- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Among the most watched players of the preseason, Redskins RB Clinton Portis stood out in particular. He entered entered camp battling knee tendinitis after having his 2006 season cut short by a broken hand and then shoulder surgery. With one of the most talented backups in the game -- Ladell Betts -- breathing down his neck, Portis ranked as one of the riskier picks among second-tier running backs heading into 2007.
Well, if Portis seemed a risk back in mid-July, how does he rank today? Reports have him practicing fully Tuesday, the first time that's happened this preseason. With just short of two weeks to go until the team's Week 1 contest, that leaves us with a short period of time to evaluate his health. In fact, it's the only day of full practice he'll have this week.
Portis is also a game-time decision for the Redskins' preseason finale on Thursday, a game that, while generally meaningless to fantasy, could be an important indicator to his 2007 season expectations. His numbers won't matter, the amount of time he plays won't matter, but what will matter is an appearance at all. Such a thing would instill a much safer feeling in the veteran from his current -- or prospective -- fantasy owners.
Regardless of Portis' conclusion to the preseason, it remains imperative that his owners do one of the following: Either handcuff him with Betts, who averaged 128.3 rushing yards as a starter in the final six weeks of 2006, or be sure to build a decent share of depth at the position, with a strong No. 3 and a handful of interesting upside options. Drafting Portis means being prepared for him to miss some regular-season time, so the safe play is to assume you'll need a strong alternative to him in those weeks.
As for Portis' draft position, he's currently going 27th on average in preseason drafts. That's a late-third round pick in a 10-team league, early-third in a 12-team league. Assuming all's well with him this week, that's a fair estimation, though it's probably a better idea to nab him only if you got a pair of better running backs with your first two picks.
Other News and Notes
• According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Packers running back Brandon Jackson might be limited in Week 1 due to a concussion he suffered during Sunday's practice. Coach Mike McCarthy told the paper that Jackson's injury was "mild," and that the rookie might be able to play in Thursday's preseason finale, though the team will almost assuredly play it safe if there's any doubt. Jackson hasn't been all that impressive this preseason, averaging only 3.3 yards per carry, though for fantasy he's the most exciting talent in the Packers' backfield. Let this news emphasize the shaky nature of rookies, and don't forget, the Packers aren't all that strong on the offensive line and might not have many leads to run out late in games. Don't get carried away with your expectations from Jackson. Vernand Morency and Noah Herron stand to benefit most if Jackson misses time.
• The news is better on Jets running back Thomas Jones, whose calf injury is improving. The New York Daily News reports that his rehabilitation program has intensified and he should be available for the team's Week 1 contest against the Patriots. That should ease the worries in Jones owners' minds, though Leon Washington remains a smart handcuff for those people in the late rounds of your drafts. Be prepared for a disappointing effort from Jones to kick off the season, though; the matchup isn't particularly stellar for fantasy.
• Bengals kicker Shayne Graham left Monday's preseason game in the second quarter due to a hip pointer. Coach Marvin Lewis was optimistic afterwards that Graham would be available for the team's Week 1 contest, but don't be surprised if the team lists him on the injury report and adds another kicker for insurance. Fortunately for fantasy owners who already have drafted, there is no shortage of decent, replacement-level kickers. If you haven't yet drafted, though, there's nothing worse than picking a kicker who might miss some time. Don't bother drafting Graham until he's officially cleared to play.
• The Patriots signed cornerback Asante Samuel to a one-year, $7.79-million contract on Tuesday, and he reported to camp on Monday. He had been unhappy about not agreeing to a long-term deal after being tabbed the team's franchise player in the offseason, coming off a breakout 2006 in which he notched 10 interceptions. Samuel should quickly reclaim his starting cornerback job, and while he's a long shot to repeat last year's impressive numbers, he'll strengthen an already-stout Patriots defense and again be a solid mid-range IDP (individual defensive player) pick.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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