- Scott Engel, ESPN Fantasy Games
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Much of the player movement has thinned out recently, but the hardcore fantasy football player stays on top of all the latest news. There's still plenty to cover, so I am dedicated to keeping you fully up-to-date while you also prepare for your fantasy baseball season. Here's a quick-hitting roundup of some recent happenings.
Marvin Harrison's status: Colts owner Jim Irsay provided an update to the Indianapolis Star as Harrison recovers from offseason surgery on his right knee and rehabs his left knee. He said the left knee is "pretty much sound and ready to go. The other knee is coming along and there's no reason he can't be ready." Harrison is in the twilight of his career and is now a prime fantasy risk. That makes me want to avoid him until the late rounds and endorse Anthony Gonzalez as a big breakthrough player in his second year. Gonzalez may ultimately prove to be the best fantasy wide receiver to come out of the 2007 draft. He runs good routes and reads defenses well, skills that have helped him adjust to the pro game quickly. He has already earned the confidence of Peyton Manning. He can be a top-15 fantasy receiver next season, while Harrison won't get any attention from me unless he is still hanging around in the final rounds.
Monitoring Matt Leinart: Reports are positive on Matt Leinart's recovery from last year's broken collarbone. He told the Cardinals' official website he will be able to participate in all of the team's offseason work. "I think with the bone still mending and healing, it will probably take all summer, but I am good to go," he said. "I don't have to take a hit until August so I still have four months to keep getting stronger." As we saw with Eli Manning, many promising quarterbacks struggle early in their careers, but then turn the corner at some point and begin living up to expectations. Some, however, never pan out as expected. This year is pivotal for Leinart. Will he finally flip on the light switch in his head, start playing comfortably, and produce? All we can do is wait and see. Draft him as a later-round backup: he still has upside, but Kurt Warner should also be drafted late in case he is pressed into service again.
Brandon Marshall's misfortune: According to the Broncos' official site, Marshall suffered right forearm lacerations to one artery, one vein, one nerve, two tendons and three muscles in a recent accident. Marshall told the Denver Post that he "went hand-first into an entertainment system and, in trying to bridge myself, I went through the TV." He underwent surgery and full recovery is expected to take three to four months. Marshall should be ready for the 2008 season, so you can still target him as a No. 1 wideout in yearly drafts and feel safe about retaining him in keeper and dynasty leagues.
The Chad Johnson fiasco: He hasn't shown up for voluntary workouts and has made it clear he wants out of Cincinnati, but the Bengals continue to maintain they do not intend to move him. Johnson has already painted his ideal scenario in which he would end up in Dallas. A move out of Cincinnati could benefit Johnson from the fantasy perspective. He produces inconsistent numbers because he constantly gets double-teamed, despite the presence of T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Johnson could be more reliable and regain his ranking as an elite fantasy receiver if he ultimately leaves the Bengals. Of course, any sort of holdout could lead to a slow start to the season or affect his conditioning, making him a possible injury risk.
The Detroit running back situation: Tatum Bell decided to re-sign with Detroit. Meanwhile, the team released Kevin Jones, so Bell now has designs on becoming a starter again. Not so fast: Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto told the Detroit Free Press the team is targeting running back as one of its needs in the upcoming draft. Bell figures to be a part-time player at best, and even if Detroit doesn't use a first-rounder at the position, whomever they select will likely be a more physical runner than Bell, who doesn't do much inside at all. Target Bell only as a second backup next season, and a rookie running back in Detroit will be a sleeper to watch.
Uncomfortable outlook in Kansas City: The Chiefs may pinpoint a quarterback in the first round of the draft, and Herm Edwards told the Kansas City Star he wouldn't hesitate to go into the season with Brodie Croyle, Tyler Thigpen, who was released by Minnesota and later suffered a season-ending knee injury in his rookie year with the Chiefs in 2007, and a rookie at quarterback. That would put a major cramp in the Chiefs' offense. Larry Johnson would face stacked defensive fronts behind a shaky offensive line, and Dwayne Bowe may be hard-pressed to build on his rookie success. I wouldn't draft Johnson until at least the third round and wouldn't depend on Bowe as a consistent fantasy starter.
News from New Orleans: According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, Deuce McAllister's future with the Saints is uncertain. He is rehabbing two surgically-repaired knees while the team considers its future plans for him. By April 15, the Saints must decide whether to pay him a $1 million dollar roster bonus or terminate his contract. McAllister said his left knee is more troublesome than his right knee. If the Saints cut ties with the Deuce, another team will surely give him a shot, making him worth a mid-round pick. How the Saints replace him remains to be seen, but it's possible that Reggie Bush could get more goal-line work and that Pierre Thomas has sleeper potential. Perhaps most importantly, the team re-signed Aaron Stecker, who is looking like a valuable fantasy selection for 2008.
Wide receiver Marques Colston is also recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports he expects to be at full speed in his training by next month. That's good news, as Colston is a certain top-10 receiver and will hover just outside the top five in many expert rankings for 2008. While Saints fans wait for these recoveries to yield more news, they can enjoy the Arena Football Laeague's upstart VooDoo, who have won three of their first four games and are led by a tenacious defense and surprising new starting quarterback Danny Wimprine.
Brandon (Pittsburgh): We get to keep one guy from round 10 on, which leaves me with these options: JaMarcus Russell, Greg Jennings, Jake Delhomme or Anthony Gonzalez. At the end of the season I was doing backflips about keeping Jennings, but Aaron Rodgers scares me.
Engel: First, let's remove Delhomme from the equation. He could bounce back this year with a better receiving corps, but I like Russell better from the long-term perspective: Oakland will eventually get him more help, and there are no guarantees with Delhomme. Rodgers' job, first and foremost, will be to manage a game, and you can't assume he will play badly just because he is inexperienced. But he certatinly won't be a gunslinger, dropping Jennings' value to the point where he will be an unreliable No. 2 fantasy receiver. See my opinions on Gonzalez above. I love him as a keeper and future fantasy star. He's your man.
Byron (San Diego): I am in a keeper league where we hang onto four guys. Right now my candidates are Ben Roethlisberger, Joseph Addai, Antonio Gates, Torry Holt, Wes Welker, and Laurence Maroney. I think Roehlisberger and Addai are locks, Gates will be the third, and the fourth is a toss-up.
Engel: I agree that Addai is a lock. He is only going to further entrench his status as a versatile, elite running back in a powerful offense over the next few seasons. I like Roethlisberger and think he will cement himself as a top-10 fantasy quarterback, maybe even a bit better, in the next year or two, so keep him, too. Gates can still remain at the top of his position, but Maroney became a more complete runner late in 2007 and is primed for a breakthrough season in '08. Welker is solid -- and outstanding in PPR leagues -- but your team will be a force for the next few years with a RB duo of Addai and Maroney. Holt is still very good, but may only have one or two very good years left. Keep Roethlisberger, Maroney, Addai and Gates.
Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.
12mEthan Sherwood Strauss