A Dunn Deal
T.J. Duckett's trade bodes well for Warrick Dunn but poorly for ClintonPortis
THE RECENTthree-team trade that sent running back T.J. Duckett from the Falcons to theRedskins is an ominous indicator of Clinton Portis's status. Portis has beennursing a dislocated left shoulder for more than two weeks, and several coachessay that the injury will bother him all season. He'd be fine if he were playinga position that isn't so physically demanding, but Portis will frequently takehard shots on the joint, and it will often be the first thing to hit the turfwhen he's tackled. One NFC coach says that even wearing a harness will beproblematic because it would severely limit Portis's ability to raise his armto catch passes. In other words, Portis is now the biggest risk among elitebacks.
The trade should,however, excite fantasy owners interested in Warrick Dunn. The Falcons runningback ran for a career-high 1,416 yards in 2005 but only scored three rushingtouchdowns. Now that Duckett is gone, Falcons coach Jim Mora says Dunn willtake over the short-yardage and goal-line responsibilities that once went toDuckett. Don't be surprised if Dunn doubles or triples his touchdown total fromlast year.
If you're trying to decide which Bears running back you should select, go withThomas Jones over Cedric Benson. Two separate team sources say it would beshocking if Jones didn't win the starting job this season. Not only is heproven--he ran for a career-high 1,335 yards last season--but he's also abetter receiver than Benson and more popular among his teammates. He's alsohealthier at this stage of the preseason, having recently returned from astrained right hamstring while Benson continues to nurse a separated leftshoulder. Keep in mind that the Bears will run the ball a lot this season, soJones should be a solid No. 2 back in your draft.
Browns running back Reuben Droughns (below), who ran for 1,232 yards in 2005,is anticipating a slightly lighter workload this season. Droughns, 28, says theBrowns are developing a change-of-pace back who could handle 10 or 12 carries agame. That person could be rookie Jerome Harrison from Washington State orthird-year man Jason Wright. Droughns says he doesn't mind the help, especiallysince he started to wear down late last season, when he had a career-high 309carries. Fantasy owners shouldn't be too concerned by a potential dip inDroughns's touches, but there are certainly backs who will see morecarries--something to keep in mind when you're comparing candidates for yourNo. 2 back.
ALTHOUGH JuliusJones remains the Cowboys' featured back, backup MARION BARBER will have anexpanded role in his second season. Jones gets the start because he has morehome-run-hitting ability, but Barber is a better inside runner and passreceiver, so he'll play a lot on third downs. And Jones's injury history makesBarber an even more valuable commodity.
BY CATCHINGeverything thrown his way in camp, Darnerien McCants has earned the thirdreceiver spot for the Eagles, behind starters Reggie Brown and HankBaskett.
LOOKING FOR along shot? Broncos coaches expect rookie tight end Tony Scheffler to make animpact in the passing game.
Find out how the latest news affects your fantasy team, and weigh in on JamesQuintong's blog at SI.com/fantasy.
ALLEN KEE/WIREIMAGE.COM (DUNN)
BACK TOBACK Dunn (28) figures to get more goal line carries this season, while Portiswill likely remain a question mark.
GREGORY SHAMUS/GETTY IMAGES (PORTIS)
TOM CAMMETT/WIREIMAGE.COM (DROUGHNS)
REX BROWN/WIREIMAGE.COM (BARBER)