MATCHUP OF THEWEEK
They were backfieldmates at Auburn, they were both top five picks in the 2005draft, and they're both starters on playoff-caliber NFL teams. So which oneshould you pick for your fantasy team?
The second pick in the '05 draft, Brown split time with Ricky Williams lastyear, averaging 4.4 yards on 207 carries with five total TDs. His big game cameagainst Carolina in Week 3 (132 yards), but he had only one other 100-yardgame. History is against him: The most rushing TDs scored by a back playingwith Daunte Culpepper is Moe Williams's 11 in 2002.
The fifth pick in the '05 draft, Williams averaged 4.1 yards on 290 carrieslast season as Tampa Bay's primary back, breaking the 100-yard mark six times.At 5'11" and 217 pounds, he's slightly smaller than the 6-foot, 232-poundBrown. History is against him, too: The most rushing TDs scored by a back underJon Gruden is Tyrone Wheatley's nine in 2000.
It's a close call between the two players, who haven't yet reached the NFL'supper echelon. The edge goes to Brown based on increased playing time thisseason, an upgraded Dolphins offense and the lack of a quality change-of-paceback to spell him. --David Sabino
Read Peter King's 10 Fantasy Things I Think I Think and analysis from DavidSabino at SI.com/fantasy.
THE INSIDE MAN
On the mend after knee surgery, Javon Walker is primed for a climb up thereceiver rankings
JAVON WALKERdecided one thing early on: He wasn't going to play with any sort of kneebrace. The last thing the Broncos wide receiver wanted was another mentalhurdle to clear during the rehab process. Walker, who suffered a torn right ACLlast September with the Packers, wasn't swayed by the added comfort and supportthat even an elastic sleeve could provide for his surgically repaired knee. Hewould work it back to where he could play without worrying about itbuckling.
Drafting a playerwho's coming back from a serious injury is always a gamble for fantasy owners,but Walker could very well prove to be worth the risk. By not babying himselfhe has been able to cut confidently on pass routes. Neither has he beententative when it comes to leaping for balls in traffic. Most encouraging, hemade it through his first two weeks of camp without any soreness or swelling inthe joint.
Walker is about10 months removed from surgery--doctors told him that it takes a year to getback to normal--and says he's about 80 to 85% recovered. At his rehab pace helooks like a solid No. 2 fantasy receiver. Even if he doesn't produce the statshe achieved during his breakout season of 2004 (89 catches for 1,382 yards and12 touchdowns), he should still put up good numbers in an offense that will bemore aggressive this season.
NOT EASY BEINGGREEN
The abrupt retirement of Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf doesn't bode well forthe fantasy value of Chiefs quarterback Trent Green (left). Kansas City, whichalready had lost right tackle John Welbourn to retirement in June, will be moreconservative offensively under new coach Herm Edwards. In fact, Chiefspresident Carl Peterson says, his team "should surpass" the 520 rushingattempts it had in 2005.
CAROLINA ON MYMIND
DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers' first-round draft pick, was impressive duringminicamps and is emerging as a sleeper. The rookie running back has theexplosiveness and vision to be a star in the Carolina offense--coach John Foxhas his mind set on running the ball more this season--and starter DeShaunFoster has a long history of injuries. If you're looking for a backup in thelater rounds, Williams merits strong consideration.
Antowain Smith RBTEXANS
Domanick Davis is hobbled with a bum knee, opening up an opportunity for someadditional carries for the 10th-year veteran.
CEDRIC HOUSTON RBJETS
The second-year man has the best chance to replace ailing Curtis Martin.
Ernest Wilford WRJAGUARS
He and Matt Jones are emerging as Byron Leftwich's primary options.
LenDale White RBTITANS
Tussled with teammates at practice last week and has fallen to third on thedepth chart.
It's only August, and stalwarts Freeney, Sanders, Simon, Doss and Reagor arealready banged up.
MATT LEINART QBCARDINALS
The longer his holdout, the lower his fantasy value.
PETER KING I THINK ...
...you should be very wary of all the early news
Here's one thingI learned from two weeks on the training-camp trail: NFL depth charts in Augustare very malleable. If you asked me right now, I'd bet you the Texans runningback with the most carries this season will be sixth-round pick Wali Lundy(right); that ex-practice-squadder Jamal Jones will be a good third-receiversleeper on the Saints; that you'd be out of your mind to draft Lions wideoutsCharles Rogers or Mike Williams because they're in offensive coordinator MikeMartz's doghouse; and that Alex Smith (the Bucs end, not the 49ers quarterback)is going to be a top receiver this year because Chris Simms loves him. But ifyour draft is in two weeks instead of two days, don't commit to anything I'vejust said. It's like what Rod Marinelli, the new Detroit coach, told me theother day, "Nothing is permanent. These players have to prove themselvesevery day."
RHONA WISE/US PRESSWIRE (BROWN)
TOM DIPACE (WILLIAMS)
GARRETT ELLWOOD/WIREIMAGE.COM (WALKER)
ONE-HITWONDER - Walker caught 89 balls in 2004 but only 68 combined in his other threeNFL seasons.
TIM HEITMAN/US PRESSWIRE (GREEN)
EVAN PINKUS/WIREIMAGE.COM (HOUSTON)
MIKE MOORE/WIREIMAGE.COM (LEINART)
BOB LEVEY/WIREIMAGE.COM (LUNDY)