PFW takes an early look at fantasy news and notes from around the league
Aug. 20, 2003
The good news for Dolphins QB Jay Fiedler, who missed Miami’s preseason opener because of back spasms, is that he was feeling fit as a fiddle the entire week leading up to his 2003 debut vs. Jacksonville, throwing the ball well in practice without any signs of pain. He proceeded to perform respectably in his preseason debut vs. the Jaguars, completing 7-of-11 passes for 53 yards and one TD in his three series. Fiedler’s only blemish was an overthrow to a wide-open Chris Chambers deep over the middle.
The Steelers’ offensive line is a mess, so don’t draft QB Tommy Maddox too high. C Jeff Hartings is nursing a knee injury. OLT Marvel Smith is trying to adjust to a new position. ORT Oliver Ross has been shaky. ORG Kendall Simmons missed the first part of camp with a diabetic condition, although he again is practicing. The line really struggled in the preseason opener vs. the Lions, when Maddox was sacked on each of the Steelers’ first two possessions. If the Steelers’ line doesn’t get its act together, Maddox will not last the season. Until the line stabilizes, draft Maddox as a backup in a 10-team league. Owners in bigger leagues that take Maddox should draft a quality backup. If Maddox is under consistent fire, Hines Ward will have more fantasy value than Plaxico Burress. Ward gets more work underneath, while Burress is a deep threat. Of course, if Maddox doesn’t have much time to throw, it really could hurt both receivers’ numbers.
With no accomplished receiver opposite Derrick Mason, the Titans hope TE Erron Kinney can be the difference in the middle of the field. Kinney is a big target worth a look in two-TE leagues. ... If RB Fred Taylor (leg) continues to sit, consider picking up his backup, rookie LaBrandon Toefield, as late-round insurance.
Broncos WR Ashley Lelie is being billed as a “budding star” by those close to the team and is expected to be in the starting lineup in Week One. … Keep an eye on San Diego TE Stephen Alexander’s groin injury. He has a history of similar trouble that has forced him to miss time.
Just because RB Trung Canidate will likely open the season in the Redskins’ starting lineup doesn’t mean you should draft him. Canidate has done nothing special so far, winning the job by default. Want a sleeper? Try Redskins RB Chad Morton, who doubles as a receiver out of the backfield and is a superior return man, if your league rewards special-teams points.
The Vikings settled on RB Onterrio Smith as their starter last week. Smith ran very well — showing speed, power and good vision — behind the second-team offensive line. ... Though Green Bay WR Donald Driver has been injured, Packers’ coaches fully expect him to be back and better than a year ago with a year under his belt as Brett Favre’s top target.
The Saints’ decision to mostly rest RB Deuce McAllister in the preseason could lead to him getting off to a slow start in the regular season. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. … Be very concerned about the condition of Bucs PK Martin Gramatica, who is struggling with a sore groin muscle and has been sitting out some practices. Tampa is saying it isn’t a big issue, but the injury was worrisome enough for the team to audition some free agents as insurance.
Keep an eye on 49ers rookie WR Brandon Lloyd, who had a 39-yard TD reception in San Francisco’s preseason opener on his only catch and has looked good catching the deep ball. Lloyd, who performed in a West Coast offense similar to the Niners’ at the University of Illinois under Ron Turner, is pushing Cedrick Wilson hard for the No. 3 WR job. … Buyer beware: Seahawks No. 1 WR Koren Robinson has dropped a pair of very catchable passes in each of Seattle’s preseason games.