Foolish Thoughts: Forsett, Snelling, Scott, and McCoy offer instant gratification

When one of your fantasy football studs gets injured, fantasy owners usually face a tough decision. Should you go get that backup, the one who hasn’t seen more than five touches in any game this year? Or should you just find another running back or wide receiver on the waiver wire who’ll get it done until your stud returns?

Especially early in the fantasy season, I’ve often avoided taking the backups and gone the other way. Why? Well, I like instant gratification.

In rare cases, NFL backups outperform the former starter as Steve Slaton did last season, and it’s not easy to expect them to match the production of the starter they replace. Most of the time, backups need a week or two to get accustomed to their new role in the offense and to gain the trust of the rest of the team.

But in Week 11, you didn’t have to wait.

Ricky Williams, Justin Forsett, Jason Snelling, Bernard Scott, and LeSean McCoy all went off for the owners of Julius Jones, Michael Turner, Cedric Benson, and Brian Westbrook who were able to find some help on the waiver wire.

Even those who started desperation-play Jamaal Charles against the Steelers or Beanie Wells as a good-on-paper start against St. Louis were rewarded.

The only bad replacements this week were Chris Simms, who was pulled for a still-injured Kyle Orton after failing to score on the Chargers, and Ladell Betts, who tore both his ACL and PCL against the Cowboys and will miss the rest of the season.

In the case of Forsett and McCoy, this week could be a changing of the guard. Julius Jones has never lived up to expectations since signing with the Seahawks, and Westbrook might never see the field again this season after suffering his second concussion.

For Charles’ and Wells’ fantasy owners, this sets up a nice looking playoff picture.

Williams seems like he’ll be okay without his Wildcat partner Ronnie Brown as he secured the top spot for running backs in most fantasy scoring formats. His performance should serve as a reminder of how much you can benefit from stocking your bench with guys who are just one small injury away from a lucrative starting job.

Scott rushed for 119 yards and caught three passes for 32 yards against the Oakland Raiders defense in a loss, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll get a shot against the Browns and the Lions since Benson could return.

Snelling’s in the same spot. Despite scoring twice and coming in second in fantasy scoring for running backs, Snelling could see Jerious Norwood cut into his carries if Norwood’s healthier in Week 12. There’s also a chance that Michael Turner could make an early return.

But you can’t be disappointed with this kind of late-season “early bloomers.”

Maybe it’s a good sign for those owners who suffered more injuries this week.

Kurt Warner bowed out at halftime after suffering a couple of blows to the head. With that playoff schedule, Matt Leinart would be in high demand if Warner misses a game.

Big Ben “fall down, go boom” in overtime against the Chiefs with a hit to his noggin, and soon after, backup quarterback Charlie Batch injured his wrist enough to keep him out the rest of the regular season. That leaves Dennis Dixon sitting in the quarterback seat unless Big Ben is healthy enough to start on Sunday.

With Betts out, Rock Cartwright ran for 67 rushing yards and had seven catches for 73 yards in the loss to the Cowboys. The Redskins might soon regret not taking a shot at Larry Johnson. Without the services of Portis, Washington may be forced to go get Shaun Alexander as depth at running back.

Heaven forbid you were counting on Marc Bulger for your team, but he’ll miss the rest of the fantasy regular season with a fractured tibia. Kyle Boller takes over, which could be a blessing or a curse for Steven Jackson’s owners.

Just for the sake of noting a tree falling in the forest and not making a sound…Terrell Owens caught nine for 197 yards and a touchdown, most of that on one long touchdown strike. You leave that guy open and he’s dangerous.

But how often will the opposing team make that mistake against the Bills?

In what might qualify as a charity game, Matthew Stafford and Brady Quinn had multi-touchdown days. Stafford threw for five touchdowns; Quinn had four. It must have seemed just like practice for them to play against such terrible defense. At least leading receivers Calvin Johnson and Mohamed Massaquoi had a good time with it.

Bye, Bye Ronnie Brown: Foot injury takes RB to IR

The Miami Dolphins have placed Ronnie Brown on IR with a foot injury to end his season. Adam Schefter filed the story this afternoon, and ESPN now has the official word. Apparently, his foot injury was much more serious than we all feared.

What does this mean for the Miami Wildcat?

“Who knows? May not even run it,” a coy Sparano said. “Never know.”

But don’t order your coffins yet, fantasy owners. There’s still hope, right? Even though this is most definitely now your fault.

Well, there’s always Ricky Williams, who now assumes the duties as starting running back. With increased carries, we can’t expect him to take over both Ronnie Brown’s and his own production, becoming some sort of “double your pleasure, double your fun” bargain back, but it’ll be something more than what he’s doing for owners right now.

Williams has already had his fair share of big days even while sharing with Brown, and for at least the next two weeks, he gets to run the ball against the Panthers and the Bills. No complaints there.

Even if the Miami offense takes a step back without Brown’s Wildcat wrinkles and burst, Williams should be an adequate replacement. Plus, there’s no frustration when the other part of the RBBC gets all the touchdowns, right?

Well, if that didn’t get you smiling, you probably didn’t get Williams as a handcuff or backup to Brown this season. It’s okay. I wouldn’t have done it either. But you got options, kid.

You do have the good fortune of losing your starting running back when a great deal of the best running backs in fantasy went down with injury and left replacements littering the waiver wire.

Bernard Scott would be the most lucrative grab of the multitude available out there, but only if Cedric Benson ends up missing time (and if Larry Johnson really does just ride the bench as depth). My gut feeling is that Benson misses at least one game.

The Bengals could at least do us a favor and hold him out a week for the sake of keeping him fresh. It’s only the Raiders after all, and then the Browns, and then the Lions…

Yeah, Scott’s a good grab.

And if you can’t get your hands on him for a one-week tour of duty, try to seek out Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles, or Jason Snelling. Wells and Charles, in particular, have two of the best playoffs schedules around.

So don’t punch your ticket to miss the playoffs…yet. Just remember the good times you had with Brown–two-touchdown days against the Colts, the Bills, and the Jets, and those fall days when he didn’t just walk beside you. He carried you.

I think I just got something in my eye.

On the Wire: Week 11 Pickups, Replacements Justin Forsett, Bernard Scott, and McCoy

So now begins our recovery from this great weekend of injuries. It’s all your fault, but I forgive you.

This week, we are left with the scraps of all the teams who lost one of their studs.

Hot Claims

Justin Forsett, RB, Seattle Seahawks — Let’s be honest. Forsett already had a great shot of winning this starting job before Julius Jones was injured. Now that Jones is out of the way, even for just one game, Forsett could be the Seahawks’ starter for the rest of the season. He had 123 rushing yards and one touchdown on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, who until recently had been stout against the run.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles — Brian Westbrook went down again, which leaves the starting job in the hands of McCoy once again with a little help from Leonard Weaver. Westbrook could miss the rest of the season after suffering his second concussion in three weeks, but McCoy has few juicy matchups on the schedule. He faces the Giants, 49ers, and Broncos in the fantasy playoffs.

Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals — He finally took that step Sunday in scoring twice and leading the team in carries and rushing yards. If the Cardinals find it in their hearts to anoint him the starter and give Tim Hightower the backup role, Wells could be a fantasy stud in the final weeks of the season. He faces Detroit and St. Louis in the fantasy playoffs, Weeks 15 and 16.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs — I’d assume he’s off your waiver wire by now, but if not, Charles finally had his good game on Sunday (103 yards and a touchdown), and he could have many more. Remember that playoffs schedule: Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati.

Ricky Williams, RB, Miami Dolphins — Another guy I highly doubt is on your waiver wire, but he’s worth mentioning with Ronnie Brown looking like a scratch this Thursday.

Jason Snelling, RB, Atlanta Falcons — Michael Turner will be out for a few weeks while he recovers from a high ankle sprain. Jerious Norwood stands to get some of the work if he can get healthy, but for now, this is Snelling’s job, and he looked capable while notching 61 rushing yards, a touchdown, and 32 receiving yards in Turner’s absence on Sunday.

Ladell Betts, RB, Washington Redskins — Maybe the more rested legs of Betts are a welcome change for the Redskins. He should shoulder the carries until Clinton Portis returns, and Portis could probably use as much rest as he can get. Betts ran for more than 100 yards in the two weeks since he replaced Portis.

Fantasy Filler

Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — No one is certain how many games Cedric Benson will miss, but the Bengals are worried enough about their depth to consider adding Larry Johnson. It must be at least that bad. Scott should be the starter in Benson’s absence, and he would get the cupcake matchups of the Bengals’ schedule if Benson sits for several weeks — Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams — Nobody wants to start Avery. But his schedule does look nice, and he has actually found the end zone over the past five weeks. He might just be worth stashing as the fantasy playoffs.

Laveranues Coles, WR, Cincinnati Bengals — It appears he may have finally found his rhythm with Carson Palmer, but it’s still hard to trust the veteran receiver as long as Chad Ochocinco and Andre Caldwell are also on the field.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans — Young seems to be finding his way in the Titans’ offense. The Titans are leaning on Chris Johnson to win game right now, but opposing teams will eventually learn how to shut down the speedster and force Young into action. He’s no great bet as a fantasy starter, but he carries on of the lowest price tags as a backup right now if you’re in need.

Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina Panthers — If you’re looking for upside, Delhomme is not it, but as a backup, he could be useful down the playoff stretch, especially with the outbreak of injuries that struck this week. He threw two touchdowns for the first time this season Sunday. Maybe he’ll turn his early failures around to end the season.

Long-term Investments

Brandon Gibson, WR, St. Louis Rams — Gibson replaced Keenan Burton when Burton went down this week, and he finished the game with seven catches for 93 yards against the Saints. The Rams looked surprisingly alive against the NFC’s undefeated, but I wouldn’t be so sure they could ever put a game like this one together again. Technically, the Saints’ secondary was banged up. Still, Gibson’s a likely starter from here on out. If you’ve got the roster spot, you can stash the rookie to see if he can keep it up.

Maurice Stovall, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — In Antonio Bryant’s absence, Stovall is benefiting from the arm of Josh Freeman. He scored on Sunday, and that could become a trend. As long as Bryant sits out, Stovall could be worth holding onto down the stretch.

Larry Johnson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals — He’s not the starter; in fact, we can’t even be sure at this point how far down the depth chart Larry Johnson will be come Sunday. Still, he is a Bengal, and he has the same schedule as Bernard Scott these next three weeks — Oakland, Cleveland, and Detroit. If he can pick up the offense (and shut his mouth long enough), he could play enough to be worth owning. But Benson’s return should relegate him to cleanup duty at best.

Michael Bush, RB, Oakland Raiders – Sure, he had a great game, even with Darren McFadden back on the field. But I don’t want any piece of the Raiders. You shouldn’t either. If you are desperate for a running back, this one has a pulse, but the talent in Oakland never lives up to expectations.

Droppables

Julius Jones may never start again for the Seahawks. Justin Gage could be worth upgrading now that he’s out with a severe back injury. Willie Parker just doesn’t look like he’ll get his job back this year. Justin Fargas should lose touches to both Bush and McFadden down the stretch. In desperation, you could let Brian Westbrook go, but I’d try to trade him first. He may not play again this year.

Foolish Thoughts: Turner, Benson, Brown, Westbrook struck down by fantasy jinx

It’s all your fault, you know. Yes, you, the one who pointed out how few injuries had struck fantasy owners thus far this season. You’re the reason we lost Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown, Michael Turner, Julius Jones and Brian Westbrook (again).

You jinxed three of the top backs in fantasy…and Julius Jones just happened to go down the same week.

I would say you cost us Kyle Orton, too, but it seems he won’t even miss a game despite his ankle injury. His neckbeard can take a twist of the ankle and a crushing in stride. There’s something else that Orton and cockroaches have in common.

It’s hard to say who got it the worst. Westbrook owners have been dealing with this all season. Much like Jon and Kate of “plus eight” fame, no one expected this to last all season.

Benson owners got a bargain rate on him to begin with in the draft this year, which makes it hard for me to feel sorry for them. Give your fantasy gift-workhorse a breather. Stop being so needy.

While “Wildcatting” his way into the fantasy hearts of fantasy owners, Brown still shared carries this season with Ricky Williams. Owners could have locked Brown up as a second running back in the draft and might have even stashed Ricky Williams as a precautionary measure.

You may be in a bit of hot water if you were relying on Brown at this point in the season, but I’d expect you to have a backup plan.

Julius Jones? Well, is anyone missing him?

Is that crickets I hear?

Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Jones got injured. I wish the guy the best, but now we can all get a serious look at Justin Forsett, and that’s all we really wanted out of Seattle this season anyway.

But Turner owners, poor Turner owners, you just lost your first round pick. A high ankle sprain is no tiny injury, and it could be several weeks before Turner gets back on the field.

Sure, maybe you wore a tin foil hat all season and picked up Jason Snelling to hedge your bets, but if not, you’re probably looking for a solid replacement this week. Good luck to you.

For the savvy few who stocked up on young backs poised to break out at some point this year…and who stuck out the weeks upon weeks where they did next to nothing this season, this week also marked the emergence of several young backs that owners had been stockpiling all season.

Was Sunday some special holiday or rebirth and renewal? No, I’ll stick with the jinx hypothesis.

Jamaal Charles — Nice of you to finally come to the party. I only had to pick you as a solid start for two weeks in a row. I know 103 rushing yards, a touchdown, and four receptions for 14 receiving yards may come easy against the Raiders, but I’m looking forward to how this carries into next week. If you become reliable, I might even start you in the fantasy playoffs against Buffalo and Cleveland.

Beanie Wells — That’s the kind of game we’ve expected from you all season, scoring twice and looking like a real champ. You even got some work in the passing game. Are Tim Hightower’s days numbered? I’m not so sure. But I do know you are getting your fair share of the work from here on out. That’s promising.

Justin Forsett — In Julius Jones absence, you racked up 123 yards, a touchdown, and five receptions for 26 yards. I love surprises, but it sure would have been nice to know you were going to take over this week.

And just because the Raiders have to screw fantasy owners that find themselves relying on them when it matters most, it was Michael Bush, not Darren McFadden, running for more than 100 yards against the Chiefs. Oh, Al Davis, so old-persony cute and so very evil.

It may be frustratingly impossible to predict who gets the bulk of the Raiders’ running game now that all three are back in the fold. Most weeks, you shouldn’t touch them. Same rule applies to Al Davis.

I know the hot story out there is that Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee at the end of the game rather than running it into the end zone. Some fantasy owners may be furious, but as a MJD owner and supporter, I’m not.

The guy already gave you a touchdown and over 100 yards. I think we can let him off the hook just this once for not getting two scores in a crucial time management situation. We should just be glad he’s not Michael Turner. If you owned him, you’d be much more angry.

Now back to watching the Browns circle the toilet bowl. I keep expecting their offense to take the field at some point, but it doesn’t seem like they have one. Just tragic.

Foolish Thoughts: Magical phone refresh voodoo makes Vernon Davis score touchdowns

I got stuck watching the New England Patriots abuse the Tampa Bay Buccaneers across the pond in London during the early games. I thought we sent this game overseas so that no one here would have to watch it?

While the action was riveting, oh, so riveting, I found myself checking my fantasy football scores on my phone. About halfway through the early games, I noticed Vernon Davis had scored me a touchdown. Nice work. I went against the stats in starting him, but, as ESPN pointed out, the tight ends who had been shut down by the Texans weren’t exactly in the elite class.

So happy in my good choices, I hit refresh, only to discover that Davis had another touchdown. Now, at this point, I had not seen any cutaways to the San Francisco game yet to show me what was happening in Houston. All I knew is that every time I refreshed my phone, Vernon Davis scored a touchdown.

Oh, this is getting good. I was mopping my opponent with my early starters, and I’d discovered a magical wishing well of fantasy points.

So I refreshed again, getting greedy this time. And once again, touchdown. Had I discovered a voodoo trick for fantasy football? Would it work on anyone else besides Vernon Davis?

I had no idea what I was doing, but I found myself hitting refresh again. But this time, nothing. My fantasy luck had run out. Game over.

But next week, I’m definitely refreshing my phone a few times during the San Francisco game to see if I can get it to work again.

Dear Patrick Crayton, I’d be the first one to tell you, so here goes: Miles Austin is legit. Your best chance of getting back in the starting lineup is by replacing Roy Williams. Sadly, that might not be that hard to do with as many key passes as Williams dropped on Sunday.

The Cowboys finally looked like the team that won 13 games in 2007 again on Sunday, but it’s not time for celebration just yet. It’s still hard to trust Tony Romo, who has one of the hardest schedules of any quarterback in the league the rest of the way. As long as Miles Austin keeps scoring two touchdowns per game, that view on Romo may change.

Donald Brown went out with a shoulder injury and left Joseph Addai to share the load with Chad Simpson. If Brown misses any length of time, it would increase Addai’s value since Simpson’s no threat to cut into Addai’s touches, but this injury was minor. Expect Brown to be back on the field and scaring Addai’s fantasy owner this week.

Ryan Grant finally went off with 148 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Browns. Let me repeat that: Against the Browns. Green Bay won’t face pushover run defenses all season, but Grant abused this one when given the chance. The Packers remain a pass-first team, but Grant could see his usage rise as the weather turns colder. Don’t give up on him if you’ve holding onto him this long.

Steven Jackson had 134 rushing yards against the Colts. Maybe the Rams should just put him and the offensive line on the field together and run the flying V all day. Might make for some interesting football. The Rams certainly aren’t in their current incarnation.

What do Vernon Davis’ 93 yards and three touchdowns mean? It means he’s a legitimate every week starter. Davis has been a key part of this passing offense all year, and even with the addition of Michael Crabtree, he’ll get lots of looks. If nothing else, his chances at the goal line look very promising.

Speaking of Alex Smith, his three touchdowns and 206 yards in the second half seem to be more than just a lucky break off the bench. He faces the Colts this week, but moving forward, he’s go upside. Sometimes those bench-warming first-round draft picks pay off after all. Eh, Vince Young?

Owen Daniels. Best tight end in football? It’s possible.

Brett Favre loves him some Sidney Rice, proven by the 11 catches Rice took for 136 yards against the Steelers. Favre may not make many more big games out of these receivers, especially after his return-to-form breakdowns against Pittsburgh this week, but it’s never a bad idea to own his favorite target. Rice has definite talent, and skills the ability to hover five feet off the field until Favre can get him the ball.

The Steelers’ defense showed up late to the party against the Vikings, but at least they showed supreme mastery of the flying V in both their interception return and fumble return. If they can contain the beast inside of Adrian Peterson without run-stopper Aaron Smith, they can stop anyone. Feel confident if you have them as your defense at this point in the season. Very confident.

I think the league would be a better place if JaMarcus Russell were benched. I’d be interested to see two teams trade quarterbacks in a given week just to see whether it’s the quarterback or the team causing all the problems. Jason Campbell for Russell anyone? Jake Delhomme for Russell? Marc Bulger for Russell? That’s the kind of trade that could heat things up in a season where every team is great, very good or horrifyingly terrible.

Could the NFL just institute a takebacks trade option so that teams can exchange players for two weeks at a time? It’d be just like pickup football.

Andre Johnson has a lung contusion. I have no idea what that is, but I do know he spit up blood. Regardless, he doesn’t need lungs to play out of his mind against the Bills. The Buffalo secondary has been good, but top receivers can find a way. Jake Delhomme just gets paid to make secondaries like the Bills’ look good.

After losing Leon Washington for the season with a nasty broken fibula, the Jets put in Shonn Greene in garbage time to finish off the Raiders. That 144 yards and two touchdowns will likely draw a crowd on the waiver wire, but Greene probably won’t duplicate a performance like that until he starts to eat into Thomas Jones’ role as the lead back.

I’ve liked Greene all along this year. He’s big and hard-running, just like a little Marion Barber in the making, but the Jets have not sought to limit Jones or replace him with Greene just yet. For now, Greene is nothing more than an 8-10 carry guy to share the load with Jones and take garbage time. Still, he’s definitely worth stashing because of the strength of the Jets’ running game and the chance to eventually replace Jones if anything were to go down.

Carson Palmer looked like the Carson Palmer that dominated the league before his knee injury. Five touchdowns, two to Chad Ochocinco, have me hoping that he keeps that alive through the end of the season.

Palmer’s arm also opened things up for Cedric Benson, who took full advantage of the revenge bowl in Chicago with a career-high 189 yards and a touchdown. If Palmer had jacked all the touchdowns, Benson could have had more. The Bears just looked like they though they were playing last year’s Bengals.

Despite Benson’s beating, Ricky Williams won the spite battle this week with three touchdowns and just 80 rushing yards against his former team, the Saints. It’s not like Ricky has any bad blood. I’m pretty sure with the amount of pot he’s smoked, he’s made peace with everybody, including dead people, but he certainly wanted to win against the Saints on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the Saints took some 5-Hour Energy at halftime, woke up and realized they were behind. Then, Drew Brees went to work. The Saints defense returned two picks for touchdowns, again proving they are a legit fantasy defense as long as Darren Sharper is roaming around out there. I completely called Tracy Porter’s interception return at the end of the game, mostly because I needed it to win a fantasy football game this week, but you know.

Somehow I managed to make it through the entire Monday Night Football excitement of the Eagles and Redskins. In short, DeSean Jackson scored both rushing and receiving the football, and when he wasn’t in the game, neither was the Philadelphia offense. Brian Westbrook got knocked out. Chris Cooley broke his ankle and could be out for the season.

DeSean Jackson was scared he broke something, but after X-raying it, they determined that his only ailment was being awesome and unstoppable. Sometimes that feels like an injury when you play the Redskins I guess.

At what point do we consider farming the Redskins, Rams, Chiefs or Raiders out to the UFL?

Injury Concerns: Are Reggie Bush and Brian Westbrook worth your draft pick?

Brian Westbrook convinced the world that a smaller, shifty back could make it work in the NFL. In recent years, he’s become a fantasy points factory, churning out production each season, but he’s also never been one to rely on for all 16 weeks of your fantasy season.

With Westbrook’s production come injuries. Someone who moves as well and as uniquely as Westbrook is bound to get caught or banged up by the end of the season when a team leans on him as much as the Eagles have over the years. His injuries have landed Westbrook on some fantasy blacklists when it comes time to draft. Owners would just rather not deal with his questionable status every Sunday and one or two zeroes in the weekly fantasy point column for the games he misses.

When Reggie Bush entered the NFL as a rookie, he was one of the most hyped fantasy prospects of the season. NFL analysts projected he would be an impact player at running back despite his shifty, “dancing” ways, but, much like Westbrook, he’s also proven that it was going to be difficult for him to stay on the field for 16 games in a row.

Bush and Westbrook 2009 Outlook

Bush and Westbrook are truly two of the most unique players in the NFL. If either is in the game for their respective teams, they change what their team can do on the field.

The Eagles without Westbrook have lacked that explosion out of the backfield. Correll Buckhalter was a fine stand-in last season, but he couldn’t do all the things that Westbrook could do. Defenses don’t fear him as much, and he can’t make everyone miss.

This season, Westbrook finally has a backup who is worthy of carrying his torch, rookie LeSean McCoy. McCoy should cut into a few of Westbrook’s carries, but the coaching staff still promises that this is Westbrook’s job.

When available to the Saints, Reggie Bush found a role as a gimmick back last season. He took short passes out of the backfield, running back carries up the middle or to the outside and sometimes he even split out wide just like a receiver. This dynamic play earned him plenty of fantasy points…right up until he went down with an injury.

He’s been training this offseason, and beat writers have claimed this year is the most committed he’s been to the game since he first came in as a rookie. Bush knows this is a make-or-break year for his career. If he can’t prove that he can stay healthy and contribute, his role — and contracts — will be limited in the future.

Bush and Westbrook Fantasy Football Value

When it comes to these two backs, owners question every year whether they are worth drafting.

Brian Westbrook

With Westbrook, the answer is certainly a “yes,” but there is some qualification. Westbrook is still not back on the field from offseason injuries, but that doesn’t worry me about the impact he will have in this year’s improved Eagles’ offensive attack. He’s a safe pick in the second round, where he’s currently fallen due to injury concerns and age, but be sure to draft his backup and rookie standout LeSean McCoy if you get Westbrook on your roster.

Westbrook is bound to miss games, but McCoy looks good enough to jump in without missing a beat in this offense. McCoy’s average draft position (ADP) has him going in the eighth round of most drafts, so it should not be difficult to secure him a tad early with your pick in the seventh round.

If he warms your bench all season, you may feel a little upset, but Westbrook will have proven a lot of doubters wrong for your fantasy team.

Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush is a bit of a different story. Outside of points-per-reception leagues, he’s not as much of a beast as Westbrook. Pierre Thomas is looking like the primary back out of the Saints’ backfield this season, which would further limit Bush’s potential.

Bush worked on becoming a better football player this entire offseason, and he will attempt to return from his injuries this weekend against Oakland. That’s promising. Then again, he’s also rumored to be getting back together with another famous back, Kim Kardashian. We’ll see how that works out.

While he’s still worth drafting, he’s only worth drafting in the sixth round or later and after more promising young backs like Felix Jones are off the board. If Bush pays off, you’ll be glad to have him aboard. If he’s bothered by injury, you won’t have paid a significant price to get him.

In PPR leagues, he could be a stud, and you may feel better about taking him earlier in your draft when the payout is higher. That said, there’s just too much risk to make him a star on your fantasy team. Have a contingency plan for Bush if he goes down.

Pairing Darren McFadden and Bush together by taking them in your draft and rotating them based on health could make a deadly combo.

This year is a turning point for both these players. While Bush and Westbrook are both worthy of drafting at the right values, they are also full of risks. Prepare accordingly if you take that chance.

As always, the comments are yours. Would you draft Westbrook or Bush this season?

Carson Palmer, Marc Bulger already on the sidelines

This is why we can’t have nice things. After just one week of preseason football, both Carson Palmer and Marc Bulger need to see some time on the shelf.

Palmer suffered a high ankle sprain on his left ankle in the team’s first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. The injury will keep Palmer out of tonight’s showdown with Tom Brady, another quarterback who missed the 2008 season.

After taking three sacks in the preseason opener against the New York Jets, Bulger managed to injure his wee little pinky in practice, which will put him down for at least two weeks.

Both Palmer and Bulger will be fine missing some work in the preseason. In fact, Bulger’s probably grateful to be out of the line of fire for a few weeks. But these injuries serve as a sign that these veteran quarterbacks shouldn’t be trusted this year. If you’re looking to snag Palmer or Bulger this season as a backup quarterback expecting them to shock and amaze by returning to form, don’t bet on it.

I question whether Palmer was even back at 100 percent at the start of this season after he sat out the majority of 2008 and chose not to undergo surgery this offseason. It might not take much of a hit for him to miss several weeks of the 2009 season.

Bulger, while productive when upright, doesn’t have the protection he needs to do much for the Rams this year. Bulger takes more sacks than any starting quarterback in the league — not counting David Carr, of course, since he’s now a backup. Without a reliable receiving target, Bulger could get caught trying to do too much early this season and go down in a hurry.

While you can hope for whatever you wish out of these two this season, I would recommend avoiding them both as fantasy quarterbacks. Palmer and Bulger’s best days may be behind them, and their future could be very frustrating.

Brady’s Back: Now Where Should I Draft Him?

Tom Brady’s Week 1 knee injury in 2008 caused more than one owner in the world of fantasy football to collapse in front of their TV in tears before they ever even learned of Matt Cassel’s existence. It was just the kind of nightmare that fantasy owners fear when they assemble their team at the draft, and the unbelievable destruction of 2007′s fantasy superstar just minutes into the season shocked the fantasy world.

I had taken the plunge and drafted Brady at the tail end of two first rounds rather than taking a lesser-than stud running back. It hurts to get screwed in the first week. It really does.

You’re still a pansy for crying, but for the most part, fantasy owners have now come to grips with the injury. Tom Brady is back on the field throwing the football with a knee that might just be better than any knee to come before it. There’s nothing to fear … well, nothing except paying too much for him in the draft this season.

The Year that Never Was
In 2008, Brady was arguably the only quarterback worth flirting with in the first round, a fantasy prospect who measured up to the best running backs in the league. Even though no quarterback has ever lived up to the hype after a record fantasy season, experts anticipated that Brady would top the fantasy quarterback charts again regardless of a dip in production.

After a year away from football spent “recovering from his injury,” ranking fantasy football’s prodigal son is no easy task. I feel like I hardly know him anymore.

Brady spent an entire year frolicking through injury with his supermodel girlfriend, getting married to said supermodel girlfriend and playing with his son who is “so cool!” Are we getting the same Tom back that we took off the field almost one year ago?

The Patriots: One Year Older But Staying the Same Age
If we weren’t, Bill Belichick would have already regrown him in a lab this offseason anyway, so there’s no worries there. Brady’s got the same weapons around him that made him such a success in 2007 — Randy Moss going deep, Wes Welker in the slot and the crowded backfield Belichick turns into a running game. Veteran burner Joey Galloway replaces Donte Stallworth in 2009 on the other side of Moss, but Stallworth was largely invisible as a Patriot anyway. While Belichick’s “no mercy” attitude may be taken down a notch from the record levels it hit in 2007, the stage is set in Boston for Brady to return to fantasy glory as soon as he shakes the rust off.

But the other teams of the AFC East are quite different than they were in 2007 and have the potential to keep Brady from reaching his 2007 numbers.

The Less Defenseless AFC East
The Miami Dolphins, rejuvenated by Bill Parcells, have a stingy defense and an improving, conservative offense. With the Wildcat, Ronnie Brown tore apart the Matt Cassel-led Patriots in 2008, and I would expect them to get creative in 2009 as well. The New York Jets, no longer suffering from Brett Favre’s skill for turning over the ball, should bring a ball-control, run-based offense and a more aggressive defense to the table under new head coach Rex Ryan. And in the frigid North, the Buffalo Bills could surprise the Patriots with a healthy defense and a more explosive offense, upgraded with Terrell Owens and led by developing third-year quarterback Trent Edwards.

The Patriots will also face the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans this season, two defenses that don’t play nice with high-powered offenses.

Ranking the Golden Boy
I fully expect Brady to resume control of the Patriot offense and start the season with something to prove, just as he does every year, but it would be foolish — and who’s foolish around here? — to expect him to break records in 2009. He’s likely to struggle early until he gets back into his rhythm just as Peyton Manning’s game was a little off to start the 2008 season.

Expect top-three numbers from Brady by season’s end, purely because of the weapons he has at his disposal, but be prepared for lows early in the season, especially in bad matchups.

The rise of Drew Brees may distract owners enough for Brady to be ignored in the first and second rounds this year, which could make his draft stock a budget buy in the third round. He’s currently tied behind Brees for the No. 2 quarterback spot with Peyton Manning in my book, and I’d give the edge to Brady this year. How about you?

Sound off
The comments are yours. Tell me what you think of Tommy Boy this season.

Fantasy Funeral: Colts release Marvin Harrison

Marvin Harrison might  meet the end of his long tenure with the Colts this week. Despite the Colts’ best efforts to keep him in their plans for 2009, he’s likely to be released as a salary cap move. Lucky year 13!

Give him credit. Harrison did everything in his power to stay in the spotlight, suspected shooting incidents included, but there’s little reason for the Colts to keep him around with Reggie Wayne fully-established as Peyton Manning’s top target and Anthony Gonzalez taking over Harrison’s spot on the team.

Harrison’s game clearly lost a step in 2008. He had just 636 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games, less than half of his stats from 2006.

Harrison sat out most of the 2007 season with a knee injury, and for his sake, we won’t even bring up those numbers. Many fantasy owners thought they were cheating the system by stealing him late in the fantasy football draft. Yeah, not so much.

Harrison was exactly what we thought he would be in 2008, a dud.

There are no free rides in the NFL, especially when you’re one of the highest-paid receivers in the game. Harrison will count  $13.4 million against the salary cap if he is not released.

As ESPN cited Peter King:

Most who follow the team on a daily basis had the same sense as Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King, who  wrote Monday morning  that “Polian does not give scholarships for longer than one year. And Harrison was on scholarship last year.”

As is the custom this year with every receiver that enters the free agent market, we must now point to the Eagles likelihood of being in the hunt for Marvin Harrison, but even with his bright, shiny known-name receiver hands, it’s unlikely that many teams will be clawing over each other for him. He showed just last season that he was fading, and look what Jerry Porter did for Jacksonville last season…

It’s more than likely that Harrison ends up right back in Indy after testing the waters. Any other team that hired him would basically be bringing him in as a glorified wide receivers coach, and Indy considers him more valuable because of all the records Manning and Harrison could continue to break together.

For now, may Marvin Harrison’s fantasy football career rest in peace. Your draft board nameplate will always hold a special place in my heart, and by heart, I mean that trash can I dunked it in after I wadded it up.

Update: Oh yeah, and they pulled the trigger on releasing him.

5 Reasons I Still Won’t Draft Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning has now returned to practice, but there’s still too much bad juju around old buckethead for me to consider touching him for my fantasy team.

I can’t believe that I’m actually going to say it, but this season, it’s better to pass on the definition of a stud fantasy quarterback. I have my reasons…

1) The knee – I know he’s “on schedule” to return to start in Week 1, and truthfully, I believe he will start Week 1 against Chicago whether he is fully healthy or not. The Colts are opening a new stadium, after all, and Manning IS the franchise with a consecutive start record to uphold.

However, say the Colts get ahead early with some runs by Addai and maybe just one touchdown grab. That’s not out of the question against the Chicago Bears this season. Who thinks Manning might see sit early “just to rest a bit?”

Even past Week 1, Manning is just a big hit away from irritating his knee or having it swell back up on him. They’ll handle him with tiny little baby gloves to start the season, but he’s going to be in danger all year from the sound of it.

2) No Saturday – Don’t worry, college football fans; game day still exists.

I’m talking Jeff Saturday, starting center for the Colts. He looks like he’ll miss the season opener and maybe the entire season at this point with his knee injury. That means a lack of sync at the line, botched snaps and weaker protection for Manning.

3) Deteriorating Marvin Harrison – Harrison, sadly, will never be the same guy he was pre-injury last season. If he were going to be, he probably would have rushed back to the field faster. My gut tells me that Harrison has faded significantly.

Sure, Reggie Wayne isn’t exactly settling, but Anthony Gonzalez is just coming along as a rookie. The offense just won’t look the same as it used to with Harrison as the focus at WR, and I don’t like that.

4) Emergence of Joseph Addai – He was phenomenal last year, but this year could be the “Woah” year for Addai. With Manning a little gimpy, he won’t hesitate to dump passes to Addai when he gets into trouble. Plus, the Dominic Rhodes signing gives Addai some decent run support so that he can get his breathers. If Addai starts handling this offense, I think Manning sits back a bit and loses that little bit of production.

5) Idiots – Regardless of what I put here, everyone that doesn’t read this list is still going to really like Peyton Manning.

He sits near the top of all the quarterback rankings everywhere, and some people in your league may not even realize that he might not start Week 1. He’s going to go high in your drafts, and at a first or even second round price, he’s not worth it. There are other fish in the sea.

My recommendation if you want to go QB early? Draft Tony Romo or Drew Brees ahead of Manning.

Romo passed up Manning last year in scoring, and Brees led the league in passes attempted last year. Just imagine if more Saints receivers started catching the ball? I like both of them better going into drafts this week.

Just let Manning have a year off.