Scouting Notebook: Forte-fied

One more preseason week in the books. The standard caveats apply. Defenses are ahead of the offenses because game planning is bigger on offense and teams do not do that at all in August. But if the protection holds, the reads tend to be easy by NFL standards.

I worry that Calvin Johnson(notes) is going to blow up for a team drafting early if they're able to snake him back late. Don't let that happen. Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson plus Megatron should be illegal. You can't allow those two owners to have another possible top-five fantasy weapon.

Even before his 89-yard TD jaunt, I thought Matt Forte(notes) was good value in the fifth or sixth round. He still may prove worthy of even a fourth-round pick. I agree that Forte is nothing special; but Chester Taylor(notes) is old and finished (3.6 yards per carry in '09 in a great Vikings offense).

Jermichael Finley(notes) will dominate this year as the Packers best possession and goal-line receiver and the guy that defenses just can't match up against. Remember, they had 125 tight end targets last year and the bulk of those now be Finley's.

Aaron Hernandez(notes) is this year's Finley as a late-round TE find, showing elite body control and hands even for a WR on his TD reception (video) from Tom Brady(notes).

Jabar Gaffney(notes) (six catches, 98 yards) ended his Broncos season last year with 14 catches for over 200 yards vs. the Chiefs and is clearly the No. 1 receiver in Denver in '10. Drafting Gaffney is the type of unexciting move made by winning owners.

At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Jahvid Best(notes) is far from a lock to get goal-line looks. Maybe that will be the Lions way to keep Kevin Smith(notes) involved. Best is thus a borderline RB2 in deep formats and more ideally your third back. I would not draft Best over Forte when I can just wait for Forte.

C.J. Spiller(notes) and Lee Evans(notes) both showed the elite playmaking ability we knew they had. But you can't trust the Bills offense given their shaky line and question mark at QB. Ideally, you want Spiller as your third back and Evans as your fourth WR. But long TDs put these names in flashing neon on cheat sheets. Don't move on Spiller before Round 4 or Evans before Round 8.

I really like Matt Cassel(notes) (14-for-19, 125 yards with a TD vs. Tampa Bay) as a sleeper on a Kansas City team that's going to be forced to throw and that has much better skill talent than last year along with QB wizard Charlie Weis calling the plays. Teams wise enough to draft Cassel as their second QB will be looking for a way to start him before long.

Chad Henne(notes) is flying up the depth charts but I'll take Cassel over Henne this year and Cassel will be much cheaper. Anthony Fasano(notes) (two TDs) is a worthy starter at TE if you prefer to wait it out at that position.

What's wrong with Pierre Garcon(notes)? Be very leery of trusting the Colts saying that everything is fine and he'll "return shortly." Marvin Harrison(notes) and Anthony Gonzalez(notes) once were going to return shortly, too.

New England's RB situation is a mess but Fred Taylor(notes) is even cheaper than Laurence Maroney(notes) and has something left in the tank even if the Fuel light is on.

Cedric Peerman(notes) (two TDs vs. Philly) has earned "pocket pick" status. That's the guy you save for the last round. Peerman, not Bernard Scott(notes), who seems to suffer from the general perception among NFL coaches that if you're under 200 pounds, you cannot be a feature back, is the ghoul/handcuff play for Cedric Benson(notes).

Larry Johnson(notes) was disappointing against the Ravens. But I still draft Johnson late until the day he's released because I have zero confidence that Clinton Portis(notes) can make it through a season without another concussion, which would be career-ending. It takes less and less contact for guys to get concussed after they experience symptoms as serious as Portis's were in 2009.

Kareem Huggins(notes) (8 carries, 44 yards) can easily can get 225-plus carries this year. But the Bucs offense is going to be among the worst in the leagues, so you're still not going to want to start him every week.

Peyton Hillis(notes) (12-51, 2-12) never got a chance to show us his 2008 flash was legit. But he shined again this week and could end up getting a lot more action than his ADP suggests. Note he received significant action with the starters, too.

Readers inquired after last week's Notebook on a projection for Pierre Thomas(notes). I'll assume 15-to-16 carries per game at his career rate of 5.1 per pop – 1,275 rushing yards. He's also the best screen receiver in the league and has averaged 8.5 yards per catch on his career with 39 grabs coming last year despite missing early games. So give him 45 receptions. This all adds up to nearly 1,700 total yards. And there's serious upside from there when you consider those averages and Reggie Bush's(notes) knees.

Philip Rivers(notes) really throws a lot of floaters but he's a great downfield passer and will continue to be that with or without Vincent Jackson(notes). Ryan Matthews rises again on draft boards, easily now into the first round – and I'd love to have him.

Michael Salfino writes for the Wall Street Journal and is a regular contributor to Yahoo! Sports.

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