Stock Up: the following guys have moved up our rankings over the past week.
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
Bringing back WR Malcom Floyd was huge for Rivers. The Chargers were looking at using either Patrick Crayton or rookie Vincent Brown as their #2 WR. Those guys will now battle for the #3 job, while Floyd and Vincent Jackson provide Rivers with a pair of monster targets on the outside. Throw in TE Antonio Gates, and Rivers is once again working with one of the most dangerous groups of pass-catchers in the league.
Matt Stafford, QB, Lions
Stafford looked to be in midseason form in the team's 1st exhibition game on Friday night. Playing 2 series, he finished 6 of 7 for 71 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. If he can stay healthy, Stafford seems like a lock to finish among the top-10 fantasy QBs.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens
The addition of WR Lee Evans gives Flacco his 1st legitimate deep threat since he joined the Ravens. He has a solid pair of receivers now in Evans and Boldin. Flacco is back in the discussion as a low-end QB1.
Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
The starting job is his to lose. Dalton has been taking most of the 1st-team reps in training camp and got the start in the team’s preseason opener. He wasn't a disaster, completing 11 of 15 balls for 69 yards with 0 TDs and 1 INT.
Rex Grossman, QB, Redskins
With QB John Beck sitting out with a sore groin, Grossman played the entire 1st half of Washington's preseason opener. He was efficient, completing 19 of 26 balls for 207 yards and a score. While the Redskins' coaching staff has praised Beck all offseason, this performance by Grossman has to put him right in the mix for the starting job.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens
OC Cam Cameron revealed that RB Ray Rice will "play a major role in short-yardage and goal-line [situations] this year." Rice gave way to RB Willis McGahee in the red zone last season, and it was widely-believed that RB Ricky Williams would handle most of the goal line carries this year. But if the Ravens make good on Cameron's statement, Rice could easily double last year's 5-TD output.
Jahvid Best, RB, Lions
Best is the big winner of the past week. RB Mikel Leshoure’s season-ending Achilles injury makes Best Detroit’s clear-cut lead back. The team brought in free-agent RBs Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell for depth, but this is Best’s backfield. We now have him projected to see a little over 15 touches per game.
Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys
The Cowboys’ coaching staff seems confident in Jones’ ability to take on a bigger workload this year after the departure of RB Marion Barber. "I think he's gotten physically stronger in the couple of years he's been in the NFL," HC Jason Garrett said of Felix. "He's shown he can be more durable and I think he's just ready to take the next step as a player." Jones registered a career-high 233 touches last year and could see even more in 2011.
Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins
Bush was listed as the 1st-string RB on the Dolphins’ preliminary depth chart. We’re thinking that it’s just a case of seniority and that rookie Daniel Thomas will still lead this backfield in touches. But it’s becoming clear that Bush will have a bigger offensive role in Miami than he did in New Orleans.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals
Multiple Redskins insiders have dubbed Hightower the favorite to start Week 1. He came out in the team's preseason opener and rushed 10 times for 44 yards. This still figures to be a committee attack -- with both Ryan Torain and Roy Helu involved -- but Hightower looks like the Redskins back to own in fantasy.
Brandon Jackson, RB, Browns
With RB Montario Hardesty continuing to struggle with knee problems, Jackson has emerged as the favorite to open the season as Cleveland’s #2 back. He’s unlikely to see many carries but could play a significant role on 3rd-downs.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Lions
We’re surprised it took Harrison – and his career 4.8 yards-per-carry average – so long to find a job. Landing in Detroit isn’t ideal, but there’s still upside here. We’re expecting Harrison to beat out Maurice Morris and Mike Bell for the team’s #2 RB job. He’ll likely see a handful of touches per game behind Jahvid Best. But Best has struggled big-time with durability over his last couple seasons, so Harrison is a decent bet to get a few starts at some point this season.
Maurice Morris, RB, Lions
Morris got a big bump up our rankings after Leshoure went down. But then he slid back down when the Lions added Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell to the backfield. We’re expecting Morris to slot in as the #3 back behind Best and Harrison, but he could see some goal line work as the biggest back of the trio. Still, he won’t be a fantasy option without an injury to one of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart.
Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots
The rookie was a stud in his NFL debut, rushing for 64 yards and 2 scores on 16 carries. He added 7 catches for 74 yards and another TD. RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Shane Vereen were both inactive, but Ridley certainly looks ready to make an impact this year. New England’s backfield is one messy picture.
Derrick Ward, RB, Texans
With Ben Tate missing camp time with a bum hammy, Ward has tightened his grip on Houston’s backup RB job. At this point, consider him Arian Foster’s handcuff.
Mario Manningham, WR, Giants
We've been sky-high on Manningham for awhile now, so he only got a slight bump up our rankings with WR Steve Smith's move to Philadelphia. It's still good news for Manningham, though, as he's now locked-in as the #2 option in the Giants' passing attack.
Lee Evans, WR, Ravens
Evans got a big bump up our rankings with his move to Baltimore. He’s a nice complement to WR Anquan Boldin, and QB Joe Flacco has the arm to get it to Evans deep. Consider him a boom-or-bust WR3 option.
Devin Hester, WR, Bears
This one was a shocker. Hester has been running with the 1st-team offense in camp, and OC Mike Martz named him the team’s starting flanker on Monday. While electric in the open field, Hester still hasn't really developed into an NFL-caliber WR. He caught just 40 of his 73 targets for 475 yards and 4 TDs last year. But with his role seemingly ready to grow in 2011, he's climbing our rankings. Hester still isn't a recommended fantasy starter though.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Steelers
The foot problems are becoming worrisome. Sanders had surgery on both feet this offseason and then underwent a follow-up procedure on August 1st. He was originally expected to miss 3 weeks, but his recovery has gone better than expected. The team now believes he’ll be back on the field this coming week. If the foot problems are behind him, we still like Sanders to eventually pass Hines Ward for Pittsburgh’s #2 WR spot. Plenty of upside here.
Roscoe Parrish, WR, Bills
He should see a nice bump in targets with the departure of WR Lee Evans. Parrish quietly caught 33 balls in 8 games last year and could be a sneaky PPR option this season. He’s currently dealing with a bum hammy, though, so we’ll be keeping a close eye on him.
Jabar Gaffney, WR, Redskins
Traded to Washington just a couple weeks ago, Gaffney is already running with the 1st-team offense. It looks like he has the early edge on Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson for the #2 WR spot. Even so, there’s not much upside here on an offense piloted by some combination of John Beck and Rex Grossmann.
Terrell Owens, WR, free-agent
ProFootballTalk.com reported on Tuesday that Owens is just a couple weeks away from being completely recovered from this offseason's torn ACL. T.O. underwent surgery about 4 months ago, so we find this one tough to believe. Still, it’s looking like he’ll at least be ready to get back on the field and potentially make a fantasy impact in the 2nd half of the season.
Jason Avant, WR, Eagles
Avant moved down our rankings and then back up this past week. While he’ll likely eventually lose the #3 WR job to recent signee Steve Smith, Avant could open the season in Philly’s starting lineup if Jeremy Maclin is still out with that mysterious illness. He’s worth a look at the end of your draft.
Victor Cruz, WR, Giants
After a big preseason, Cruz was invisible when the games counted last year. But with WR Steve Smith's departure, Cruz has a legitimate chance to win the team's #3 WR job this season. He'll need to beat out rookie Jerrel Jernigan, but Cruz's experience gives him the early edge. He's looking like an intriguing late-round flier.
Brandon Gibson, WR, Rams
Gibson has been running with the 1st-team offense since training camp started. The Rams' WR depth chart is still fluid, but Gibson is worth monitoring. He's entering his 3rd NFL season and quietly racked up 53 catches for 620 yards last year.
Brandon LaFell and Legedu Naanee, WRs, Panthers
LaFell and Naanee will battle for Carolina’s #2 WR spot after David Gettis’ season-ending knee injury. LaFell has the early edge based on his tenure with the Panthers, but Naanee might be more talented. Neither guy is a recommended fantasy option in Carolina’s sub-par passing game though.
Denarius Moore, WR, Raiders
The rookie has been drawing rave reviews in training camp. Although he's a bit undersized at 6'0 and 194 pounds, Moore can fly. He ran a 4.37 40-time at this year's Combine. We added him to our WR rankings, but he’s still unlikely to make a fantasy impact this year. Keep an eye on him keeper and dynasty leagues though.
David Nelson, WR, Bills
Consider Nelson the early favorite to pick up the extra targets left behind by WR Lee Evans. But Brad Smith, Donald Jones, and Marcus Easley are in the mix too. Your best bet is to avoid this situation.
Kevin Boss, TE, Raiders
We like the move to Oakland for Boss. The Raiders’ sub-par WR corps will mean more targets for Boss. He’s reportedly been impressing early in training camp, and beat writer Steve Corkran believes Boss can double the 30 receptions he averaged in 4 seasons with the Giants. We’d take the under on 60 catches, but Boss is looking like a viable TE2
Travis Beckum, TE, Giants
Beckum is suddenly all alone atop New York’s depth chart. Kevin Boss is gone to Oakland, and Ben Patrick announced his retirement just a week after signing with the Giants. It’s a golden opportunity for Beckum, who has caught just 21 balls through 2 NFL seasons. He has the size and athleticism to do some damage though. He’s an intriguing late-round flier.
Fred Davis, TE, Redskins
The ultra-talented backup may see an increased role this season as Chris Cooley struggles returning from offseason knee surgery. If Cooley misses games, Davis could step in as a legitimate TE1 in fantasy.
Evan Moore, TE, Browns
Moore has reportedly been the star of Browns camp so far. “Moore is big in coach Pat Shurmur's offensive plans,” beat writer Tony Grossi says. He's still #2 on Cleveland's depth chart behind Ben Watson, but Moore is a "move" TE. Look for the Browns to get both guys on the field together more often this season. It's still tough to get excited about Moore's upside on this offense though.
Dennis Pitta, TE, Ravens
Don’t count him out of the race for Baltimore’s starting TE job just yet. TE Ed Dickson is missing time with a hamstring injury. Pitta drew the start in the preseason opener, racking up 47 yards on 4 catches.
Stock Down: the following guys have moved down our rankings over the past week.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants
Manning’s weaponry has taken a blow over the past couple weeks. He lost TE Kevin Boss to Oakland, and then WR Steve Smith to Philadelphia. Manning will be fine with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham as the starters, but an injury to either one of those guys could spell trouble.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills
Downgrade the bearded one after the departure of WR Lee Evans. Behind WR Steve Johnson, the Bills will trot out some combination of Roscoe Parrish, David Nelson, Donald Jones, Brad Smith and Marcus Easley. Ouch!
John Beck, QB, Redskins
While Beck sat out the preseason opener with a groin injury, QB Rex Grossman looked good leading the 1st-team offense. The race for Washington's starting job is still wide open.
Bruce Gradkowski, QB, Bengals
Rookie Andy Dalton is getting the majority of the 1st-team reps at camp and drew the start in the team’s preseason opener. Gradkowski is looking like a strict backup unless Dalton falls flat on his face.
Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions
The rookie will miss the entire 2011 season with a torn Achilles. And that’s the type of injury that could ruin the rest of his career. It'll be a long road to recovery.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Dolphins
We're not buying the idea that Reggie Bush will be Miami's feature back. But it is becoming clear that he'll have a major role. That puts a dent in Thomas' upside, although we still have him projected for 261 total touches.
Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots
The rookie has missed over a week of camp with a hamstring injury. He has the talent to emerge as New England's lead back between the 20s, but he needs to get back on the field if he wants to make an early-season impact. Fellow rookie RB Stevan Ridley was impressive in New England’s 1st preseason game, while Vereen watched from the sidelines.
Montario Hardesty, RB, Browns
Hardesty has yet to participate in team drills at training camp. It's clear that he's still not recovered from last year's knee surgery. Hardesty has an intriguing skill-set -- and the Browns want to get him involved in the offense -- but he just can't seem to get healthy. Look for Brandon Jackson to open the season as Cleveland's #2 RB.
Jason Snelling, RB, Falcons
We were hoping the underrated Snelling would land a bigger role on the free-agent market this offseason. Instead, he ended up returning to Atlanta, where he'll be a clear backup. There's still upside here, but only in the event of an injury to RB Michael Turner.
Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys
Despite being ultra-productive in his limited opportunities, Choice can’t seem to get out of the doghouse in Dallas. The latest report has his roster spot in danger of being taken over by some cat named Lonyae Miller. It’s becoming clear that Choice needs to get out of Dallas before he’ll get a sizeable offensive role.
Bernard Scott, RB, Bengals
He’s missed most of training camp so far with a hamstring injury. We love Scott’s skill-set, but durability continues to be a major problem. He’ll need a Cedric Benson injury to see significant playing time this year.
Ben Tate, RB, Texans
Tate has been sitting out with a hamstring injury. After missing all of 2010 with a fractured fibula, durability is definitely becoming a concern here. Derrick Ward is strengthening his grasp on the team's backup RB job.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Falcons
The re-signing of RB Jason Snelling makes Atlanta’s backfield a crowded situation. The explosive Rodgers should still mix-in for a few touches per game, but that won’t be enough for him to be a fantasy factor. He’s only worth targeting in keeper and dynasty leagues.
Chris Ivory, RB, Saints
Add sports hernia surgery to Ivory's list of ailments. He underwent surgery a week ago, and now needs to recover from that, in addition to last year's Lisfranc fracture. Ivory could very well start the season on the PUP list. And even if he's healthy, he's just 4th on the Saints' depth chart.
Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers
Hunter has reportedly been struggling mightily in pass protection. Not surprising considering he goes just 5’7 and 199 pounds. Hunter will need to show major progress if he wants to see the field this season. For now, we’d consider Anthony Dixon the handcuff for Frank Gore owners.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles
We’re officially worried about Maclin. He left training camp on Thursday and returned home to St. Louis to undergo further testing. Maclin has been out with an undisclosed illness and has reportedly looked frail while watching from the sidelines at camp. The team still believes he'll be ready by Week 1, but we're not convinced.
Marques Colston, WR, Saints
We've been telling you for awhile now to stay away from Colston. The fact that he's been held out of practices with swelling in his surgically-repaired knee is just confirmation that he's not worth the gamble. Colston figures to be a regular on New Orleans' injury report this season.
Johnny Knox, WR, Bears
This one still has us scratching our heads. Knox was Chicago’s most effective WR last year, but he’s been demoted to the 2nd-team early in camp – behind Roy Williams and Devin Hester no less! Once considered a WR2 with upside, Knox can no longer be counted on as a fantasy starter unless the depth chart changes.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers
Smith suffered a dislocated finger on Tuesday and was expected to miss 7-10 days. He should get back on the field sometime this week. While Smith obviously isn't in danger of losing his starting spot, the missed time still hurts as Carolina installs a new offense with (likely) a new QB.
Steve Smith, WR, Eagles
Smith gets a slight nudge down our rankings with the move to Philadelphia. He joins a more explosive offense, but will have a lot more competition for targets. He won't be seeing the 9 looks per game he averaged with the G-Men. Coming off microfracture surgery -- and a candidate for the PUP -- Smith is still on our Do Not Draft list.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Jets
Burress has missed a good chunk of camp with an ankle injury and won’t play in the team’s preseason opener. Can't say we're surprised considering he's 34 years old and hasn't played a down of NFL football in 2 years. We'd be surprised if Plax played all 16 games this season.
Greg Little, WR, Browns
Little has reportedly been struggling mightily with drops in camp. Too bad because he's getting a golden opportunity with WR Mohamed Massaquoi sidelined. Little is still a good bet to be in Cleveland's Week 1 starting lineup.
Mohamed Massaquoi, WR, Browns
Speaking of Massaquoi, he's missed the past 2 weeks of training camp with a chip fracture in his left foot. He's expected back at some point this coming week, but he's missed valuable time to get comfortable in HC Pat Shurmur's new offense.
Anthony Armstrong, WR, Redskins
It looks like Armstrong has lost his spot in the starting lineup. Recently-acquired WR Jabar Gaffney has been running with the 1s in camp, while Armstrong joins the fray in 3-WR sets. It makes sense -- the 5'11, 185-pounder's best fit is in the slot.
David Gettis, WR, Panthers
Gettis is done for the year after tearing his ACL in practice on Thursday. He was looking like the favorite for Carolina’s #2 WR spot.
Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens
The rookie looked lost in Baltimore’s 1st preseason game Thursday night. The Ravens went out and added WR Lee Evans the next day. That pushes Smith back into the more reasonable #3 WR spot. He’s now only worth a look at the end of deep fantasy drafts.
Mark Clayton, WR, free-agent
Clayton continues to rehab from last year's torn patellar tendon. He's reportedly still "a ways away" from being ready to get back on the field and seems like a long-shot to make an early-season impact.
Titus Young, WR, Lions
The rookie has missed almost all of camp so far with a hamstring injury. He's no longer a lock to start the season as Detroit's #3 WR, although he'll get there eventually.
Vincent Brown, WR, Chargers
Brown’s sleeper appeal took a sizeable hit when the Chargers re-signed WR Malcom Floyd. On top of that, Brown has missed a good chunk of training camp with a quad injury. He’s falling behind Patrick Crayton for the #3 WR job and isn’t worth a pick in redraft leagues at this point.
Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Steelers
Cotchery heads to Pittsburgh, where he'll likely slot in as the 4th WR behind Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, and Emmanuel Sanders. Antonio Brown could even push Cotchery down to #5 on the depth chart. He’d need an injury or two to be a fantasy factor.
Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins
Uh oh. Cooley underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason, and the knee is still giving him trouble. HC Mike Shanahan admitted that the team is "concerned" with the situation, and Cooley will be held out of training camp for "at least a few weeks." Consider Cooley a risky fantasy pick.
Ed Dickson, TE, Ravens
Dickson has missed the past week of camp with a hamstring injury and sat out the team’s preseason opener. Starting in his place, TE Dennis Pitta caught 4 balls for 47 yards. Dickson’s grip on the Ravens' starting job is tenuous at best, so he needs to get back on the field.