More top 10 love: Scott Pianowski
Yes, to answer the question forming at the tip of your tongue, we already did this exercise back in June. But that was a lifetime ago in fantasy years, so it's time to update the man-crush manifesto.
Note: with the exception of the first player mentioned (below), this list does not include any of the players on my previous "Love" list
Ray Rice(notes): If this was middle school, I would be challenging Andy Behrens to a fight behind the supply shed after school for honing in on my territory. I've been crushing on Rice for a while now and, with his sterling summer and ascension to the top of the Ravens' backfield depth chart, it's finally starting to look like I'm not so crazy after all.
Ryan Grant(notes): There's a very strong possibility that he'll be the cheapest source of 300 carries in your upcoming fantasy drafts – yes, you can consider that a no confidence vote on Jamal Lewis(notes) and Cedric Benson(notes). Unlike last summer, when he was dealing with a hamstring injury, Grant is healthy this preseason, and it's noticeable. It's a matter of record (2007) that a healthy Grant, clicking on all cylinders, is capable of 1,275 yards from scrimmage and 11 TDs in a 12-game span (postseason included).
Leon Washington(notes): The Jets' electric boogaloo has looked dynamite in the preseason. And the Jets have an offer on the table that would pay him 10 times what he made last season. Washington's not biting, meaning he's going to be highly motivated to prove he's worth every penny of the offer and more. That it looks like the Jets are ready to nearly double his workload only helps.
Felix Jones(notes): Jones has bulked up and he's made noticeable strides as a receiver. Both developments further solidify an expected substantial role in the Cowboys offense. He has the kind of dynamic speed that is ulcer-inducing for opposing defensive coordinators. Dallas will find frequent and creative ways to employ Jones. Average Yahoo! live drafts claim that owners prefer Derrick Ward(notes), Willie Parker(notes) and Chris Wells, among others. No, thanks. Give me Jones.
Jamaal Charles(notes): The Chiefs have major issues, especially along the offensive line. And the way things are shaping up, Charles will be the third-down/passing down back while incumbent veteran Larry Johnson(notes) handles the first two downs. The angle here is that the Chiefs are likely to find themselves in a lot of passing situations. Charles is going outside the top 150 in average live drafts and, given his breakaway ability and the likelihood that he'll touch the ball north of 150 times this season, that's a bargain.
Anquan Boldin(notes): If there are six receivers on your cheat sheet listed ahead of Boldin, it's time to scrap your list and start over. Don't let all that offseason holdout talk cloud your logic. The top fantasy receiver on a per game basis in '08 will enter '09 with a chip on his shoulder. Sure, his health history has been spotty, but he's also tough as nails. The helmet-to-helmet hit he took from the Jets' Eric Smith(notes) required eight plates in his face and wiring in his jaw, a collision so violent that it had QB Kurt Warner(notes) contemplating retirement. Yet Boldin was back in the field after a mere three-week hiatus. Injury or not, if there's any possibility he can play, you can count on him being on the field.
Anthony Gonzalez(notes): It's time. Marvin Harrison(notes) is gone. Gonzalez has a couple years of seasoning under his belt. And for a player with excellent route running skills, sticky fingers and the requisite flight time accrued with pilot Peyton Manning(notes), the result should be a top 20 fantasy profit at the WR position.
Josh Morgan(notes): Isaac Bruce(notes) led the 49ers in receiving in '08. Michael Crabtree(notes) may pace the team's receivers in 2010. But the team's eventual 2009 receiving leader is coming off the board after the other two in average Yahoo! live drafts. In the words of offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, Morgan is "… an explosive guy, a great leaper. His range, because of his arms, his circumference range is very good." His size, length and leaping ability should standout to QB Shaun Hill(notes) especially in the red zone. With his holdout, Crabtree has dug himself a hole that it will take a long time to shovel his way out of. Morgan is going to start, and he won't look back.
Chris Cooley(notes): He crushed his career highs in catches and yards last season, but that was obscured by the fact that he scored just one touchdown. He claims a six TD promise from the coaching staff this season. Considering he hit or surpassed that threshold in each of his first four seasons in the league, that doesn't require a leap of faith.
Brent Celek(notes): Imagine being able to ignore the tight end position for the first 125 picks of your draft, but still being able to land an almost guaranteed 600-yard, 5-6 TD lock. With Celek, this fantasy becomes a reality.