Bell of theBall
A rookie has a stronger hold on the No. 1 job than Broncos coaches will say
This is an article from the Aug. 21, 2006 issue
THOUGH BRONCOScoaches continue to describe their running back situation as fluid, undraftedrookie Mike Bell was named the starter last week, and coach Mike Shanahan andhis staff privately are very high on Bell. Elevated to the top on the depthchart over Tatum Bell (no relation) and Ron Dayne, the 6-foot, 215-pound MikeBell only needs to show that he can hold on to the ball and pick up hisblocking assignments to maintain his starting job. And there is no truth to thetheory that Bell's promotion is merely intended to light a fire under the twoveterans. While this is a situation that bears monitoring, the coaches'confidence in the rookie gives at least temporary clarity to a backfield thathas perennially perplexed fantasy owners.
TEXANS TWO-STEPEric Moulds lost his job as No. 1 receiver for the Bills, but he may havelanded in the perfect slot. The 33-year-old Moulds, whom Buffalo dealt toHouston in April, appears to be a good fit as a complement to Andre Johnson,primarily because Moulds still has the craftiness to keep defenses honest. Ifyou're looking for depth after you've drafted your top two wideouts, Mouldsshould be in your sights. And if you're seeking a second-tier receiver whocould blossom into a top-tier talent, Johnson--who was a huge disappointment in2005--should be on your radar as well.
OPEN THE GATESThe Chargers are planning new ways to line up tight end Antonio Gates in hopesof blunting the pesky double teams he's faced over the last two seasons. Gatessays he'll be in motion constantly before the start of plays and that at timeshe'll even line up in the backfield to confuse linebackers' coverageassignments. "You won't see me standing on the line of scrimmage too often,where two guys can just line up and double me," he says. So if you'rehearing that double teams will jeopardize Gates's status as the No. 1 fantasytight end, fear not.
COWBOY UP Cowboystight end Jason Witten won't be working the seams of opposing defenses as oftenas he did during his breakout season of 2004, when he caught 87 passes. Wittensays he'll be used more on underneath routes. The Cowboys would like to stretchthe field with wide receivers Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn while lettingWitten (left) work against linebackers on crossing routes. Moreover, if asuspect Dallas offensive line can hold its own, Witten will be used less as apass blocker than previously. That will boost his fantasy value and get him upin the 80- to 90-reception range, with a good shot to catch eight or 10touchdown passes.
DON'T READ muchinto it if Chargers running back LADAINIAN TOMLINSON plays little in thepreseason. He has a history of sitting out until the regular season, andcoaches have said they want to limit the number of hits he takes. So expect tosee a lot of backup Michael Turner.
ROOKIE TIGHT ENDVernon Davis has quickly picked up 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner'sscheme. As one San Francisco linebacker said recently, "We can't coverhim."
BALTIMORE COACHESare raving about rookie receiver Demetrius Williams, a fourth-round pick whohas a leg up on being the team's No. 3 wideout behind Derrick Mason and MarkClayton.
Find out how the latest news affects your fantasy team and weigh in on JamesQuintong's blog at SI.com/fantasy.