This is the first of the 4 busiest draft weekends and there's a few things you need to know before you enter that draft room.
Cedric Benson is expected to sign with the Green Bay Packers. The free agent RB ran for 1,067 yards last season. Benson would give the Packers a sorely needed boost at the running back position. He's currently ranked 53rd among all running backs on FantasyFootballNerd.com, but that value is expected to shoot up once the signing is official. Assuming Benson overtakes James Starks in the depth chart, he should make for a decent RB2 in most drafts.
In their first preseason game against the Packers, San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews broke his collarbone and is expected to miss the next 4 to 6 weeks following surgery. Mathews was being touted as fantasy gold this season going in the first round in virtually every draft prior to the injury. He's expected to drop to the second or third round now and could still serve as a nice RB2 option if you're comfortable with the undeniable health risk. He only played in 12 games his rookie season and 14 games last season. In PPR formats, he still has solid value once he comes back. He's still worth drafting, but do not reach for him.
As a fantasy owner who drafted Vick in an early draft, watching Vick come off the field in Thursday's preseason game against the Steelers made me wince. He hit his hand on the helmet of teammate Jason Kelce and came off the field shaking that hand. The x-ray on his thumb came back negative and he still has a month to go before the first game of the season, so I'm not too concerned. He's still worth drafting as QB1 and his FFN ranking hasn't budged (6th-ranked QB) so it would appear that the fantasy community isn't concerned either. Draft away.
I have enjoyed watching HBO's Hard Knocks with the Miami Dolphins. The QB race has been fun to watch. There's been a new twist to this saga however with the news that David Garrard will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery. He's expected to miss 2 to 4 weeks. After initially being placed atop the QB chart, his status as the starting QB could be in serious jeopardy. He has dropped down to 38th among QB's on FFN and 364th overall - not worth drafting in any league. In fact, no Miami QB is really worth drafting considering the incredible fantasy depth at the position.
Reports are that the Jaguars and Maurice Jones-Drew are in contact almost daily, but alas - no new contract. As a fantasy owner, I'm getting a bit nervous here as it isn't that far-fetched to begin the comparisons with Tennessee's Chris Johnson last year. As a general rule of thumb, holdouts equal terrible fantasy production. MJD was last season's rushing leader and clearly still an RB1. He's ranked 5th among RB's on FFN and that hasn't changed much over the past few weeks. He's going to go in the first round in most drafts so it would appear that the fantasy community isn't too concerned, however keep an eye on his ranking as the holdout continues.
Steeler's WR Mike Wallace still hasn't reported to camp but has been working out with NFL trainer Tom Shaw. The Steelers have repeatedly stated that they will not discuss his contract until he reports to camp. Overall, Wallace has a great fantasy schedule this season so it's a shame that he's missing camp. He was a great fantasy option last season, but frankly his holdout puts his fantasy safety in question. He's risky right now as a WR1 but will make a great WR2 in all formats. This is in line with his FFN rank of 13th among WR's and 34th overall.
Rookie Trent Richardson was such an attractive fantasy option this preseason. He was going in the first round of most drafts and was a Top 10 RB overall. Since the announcement that he would undergo minor knee surgery, we have learned that he will undergo a 2nd knee surgery. This is not what you want to hear before your fantasy draft kicks off. Richardson has fallen to 13th among RB's and 29th overall on FantasyFootballNerd.com. His ADP rank on FantasyFootballCalculator.com has dipped to the end of the 2nd round/beginning of the 3rd round. Richardson has not carried the ball in a single NFL game, but he is the only viable fantasy option in that Cleveland offense. I don't have the stomach to take Richardson as my RB1 and I'm not certain that I have the appetite for risk to put him on my team, but the fantasy community disagrees with me. He's a high end RB2 based upon his ranking.
Despite not having a stud QB throwing to him, Dwayne Bowe can generally be counted on to produce double-digit PPR points each week. Unfortunately, his holdout puts his fantasy value in question. With a relatively easy fantasy schedule, Bowe should be high on the target list, however he's currently ranked 22nd among WR's on FFN. In 12-team leagues, he's a low end WR2. He only turned in 5 scores last season but he notched 81 receptions which is great in PPR formats. Bowe is currently going in the 6th round in most drafts so don't reach for him prior to that.
If you miss out on drafting Bowe, look to target Jon Baldwin who's currently ranked 56th among WR's on FFN. He's currently going in the 11th round of most drafts and could be tremendous value that late in the draft. He's big and solid with the potential to be a legitimate stud WR down the road. Baldwin makes a great late round pick.
With only 7 passes on which to make a judgement, Manning looked pretty solid as he stepped back into action against the Bears in his first preseason game of the year. He had one deflected interception, but overall he reminded me of the Peyton of old. I have continually called Manning the best value of the 2012 fantasy draft and I see no reason to stop doing so. He has moved up in the FFN rankings and is currently sitting at 11th among all QB's. In 12-team leagues, he's a QB1. In smaller leagues, he's going as a backup with enough upside to make him an incredible QB2. Don't rush to draft him, but be very thankful if he falls to you.
What a difference a year makes. At this point, Rashard Mendenhall isn't even on my radar screen. He is unlikely to see action until at least the 6th week making his draft value nonexistent. He's being taken in the 11th round in most drafts according to MockDraftCentral.com. Frankly, I think we'll find Mendenhall available on the waiver wire in deeper leagues. He's 56th among RB's on FFN and likely belongs there. Isaac Redman is the only viable Steelers RB and he's sitting 29th among all RB's on FFN - certainly worth a pick as a backup/bye week replacement.
Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, and Randy Moss
Terrell Owens is suiting up for the Seahawks. Chad Johnson is wearing #85 in Miami. Randy Moss is wearing red in San Francisco. We have 3 previously elite WR's finding new homes this year and someone in your league is bound to draft them on the value of their names alone. Owens is ranked 61st among WR's on FFN just ahead of Johnson (ranked 63rd) and well behind Randy Moss (ranked 54th). None of these guys will be able to find WR1 or WR2 value this year. Johnson is clearly the #1 WR on the Dolphins and he'll see some action - certainly more than he did last season in New England. UPDATE: Johnson has been released by the Dolphins after his arrest on domestic disturbance charges.
Randy Moss is going in the 8th round in most leagues - far too soon for my tastes. T.O. and Johnson are going in the 11th round - fine for late round fliers.
Cardinals running back Beanie Wells is off the PUP list for camp so we expect the competition to heat up for the starting RB position. A lot of eyes are upon Ryan Williams. Beanie is the current favorite to get the starting nod, but his value is questionable if Williams is able to cut away at his touches. I'm not excited about Wells this season. He's currently ranked 24th among running backs on FFN which makes him a low end RB2/high end RB3. I'm not comfortable with Wells as my RB2, but I would be happy to have him as my RB3. For now, Williams isn't worth drafting as anything other than a handcuff, and he's not that exciting in that role either.