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A rookie RB in the top 10?
Ryan Mathews, rookie running back for the San Diego Chargers and successor to LaDainian Tomlinson, has been getting some high praise during training camp, high enough that he's currently the No. 8-ranked player in all of Yahoo! Fantasy Football 2010 - not the No. 8 RB, the No. 8 overall.
If you want to judge everything by his pre-season performance against the Bears last weekend, the ranking may look accurate. He had 50 yards on just nine carries and looked good catching two short passes and running through defenders. In short, he looked like a combination of L.T. and Darren Sproles, the mighty mite RB who was favored on short passes the last couple seasons while L.T. did more of the running.
We love Sproles at Fantasy Fix because he is a great triple threat for leagues where kick and punt returns count in the scoring and you have to fill flex positions with pass-catching second-tier RBs. Sproles alone probably can't replace L.T., which is perhaps part of the reason why so many people are high on Mathews. Still, Sproles will take catches away from Mathews, as well as change-of-pace runs.
Meanwhile, San Diego also has Mike Tolbert, a fullback type of RB who scored four touchdowns last season, and up-and-comer Jacob Hester. Tolbert and Hester could both see a lot of goal-line action.
I'm not saying Mathews won't be a star, and I'll still put him down for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns, but to me, those are late second-round, early third-round numbers.
Now, in keeping with our pre-season tour, my top 10 wide receivers:
1. Andre Johnson, Houston: No-brainer here. The easiest top-pick at any position.
2. Randy Moss, New England: Could be in for a big year with Wes Welker still tender.
3. Calvin Johnson, Detroit: I like his young QB and I like him as the lead target in a productive offense.
4. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis: He was looking worn after 2008, but bounced back with a better 2009.
5. Brandon Marshall, Miami: No reason to doubt he'll reach 100 catches yet again, plus see some trick-play action in a creative offense.
6. Roddy White, Atlanta: Another tremendously consistent WR with a great QB in Matt Ryan.
7. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona: Could easily be ranked higher with Anquan Boldin gone, but a pre-season injury concerns.
8. DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia: A gamble here, but he'll benefit if QB Kevin Kolb matches the hype. Returns kicks, too.
9. Miles Austin, Dallas: Great season last year, and every reason for him to have another. Could play more like No. 6 or No. 7, but I don't trust Tony Romo enough.
10. Greg Jennings, Green Bay: Disappointing 2009 season - at least for his high pre-season rank last year - but he's the best WR target that the stellar Aaron Rodgers has.
* Bleacher Report examines the fantasy impact of Brett Favre's return, which now seems all but a done deal.
* Roto Arcade thinks that Michael Bush is worth a gamble over Darren McFadden.
* ESPN's 32 Questions sees LaDainian Tomlinson as a fantasy find despite his waning production and the existence of the exuberant Shonn Greene in the same backfield.
Baseball's Back Burner
The season, like the summer, has entered its dog days. Not many bargains left on the waiver wire, and many leagues are past their trade deadlines. But, look, here's a few things worth talking about:
Fantasy Find of the Week: Mike Stanton, OF, Florida.
A .556 average, four homers and eight RBIs over the last week prove this rookie isn't ready to live in the shadow of Stephen Strasburg, Buster Posey, Starlin Castro or Jason Heyward.
Fantasy Stud of the Week: Alex Rodriguez, 3B, NY Yankees.
With the anti-climatic hunt for 600 homers over, A-Rod actually hit three in one game last week on the way to four homers and nine RBIs.
Fantasy Dud of the Week: Mark Teixeira, 1B, NY Yankees.
Looked like he was back in his early season slump last week, hitting .158 with no homers and just one RBI.
Fantasy Match-Up of the Week: Jeremy Hellickson, SP/RP.
The rookie Ray has won three straight in impressive fashion, and may have an automatic coming up against soft-hitting Oakland before tackling the LA Angels.
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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