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NFL fantasy hot stove report

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A hearty congratulations to 6-7 former Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan, who won the Republican primary race last week and will face off against a much smaller person in November in the race to represent New Jersey's Third Congressional District. No matter your political leanings, it's good to know that the government might be able to call on Runyan should someone -- possibly the CEO of BP -- need to be pancake blocked for political theatre.

Getting back to the far more interesting realm of fantasy football, this week we'll look at time-split situations in New Orleans and Arizona, Palmer's last stand, and the zombification of New England's backfield.

Carson Palmer had a lot of factors playing against him in '09. He played with a serious elbow injury; his team decided that the game plan was to run Cedric Benson into the ground; and if Chad Ocho Cinco was covered, he had nowhere else to throw. Other than that ... well, at least the Bengals running game and defense carried the team.

The receiving corps was just a mess. Laveranues Coles was washed up, Chris Henry died tragically, and the rest of the wide receivers were just too inexperienced to contribute regularly.

While he swears it's not an issue, the jury is still out on whether Palmer's elbow has healed enough for him to regain his peak performance level of two years ago. The extent of his injury was obvious in his very weak fantasy performances. He topped 275 passing yards just once, and there was doubt whether his fastball was there.

The arrows on Palmer's value in '10 are pointing up, though. The extent to which the Bengals will lean on running back Benson this season is likely directly related to the health of Palmer's elbow. Regardless of that, the Bengals won't be able to pound Benson like '09 again. Another item in Palmer's favor is a revamped WR group featuring the occasionally good Antonio Bryant, and a host of up and coming receivers and tight ends, including Andre Caldwell and rookie Jermaine Gresham.

With this many weapons, if Palmer flops again this year, he'll have no one to blame but himself. Expect better numbers from him, although not quite good enough to re-join the ranks of the QB1s. Until he proves otherwise, consider him a top backup. He's got a lot to prove to his team, and if he doesn't return to form, it's highly likely the Bengals will bring in veteran competition for him in '11.

The question of who to throw to is never a problem for Drew Brees; he just goes to whomever is open. Most of the time, that target is Marques Colston, though he has a tendency to miss games with various injuries.

In 2009, there was a back and forth battle between Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem for the team's No. 2 wide receiver gig. Regardless of who wins the starting job this year, both players bring fantasy value to the table as backup WRs.

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Henderson is coming off a career year, and was clearly a Brees favorite in the playoffs, snatching 15 balls for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints Super Bowl run. Henderson's problem, a lack of TDs, but it happens to be Meachem's strength.

Meachem scored nine times while compiling 16.0 yards per catch. His issue is that he'll disappear for stretches of games, making it difficult to rely on him. That said, you're more likely to catch lightning in a bottle on any given week with Meachem, making him more valuable as a spot starter. If you need to rely on one of these two for an extended period, then Henderson is your man.

Another season of back and forth between these two is highly likely, but that's almost irrelevant to fantasy owners. Either one of these players is a fine addition to your roster, though in different capacities. Keep an eye on both players heading into the draft, as they are dealing with injury issues. Henderson had sports hernia surgery and Meachem is fighting a nagging toe injury. Those are the kinds of issues that can linger, so be informed when you pull the trigger.

As a whole, the value of Arizona Cardinals players took a big hit with the retirement of Kurt Warner. The opposite holds true for Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower.

The Cardinals are making no secret of their intention to take the pressure off quarterback Matt Leinart by focusing on the rushing game. The first step in that process was an upgrade to the offensive line. While recent acquisition Alan Faneca might not be the player he once was, he's still a savvy run blocker and can help his fellow linemen as almost an extra coach.

Wells didn't get enough touches to blossom in his rookie season, but he made the most of his chances, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and scoring seven TDs in a time-share with Hightower. For his part, Hightower is being referred to as the nominal starter, most likely because of his superior receiving abilities, which also help Leinart. Expect the split to be close to 50/50, with Wells providing more value in standard scoring leagues, and Hightower posting better numbers in PPR. Of course, don't be surprised if the training wheels come off of Wells and he starts running fools over left and right. By the latter stages of the season, expect that split to lean more heavily towards Wells.

Wells' average draft position at Yahoo! is currently in the fourth round. While that's slightly high, it's not completely unreasonable. If you do pull the trigger on him there, you'll probably have to wait a bit to see return on your investment.

I'm not a Laurence Maroney supporter, but the guy deserves better than the critical beat down he's gotten over the last few years. A report on Pro Football Weekly recently described him as a "broken man." That sounds a bit melodramatic; the guy isn't a rigor-ridden zombie. Sure, he's been a disappointment as a first-round draft pick, but it's not as if the Patriots were expecting to take the ball out of Tom Brady's hands when they drafted him.

Speaking of drafting, Maroney is in the last year of his rookie contract. It's not a given that his numbers will rise as he angles either for a new contract in New England or to show off his wares to other teams, but it's definitely something to keep in mind when assessing his fantasy value.

Maroney got nearly as many carries (194) as the next three RBs on the roster combined. While his 3.9 YPC was mildly nauseating, you can't argue with nine TDs on that few carries. The Pats had enough faith in him to not draft or acquire any new RBs, and there are long odds against both Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor sticking on the roster and stealing Maroney's carries. Taylor only played in five games last season and Morris hasn't finished a full season in five years.

The combination of more touches and a contract year could be the things that propel Maroney from backup into a guy you might want to start on a consistent basis. If he's healthy, he's a RB3 at worst.

Mike Gilbert is's Senior NFL Editor and a 2010 FSWA award winner. Need accurate and up-to-date daily and weekly MLB player rankings? Check out RotoExperts' Xclusive Edge Rankings.