Former Super Bowl MVP S Dexter Jackson continues to not pan out
as a big free agent signing. Plagued by back problems this preseason,
his season is over as he was placed on the IR. Quentin Harris
was the in-house option that moved into the starting free safety
spot, but the team also acquired Ifeanyi Ohalete after Washington
cut him, and he could be another option.
The career of disappointing former 1st round pick Wendall Bryant
took another negative turn, he's been suspended the first four
games of the year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
However, DT Darnell Dockett will be an impact rookie.
LeVar Woods appears to have beaten out rookie Karlos Dansby to
start opposite Ray Thompson at OLB in Week One. However, Thompson
is Doubtful and Dansy could still see significant time.
The Falcons are back to a base 4-3, with Chris Draft now in the
middle and Keith Brooking on the weakside. Brooking is a tackle-machine,
so the move doesn't hurt his value, and actually may help it.
He should be turned loose on the blitz more and register some
more sacks this season. Draft is coming off a career year, so
it's hard to say a move to MLB will help his value. Also, he has
been battling asthma problems this preseason, and if he can't
go or needs a rest frequently, Brooking may end up back in the
middle. Promising rookie Demorrio Williams would be the biggest
beneficiary of any limitations for Draft. The move to a 4-3 could
also help sack totals for DE's Patrick Kerney and Brady Smith.
1st round pick DeAngelo Hall is out for a couple months due to
a hip injury. While he has made some outrageous claims about his
40 speed, Randy Moss gave him a lesson in football speed this
preseason, toasting the rookie and then running away from him
on a 67-yard TD.
With LB Peter Boulware on the PUP, the continued development
of Terrell Suggs and a breakthrough for Adalius Thomas will be
critical. Thomas has been a special teams standout and his athleticism
and potential have been praised for years, but he's failed to
turn it into success in as a starter. He could be a big sleeper
this year, especially in leagues he qualifies as a DL. A sophomore
slump by Suggs while Boulware is out will decrease the pressure
from the edges that has helped make the Ravens D so successful.
S Ed Reed is a ball-hawk with tremendous instincts. He is one
of the top playmakers in the league on defense and special teams.
SS Lawyer Milloy hoped to return in time for Week One from a
broken arm, but he's Out this week and Coy Wire will start in
his place. Wire was a top sleeper last year when he appeared to
be tabbed for a starting job, until Milloy was released by NE
and signed by Buffalo just before the season started. He is a
good play while Milloy is out.
SS Donavan Darius has been working on his hands this off-season
and is dedicated to improving his INT totals. Deke Cooper has
impressed at both safety spots. He is a name to remember if Darius
or Grant go down.
With a variety of injuries and incompetence at the corners for
the Bears, rookie Nathan Vasher is a potential starter Week One.
If he does, it will likely be lined up opposite his college teammate,
fellow rookie Roy Williams.
The loss of Jerry Azumah not only hurts the CB situation, but
he was a Pro Bowl kick-off returner.
FS Mike Brown appeared to have returned to being a big playmaker
this preseason. Lovie Smith's defensive philosophy is predicated
on turnovers, and Brown has shown a nose for the ball in the past.
He could have a nice rebound fantasy year.
The LB group has a lot of upside. Nate Webster is a first-year
starter at MLB. Webster's presence allows Hardy to move back to
his natural strongside position, where he was once a top pass
rush threat. It also allows Brian Simmons to stay on the weakside,
his best position. Webster and Hardy should be good value picks.
Former 1st round pick Gerard Warren showed up to camp in the
best shape of his career and may finally be ready to live up to
Greg Ellis switches to RDE after leading the team in sacks 4
of 5 years at LDE. Ellis will have to face the typically stronger
Left Tackles now. However, if FA Marcellus Wiley can return to
form and provide pressure from LDE, Ellis will be unlikely to
face as many double teams.
S Roy Williams appeared to be limited in Bill Parcells defensive
scheme last year, and didn't come close to matching his fantastic
rookie stats. However, he is too talented to not adapt, and should
find ways to turn in more big plays, increasing his fantasy output,
Despite a lot of talk about Bradie James working with the first
team at weakside LB, Dexter Coakley remains the starter. However,
James seems to be a guy Parcells likes and should be rotated in
regularly, perhaps at Al Singleton's expense, as well.
LB Donnie Spragan and Jashon Sykes are healthy and the new starters
at OLB, but 1st round pick D.J. Williams will be involved and
should claim a starting role soon.
CB Lenny Walls has the measurables and displayed the potential
to be a standout corner. His numbers will be helped playing opposite
DE Reggie Hayward had 8.5 sacks in a part-time role last year,
but failed to impress in the preseason and take Bert Berry's vacated
slot. Raylee Johnson will start, instead.
Bracy Walker gets first shot at starting SS with Brian Walker
on the IR. Terrence Holt could pass him shortly.
Rookie Teddy Lehman may be move around a bit, but has the most
talent with Boss Bailey out and should be on the field as much
as any LB.
New SS Mark Roman should have a breakout year. The trade of Marques
Anderson shows the confidence the team has in him and eliminates
a potential safety-by-committee.
1st round pick Dunta Robinson will be challenged frequently at
corner, which could translate to good fantasy output, regardless
of how good he is in real terms. Marcus Coleman, who moved to
FS due to Dunta, should see a boost to his fantasy numbers.
Despite other vet options and adding a few LBs in the draft,
converted S Cato June hung on to the weakside LB job, usually
a high-production fantasy spot in a Tony Dungy defense. The role
made a real and fantasy star out of David Thornton last year,
who faces a decrease in his stats moving to the strongside.
With Hugh Douglas and Tony Brackens gone, Paul Spicer and Rob
Meier will start at the ends. Bleh.
Rookie Daryl Smith has won the starting strongside job.
With Mike Maslowski on the IR, the middle is open. Kawika Mitchell
was drafted as his eventual replacement, but Mitchell was unimpressive
filling in last year and failed to secure the job while Maslowski
was hurt in preseason. Now Mitchell is Doubtful with a knee injury,
and converted DE Monty Beisel, who impressed in camp, will start
at MLB Week One. He could hold onto the job and be the biggest
breakout player this year.
Everyone talks about how Adewale Ogunleye will miss Jason Taylor,
but Taylor had back-to-back double-digit sacks playing opposite
O-Gun, but only one in the five years he played without him.
Antuan Edwards beat out Arturo Freeman to for FS, but he has
surrendered his starting role before.
No sign of 1st round pick Kenechi Udeze's back problems in the
preseason. He held the starting job and should be an impact rookie.
Fellow rookie Dontarrious Thomas will start on the weakside. Both
should be among the top producing rookies. Starting in the middle
with an excellent line in front of him, E.J. Henderson should
have a breakout year, if he can keep healthy and out of trouble
off the field.
SS Corey Chavous should be post good numbers again, but FS Brian
Russell's year was a fluke.
Rosevelt Colvin will be in the IDP spotlight as he returns from
a career-threatening hip injury. If he can regain his double-digit
sack form, an excellent defense should be even more potent.
After Cie Grant was placed on the IR, rookie Courtney Watson beat
out Orlando Huff for the first shot at MLB. His preseason reviews
were mixed, but a rookie winning a MLB job is a good bet in a
1st round pick DE Will Smith has been phenomenal in the preseason
and will see significant work between giving standouts Darren
Howard and Charles Grant a blow and lining up at OLB.
New York Giants
Osi Umenyiora is the next player to try to benefit from playing
opposite Michael Strahan. The expectations are high for the RDE
to capitalize on teams focusing on Strahan, but the last few players
have failed to deliver.
MLB Nick Greisen has about a tenuous a hold on a starting spot
as any player. Despite the Giants not tapping the waiver wire
for a replacement, Greisen hasn't gotten any strong endorsements
and has had some injury problems that cost him time. Equally unproven
Kevin Lewis would be next in line, and that may be the biggest
reason Greisen will hold the job.
New York Jets
DE John Abraham should rebound big from a 2003 season lost to
injury. His value should be helped by also spending some time
at OLB when they show a 3-4 scheme. On the other hand, DE Shaun
Ellis is coming off a career year, and seems unlikely to repeat
his performance, especially if they will be running more 3-4.
1st round pick Jonathan Vilma has impressed in camp and the preseason.
While he won't supplant Sam Cowart in the middle, he'll play alongside
him when they have a 3-4 look and could take time outside away
from Eric Barton and Victor Hobson.
Rookie Erik Coleman has been a pleasant surprise this preseason
and looks to have beaten Reggie Tongue out for the starting SS
Between players moving around due to the addition of more 3-4
looks in Rob Ryan's scheme and injuries, the Raiders LB group
is a mess. Sam Williams (Doubtful), Napolean Harris (Questionable)
and converted DE DeLawrence Grant (Questionable) have injuries
that might prevent them from being ready to start the season.
Dwayne Rudd, who seemed like a solid veteran addition to a young
group, was cut. Tyler Brayton will bounce between playing with
his hand on the ground and upright. Travian Smith, returning from
a knee injury last year, has looked great in the preseason. Smith
is definitely a guy to keep an eye on to build on his promising
2002 season. Danny Clark is the only other player who has been
healthy and looks to be lining up at LB on most downs.
Former 1st round pick Derrick Gibson will have to wait another
year to try to live up to his potential, as he was placed on the
IR. David Terrell was the next in-house SS option, after Ike Charlton
was cut, but Oakland then traded two low picks for Marques Anderson.
Anderson has flashed some potential in Green Bay, but while he
can turn in the big play occasionally, his inconsistency in making
the little ones in between landed him in the doghouse there.
When N.D. Kalu was lost for the year, the Eagles signed their
former stud DE, Hugh Douglas, hours after he was cut by the Jaguars.
However, Douglas will have to be satisfied to be a role player,
as Jevon Kearse is the new sheriff in town and promising Derrick
Burgess holds the other starting DE job, until he's injured again
or Douglas shows he regained the ability he lost in Jacksonville.
To add depth at LB, another familiar face from the past was brought
in. Jeremiah Trotter was signed and also is currently tagged for
a reserve role. His presence should still have a negative impact
on Mark Simoneau's fantasy production.
Despite big FA signings and the return of some former stars,
the most pivotal defensive players to the team are new starting
corners Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard. Losing the tandem of
Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor turn arguably the best secondary
in the NFL into an unknown quantity. With Brian Dawkins battling
knee problems in preseason and missing most of last year with
foot problems, it is no sure thing he will return to the same
level and help cover their mistakes. However, SS Michael Lewis
is developing into one of the better SS in the league, and is
definitely the fantasy pick at DB to have out of this group.
Once consistently the strength of a proud defense, the Steeler
LB unit is a question mark due to injuries. Joey Porter tries
to regain his form as a premier pass rusher after sporadic play
upon returning from a gunshot shot wound last year. Kendrell Bell
is plagued by shoulder problems and despite his talent, can be
a liability as an injury-prone player. After flashing great potential
last year, Clark Haggans was delaying in replacing Jason Gildon
by a broken hand in the preseason. At this point, the underrated
and less flashy James Farrior looks like the safest and best bet
in this group. Larry Foote is a player to watch if Bell once again
misses significant time.
Bryce Fisher and Tyoka Jackson will split time trying to replace
Grant Wistrom. Jackson is the player to take a chance on in deep
leagues. He should be in for passing situations and totaled six
sacks in limited duty last year.
Zack Bronson went from UDFA to star of 49ers defensive backfield
before neck and back
injuries derailed his career the last two years. Injuries have
lead the Rams to give him another shot, but the fact no one touched
him until the season is about to start discourages belief he can
return to form. He already sprained an ankle and is out Week One.
This prompted the Rams to give Jason Sehorn another chance, but
he failed a physical.
The Chargers will move to a 3-4 with Donnie Edwards and Randall
Godfrey inside, Ben Leber and Steve Foley outside. This may be
reason for slight concern for the numbers for Donnie Edwards (along
with his advancing age), however this is not a talented or fast
group. Edwards should continue to be a top producer.
SS Tony Parrish is Probable after missing the end of the preseason
with a torn calf.
LB Jaime Winborn is finally healthy and is high on many sleeper
lists. His durability remains a reason to be conservative on his
The placement of Damien Robinson on IR opens up the SS job. Terreal
Bierria held the job through the preseason, but rookie Michael
Boulware should claim the job soon. Regardless, FS Ken Hamlin
should have a breakout year and is the guy to have in this defensive
Bobby Taylor seemed a critical FA acquisition at corner after
the loss of Shawn Springs, but Ken Lucas has beat him out for
a starting job. Still, Tayor's veteran presences strengthens this
Orlando Ruff won the starting MLB job for Week One, but rookie
Niko Koutouvides and Solomon Bates were not far behind and could
see time if Ruff isn't impressing. Isiah Kacyvenski will be filling
for Chad Brown while he's out for a while with a broken leg.
DT Anthony McFarland is expected to step up and be the disruptive
force in the interior line to replace Warren Sapp. LB Ian Gold
returns from a torn ACL and looks to regain the playmaking form
he displayed in Denver.
LB Rocky Boiman filled in admirably for Peter Sirmon when injuries
struck him last year, Boiman now benefits in Sirmon's misfortune
again, as he has a starting job with Sirmon done for the year
with a torn ACL. With Jevon Kearse gone and Kevin Carter moving
inside, Tennessee may need some help generating a pass rush from
the edge, and call on Boiman to help do it.
With Kevin Carter moving inside, Carlos Hall and Juqua Thomas
are the starting ends. If Hall can't live up to the potential
he flashed his rookie year and/or Thomas shows he's nothing more
than a back-up, look for promising rookie Antwaan Odom to get
After an off-season of controversy regarding skipping the NFL
Rookie symposium, agent musical chairs, missing OTAs, and a brief
holdout, FS Sean Taylor got it done, as expected, when the pads
were on. He was absolutely dominating, at times, in preseason
games, creating several turnovers and even scoring a TD. Some
tremendous talent has been revolutionizing the S position the
last few years in Roy Williams and Ed Reed, but Sean Taylor has
the physical tools to be the best.