Pre-season Analysis

Friday, Aug 29, 2008 at 12:00 pm ET

With the start of the regular season right around the corner, here's a glance around the league (in alpha order) prior to showtime. Every team has at least 1 good fantasy player and you'll find the top 4 from every team listed below along with a quick Analysis of what you can expect starting Week 1. There's bound to be some disagreement so send me your shouts, but be prepared to backup your claims. Enjoy!

Arizona Cardinals

Top Players

1. Larry Fitzgerald

2. Anquan Boldin

3. Kurt Warner

4. Edgerrin James

Analysis: Assuming Warner is the starter, he's definitely a fantasy starter and Fitz and Boldin's values increase. Edge's value has been diminished over the second half of last season and I don't expect that to change.

Atlanta Falcons

Top Players

1. Michael Turner

2. Roddy White

3. Matt Ryan

4. Jason Elam

Analysis: This is the Michael Turner show this year. He looked fantastic during the pre-season and hopes are high that he'll continue that pace. White's value is up in the air with Matt Ryan behind center.

Baltimore Ravens

Top Players

1. Willis McGahee

2. Derrick Mason

3. Todd Heap

4. Ravens DEF

Analysis: If the O-Line can get it together, McGahee should do quite well. Both McGahee and Heap are expected to start Week 1.

Buffalo Bills

Top Players

1. Marshawn Lynch

2. Lee Evans

3. James Hardy

4. Trent Edwards

Analysis: Lynch is the definitely the centerpiece here but may have difficulty if Edwards can't keep defenses honest. Lee Evans can be a fantasy stud IF he can find some consistency, which has always been a problem with him.

Carolina Panthers

Top Players

1. Steve Smith

2. Jonathan Stewart

3. DeAngelo Williams

4. Jake Delhomme

Analysis: Certainly for the first two weeks, Muhsin Muhammad is worthy of being listed, but I just can't see him as a top fantasy WR once Smith comes back. Delhomme and Smith are an incredible combination, but are terrible without one another. Smith's value tanked last year after Delhomme's injury. He rarely got looks, but things should be back to normal this year. If RB-by-committee is prevalent here, Williams and Stewart are a toss up.

Chicago Bears

Top Players

1. Chicago DEF

2. Matt Forte

3. Devin Hester

4. Greg Olsen

Analysis: The D should be tough again this year. The Offense is less than thrilling. Forte will be the primary back to start the season. Hester will work in WR duties and has the potential to be explosive, but I'm not betting the farm on it. Olsen could have a breakout year and is poised to shine in an otherwise lackluster offense.

Cincinnati Bengals

Top Players

1. T.J. Houshmandzadeh

2. Chad Johnson

3. Carson Palmer

4. Rudi Johnson

Analysis: Call 911 because the Bengals could very well be an offensive car wreck. Housh and Ocho Cinco are fantasy staples, but both are a hit away from missing games. In fact, I would bet the farm that Johnson (playing with a torn labrum) misses at least 2 games this year. Palmer's value goes up if his two star wideouts can remain healthy. Rumors continue to circle around Rudi. Who knows where he'll end up. Walking papers could be right around the corner.

Cleveland Browns

Top Players

1. Braylon Edwards

2. Jamal Lewis

3. Kellen Winslow

4. Derek Anderson

Analysis: Say what you will about Lewis, but I think he'll put last year's numbers to shame. He gets a ton of yardage after the hit and he'll do very well this year. Start him without hesitation. Anderson and Edwards should put up some great numbers this year and should also be started without hesitation.

Dallas Cowboys

Top Players

1. Marion Barber

2. Tony Romo

3. Terrell Owens

4. Jason Witten

Analysis: The Cowboys are once again the team to beat. The Top 4 I list are all fantasy studs. Barber will no doubt put up serious numbers this year. Romo under center just begs fantasy leagues to throw points at T.O. and Witten. Crayton has been given the nod and could be a sleeper.

Denver Broncos

Top Players

1. Selvin Young

2. Brandon Marshall

3. Jay Cutler

4. Tony Scheffler

Analysis: This is Cutler's coming out year and both Young and Marshall will be beneficiaries.

Detroit Lions

Top Players

1. Kevin Smith

2. Calvin Johnson

3. Roy Williams

4. Jon Kitna

Analysis: No, it's not a typo. I would put Calvin Johnson just ahead of Roy Williams for fantasy owners this year. I know Johnson still has to prove himself, but I think you'll see that this year.

Green Bay Packers

Top Players

1. Ryan Grant

2. Greg Jennings

3. Donald Driver

4. Aaron Rodgers

Analysis: If Rodgers performs poorly (I already predicted an injury by Game 2), expect defenses to stack the box making it difficult for last season's breakout Ryan Grant. If Rodgers shows he belongs as the starting QB, Jennings and Driver should have great years, however don't expect Jennings to have a repeat of last year.

Houston Texans

Top Players

1. Andre Johnson

2. Matt Schaub

3. Owen Daniels

Analysis: I only list 3 players here because I don't think Brown or Green will be outstanding and who knows which one will still be there? Green's injury-prone and I wouldn't start him unless you are in a very, very deep league. Expect Schaub and Johnson to have great years and they're definitely the show to see in Houston.

Indianapolis Colts

Top Players

1. Joseph Addai

2. Peyton Manning

3. Reggie Wayne

4. Marvin Harrison

5. Dallas Clark

Analysis: I make up for only listing 3 players for Houston by listing 5 here. All are perennial favorites and worthy of starting in your leagues.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Top Players

1. Maurice Jones-Drew

2. David Garrard

3. Fred Taylor

4. Jerry Porter

Analysis: Jones-Drew is the catalyst and will be a go for Week 1. Garrard could have a good year if his receivers could just stay healthy.

Kansas City Chiefs

Top Players

1. Larry Johnson

2. Tony Gonzalez

3. Dwayne Bowe

4. Brodie Croyle

Analysis: Johnson will be the jewel in this offense, but I wouldn't expect him to reach the fantasy levels of the past. His yards per carry have decreased but he'll be expected to carry another heavy workload. Use him, but control your expectations and you'll be happy.

Miami Dolphins

Top Players

1. Ronnie Brown

2. Ricky Williams

3. Ted Ginn Jr.

4. Chad Pennington

Analysis: This is one puzzle I'm having difficulty putting together. Brown or Williams? Who knows right now. Chad is Chad - don't expect much even in a warmer climate.

Minnesota Vikings

Top Players

1. Adrian Peterson

2. Bernard Berrian

3. Vikings defense

4. Sidney Rice

Analysis: Tarvaris Jackson will be under center in Week 1, but this show belongs to AP. Peterson should have an incredible year, and combined with one of the toughest defenses in the NFL, the Vikings could be the team to beat in the NFC North.

New England Patriots

Top Players

1. Tom Brady

2. Randy Moss

3. Wes Welker

4. Laurence Maroney

Analysis: Pick a target Tom - every one of them is a stud. Even if Brady doesn't come close to last year's numbers, he'll still be the #1 QB in the NFL. Moss and Welker are both set to start and will produce great stats this year. Maroney will thrive this year as defenses worry about being burned by yet another Brady-Moss TD.

New Orleans Saints

Top Players

1. Drew Brees

2. Marques Colston

3. Reggie Bush

4. Jeremy Shockey

Analysis: Brees will put on an airshow this year with three great targets in Colston, Bush, and Shockey. Combine all that talent with a fairly easy schedule and you're looking at a recipe for success.

New York Giants

Top Players

1. Brandon Jacobs

2. Plaxico Burress

3. Eli Manning

4. Giants DEF

Analysis: The Giants Defense took a hit with Osi's injury, but they're still mean. Hopefully, Jacobs and Bradshaw don't share too much time in the backfield. I was shocked to see the Giants win the Super Bowl and would be even more shocked to see them there again this year. Eli is no Peyton and should be drafted as such. Plaxico will start Week 1 and should perform well this season.

New York Jets

Top Players

1. Thomas Jones

2. Brett Favre

3. Laveranues Coles

4. Jerricho Cotchery

Analysis: Don't expect 4,100+ yards out of Favre this year, but he's still a #1 fantasy QB and he brings up the values of everyone else. Jones should flourish as opposing defenses will be kept honest with the ole' gunslinger behind center.

Oakland Raiders

Top Players

1. Darren McFadden

2. Ronald Curry

3. Justin Fargas

4. Javon Walker

Analysis: While Fargas is #1, McFadden has so much more upside to him and I think he'll outperform Fargas in the same way that I picked Johnson over Williams in Detroit. Change is coming.

Philadelphia Eagles

Top Players

1. Brian Westbrook

2. Donovan McNabb

3. Reggie Brown

4. DeSean Jackson

Analysis: Curtis doesn't make the list with his hernia surgery, and probably shouldn't be started by fantasy owners once he returns this season. Jackson has been a pleasant surprise and I'd expect that to continue as he matures. There's a good supporting cast in Philly, but the star of the show is Westbrook and he won't disappoint.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Top Players

1. Ben Roethlisberger

2. Willie Parker

3. Santonio Holmes

4. Hines Ward

Analysis: Parker isn't the stud he used to be and probably won't be in the Big Ben show. Roethlisberger is a target for every defense and there's good reason for that. Expect him to put on an aerial display this year.

San Diego Chargers

Top Players

1. LaDainian Tomlinson

2. Antonio Gates

3. Chris Chambers

4. Philip Rivers

Analysis: There's a reason LT is ranked first on the Nerd - he's consistently great. Gates may not be in a league unto himself, but he's still one of the best. Not mentioned but certainly worthy is the Charger Defense.

San Francisco 49ers

Top Players

1. Frank Gore

2. Vernon Davis

3. Isaac Bruce

4. Bryant Johnson

Analysis: If you're in a PPR league, Gore should play out nicely for you. O'Sullivan will be under center and will hopefully give Gore some breathing room. Mark my words: this is the year that Gore finally goes double digits in the TD count.

St. Louis Rams

Top Players

1. Steven Jackson

2. Torry Holt

3. Marc Bulger

4. Randy McMichael

Analysis: Now that the contract issues have been resolved, Jackson is a must-start in an offense that revolves around him. He can catch. He can run. He's a load to bring down. Yep - sounds like another fantasy stud season for Jackson.

Seattle Seahawks

Top Players

1. Matt Hasselbeck

2. Julius Jones

3. Nate Burleson

4. Seahawks DEF

Analysis: Hasselbeck will be throwing the ball Week 1 and Burleson should be a primary target with Branch and Engram out for at least the first few weeks. Jones is good, but sharing RB duties with Morris diminishes his value some.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top Players

1. Earnest Graham

2. Joey Galloway

3. Warrick Dunn

4. Jeff Garcia

Analysis: Not much to get excited about here, but Graham and Galloway are always interesting to watch. Both are coming off last season where several games were good performances. That should repeat again this year.

Tennessee Titans

Top Players

1. LenDale White

2. Chris Johnson

3. Vince Young

4. Justin Gage/Justin McCareins

Analysis: White and Johnson will most likely share RB duties potentially diluting their values. Gage and McCareins are both talented enough to make Vince Young look good at times. Crumpler's value is up a bit after his departure from ATL.

Washington Redskins

Top Players

1. Clinton Portis

2. Chris Cooley

3. Jason Campbell

4. Santana Moss

Analysis: Gotta love Portis. He'll have lots of playing time and should see quite a few touches this year. Cooley is a great TE to have on your team, but the rest of the Redskins are just bench fillers. Moss was a disappointment last year and will most likely be again this year. "Consistency" is NOT his middle name. Campbell is average and will put up average numbers.

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