Fantasy football stock watch

Fantasy football stock watch

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com

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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.

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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.

Holding Steady

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.

Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

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Preview: White Sox, Royals tangle Friday night on CSN

The White Sox take on the Royals on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. from Kansas City. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (0-1, 4.57 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (0-0, 2.13 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs, Phillies start series Friday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Phillies on Friday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60 ERA) vs. Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

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Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

The Bears’ decision to move on from Matt Forte, the No. 2 running back in franchise history behind only Walter Payton in yardage, was not necessarily an easy one. It was, however, unanimous at Halas Hall, sources told CSNChicago.com. And it was also part of a significant deeper change in the main operating principle underpinning the Bears’ rushing offense.

Depending upon what Forte does with the New York Jets — and for how long — the decision might be open to question. Few NFL decisions aren’t.

But the Bears’ offense under John Fox and new coordinator Dowell Loggains was clearly going away from what Forte was accustomed to — a true featured back with a relief-back in the form of a Chester Taylor/Marion Barber/Michael Bush — and moving onto a true use of two backs in the fashion that Fox’s Denver Broncos offenses used them.

The change will be more than just a few carries. Forte lost carries last season to Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. This is different.

Instead of Forte and an understudy, as the de facto rushing offense has been since Forte was drafted in 2008, the Bears this offseason made the decision to emphasize the run even more under Loggains, and that has meant something other than simply more carries for Forte’s understudy.

For perspective purposes: Last season Forte missed three full games due to a knee injury but still totaled 276 touches (carries plus targets) to 236 combined for Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. When Forte returned from the three-game injury break, the offense had changed. Forte had four 20-carry games in the first six. He had one over the final six.

Forte did not appear publicly to genuinely embrace the job-sharing approach as Langford’s carries matched and in cases exceeded his own. Whether he would have been on board with ceding even more meaningful time to a co-back is another matter that would have been open to question, though any suspicions that direction are now moot.

(If Forte would have had problems with younger backs rising, he would not have been the first; Thomas Jones ultimately demanded a trade after the Lovie Smith Bears drafted Cedric Benson to broaden the run game.)

Regardless, the true multi-back system will be a change for the Bears, harking back perhaps to the Bears building their run game on two starter-grade backs in Benson and Jones. The Bears’ unsuccessful attempt to bring in C.J. Anderson from Denver suggests less a no-confidence vote in either Carey or Langford than a measure of the commitment to both competition and a depth chart with meaning past the top one or even two names. The Bears have used mid-round picks on running backs in three straight drafts (Carey, Langford, Jordan Howard this year), making the same point the Anderson interest did.

And that’s how Langford took the Howard selection to a position that where confidence in him was one of the reasons the organization was OK with parting with Forte.

“I really didn’t think too much of (the Howard pick),” Langford said. “I know it’s just competition. That’s what brings a lot of running backs, a lot of positions, to push themselves even more. Competition is always a good thing, and playing in the NFL, there’s always going to be competition, so you can’t really become too complacent as a player.”

“Complacent” wasn’t a word anyone was likely to apply to Langford, and certainly to Carey, who played his way up from a roster bubble at the end of training camp last year. And Howard as a fifth-round rookie isn’t guaranteed anything for awhile in training camp except reps with the 2s or 3s, with Jacquizz Rodgers also re-signed after an injury shortened 2015.

Loggains has been dealt a hand without an ace like Forte but with what he and the organization think can be three or four kings, depending on roster decisions at the end of August.

“We like where Jeremy’s at,” Loggains said. “He needs to continue to develop. There’s things he can do a better job of in the passing game, but we still like our other backs. Ka’Deem Carey finished strong for us last year. We obviously drafted a back. We’re excited about getting Jacquizz Rodgers back as well.”