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UPDATED AUG. 24
I call it the Wayne Chrebet Rule. Up until a few years ago, Wayne Chrebet would always be sitting there in the later rounds of my fantasy league drafts. I always considered him, as Chrebet was a solid WR5 option, but I don't think I ever selected him.
I've always believed you should go for upside after you've filled out your roster. You want four running backs and receivers you can count on in addition to your other starters, but once you take care of that, it's always more lucrative to go for upside rather than dependability toward the end of your draft. Why go for an Isaac Bruce when you could have taken a shot on a Wes Welker (circa 2007)?
Half these guys probably won't pan out, but I see them all as having high upside. If you draft four and land one star, you've made out better than the guy who took Warrick Dunn, Amani Toomer, Dennis Northcutt and Jeff Garcia.
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Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals
If you've watched Matt Leinart take a significant number of snaps in two preseason games, combined with what he has shown in the past, you'll arrive to two conclusions. The first is that Leinart doesn't have great arm strength, and thus resorts to throwing short patterns and checkdowns. The second is that he still doesn't know the offense. The only reason the Cardinals are starting him is because they have a lot of money dedicated toward him. Throw everything except for talent aside, and Kurt Warner is the clear-cut starter.
So, what does all this mean? I believe that at some point during the 2008 season, the Cardinals will bench Leinart in favor of Warner. Once that happens, Warner will once again become a top-five fantasy quarterback, assuming he enjoys the same protection he had last year.
Josh Morgan, WR, 49ers
I don't like drafting rookie receivers, but taking a late-round flier on one isn't such a bad idea, especially when people have already begun comparing him to Torry Holt. Josh Morgan is extremely talented and he plays in a very pass-happy offense where he'll get a lot of targets.
What about Bryant Johnson? What about him? Johnson, who was never anything special in Arizona, hasn't done anything in training camp because of an injured hamstring. Johnson's absence from practice has allowed Morgan to pass him on the depth chart. The 49ers have just $2 million invested in Johnson, so it's not like they're going to feel obligated to start him.
Ray Rice, RB, Ravens
Ray Rice has looked great this preseason, leading to some media members to go as far as predicting that Willis McGahee won't be on Baltimore's roster by season's end. I don't buy into that, but I could see Rice utilized in some sort of Maurice Jones Drew-type role. Rice is very good value in the latter rounds of your draft, especially if you have McGahee on your roster.
Steve Slaton, RB, Texans
Who's going to carry the ball in Houston? Ahman Green? He's always hurt. Chris Brown? He's averaging 2.4 yards per carry this preseason. Chris Taylor? I don't think so.
Steve Slaton is beginning to receive reps with the first team. He's the most talented back the Texans have, and while I believe Gary Kubiak will follow his mentor Mike Shanahan's RBBC style, Slaton could get more touches than any other player in Houston's backfield.
Ted Ginn, WR, Dolphins
With Josh McCown, John Beck and Chad Henne battling for the starting quarterback gig, the Dolphins' receiving corps was a fantasy wasteland. That's not the case anymore. Chad Pennington isn't the best signal caller in the world, but he's very accurate from 20 yards in. He'll throw a lot of short junk, particularly to Ted Ginn, who has become a sleeper, especially in PPR leagues.
Kevin Walter, Texans
Matt Schaub looked very solid in Houston's second preseason game. He went to Kevin Walter six times, as Walter abused Jason David for 100 yards and a touchdown. If Schaub and Andre Johnson stay healthy, the Texans' offense could be close to maintaining a top-10 ranking. Walter, the team's No. 2 wideout, should be able to put up solid numbers.
Steve Smith, WR, Giants
Third-year receivers have a history of making huge leaps in production, so it should be somewhat of a surprise that I have Steve Smith on this list instead of Sinorice Moss.
Smith has just eight career receptions, but he really opened up eyes with his postseason performance. In four playoff contests, Smith registered 14 catches for 152 yards. Measure that production over a 16-game slate, and you have 52 receptions for 608 yards. Now consider that Smith will no longer be a rookie. And what if either Plaxico Burress or Amani Toomer goes down with an injury? There are strong possibilities here.
Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints
So, who's going to carry the load in New Orleans this season? Will it be Deuce McAllister? Maybe, but McAllister is coming off two knee surgeries, one of which was to repair a torn ACL. Reggie Bush? Try again. Bush was given the chance to do so, but failed miserably, as he couldn't effectively rush the ball in between the tackles.
That leaves us with Pierre Thomas, listed third on the depth chart. The Frenchman had just one game of significance last season, and he definitely made it count. In a meaningful contest against the Bears (the Saints were still alive for a postseason berth), Thomas totaled 105 rushing yards on 20 carries, and 121 receiving yards on 12 catches.
Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers
Antonio Bryant has always had talent; he just could never put it all together and become a dominant receiver, though he showed flashes in 2005 when he had 1,009 yards for the Browns. Now playing for a new contract, Bryant seems rededicated. And with Joey Galloway out (groin), he has emerged as the squad's No. 1 target. Bryant won't put up huge numbers, as Jeff Garcia's weak arm strength will limit everyone's production, but Bryant could come close to the 1,000-yard mark again.
Zach Miller, TE, Raiders
If you're in a really deep league (12 teams with a deep bench; or 14+ teams) and you're looking for a tight end, consider Zach Miller. In JaMarcus Russell's only start, he threw to Miller eight times for 84 yards. And in Oakland's second preseason contest versus Tennessee, Miller once again had solid production (four catches, 48 yards in the first half). It's apparent that Russell trusts Miller as a safety value, so I expect the two to hook up often in 2008.
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