Fantasy Football: Stock watch

Fantasy Football: Stock watch

Upgrade

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.

Downgrade

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.

Quick Links

Need to Know: An early look at first-round draft possibilities for the Redskins

Need to Know: An early look at first-round draft possibilities for the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 17, 100 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL free agency starts 52
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of potential first-round draft picks for the Redskins

We’re at a nice, round 100 days until the NFL draft starts. The deadline for underclassmen to declare has passed and the first of the postseason all-star events, the East-West Shrine game, is starting up this week. It’s time to look at some possibilities for the Redskins’ first-round draft pick, which is No. 17 overall.

We’re still not sure of what defensive scheme the Redskins will run this year but it’s likely that they could fit Stanford DE Solomon Thomas into it. He’s not the classic edge rusher type but he is big (6-2, 275), violent and he can collapse the pocket.

—Michigan S Jabrill Peppers is a top-five pick according to one NFC executive but it’s a little early to put him up that high. He’s a versatile defender and he has drawn comparisons to Troy Polamalu, Charles Woodson, and Tyrann Mathieu. If he’s there at 17 the Redskins might find it hard to resist pulling the trigger.

There has been very early buzz about the Redskins having some interest in Michigan State DL Malik McDowell. He can play end in a 3-4 front or tackle in a 4-3 and provide disruption and pass rush from either spot. The 6-6, 276-lb. McDowell was a top-five prospect on many early boards but he stock has slipped to the point where he could be available for the Redskins.

The upgrade the Redskins are looking for at inside linebacker could be Florida ILB Jarrad Davis. He’s tough, tenacious, smart, and instinctive. The most important part of the combine for him won’t be his 40 time or bench press, it will be the medicals. He has missed some games with assorted injures including a torn meniscus in 2014.

Another flexible linebacker who could help inside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3 is Vanderbilt LG Zach Cunningham. At 6-3, 230 he plays very well in space and he shows a great ability to take on blockers. He needs work on tackling and pass rushing techniques but he has the tools to be an impact defender very quickly.

Although a defender would be a popular and logical pick here, the Redskins could go off script. After the 2015 draft, it was reported that Scot McCloughan might have taken Todd Gurley if he had been able to trade back from No. 5 overall to a little later in the first round. So I think it would be a mistake to dismiss the possibility of him going with an offensive skill player such as Florida State RB Dalvin Cook if he’s on the board and McCloughan has him rated as the best available player.

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

Quick Links

Justin Williams calls the Caps' loss 'a reality check'

Justin Williams calls the Caps' loss 'a reality check'

PITTSBURGH—Justin Williams has seen a lot during his 16-year NHL career. But he's not sure he's ever been part of something as wild as Monday’s 8-7 loss to the Penguins.

“It snowballed too quickly for us,” Williams said at PPG Paints Arena. “All around, it was like a 1988 Smythe Division game out there, I think. Not something you want to do.”

Williams scored his 15th goal early in the second period to put the Caps ahead 3-0.

Then things got away from the visitors—quickly.

RELATED: Caps' win streak snapped in crazy loss to Penguins

The final regular season meeting between these bitter rivals sure

About five minutes later, Evgeni Malkin scored the first of his three goals while the teams skated four aside. Braden Holtby said the goal was one he should stop “all the time.” Coach Barry Trotz said it allowed Malkin and Co. to “seize” the game’s momentum.

Either way, Williams didn’t like the Caps’ initial response.

“You certainly know it’s not going to be easy,” Williams said. “We’re up 3-0. Things are going well. Things have gone well lately. But they’re not going to back away. They’re not going to say, ‘Alright, maybe next game.’ They’re going to come at you, and they did.”

The Penguins took 10 of the game’s next 12 shots. Four of them resulted in goals. The capacity crowd, which had been quiet for the first 25 minutes, suddenly came alive.  

Were some bad bounces involved? Sure. Nick Bonino found the puck on the doorstep after it hit him. Bryan Rust’s goal went in off of Ovechkin’s skate.

None of that helped, of course. But Williams still felt like the Caps, who came in riding a nine-game winning streak, could have and should have done more to keep the second period—and ultimately the game—from slipping away.

“Tonight was a good reality check just to say, ‘You know what? You’re not that good,” he said. “You still got to work for things. It’s not going to come easy for you.”

Williams added: “It was a good challenge for us. We came back multiple times. I’m proud of us for that. But, again, crappy game.”

Asked if there was anything positive that the Caps could take from the game, Williams bristled at the suggestion.

“Nothing,” he said. “I want to park it right now. I don’t want to watch it. I don’t want to see it. Obviously, if I have to I will. But just go back to working hard and go back to the drawing board and just hit the reset.”

MORE CAPITALS: NHL explains why the Malkin goal was not overturned