Fantasy Fix

By Dan O'Shea

What did we learn from the NFL pre-season that will help our fantasy football teams? Here's five things:

1. Devin Hester may not be the next Brandon Marshall or even the next Eddie Royal in the eyes of his new QB Jay Cutler. In one of my fantasy football drafts, Earl Bennett went one round after Hester did, but even Bennett may not benefit the most. My eyes are now on Johnny Knox, who barely made the team, but may get as much chance to score TDs off Cutler tosses as those other two wide receivers. Don't pick up Knox just yet, but monitor his Week 1 performance closely.

2. Matthew Stafford is a starting QB, whether any of us think he's ready for the job. He's got Calvin Johnson to throw to, but some of his Lions teammates are reportedly none too happy about Stafford being picked to start over vet Daunte Culpepper. We probably haven't heard the last of this, but Stafford could be interesting as a bench investment right now.

3. Michael Vick's stock is rising. He's only 21% owned in Yahoo! leagues, and will not play until at least Week 3, when he is fully reinstated (He's currently "NA" in Yahoo!, but you should be able to pick him up). It's unclear just what he will do for the Philadelphia Eagles or how much field time he'll get, but it's pretty clear he will be playing in some capacity. I'll wager that he scores a rushing TD by Week 4.

4. Seattle has at least three draftable RBs (Julius Jones, Edgerrin James and T.J. Duckett) and one possible RB sleeper pick-up (Justin Forsett), but none of them are first-rate. Jones and James have seen their best days, Duckett gets TD touches, but not enough chances for big-yardage games, and Forsett may emerge as a short pass option, but will have to steal from the other three to make an impact. I'd take Duckett for the two-yard TD plunges, but would use him only in a third RB or flex position.

5. The surprise breakout player of the year could very well be Rashard Mendenhall. Okay, maybe we're a bit biased toward the Skokie native, and reports out of Pittsburgh this pre-season are mixed at best, but Mendenhall should at least get a larger share of touches with Willie Parker in the RB slot (Mendenhall missed most of last season with an injury). He also could get the nod for short-yardage TDs. Parker is still top dog, but is definitely on the wane if you look at his last couple seasons.

Well, all of this is what we think we learned. The season starts Thursday, and we'll be back next week with Fantasy Fix Action Ratings aimed at mending whatever mistaken conclusions we have already jumped to.

Expert Wire:

* Yahoo!'s Brandon Funston and Brad Evans have their respective lists of Top 10 players they hate more than you do. A fun list to start the season with after you have already drafted guys like Eli Manning way too early (like I did).

* RotoWorld likes the look of James Davis, a Cleveland Browns RB who could end up taking some touches from Jamal Lewis. Davis apparently had a pretty strong pre-season.

* FanHouse says to keep an eye on New Orleans RB Mike Bell in Week 1 if Pierre Thomas remains questionable to start. Thomas has been poised for a big year, and Bell is merely a refugee of the Denver Broncos' old Battle of the Bells (with Tatum Bell) a couple years back, but the Saints' high-velocity offense could give him a good start to the season and earn him touches in the coming weeks.

Fantasy Baseball
The baseball season is winding down toward playoff time, and some leagues are probably already entering playoffs this week. There certainly are very slim pickings on the waiver wire, just a few September call-ups and some forgotten old friends making up our Fantasy Fix Action Ratings this week.

Player: Homer Bailey, SP
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: The former top draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds had a long terrible run leading up to this year, but as a recent call-up he's been doing the job, with a win and 14 strikeouts in 12 innings last week. He could be good filler if you specifically need the strikeouts.

Player: Tim Hudson, SP
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: The oft-injured former stud has a win and 11 Ks in 12 innings over the last week. Another good end-of-rotation addition for the playoff stretch.

Player: Landon Powell, C
FFAR: SKIP
Comment: The Oakland catcher has power - his 2 HRs and 8 RBIs last week ranked among top performers at his position - but the A's aren't giving him much playing time for some reason, with Kurt Suzuki still catching most games.

Player: Juan Uribe, 2B/3B/SS
FFAR: PICK UP
Comment: Yes, I'm serious. Uribe was a famously streaky power hitter when he played on the South Side, and he's on such a streak now; six of his last nine hits have been for extra bases, including four homers. During fantasy playoffs, riding streaking players is not a bad idea at all.

Expert Wire:
* Closing Time likes the potential for a late-season surge by Florida reliever Matt Lindstrom. Lindstrom came into 2009 with a ton of hype, but blew up for the first two months of the season before being sideline with an injury. The Marlins are still in the wild card hunt, so we'll see.

* Bleacher Report notes the sad news that power-hitting first-baseman Carlos Pena is now out for the season after reaching 39 HRs and 100 RBIs and recently playing like he would reach 50 and 130, respectively. Billy Butler or Garrett Jones could be interesting replacement options at 1B.

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Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at SwingsBothWays, which isn't about what it sounds like It's about.

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