Hell hath frozen over. A recycled Benson is actually a fine bargain buy. (USP)
The veteran rusher, famously known for his three-yard plods and questionable off-season behavior, backed up gushy remarks made by Mike McCarthy earlier this week, impressively racking 38 yards on six carries against former employer Cincinnati in his preseason debut Thursday. With James Starks a possible cut casualty and Alex Green slowly working his way back to full-strength, Benson's grip on the starting job appears strong. No surprise, his value is ascending at a rapid rate. Over the past two weeks, no player has experienced a price increase quite like the Packer backer. His ADP (64.9, RB27) has jumped 107-percent according to Mock Draft Central. And data compiled by the folks at Fantasy Football Calculator also denotes a major spike. See the Matterhorn climb below:
Prior to his move to Cheeseland, Benson tallied arguably the three most tepid 1,000-yard seasons in NFL history. He contributed minimally in the pass game, never surpassed eight TDs in a season and averaged a paltry 3.8 yards per carry during the stretch. In fact, he only eclipsed 4.0 yards per carry once from 2007-2011. The man is the definition of "plodder," a sloth-footed rusher who would struggle penetrating a line of ghosts. Last year's 2.1 yards per carry after contact mark, which tied "living legend" Dexter McCluster for 58th among RBs, is proof. Even though the Packers offense is far superior to what Cincinnati fielded during Benson's time there, run-blocking has been an issue. More damning, the rusher's straight-line style isn't the most adept for McCarthy's cut-heavy zone-blocking scheme. Be realistic. It's doubtful Benson will propel you to championship glory.
To be fair, though, any rusher slated for first-team reps in a favorable offensive environment is worthy of mid-round consideration in any league. But a repeat of what Ryan Grant achieved in 2009 seems like a longshot for No. 32. He's a marginal RB2 in 12-teamers. Nothing more. It would be no shock if intriguing prospect, Alex Green, seizes the catbird seat by midseason. The Hawaii product, close to full-strength from an ACL injury suffered Week 7 of last year, is a stoutly built, slashing runner with attractive speed and plus versatility. Once the kid gloves come off, he should carve out a significant role. McCarthy admitted recently the club has designs of Green becoming a "full-time player." A timeshare of unknown distribution with Benson seems inevitable. Drafted in only five-percent of Y! leagues, bank on him being one of the most sought after waiver adds at some point this season.
Benson may be booming, but temper expectations. Ahman Green the sequel he is not.
COME ON UP FOR THE RISING ...
Russell Wilson, Sea, QB — After weeks of evaluation at QB, Pete Carroll finally found his starter. And it wasn't $19.5 million acquisition Matt Flynn. Wilson was nothing short of brilliant against a difficult opponent, Kansas City, bombarding the Chiefs through the air (13-19, 185-2-0) while pounding them on the ground (2-58-0) (Watch highlights here). His progressions, decision-making, precise throws and athleticism were awe-inspiring. Under his direction, Seattle morphed into an offensive juggernaut. He's still a rookie, but questions about his alleged physical limitations were answered. He's a mixture of Drew Brees and Donovan McNabb. Because of his dual threat abilities, place him in the Jake Locker class of passers, an excellent QB2 loaded with upside.
Doug Martin, TB, RB — Ladies and gentlemen, LeGarrette Blount is officially rolled and smoked. Martin dominated touches with the first team against New England, racking 65 yards on 15 total touches and a score. As stated previously, the rookie isn't particularly flashy in any single category, reminiscent of another Martin, Curtis, but he's solid across-the-board. His blend of vision, cutback ability, pass-catching and deceptive power makes his "Muscle Hamster" nickname completely appropriate. A season-ending injury to right guard Davon Joseph smarts, but the Bucs have enough remaining talent on the O-line to absorb the loss. With an expected 15-20 touches per game on the horizon, including goal-line totes, he is worth every penny in Round 3 (34.5 ADP, RB18).
Morris is the quintessential Lucifer back (USP)
Morris is the quintessential Lucifer back (USP)
Stevan Ridley, NE, RB — Aggressive, powerful, tough — The Riddler not only left Tampa tacklers bewildered, he left them battered. Against the Bucs he steamrolled his way to 87 yards on 16 carries (5.4 ypc) with a touchdown. He also hauled in three passes for 17 yards. His tag-team partner, Shane Vereen, meanwhile, logged just two carries for minus-three yards, exiting stage left with a foot injury. The Bucs, who ranked dead last versus the run last year, are obviously still in a giving mood, but Ridley's standout performance lends insight into his RB2 potential. Make no mistake, the Pats are a pass-first offense, but against exploitable opponents, Bill Belichick won't shy away from the run. With a firm grip on the starting gig, the rusher is destined to pick up where BenJarvus Green-Ellis left off. A 800-900 rushing yard, 8-10 TD effort is achievable.
Torrey Smith, Bal, WR — If the liberal play-calling by the Ravens carries over into the regular season, Smith is bound for big numbers. No longer impacted by an ankle sprain that limited him early in camp, the wideout was the object of Joe Flacco's affection catching eight passes for 103 yards versus Jacksonville. Last year in his inaugural campaign, Smith was primarily deployed as a streak-only receiver. But this summer he's transformed into a complete target, plucking passes often in the short-to-intermediate field. Alongside Eric Decker, Pierre Garcon and Titus Young, he's a mid-tier receiver (70.6 ADP, WR29) oozing with WR2 potential. Please keep the padlock off the playbook, Cam Cameron.
Justin Blackmon, Jac, WR — Featured in this space a week ago, Blackmon's stock continues to rise. He followed up an eye-opening performance last week in 'Nawlins with an equally impressive four catches for 72 yards in Baltimore. The Okie State product won't blow defenders off the line, but his supreme route-running ability and brute strength, eerily similar to Anquan Boldin, are why he moves the meter. Amazingly, Blaine Gabbert hasn't looked like the suckiest quarterback in the league — that "esteemed honor" belongs to Kevin Kolb — which offers additional encouragement. Throw in the likelihood the Jags will play from behind often, and Blackmon (80.1 ADP, WR32) is in a great position to accumulate a 70-1000-6 line in his first season.
Robert Turbin, Sea, RB — Overlooked in the Wilson hysteria, Turbin, filling in for bad-backed Marshawn Lynch, was dynamite. One of my favorite rusher's in this year's draft class, the former Utah State standout exhibited excellent power, vision and burst en route to 93 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. His score, on a 25-yard scamper off left-tackle, provided a glimpse of what he could become. Turbin isn't the fastest runner, but he possesses fantastic cutting and tackle-shedding abilities, an ideal fit in Seattle's zone-blocking scheme. Lynch is the unrivaled workhorse, but if felled by serious injury, the rookie would fill his shoes nicely, especially if Wilson's success stretching the field continues. Before you go D/ST, K in the final two rounds, pack away the youngster for a rainy day.
Matt Schaub, Hou, QB — Disrespected by many fantasy pundits, including yours truly, Schaub has converted on every throw imaginable this preseason — shallow crosses, deep posts, sideline outs. Deadly accurate, he's gone 29-for-38 for 374 yards and two touchdowns. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are the backbone of Gary Kubiak's offense, but with a healthy Andre Johnson, for now, and a couple promising complementary receivers (Lestar Jean and Keshawn Martin) at his disposal, the signal caller is a strong candidate to again surpass 4,000 yards with 24-26 touchdowns. Though going after pick No. 100 in most drafts (104.9 ADP, QB15), the difference between him and more prized passers like Peyton Manning, Jay Cutler and Ben Roethlisberger will be negligile. Wake up and smell the steer. I have.
Michael Vick, Phi, QB — Vick, out after getting flattened in Week 2 by New England, looked on from the sidelines as backup, rookie Nick Foles, picked apart the Cleveland Browns. The youngster isn't a threat to overtake Vick, though a few restless Philly fans would probably disagree, but he could be a better-than-expected contingency plan when the oft-injured QB inevitably breaks a rib. No. 7, going around pick No. 50 overall, is the poster-child of high-risk, high-reward. With Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Brent Celek and a motivated DeSean Jackson on roster, the offense, on paper, is nuclear in nature. If the offensive line adequately protects him, another otherworldly season isn't out of the question. Still, Foles is an intriguing prospect for owners in two-QB or dynasty formats. He's fluid, smooth and poised in the pocket. Keep his name in mind when the injury imp bites.
Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG, RB — Not in uniform due to a hand injury, Bradshaw watched his future replacement, David Wilson, shred Chicago. The VA Tech product, who reportedly struggled learning the Giants playbook earlier in camp, showed no weaknesses in his game, breaking upfield, cutting back and bouncing off tacklers for 75 total yards on just seven touches. Shot out of a cannon on a couple runs, his blazing speed, which Eli Manning praised highly a couple weeks ago, was often displayed (Watch highlights here). Because of his svelte frame, many scouts question his long-term durability, but his well-rounded skill set and explosiveness project fruitful production. Bradshaw is as tough as they come, but his vulnerability to injury will inevitably elevate Wilson into the captain's chair for a minimum of three games at some point. Even with the incumbent on the field, expect the challenger to wrest away at least 10-12 touches per game. Peg the RB4 (95.8 ADP, RB40) to churn out RB2 level numbers later this season.
KC's conservative mindset could ground Bowe. (USP)
KC's conservative mindset could ground Bowe. (USP)
Any Viking not named Percy Harvin — Good thing Friday's clash with San Diego was only a dress rehearsal. If it was a regular season game, the Vikes would've been booed off stage. Few running lanes materialized, Christian Ponder passes misfired, turnovers were committed … to put it mildly the first-team offense was a hot mess. And therein lies the problem for Adrian Peterson. Though reports about his recovery continue to be positive, Minnesota's overall shortcomings on offense, and not forgotten, on defense, lend pause. This is a club that will dig early deficits, stymieing the rusher's points-scoring ability. Recall his touches per quarter declined 27-percent after halftime last season. This year, that number could swell over 30-percent. Draft the Purple Hey-Zeus this year, and he'll turn water into whine.
Rob Gronkowski, NE, TE — Lambasted by readers last week for merely entertaining the thought Gronk, coming off a record-shattering 17 touchdown season, could be the second-best tight end on his team, The Noise presents additional proof. The Boston Globe speculates Aaron Hernandez has "ascended to Brady's No. 1 option." Gronk was still effective versus Tampa grabbing two passes for 24 yards and a score, but Hernandez was clearly Mr. Bundchen's favorite flavor. The pair connected a team-high five times for 52 yards. According to The Globe the current pecking order is Hernandez, Welker, Gronk then Lloyd, with the latter TE more of a "matchup" option. This, of course, doesn't mean Gronk will suddenly follow the career path of Kellen Winslow, but yours truly has better odds of logging a fruitful stint in adult film than the tight end does repeating what he accomplished a season ago. Finals numbers somewhere between 2010 and 2011 seems appropriate (FF: 75-1000-11). Continue to avoid him in the early second.
New York Giants Secondary — In the NYC, it could be a classic case of one man's loss is another man's gain. With Terrell Thomas already out with a knee injury, corner Prince Amukamara suffered a high ankle sprain in action Friday night, a setback that almost certainly jeopardizes his availability for the regular season opener against rival Dallas. It's a broken record for Giants fans. Downfield coverage was clearly the club's primary weakness last year. The G-Men finished 28th in the league in pass defense surrendering 7.5 yards per attempt. But, from a fantasy perspective, this is music to the ears of Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks enthusiasts. If the secondary continues to be a bugaboo, Eli, who's per game has increased in three consecutive seasons, is a near lock to deliver top-8 results. Under that scenario, shootouts would be unavoidable. It's also a bit of well-needed good news for Tony Romo, who has seen one target after another succumb to lengthy injuries. Fireworks are bound to fly opening night.
C.J. Spiller, Buf, RB — Last year's playoff hero hasn't endeared himself to Chan Gailey this preseason. In limited action, his unassertive, tap-dancing ways, which disappeared when thrust into a lead role after Week 10 a season ago, have resurfaced. Fred Jackson, meanwhile, looks every bit the beast he was pre-injury last year. Facing the Steelers' first-team D, he piled up 34 yards on seven carries and a touchdown. With a top-10 offensive line, Buffalo could be a smash-mouth club. Gailey hasn't revealed exactly how carries will be distributed, but based on preseason performance it seems likely Jackson will tote roughly 65-70-percent of the load. Considering his excellent versatility, break-tackle ability, appreciable track-record and likely 17-20 touch per game share, he should turn a nice profit at his current 23.6 ADP (RB14). As for Spiller, he's not much more than a common handcuff.
Carson Palmer, Oak, QB — Some industry 'experts' have drooled over the passer this draft season, hyping him up as a terrific mid-to-late round sleeper. Though he's quite affordable, there are finer options in the beer-fuzzy rounds. Palmer finished the preseason much like he started it, on a sour note. In three games, he completed just 58.9 percent of his attempts for zero touchdowns and four INTs. The occasional sunny Sunday should be expected, but he's not the top-15 commodity many are forecasting. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Rod Streater and, when healthy, Denarius Moore, are a laudable receiving trio, but this is a team that runs through Darren McFadden. Raiders head coach, Dennis Allen, is a defensive-minded tactician who wants to eat clock. Let someone else overpay for the brand name.
QUICK SLANTS: You're a fool if you believe Antonio Brown will finish outside the WR top-15, even with Mike Wallace in tow. As stated repeatedly in this space, he has truly blossomed into one of the NFL's most complete receivers … Mikel Leshoure, 20 months removed from his last in-game carry, played roughly 18 snaps with the Lions' first-string at Oakland. His stat line was vomit-worthy (5-1, 1-6), but it was a positive step. After his two-game suspension, he should make an impact as Detroit's primary short-yard/goal-line option … In other Lions RB news, Kevin Smith suffered yet another ankle injury. Hampered by numerous sprains and twists last year, the setback, though minor, is a reminder of how delicate he is. Break out the 'cuffs if you're targeting him in the middle rounds this week … Kendall Wright has quietly played terrifically this summer. Through three preseason games, he's snagged eight passes for 100 yards and a TD. With Kenny Britt likely out for the first 1-3 weeks of the regular season, the well-rounded rookie should make a WR3 splash in 12-teamers early on … Indy speed demon T.Y. Hilton, yet another rookie receiver turning heads, looks to be the next man up for Andrew Luck with Austin Collie indeterminably sidelined. At 5-foot-9, 183-pounds he's not winning any World's Strongest Man competitions anytime soon, but his screeching wheels and smooth route-running are attractive qualities. He's an interesting eleventh hour grab in challenging formats …
Tragically hipped rusher Isaac Redman performed marginally in his return to the backfield, totaling 32 yards and a TD on 13 touches at Buffalo. He'll likely start Week 1 at Denver, but Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Rainey will wrest away touches. With Rashard Mendenhall just over his shoulder, Redman will only have a 4-5 week window of relevancy. He's still overvalued at his current 80.6 ADP (RB32) … Similar to vintage Peyton Manning, surround Tony Romo with a bunch of unknowns and he'll turn them into stars, at least for a night. Dwayne Harris and slot machine, Cole Beasely, are a couple players to watch in the coming weeks if Miles Austin and Dez Bryant continue to limp around. Over their last two games, Harris has hauled in seven receptions for 160 yards and three touchdowns while Beasely, a homegrown product from SMU, has grabbed 10 balls for 144 yards … Peyton was sensational in his final tuneup. His 16-yard strike to Demaryius Thomas on a sideline out squashes any concern about arm strength. The man has plenty of pepper. However, not backing off my fringe top-10 forecast ... Frank Gore continues to look like the Michael Turner of the Left Coast, a slowing dinosaur with one foot in the tar pit. Kendall Hunter has outplayed him since Day 1. It will be very interesting to see how Jim Harbaugh spreads the carries in San Fran's crowded backfield. No way Gore finishes as a top-20 RB (41.0 ADP, RB20) ... Finally, Rashad Jennings (4.9 ypc in preseason) is a beast-in-the-making. There's a strong chance I will say inappropriate things about him when "Fantasy Football Live" returns September 9 if MJD is not back for the Jags' opener at Minnesota. He's dreamy.
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