So close, you can almost feel Troy Polamalu’s hair, hear Brett Favre giggle in the huddle like a schoolkid on the playground and smell the fear of anyone trying to keep Jared Allen out of their backfield.
Players have practiced, studied film and ran the minefield-like gauntlet of preseason games. And along the way, certain NFL players made a name for themselves. Others fell out of grace. Below are a few players who have seen their fantasy stock rise or fall considerably leading into Week 1 matchups.
Jabar Gaffney, DEN. A journeyman receiver who seemed destined for mediocrity in the NFL, Gaffney has seemed to find himself in the right place at the right time. He soaked up Josh McDaniels’ offense like a Brawny paper towel absorbs spilled coffee and has developed critical chemisty with Kyle Orton. He finished the regular season with a 14-for-213 performance against Kansas City, and after carrying over that success into the preseason, Gaffney is looking like a sneaky starting wide receiver that you likely got for peanuts in your respective fantasy drafts.
Arian Foster, HOU. For those still paying attention at the end of the 2009 season, Foster put on a little exhibition to the tune of 19-for-97 against Miami in Week 16 and 20-for-119 against the Patriots in Week 17. The addition of rookie Ben Tate deflated the expectations for Foster until Tate was lost for the season to injury. Now Foster is rapidly climbing everyone’s running back rankings for the 2010 season.
Jerome Harrison, CLE. Another back who fared very well during the latter weeks of last season, Harrison’s value was trumped by the drafting of rookie Montario Hardesty. Until, like Tate, Hardesty was lost for the season to injury, and Harrison finds himself in the drivers seat again. Some suggest that Harrison’s value will be hampered by the Browns erratic offense, but Jamal Lewis found ways to be fantasy-relevant in Cleveland, and Harrison himself racked up a ridiculous 561 yards rushing on 106 carries over just three games to close out the 2009 season.
Derek Anderson, ARI. Not that Anderson has a great track record … but he does find himself in the right place at the right time. Handed the starting QB gig in Arizona when Matt Leinart bombed and was dumped, Anderson has the weapons to be adequate in the NFL, although his overall track record suggests he has a better chance to implode at some point than lead the Cardinals to the promised land. His Week 1 matchup with the Rams is a good way to ensure a positive start to the season.
Jermichael Finley, GB. No tight end since Antonio Gates has seen such a dramatic spike in value as Mr. Finley. He’s a top option on a pass-happy team with an elite quarterback slinging him the pigskin. He skyrocketed up the fantasy draft boards and could be the next face of the position from a fantasy standpoint. A Week 1 matchup against an Eagles squad notorious for giving up big tight end stats bodes well for Finley right out of the gates in 2010.
Kareem Huggins, TB. Lost in the hype train that is rookie receiver Mike Williams in Tampa is Huggins, who vaulted past Derrick Ward into the No. 2 RB slot behind a Carnell “Cadillac” Williams who has plenty of injury history. A non-factor in most drafts earlier this summer, it is hard to find a league where Huggins isn’t drafted now, and he could find himself as the No. 1 back on the squad by season’s end.
Justin Forsett, SEA. Expected by many to be the lead horse in the Seattle backfield after some decent performances late in 2009, Forsett hasn’t siezed the opportunity. Seahawks brass haven’t shown they trust Forsett with a larger chunk of the offense on his shoulders, bringing in Leon Washington and even LenDale White for a time to compete for the starting gig. While Forsett is the No. 1 option heading into Week 1, Washington is option 1A, and will likely snag plenty of carries away from Forsett. This is looking more and more like a committee approach that most should avoid in fantasy circles.
Brett Favre, MIN. Vikings fans rejoiced when he made his official announcement to come back for one more run at a Super Bowl. However, one wonders exactly what Favre has been thinking since then. Getting the news that his security blanket and top receiver Sidney Rice is out at least the first half of the season … possibly the whole campaign … due to injury. Seeing that young pass catching dynamo Percy Harvin is still struggling with major migraine headaches to a point where he can’t even field a punt without blacking out. There is little doubt that Favre can will himself and the players around him to wins, but with a shrinking supporting cast, a tough schedule, a gimpy ankle and another year of age should make fantasy owners leary in 2010.
Anquan Boldin, BAL. I know … guy who thrived as a No. 2 receiver finally getting his shot to be the main target. Story seems oddly familiar, though. Sort of like one T.J. Houshmanzadeh, who rocked as the WR2 in Cincinnati before struggling with the full-time gig in Seattle. Boldin’s aptitude to wear down over the course of a season, back when Larry Fitzgerald was drawing the heaviest coverage, makes me wonder if Boldin can survive a full season as a lead pass catcher. Even if he can, he has to travel to Revis Island this coming Sunday, so don’t expect a big stat start to the season for Anquan.
Shonn Greene, NYJ. Everyone fell in love with the Shonn Greene who lit things up in the playoffs for the Jets. From a fantasy standpoint, many expected him to carry over that success into a breakout 2010 campaign. Enter LaDanian Tomlinson, who tapped into the fountain of youth this preseason and proved that he is not yet officially washed up. Greene’s utter lack of activity in the passing game will only lead to even more looks going Tomlinson’s way. Plus, a brutal schedule for running backs, especially in the fantasy playoff weeks, won’t help matters.
Julian Edelman, NE. After opening eyes late last season in place of an injured Wes Welker, much was expected of Edelman as a possession receiver for the Patriots this year as Welker wasn’t expected back quite a ways into the 2010 season. However, a miraculous comeback for Welker this preseason well before any of the experts expected has relegated Edelman to prospect with upside status. A current undisclosed injury doesn’t help matters.
Jason Witten, DAL. People drafted him based on yardage and receptions. However, he barely eked out three touchdowns last season and the Cowboys have added Dez Bryant to a receiving corps that is getting more and more crowded. Miles Austin, Bryant and Felix Jones will get their fair share of attention in the passing game in 2010, and one wonders how Witten will improve upon last year’s numbers with so much more competition for Romo’s attention.
Who are your stock up/stock down players? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.