knowshon-moreno
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Knowshon Moreno finally came to terms with the Denver Broncos.  Thankfully his holdout didn’t extend too far into Training Camp for Moreno to have a major setback.  He obviously won’t start the first couple of preseason games, but he should be able to get plenty of opportunities to compete for the starting Tailback gig.

Moreno was selected with the 12th pick in the NFL Draft, which is significant considering the shape their Defense was in last year.  He has the strength to run between the tackles, the speed to get outside, and the hands to catch the ball out of the backfield.  He’ll have to show he can pick up the blitz and he could be a three-down back eventually.  He’ll be pushed by fellow newcomer Correll Buckhalter, but Buck has been an career backup with a history of knee injuries, so I wouldn’t count on him to have too heavy of a workload.

Playing in the AFC West, Denver has some nice matchups.  They face Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Oakland to start the season, so it’s important he win the starting job by then.  He has another nice three game stretch starting in Week 13 when the Broncos face the Chiefs, and going into the fantasy playoffs when they face Indianapolis and Oakland again.  It’s not all a walk in the park though as Denver takes on New England (Week 4), Baltimore (Week 8), Pittsburgh (Week 9), Washington (Week 10), New York Giants (Week 12), and Philadelphia (Week 16).

If you’ve drafted already, perhaps you were able to sneak him a little later, but now that he’s signed he’ll likely go in the third or fourth round of fantasy drafts.  I’m expecting 1200 total yards and 8 TDs with 45 receptions.

Beanie Wells
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Hopefully Beanie Wells’ ankle injury isn’t a sign of things to come for this talented back.  Not that I’m comparing him to Adrian Peterson, but they were both talented backs with injury history in college.  While Beanie will never reach the ceiling that All Day is setting, he could be a very solid back, especially with the pressure that their passing game puts on defenses.  The Cardinals were miserable in that department last year with Edgerrin James losing a step and Tim Hightower lacking explosiveness.  The addition of Beanie Wells should change that, should he stay healthy.  Before you start moving him too far up your draft board, remember that Tim Hightower was fairly effective in short yardage situations, and that the Cardinals will likely utilize him in that role to minimize the beating that Beanie takes.

The Cardinals have a fairly difficult regular season schedule with St. Louis (Week 11) looking like the only cream puff.  Where the Cardinals players are most valuable is the fantasy playoffs as they square off with San Franciso, Detroit, and St. Louis.  If Beanie can stay healthy I’m putting him on a 1150 total yard, 7 TD season.

Pierre Thomas running

Pierre Thomas has been a trendy pick in fantasy football leagues this year.  The hype train has finally let Reggie Bush off.  Pierre Thomas is the more complete Running Back and will take the lion’s share of the carries as well as the goal line duties.  He has bulked up to handle the beating that 100+ additional carries will bring.  He gave a glimpse of what he can do with regular touches last year in Weeks 11-16 when he averaged 112.83 yards (79.16 rushing) on 15.5 carries and 3.2 receptions with 9 TDs.  Reggie will still get his touches, but Pierre is clearly the feature back.

Reggie Bush Leaping
That doesn’t mean that Reggie Bush should be an afterthought.  If he can stay healthy, he is still one of the most explosive players in the league.  He will likely have more receiving yards than rushing yards.  He should have 70+ receptions to lead all Running Backs.  He will add a Punt Return for TD if he is given the opportunity, though at this point I would take that duty away for his health’s sake. 

In an offense like the Saints have matchups are almost irrelevant, but I’ll point out his favorable matchups against Detroit (Week 1) and St. Louis (Week 10) and his challenging ones against Philly (Week 2), the Giants (Week 6), Carolina (Week 9), New England (Week 12), and Washington (Week 13).  Their fantasy playoff schedule is Atlanta, Dallas, and Tampa Bay, which is fairly difficult.

Pierre Thomas will likely go in the second or third round in your fantasy draft.  I expect him to be very productive with 1400+ total yards and 10+ TDs.  Meanwhile, Reggie Bush should have around 1100 total yards (400 rushing, 700 receiving) with 8 total TDs.  Bush will be drafted in the third or fourth round, with a significant bump in PPR leagues.

Images courtesy of Icon SMI

Marshawn Lynch tackled
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Well, Marshawn Lynch’s three-games suspension was upheld so you’re looking at 12 games of fantasy production from Beast Mode.  The good news is he’ll be there at the end of the season when it counts the most.  The suspension should drop him in drafts to at least the third round so he could end up being a great value.  There are some major concerns with Lynch though, other than the suspension.  The offseason addition of Dominic Rhodes means that the Bills will have three capable RBs, along with Fred Jackson.  While Lynch should remain the lead back, clearly the other two will cut into his production.  As long as he gets the ball at the stripe, he should be fine.  That’s where the other problem lies.  The Bills also added Terrell Owens, who puts up TDs in a hurry.  If Lynch is sharing his yardage with Jackson and Rhodes and TDs with T.O., that diminishes his fantasy value dramatically.

Lynch misses one of the Bills’ best matchups in Week 3 when they face New Orleans.  Playing in the AFC East he has a pretty tough schedule.  They also draw Carolina, Houston, Tennessee, and Jacksonville.  They open the fantasy playoffs with a favorable matchup against Kansas City, followed by New England and Atlanta.

The odds seem to be stacked against Lynch this year.  He’s missing three games, will share yards and TDs, and if he messes up one more time, he’ll be done for the year.  Plus, if Buffalo is successful without him, they may ease him back to the rotation slowly.  He’s a tough one to put numbers to, but I’m guessing he has 1000 total yards and 6 TDs.

kevin Smith running
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Kevin Smith had an unbelievable year considering he played for a winless team.  He had 976 yards rushing with 8 TDs.  He added 39 receptions for 286 yards.  Plus he didn’t have more than 16 carries until Week 10.  From Week 10 to Week 17 he averaged 99.4 total yards per game and half a TD.  With Matthew Stafford running the show at some point, the Lions will lean more heavily on Smith with both the run and as a safety net in the passing game.  The Lions also added Tight End Brandon Pettigrew, who should help pave the way for a successful 2009 campaign for Kevin Smith.

Kevin Smith should get off to a nice start with New Orleans in Week 1.  If the Vikings’ Williams Wall (Pat & Kevin) lost their appeal, they’ll miss the Week 2 tilt with the Lions, which would bode well for Smith.  He also has some nice matchups in Week 8 against St. Louis, Week 11 against Cleveland, and Week 13 against Cincinnati.  His fantasy playoff opener is against Baltimore, which is tough, but if you have a bye or are able to get by, you’ll be in good shape with matchups against Arizona and San Francisco.

Smith will go in the late second or third round in most fantasy drafts, with a bump in PPR leagues.  I’m expecting him to have 1400 total yards and 8 TDs.

Joseph Addai
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Joseph Addai was one of the biggest fantasy disappointments in 2008.  His total yardage dropped from 1406 in 2006 and 1436 in 2007 to 750 (544 rushing, 206 receiving) in 2008.  His TD production went from 15 in 2007 to 8.  His yards per carry dropped for a third straight year as it was 4.8 in 2006, 4.1 in 2007, and 3.5 last year.  The Colts reacted to his decline by drafting Donald Brown in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft.  While that doesn’t signal the end of Joseph Addai’s fantasy reign, it’s not a good sign.  Addai needs to show that he can be healthy and productive.

He’ll have some opportunities to do just that as he faces Arizona in Week 3 and St. Louis in Week 7.  When the Colts’ offense is firing on all cylinders the matchup almost become irrelevant.  His fantasy playoff schedule consist of Denver, Jacksonville, and the Jets. 

If he stays healthy, Addai could put up 1200 total yards and 8-10 TDs.  I’m afraid the odds of that happening aren’t great though.

760 Packers v Buccaneers
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

I love Ryan Grant as an RB2, but he needs to find the end zone.  He had an impressive 1200 yard season, but scored just 4 rushing TDs, which matched Aaron Rodgers for the team high.  He also needs to bump that 3.9 yards per carry up over 4 and cut down on his three lost fumbles.  He is a gifted runner though and can catch the ball out of the backfield.  With no contract issues this offseason he should be able to get off to a better start than the 46.5 yards per game he averaged in the first four weeks.  It’s not often that a 1200 yard back has as much room for improvement, which is why I like Grant in ’09.

He starts the season off with Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Minnesota (possibly without the Williams Wall).  He goes on bye and then faces Detroit and Cleveland.  He has one more soft matchup against Detroit in Week 12, but you may be wise to move him before then.  He faces Baltimore in Week 13 and has a fantasy playoff schedule of the Bears (in Chicago), Pittsburgh, and Seattle.  Perfect Sell High candidate if you can find a taker.

Grant will likely go in the third round of fantasy drafts and should put up 1500 total yards and 8 TDs

Marion Barber cutting
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Marion the Barbarian.  MB3.  Mr. Barber.  Whatever you want to call him, the guy is one of the toughest running RBs in the league.  His stiff arm is a thing of beauty.  His running style can work against him though as he was limited in the second half last year.  He will share the workload this year with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice.  Jones brings the speed element and Choice is another good change of pace back that excelled a the end of last season.  Barber will be used early to establish the run, in short yardage situations, and to close out games.  That’s when he’s at his best. Having a stable of good, young RBs is great for an NFL team, but it does hinder their fantasy value.  He is great at catching the ball out of the backfield, which helps though.  Barber is still a good RB1 and a great RB2.  He just won’t go in the top ten like he has in the past couple of years.

Playing in the NFC East makes Barber’s schedule difficult.  However, he does face Denver and Kansas City in Weeks 4 & 5, as well as Oakland in Week 12.  His fantasy playoffs schedule is San Diego, New Orleans, and Washington.  He is fortunate to play the Eagles in Week 17. 

I expect a big year from Barber with 1200 total yards, 40 receptions, and 12 TDs.

Steve Slaton running
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Steve Slaton had an amazing rookie year accumulating 1659 total yards (1282 rushing, 377 receiving) with 10 TDs (9 rushing).  He was even better in PPR leagues as he racked up 50 receptions.  He is being drafted in the first round in most mocks, but something about him scares me.  He has good size (5’9″, 215 lbs) so he should be able to handle another heavy workload.  He is an explosive back with the ability to break a long run and has soft hands, which make him a great asset.  Even if you shut him down Houston’s rushing attack, Slaton can still get his through the air. 

He has a decent fantasy playoff schedule with games against Seattle, St. Louis, and Miami.  His easier games should be in Weeks 4 (Oakland), 5 (Arizona), 6 (Cincinnati), and Week 15 (aforementioned St. Louis).  Naturally he plays Tennessee twice in Weeks 2 & 11.  There aren’t really any other tough matchups aside from New England in Week 17, which has little fantasy relevance.  Should he avoid the injury bug, he should be in line for a huge season.  Something like 1600 total yards and 8 TDs.

DeAngelo Williams
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

DeAngelo Williams was by far the biggest surprise in fantasy circles last year with a mammoth 1636 total yard (1515 rushing, 121 receiving), 20 TD (18 rushing, 2 receiving) performance.  He had 1101 rushing yards 16 TDs in the last nine games, including two four TD outburst.  That’s an average of 122.3 yards and 1.78 TDs.  Those are LT numbers, and I’m not talking about 2008 LT.  You would think someone with a monster year like that would be taken in the first few picks of the following year’s fantasy drafts.  The problem is Williams is in a time share with Jonathan Stewart.  There was plenty for both to feed last year, but it’s hard to imagine that they can both be as productive this year.  I think Williams will have monster games because he is so explosive and can score from anywhere on the field.  I just don’t think he’ll be as consistent, and I certainly don’t expect him to reach paydirt nearly as often. 

DeAngelo has a very difficult road in the fantasy football playoffs. He faces New England, Minnesota, and the Giants.  If he gets off to good start this year, you may want to consider moving him.  I’d wait until after Week 9 if possible as he plays Arizona in Week 8 and New Orleans in Week 9.  I just wouldn’t want my top two pick facing that brutal playoff schedule.  It’s hard to estimate his production because he came out of nowhere, but my gut says he has 1300 total yards and 9 TDs.


Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties