News: Rudi Johnsonsigns with the Lions
Views: The pessimistic fantasy analyst would lament Johnson's age (he'll be 29 on Oct. 1), his wear-and-tear through the years (he had 340-plus carries annually from 2004-06) and his non-conforming running style (he's a patient power back, where the Lions' zone-blocking schemes favor 'one-cut-and-go' rushers). On the other hand, Johnson has fewer total carries (1,441) than Curtis Martin, Shaun Alexander or Jamal Lewis had at similar career stages; he has never incurred had a serious knee, leg or foot injury; and he'll be splitting the between-the-20s rushing duties with Detroit rookie Kevin Smith in '08 -- but could see roughly 80 percent of the short-yardage, red-zone carries.
The verdict: Johnson (projection: 900 total yards, 7 TDs) is a viable handcuff for Smith (typically drafted at 58th overall) and can safely be targeted somewhere in the 70s.
News: Tom Brady says he'll be ready for Week 1
Views: There is no doubt Brady's smarting from a bothersome ankle (perhaps this is karma for the Patriots listing him as "Probable: Shoulder" all these years on the NFL Injury List). But there is no justification for downgrading his '08 fantasy value, based on a likely-minor injury. (For those with short-term memory loss, he racked up an NFL-record 50 TD passes last year ... Fifty!)
The verdict: Given that Brady hasn't thrown a live-action pass since Super Bowl XLII (he skipped the entire preseason), fantasy owners should expect a modest Week 1 performance at home against the Chiefs (225 yards, 2 TDs). But by Week 2, once the proverbial rust comes off, the days of 300 yards and/or 3-4 TDs should return.
News: Ravens bonus baby Joe Flaccogets the Week 1 start
Views: In the last 25 years, I am struggling to recall any rookie QB who threw for 250-plus yards and two touchdowns in his first-ever pro game -- let alone first NFL start. (Heck, even Peyton Manningthrew 3 INTs and only 1 TD in his first start, 10 years ago this week.) And let's be honest here: Flacco won the Week 1 start by default, by way of Troy Smith's illness (tonsillectomy) and Kyle Boller's injury (shoulder).
The verdict: Unprepared rookie QB plus bad team on the road (Ravens) plus good opposing secondary (Bengals) plus rookie QB history equals Flacco tallies 180 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INTs in Week 1.
News: Suspended Bronco Brandon Marshallwants to catch 140 passes in '08
Views: Counting his one-game suspension (this week vs. the Raiders) and assuming he goes the whole year injury-free, Marshall still believes he'll reel in 9.3 catches per game. Incidentally, 140 catches would rank him second all time, just three behind Marvin Harrison (143 in '02).
The verdict: It's easy to laugh off Marshall's goals as pure bravado. But Marshall led the NFL in Targets last year (170) and may repeat the feat this season -- despite playing one less game than his peers. In other words, he has a decent shot, at the very least, of surpassing Herman Moore, currently ranked second on the single-season receptions list (123).
News: Fred Taylor gets arrested for disorderly conduct while "clubbing"
Views: Not to minimize the arrest, in terms of its societal impact, but this matter shouldn't affect Taylor's fantasy value in any way (besides, most fantasy drafts are already over). If anything, Taylor owners (who don't have the Mo Jones-Drew handcuff) might be encouraged by the vision of Fragile Freddy (an unfair misnomer) busting moves on the dance floor, while presumably being in tip-top shape for the coming season.
The verdict: From what I hear, Taylor has designs on playing two more years and cracking the top-7 list of all-time rushers. So, doing the math, Taylor (currently at 10,715 rushing yards) would need 2,025 more yards, or 1,013 per season, to fall behind Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (ranking sixth) and creep just ahead of Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett (seventh) before retiring. Sounds doable.