The last week of preseason football saw major moves on the draft boards thanks to injury news from Indianapolis and Kansas City.
Peyton Manning's recovery from offseason neck surgery will have him sidelined into the regular season, leaving Kerry Collins at the helm of the Colts' high-octane offense. Collins could prove to be a fair fantasy backup while throwing to the likes of Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Pierre Garçon and Jacob Tamme. Meanwhile, Manning drops well down the list of quarterbacks, but becomes a good passer to pair with another injury-risk passer like Matthew Stafford, Donovan McNabb or even Michael Vick.
As for the Chiefs, they are dealing with the loss of tight end Tony Moeaki, who tore his ACL against the Packers, and the potential loss of quarterback Matt Cassel, who suffered a rib injury in the same game. Both of these bump Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones up a tick while Dwayne Bowe could be inconsistent as the only star target now in the Chiefs attack. One player to pick up, especially in PPR leagues, is wideout Jehreme Urban, who will get many of the looks that would've gone to Moeaki.
That's enough of me. Now let's turn to your questions in this week's mailbag:
The two main factors to determine are what can you get for Freeman the other available backups. With Ryan as your starter you shouldn't need a backup as he's an every-week play. If the market for Freeman isn't strong enough to get you a starting player in return, then you'd be wise to hold onto him because I expect in a few weeks he'll prove he's a fantasy-worthy starter and people will be knocking on your door to get him. Also, make sure that your waiver wire contains signal callers who, even if they're less than ideal, will still give you a chance for some points on any given weekend in a pinch, like Mark Sanchez, Donovan McNabb or Colt McCoy. If all you see are true backups or extreme risks (Tarvaris Jackson comes to mind) then I would hold onto Freeman as a solid insurance policy.
I wouldn't be so eager to trade Jones since he has the potential to be one of the breakout players of 2011. Coincidentally, Forte could turn into who Felix Jones was the last couple of years should Jones' former running mate, Marion Barber, newly arrived in Chicago, manage to stay healthy enough to vulture touchdowns and carries from him. Anyway, with that stable of running backs, you probably don't need to make a RB for RB trade Turn your focus instead to dealing a back for an upgraded WR or QB. Or trade Benson while you still can.
It's hard for a slot receiver like Amendola, Davone Bess and even Wes Welker to get into the end zone because the routes they're asked to run are usually designed to move the chains, not go all the way to the end zone. And since Amendola is slight (listed at 5-foot-11, 186 pounds), his chances of getting a lot of passes thrown to him near the goal line diminish as bigger receivers and tight ends get the call. Couple that with the addition of touchdown-hungry Sims-Walker (everyone's inconsistent in the preseason), Danario Alexander, Brandon Gibson, and rookie tight end Lance Kendricks, I wouldn't look for much of a spike in Amendola's scoring output. However, coupled with rising star Sam Bradford, he's an excellent asset in PPR leagues.
Ninth is a tough spot since all of the elites are gone. I'd look at an Aaron Rodgers or a Michael Vick at the spot, and then grab running backs in the next two rounds. If for some reason they're gone, then I'd secure a running back in the first then go with Brady/Brees/Rivers on the way back. There will be plenty of wideouts to grab in rounds 4 through 9.
Adrienne, the Johnson gamble looks like it's going to pay sweet dividends, so great job. It's tough to tell who's available in any given league but here are a number who can help. Earl Bennett of the Bears is not talked about much but is the best all-around receiver on a passing team with a good quarterback (Jay Cutler). The explosive Jacoby Ford of the Raiders is one of the hybrid players so in vogue these days. He's a deep threat and also gives you the bonus of return scoring. For running backs I like rookies Delone Carter in Indy, speedy Jacquizz Rodgers in Atlanta and Roy Helu in Washington. Plus don't look past elderly Ricky Williams with Baltimore. And for tight ends, Greg Olsen is my favorite sleeper but there's also Aaron Hernandez, who has been un-guardable in the preseason, Jermaine Gresham with the Bengals, and Michael Vick has made a point to get Brent Celek more involved in Philadelphia's attack.
With the Cowboys heading to New Jersey to take on the J-E-T-S and Darrelle Revis (even with a hip injury), you're better off sticking with Tampa's Mike Williams, even against the rising Lions defense. If you really want to play Bryant, then you could instead consider giving Blount a seat against Ndamukong Suh and Co.
Even with Johnson's return and the Chiefs woes, I'd still pick Charles. And until Mathews proves that he's an NFL-caliber runner, something Tolbert has already done, I'd stick with Tolbert.