver: It's Knowshon Moreno's show for now, but you have to wonder if the Broncos' trade for Laurence Maroney will mean another dreaded tandem in a few weeks.

-- Indianapolis: Good news, Joseph Addai owners. Your back received 10 carries, and Donald Brown's only touch was a reception.

-- Miami: Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are sharing, as expected, but both are useful, especially Brown, at least until he gets hurt.

-- New Orleans: With Mike Bell in Philadelphia, Pierre Thomas (71 rushing yards, one TD, three receptions for 15 yards in Week 1) is an every-week starter. Reggie Bush is a flex play, at best, in deep PPR leagues.

-- New England: Fred Taylor, at age 34 (94 in running back years), had 71 yards on 14 carries last week. With Maroney gone, he seems to be the best option, but he should be a flex play only in 12-team or deeper leagues most weeks. I wouldn't play him Sunday at the Jets.

-- New York Giants: There seems to be a changing of the guard, from Brandon Jacobs (12 carries for 44 yards last week) to the electric Ahmad Bradshaw (76 yards rushing, one TD, two catches for 17 yards in Week 1). Bradshaw is a decent play Sunday night at Indy. Jacobs is not.

-- Oakland: Darren McFadden had a huge game (150 total yards, six receptions, one TD), but most of the points he accumulated were in garbage time against the Pats. Also keep in mind that McFadden posted those numbers with Michael Bush out. The latter is expected to return this week. McFadden is still a decent option this week against the Rams, who ranked 27th against the run and gave up 24 rushing TDs in 2009.

-- Seattle: Another mess. Justin Forsett was productive (6 yards per touch), but received only seven carries -- to eight by Julius Jones and six by Leon Washington. Sit 'em all.

-- Tampa Bay: It's Cadillac Williams' show, until he joins Ronnie Brown on injured reserve.

Quick slants

-- It's much too soon to trust Derek Anderson (297 yards, one TD last week), but he has the weapons. I'm tempted, but have seen too many bad Browns games to make the move.

-- Anquan Boldin has relegated Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to bench spots. Boldin had seven catches for 110 yards last week, compared to Mason's two for 21 and Houshmandzadeh's one for 27. I still believe in Mason, but wouldn't play him until the schedule softens.

-- I believe in Legedu Naanee. And you should, too.

-- I don't believe in any Jets receiver (or tight end Dustin Keller) until Santonio Holmes returns from his four-game suspension, and even then it will be difficult to play the former Buckeye with Mark Sanchez throwing to him (or trying futilely to do so). Not counting the playoffs, Sanchez hasn't thrown for 250 yards or two touchdowns since he did both in Week 8 of 2009.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Fantasy football: Quick snaps for Week 1

Let's take a quick trip down the field after a hectic first full day of the (cue any ESPN analyst) National Football League season.

-- He only threw 10 passes before suffering a concussion, but I'm not feeling very good about my Kevin Kolb prediction. With a game at Detroit looming in Week 2, expect Michael Vick to be the most popular player on the waiver wire this week. Vick threw for 175 yards and a touchdown and ran for 103 yards on 11 carries Sunday against the Packers.

-- If Matthew Stafford does, in fact, miss 4 to 6 weeks with a shoulder injury, as is reporting, Calvin Johnson's value takes a significant hit. Stafford should have been viewed as a fantasy backup, but if you need help at QB in a 12-team league, it's OK to cut him for another option.

-- Packers running back Ryan Grant ran for 45 yards on eight carries before suffering an ankle injury. He says he'll be back this week, and we should believe him since he's never missed an NFL game due to injury. But the Pack will play the Bills at home in Week 2, and backup Brandon Jackson (63 yards rushing, two receptions for 12 yards) is more than capable of filling in for a back who rushed for 1,253 yards and 11 TDs last season.

-- Speaking of bad predictions, how about Texans running back Arian Foster? Third round doesn't seem so bad.

-- Stock up: Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks, Bucs receiver Mike Williams, Jags receiver Mike Thomas, Jags QB David Garrard, Colts receiver Austin Collie, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston, Redskins receiver Santana Moss, Rams receiver Mark Clayton (the former Raven, not Buccaneer).

-- Stock down: Panthers QB Matt Moore, Jags receiver Mike Sims-Walker, Colts receivers Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzalez, Redskins QB Donovan McNabb, 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree.

-- Don't get too excited about Broncos receiver Brandon Lloyd, who had five receptions for 117 yards.

-- Do be encouraged by Broncos receiver Eddie Royal's numbers Sunday (eight receptions for 98 yards). He might be back to his 91-catch 2008 self.

-- I'd say Maurice Jones-Drew (23 carries for 98 yards, three catches for 15 yards) is fine.

-- Don't worry about Michael Turner yet. The Steelers allowed 89.9 yards rushing per game last season, and they should be better this year, provided Troy Polamalu plays more than five games.

-- Welcome back, Matt Forte.

-- Wes Welker, you are amazing.

-- Do the Raiders have wide receivers?

We'll get into the running back messes, er, situations, later this week.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fantasy football: Assessing Houshmandzadeh's value as a Raven

You don't expect a player who had 79 catches the season before to be released by a 5-11 team.

That fate was realized by T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- the subject of one of the best fantasy football commercials we've seen -- in Seattle.

The player with the long locks and extended last name is now a Raven, causing a big drop in his fantasy value and leaving us with questions about how much he'll produce in an offense that already features Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, Ray Rice and Todd Heap as targets for Joe Flacco.

Houshmandzadeh was considered a low-end No. 2 fantasy receiver prior to getting cut, but he's no better than a No. 4 with the Ravens. The last two seasons, he's averaged 86 receptions for 908 yards and 3.5 touchdowns -- down considerably from his 2006 and '07 averages of 101 catches for 1,112 yards and 10.5 scores.

There's also the likelihood he'll be Baltimore's No. 3 receiver, behind Boldin and Mason. The latter, as we wrote in a column for Saturday's print and online editions, is undervalued this season, despite averaging 85 catches for 1,051 yards and six TDs the last three years.

Boldin was drafted, on average, in the early fourth round, which seems about right for a player who has had only one season with double-digit touchdowns (2008), and Joe Flacco is no Kurt Warner.

I'd consider Boldin an upper-echelon No. 2 receiver in fantasy, Mason a No. 3 and Houshmandzadeh a high-level No. 4.

And you should consider checking back with us this weekend. Saturday, we'll have the aforementioned column on the N-H's online sports section, and there will be another blog in this space.

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