'Tis the season for hype. Even though we are still a good month away from Week 1, in some respects it feels like the season has already started. That's because the buzz attached to certain players is at an all-time high during the month of August.
Rumors surrounding guys such as Brett Favre and Vincent Jackson continue to affect the value of various players, while several guys with less than a full year under their belts are being dubbed the next great statistical producers, based solely on 7-on-7 drills. On top of that, injuries —both new and old —are always a huge factor in fantasy decision-making at this time of year.
Cutting through the clutter of information that is training camp, here is a look at this week's fantasy risers and fallers.
Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers
If you're thinking of the Detroit Lions’10th overall selection from Southern Cal in 2005, you've got the wrong wideout. This Mike Williams is the fourth-round rookie who left the Syracuse Orangemen early last season and has battled the "troubled wide receiver" tag ever since. While the Bucs selected Williams and Arrelious Benn (Round 2) to form their starting WR corps as early as this season, it has been Williams who has looked like the true NFL No. 1 thus far in camp. The 6-2, 212-pound receiver has not only made a great impression on coaches, teammates and QB Josh Freeman, but he has also reportedly had a great attitude and not shown any signs of the off-the-field issues that plagued him at Syracuse. If your seasonal draft is scheduled for mid-August, you might be able to get him as a late-round flier, but the more people see this guy play, the higher his draft stock will rise. For dynasty owners, he's a top-10 rookie-only draft choice.
Johnny Knox, WR, Bears
The hype around the second-year speedster from Abilene Christian continues to grow. As soon as Mike Martz laid eyes on the fifth-round pick this spring, he started to fall in love with him. Knox is now being dubbed "the best fit" for Martz's offense, and word is that he'll play the Torry Holt role, which is the same one Roy Williams played under Martz in Detroit in 2006, when he recorded 82 catches for 1,310 yards and seven scores. While Knox might not reach those totals, many who have seen him practice this summer believe he's capable of a 1,000-yard season, which makes him a nice WR3 in all formats.
Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles
The 13th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft has reportedly looked like a beast at training camp thus far and should win a starting role opposite Trent Cole. The fact that Graham is officially a defensive end gives him a huge bump in value in leagues that require starters at defensive line. Since a rookie DE hasn't been a real factor since 1999, when Jevon Kearse racked up 14.5 sacks, he'll be available very late in seasonal formats. Dynasty leaguers might need to jump into the end of Round 2 of rookie drafts to secure him, however.
Arian Foster, RB, Texans
Perhaps nobody has been jocked harder than Foster this offseason. He finished his rookie year strong in Weeks 16 and 17, recording 97 yards and a TD on 19 carries against the Dolphins and 119 yards and two scores on 20 carries against the Patriots. Coach Gary Kubiak loves him, and he'll start the season as Houston's top back. However, with a healthy Steve Slaton and talented rookie Ben Tate on the roster, I'm not convinced he'll last long atop the depth chart. This means seasonal owners shouldn't overpay for him, and dynasty owners should sell him high right now.
Malcom Floyd and Buster Davis, WRs, Chargers
With Vincent Jackson's future in San Diego in jeopardy due to a holdout, combined with the fact that he'll miss the first three weeks of the 2010 season due to a league suspension, the 6-5 Floyd is penciled in as the team's WR1, with Legedu Naanee likely to start opposite him. Even though TE Antonio Gates is still truly the top target in this offense, Floyd has some serious sleeper potential. Don't jump to draft him too high, though, and consider letting someone else puff their chest out and try to be clever by taking a late-round flier on Naanee. Why? Well, 2007 first-round pick Davis has made some phenomenal catches and impressed coaches in training camp, to the point where he could end up playing a significant role. Davis is someone to follow closely in preseason games and could be a solid early-season waiver wire guy.
Aaron Schobel, DE, Free Agent
The veteran was recently released by Buffalo and is reportedly close to joining the Houston Texans. The Bills are moving to a 3-4 defense, and his release is great news for his fantasy value as he'll now have an opportunity to continue playing his natural 4-3 DE role. In leagues that require starters at defensive line, Schobel will have serious value should he sign with a 4-3 team. He'll also remain a double-digit sack threat if he joins the Texans and plays in a rotation with Mario Williams, Connor Barwin and Antonio Smith.
Stewart Bradley, LB, Eagles
In 2008, his first 16-game NFL season, Bradley racked up 108 total tackles and looked like a top LB candidate heading into 2009. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in training camp last year and missed the entire season. Now, reports are that Bradley is back to full health and will be ready to roll as Philly's starting MLB in 2010. Look for him to be a great late-round IDP sleeper and a potential tackle hog this year.
E.J. Henderson, LB, Vikings
Another starting MLB coming off a season-ending injury is Henderson, 30. The eighth-year veteran hasn't played a full season since 2007 due to toe and leg injuries, but he apparently is recovered from a gruesome broken leg and ready to reclaim his starting gig. He'll be overlooked in even the deepest IDP leagues, so maybe wait until the early-season waiver wire to snag him.
Dhani Jones, LB, Bengals
The 32-year-old journeyman who has taken on a TV career in recent offseasons apparently has a huge leg up on the MLB job in Cincy. As much as I'm really rooting for second-year man Rey Maualuga to earn the role, it looks like the 11th-year vet will be the Bengals' guy, with Maualuga sliding over to the strong side for a second straight season.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings
After a monster 2010 breakout campaign, Rice isn't worried about whether Brett Favre will return in 2010; he's focused on whether he'll be ready to go by Week 1. Reports are that his hip injury isn't healing and might require surgery. This means that he has two major question marks for owners to consider before drafting him: 1. Health; 2. Favre.
Lawrence Jackson, DE, Seahawks
When Patrick Kerney retired and Darryl Tapp was traded to Philly, it looked like Seattle was paving the way for LoJack —a first-round pick in 2008 —to play a full-time role in 2010. Things looked even brighter in the wake of the Seahawks’hiring of Jackson's former college coach, Pete Carroll, to lead the organization. But recent word out of Seahawks camp is that Jackson has lost his starting job to Red Bryant, a converted defensive tackle. Proceed with caution here until further notice.
Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Broncos
IDPers can cross this sack monster off their draft lists after he went down, likely for the year, with a torn pectoral muscle this week. Look for Denver's unit to suffer as a result, but a door is now open for 2009 first-rounder Robert Ayers to play a bigger role.
Paul Hickey is the lead contributor for Athlon Fantasy Football and operates the website NoOffseason.com, a 365-day resource for obsessive fantasy owners who eat, breathe and sleep fantasy football. While the site appeals to all fantasy heads, there is a special emphasis on dynasty formats and IDP leagues.