By David Ferris
Jake Locker, QB, Titans: He's been installed as the Tennessee starter, and he'll do two specific things that are appealing to fantasy owners: chuck the ball medium and deep, and run when the pocket breaks down. Locker's Tennessee weapons are better than you might think; all signs point to a bounce-back season from tailback Chris Johnson (a handy receiver), and the receiving corps is very deep even if Kenny Britt isn't a factor. (Nate Washington might be the most underrated wideout in the league; Kendall Wright is making a rookie splash; and Jared Cook is a steadily-improving tight end.) If you need to go with more than one quarterback at the draft table, Locker is a strong upside choice to consider.
Cedric Benson, RB, Packers: While there's little explosiveness or lateral agility left to Benson's game, the Packers don't need him to be an earth-mover in the backfield. All Green Bay wants is a ball-security back who can produce 3-4 yards and a cloud of dust every so often, with some goal-line plunges thrown in. Benson offers all that, and he's a solid depth play as your third or (preferably) fourth fantasy back in standard formats. The Packers basically used Aaron Rodgers as their goal-line back the last couple of years, but they'd prefer to shift that work (and those body shots) to someone else.
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars: He didn't endear himself to the Jacksonville organization with the post-draft DUI charge, but Blackmon's game has been impressive in training camp. The first-round pick has eight grabs for 120 yards during limited exhibition play, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert looks notably improved in his second season. Once the Top 40 wideouts are gone from your draft, Blackmon looks as good as anyone. There's certainly an upside here.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders: He's had a full training camp to get acclimated with quarterback Carson Palmer, and DHB's role could be expanding given that Denarius Moore (hamstring) and Jacoby Ford (foot) are battling injuries. Someone is likely to push 1,000 yards and 7-9 touchdowns here, and Heyward-Bey gets the best odds at the moment.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings: He's the perfect lottery-ticket back to have stashed on your bench, given all the smoke around Adrian Peterson's situation. Gerhart showed surprising chops in 132 touches last year (4.9 yards per carry, 8.3 yards per catch), and every comment on Peterson this summer is couched in the most uncertain of terms. When in doubt in the NFL, bet on the chaos - or at least be prepared for it.
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: He made his preseason debut Thursday and didn't go anywhere (six carries, 12 yards), in part because Arizona's offensive line is the worst in the NFC right now. Wells is one of the most injury-plagued backs in the league, and a healthy Ryan Williams is going to push him all season. A changing of the guard is likely here, it's just a matter of when. Unless the price is peanuts on draft day, just keep Wells out of your plans.
Austin Collie, WR, Colts: He was one of our favorite sleeper targets a week or two ago, but another possible concussion has us backing off that pick. Someone is going to have a sneaky value season in the Indianapolis passing game this year, but will Collie be healthy enough to take advantage of the set-up? Go get Reggie Wayne or one of the tight ends instead.
Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets: He's now dealing with a hamstring problem along with a sore hamstring and bruised ribs. His quarterbacks aren't doing him any favors (and vice versa). If you have to take a New York wide receiver, spend a late pick on intriguing rookie Stephen Hill. There's too much downside with Holmes, given his price tag.
Matt Flynn, QB, Seahawks: He's had an up-and-down camp and the club is giving hotshot rookie Russell Wilson a chance at the job (Wilson starts this weekend in the all-important third preseason game). Even if Flynn breaks camp as the No. 1, it's doubtful he'll keep the position all year. Much like Andy Reid made Kevin Kolb in Philadelphia, it appears Flynn might be a creation of the passing laboratory in Green Bay.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: We still think he'll end his holdout before the regular-season starts - players hate to start forfeiting game checks, and all running backs know how limited their NFL window is. If you want to worry about the effect of the holdout on MJD's season, fine, but we'll be stunned if he misses actual games. He's still a good bet to be a Top 12 fantasy back when the scores are totaled at the end of the year. You might get a silly discount on Jones-Drew this weekend.