The Ups and Downs of the Preseason

If recent blockbuster action dramas such as Inception (with Leo), Taken (with Liam Neeson) and Iron Man 2 (with Scarlett Johansson) kept you on the edge of your seat, then the 2010 NFL preseason should have you holding onto your armchair as your blood pressure rises.

From the above statement you can deduce two true statements. 1) I haven’t been to the movies much since my 11-month-old son was born, and 2) there is no shortage of action in the preseason with regard to fantasy football.

One minute a player can be the most intriguing thing since sliced bread, and the next he’s a nobody —or, the other way around. Check it out.

RISING

Arian Foster, RB, Texans

The example of the week, folks. The second-year man from Tennessee played well in Weeks 16 and 17 a year ago and had the upper hand over Ben Tate and Steve Slaton for the starting gig heading into the preseason. After preseason Week 1, Foster is pretty much guaranteed the feature back role in Houston this year, but not because he rushed for 31 yards on four carries. Rather, because Tate suffered a season-ending broken ankle and Slaton was unimpressive, fumbling once and averaging 2.2 yards on 10 carries. Foster’s value is skyrocketing, but be careful not to take him too high. He’s a solid sixth- or seventh-round pick if you go WR early.

Brett Favre, Visanthe Shiancoe, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, Vikings

With his announcement that he’ll play for the Vikes this season, Favre obviously looks like a top-10 QB yet again. This also does wonders for the fantasy value of Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, who project as the team’s starting wideouts, and TE Visanthe Shiancoe. Rice is dealing with a hip injury, but now at least owners can feel good about his situation when he returns to full speed. As for Harvin’s health, he returned to practice this week, and while no one really knows anything specific about the migraines, I wouldn’t let concern about them affect his draft status. Even if he did collapse at practice Thursday.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers

If you didn’t get a chance to watch Mathews play against the Bears in preseason Week 1, he looked as legit as his stat line —nine carries for 50 yards and two catches for 11 yards. The kid is the real deal and now projects as a late first-rounder in all formats.

Legedu Naanee, WR, Chargers

Naanee, 26, has worked his way into a situation where he’s likely to start at flanker for the Chargers. The 6-2, fourth-year receiver looked good in preseason Week 1, hauling in a 28-yard TD pass from Philip Rivers while running with the first team against Chicago. Consider him a great late-round sleeper WR5 or WR6.

Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals

After doubting Breaston most of the offseason, I’m hearing great things about him recently. He has apparently made great strides since last year and is farther ahead of Early Doucet than I originally thought. With Larry Fitzgerald nursing a sprained MCL, look for Breaston to be the focal point of Arizona’s passing attack early in the year.

FALLING

Ben Tate, RB, Texans

I’m not going to lie: I’m disappointed about this one. I really thought he had a legit chance to beat out Arian Foster, but now we will have to wait until 2011 to find out because Tate suffered a broken ankle in preseason Week 1. The kicker is that with Kenny Irons (2007 draft pick by Cincinnati) and James Davis (2009 rookie with Cleveland) going down either prior to or early in their rookie seasons, then struggling to regain any fantasy value, dynasty owners may now start to question whether Tate will tumble down the same path.

Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars

I know he’s still the No. 1 in Jacksonville, and he had a solid 2009 campaign, but don’t rely on this guy as your WR1 or WR2. As he continued to prove in preseason Week 1, he’s extremely injury prone. His shoulder might be out of a sling soon, but we all know the next injury is waiting for him somewhere around Week 3.

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.

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