Playing fantasy sports and playing the stock market have a lot in common. In both, you’re always trying to buy low and sell high. The smart man always needs to keep his finger on the pulse of the market. You never want to pay market value or above, and getting in on the ground floor with a player can absolutely make your portfolio. Everybody is searching for that penny stock that could explode and make your year. This time of year there are wild swings in value that you need to capitalize on. Always remember though, preseason stats are generally meaningless but there are significant developments this time of year that you need to be aware of. With that in mind, ETB sorts through the recent news and takes a look at a few of the players who have seen the biggest gains and losses in their value over the last couple of weeks.
Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego: I pegged Vincent as one of my two breakout WRs in our August 14th Prediction-O-Rama, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. He’s come out on fire so far and looks like Philip River’s obvious go-to WR (After Antonio Gates, of course). In his first two preseason games he caught three TDs and had 92 yards in the all-important third contest. His large frame and hands make Jackson an ideal red-zone threat.
James Jones, WR, Green Bay: Even before the Donald Driver injury (Below) James Jones stock was on the rise due to an extremely strong camp and preseason. Favre seems very comfortable with the young man and has looked to him often so far, much more than incumbent starter Greg Jennings. There has even been talk that Jones is poised to snag the starting job, an extremely lucrative fantasy commodity, from Jennings. He’s worth an add in all 12-team leagues right now.
Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis: Addai is poised for a huge season, one where I think he’ll flirt with 2,000 total yards and find pay dirt 12+ times. The fact that the Colts don’t have any reasonable options to divvy up the carries with is going to be big, and Peyton Manning seems to think the young man is going to be touching the ball 25+ times a game. Manning recently told the NFL Network, “This year Joseph Addai is ready to carry that load and be that one back starter and be able to come out whenever he wants to come out . . . He deserves that chance to be the featured back, to be in there on the goal-line drives, the red zone situations, the key two-minute drills . . . he’ll be on the field.” Owners have to love it. He’s now third overall on my cheat sheet.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants: Once upon a time (Well, a month ago at least) Brandon Jacobs could be expected to fall into the early part of the third round. There was some concern that he wouldn’t be able to handle the workload and that the Giants had plans for a time share with Rueben Droughns. No longer. First word came out that Giants coordinator Kevin Gilbride was committed to giving Frankenstein “20 to 25” carries a game. Then we heard that Jacobs was now running forties in the 4.4 range this year, even faster than his 4.5 range from the scouting combine. And before that, he had spent the offseason working with Eddie George on keeping low to the ground and staying healthy as a taller running back. Now this week we learned that Reuben Droughns will consistently be playing FB again instead of RB. We already knew Jacobs was the goal-line back and the man between the 20s. What else do you want?
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota: Peterson’s stock goes up because versus the Jets we learned that he’s apparently a Madden player and not a real human being:
Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay: Jackson has been pretty solid so far, but the real reason his stock is climbing is the complete absence of Vernand Morency. The two were supposed to be competing for the starting gig in camp, but instead Morency got hurt the first day and hasn’t practiced since. Despite being mildly concussed this week, that means Brandon has a stranglehold on the Week 1 starting duties and we have all the confidence in the world that he’ll capitalize. Brian and I see big things for this kid in an offense that should be decent.
Jesse Chatman, RB, Miami: Chatman has emerged as Ronnie Brown’s top backup out of nowhere. He’s had a nice camp and showed some skills while busting off a few big gainers in limited preseason action. A holdover from Cam Cameron’s time in San Diego, the coach is comfortable with him in this system and could have big enough plans to make Chatman a decent spot start in 14-team leagues, but he’s a necessary handcuff in 12-team leagues for sure.
Brian Leonard, RB, St. Louis: Brian Leonard is a good football player. I did not know that. He got a ton of work early in the preseason as a tailback and looked sharp, reportedly pleasing the coaching staff with his understanding of the offense. Recently he’s been getting work at fullback as well. That means the Rams want to get this guy on the field, so don’t be surprised if he has limited value as a spot start and make sure he’s your S-Jax handcuff.
Jerry Porter, WR, Oakland: Porter quarreled with ex-coach Arthur “Art” Shell from day one last year because of the antiquated, retarding offense the staff was installing. Porter was spot-on in his criticisms and frustration (To run an offense of all 5- and 7-step drops in today’s NFL is patently absurd), but the attitude caused him to ride pine for a bulk of the year. Now that Randy Moss has moved on, they’ve brought in Culpepper (Who’s lousy, but has a good deep ball) and the coaching staff has been replaced Porter is content again and set to return to his 2004-05 numbers: about 7 TDs, 950 yards and 70 receptions. Not bad for a guy falling into the 9th round.
Donald Driver, WR, Green Bay: Ugh. He’s my WR1 in ETB’s First Annual Fantasy Football Extravaganza, and a guy I was patting myself on the back for taking. So what does he do? Goes out and sprains his foot in an ugly twist-em-up collision a week later. You never want to see a fantasy player suffer an injury to load-bearing joints, especially one who relies on burst, cutting and sprinting like Driver does. Reports are that he’ll be fine for week one, but he just became a lot less of a sure thing.
Chris Chambers, WR, Miami: It’s hard to get too much worse than a time share of Joey “Blue Skies” Harrington and Daunte “Idiot Manchild” Culpepper throwing you the ball, but what we’ve seen from Trent “Where’s My Medicine?” Green has been worse. I’m nervous for the whole Dolphins offense, I just don’t want to touch it right now.
Jerious Norwood, RB, Atlanta: Norwood’s stock was through the roof after Warrick Dunn went in for back surgery, but Dunn miraculously returned after just three weeks. This week head coach Bobby Petrino said that Dunn has the edge to be the starting tailback and will almost certainly be in the backfield for the first snap of the season. While I believe Norwood will eventually win the majority of Atlanta’s carries, I’m not positive. This has DeShaun Foster/Deangelo Williams of last year written all over it. On top of that, nobody has any idea what the loss of Michael Vick will do to this offense. Where’s Matt Schaub when you need him? Texas? Oh, that’s right. That’s a shame.
Kevin Jones, RB, Detroit: While all reports on his health and performance have been positive in recent weeks, word came out today that Jones will start 2007 on the Lions’ Physically Unable to Perform list and miss the first five games of the season (They have a bye week six). I’m not moving him too far either way as I think Jones will be a fantastic flex-commodity down the stretch and in the playoffs, but for any owners who were expecting or counting on production early this is a major blow. You can’t say you didn’t see it coming though.
Mark Clayton, WR, Baltimore: Mark Clayton has been forced to sit out the remainder of the preseason after suffering the dreaded high-ankle sprain two Sundays ago. It’s an injury any fantasy owner is all too familiar with, the kind of thing that tends to inexplicably linger for weeks and sometimes months. Right now, the Ravens are saying Clayton should be good to go week one, but this is something you need to keep an eye on. If he does start, I predict a touchdown versus the shaky Bengals D.
Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay: It’s been a lackluster camp and preseason for one of my favorite sleepers from a year ago. He’s been outworked and outperformed by Jones, plain and simple. If Jennings can’t get his act together soon he’s in serious danger of losing his starting gig. While the Pack figure to go with three-receiver sets often this year, if he’s not starting for his NFL team Jennings really can’t start for your fantasy squad either.
Vernand Morency, RB, Green Bay: Morency had a legit shot to steal the Packer’s starting running back job outright, but that’s passed. He hasn’t played since the first day of camp. Now he’ll have to wait for Brandon Jackson to fumble his opportunity, something I don’t anticipate happening. Right now Morency is nothing more than a weak but necessary handcuff.
Brandon Jones, WR, Tennessee: Jones has pulled a Houdini this preseason, and not the good, Melvins kind. He’s just disappeared. He’s also been extremely inconsistent in camp. It’s gotten so bad that Roydell Williams started over him last Friday and Brandon was only targeted with one measly pass. I still believe that Jones will emerge as the Titans’ top target out wide as the season goes on, but I’m a lot less confident in that now and it’s looking like it won’t be the case in the early going.
Chad Pennington, QB, New York Jets: I just wouldn’t draft Pennington right now. I wouldn’t own him unless it was a 14-team league and I was absolutely desperate for a backup QB. He’s looked like shit so far, and I am of the mind that it’s time to move on in New York. As bad as Pennington has been, Clemens has been that sharp, even if it’s been versus reserves. Clemens is clearly the future QB of the Jets, and he could be present QB sooner than later. I think he should and will be.
Reuben Droughns, RB, New York Giants: There isn’t a ton of bad news about Droughns, but the fact that he’s going to be playing a lot of fullback (See Jacobs above) this season makes him a significantly less attractive handcuff. That’s all he was before, but right now he may or may not be worth owning if he continues to see diminished touches in this role.
Kolby Smith, RB, Kansas City: I am completely convinced that Larry Johnson will get injured at some point this season. I went as far as to tell Brian this week that I wouldn’t take LJ until the second round. The history of RBs who have around 400 carries in a season (Let alone an NFL record with 416) is that dismal. I even drafted Kolby in ETB’s fantasy league, thinking he was the sure-fire handcuff for the soon to be injured Johnson. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t been able to move the ball at all this preseason and he’s going to be no better than third on the depth chart for a while. That makes him impossible to own in 12-team leagues at the moment.