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Original Issue

Higher Callings

Whether it's because of doings on the field or off, these players should be climbing your draft board

You've got questions, the preseason has answers—particularly in the case of Carson Palmer, the biggest uncertainty on the quarterback board. When healthy, there are few better: Since the start of the 2005 season, Palmer ranks sixth in average yards per game (244.9) and fifth in total touchdowns (89). That last number is particularly impressive considering it includes his disastrous '08 season, when he played four subpar games before being sidelined with partially torn ligaments in his throwing elbow.

But now it looks as if the Bengals' QB is ready to return to form. Though Palmer has been sidelined for part of the preseason with an ankle sprain, this is because the team is being cautious with him. The important point is that in the Bengals' opening exhibition game, against the Saints, his arm looked sound in completing 7 of 11 passes for 133 yards.

Also promising is Cincinnati's receiver corps, which includes a trio—Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry—that will test any defense. Henry, plagued by three suspensions in the last three seasons, has been making noise only on the field: 11 catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns in two preseason games.

Palmer is a worthy option as your starting quarterback. And here are five others whose stock has improved in August:
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants

It had appeared that Bradshaw might lose the battle for the job of Brandon Jacobs's backup to fourth-round pick Andre Brown. Then Brown ruptured his left Achilles tendon and Bradshaw looked impressive in two preseason outings (11 rushes, 89 yards, one TD). Bradshaw could approach the 1,025 rushing yards Derrick Ward gained in the same role last season.
Josh Morgan, WR, 49ers

If and when first-round pick Michael Crabtree ever signs, he's going to have a lot of catching up to do. In the meantime Morgan has benefited most from the holdout. Even in an injury-plagued 2008 rookie season Morgan averaged 16.0 yards per catch and was the Niners' best deep threat. Morgan's upside makes him a smart choice as your fourth receiver.
Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins

One year after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Hawaii, Bess has jumped to the top of the Miami depth chart and is expected to start alongside Ted Ginn Jr. Bess made his move over the last seven games of '08, when he led the Dolphins with 38 catches for 416 yards.
David Clowney, WR, Jets

The third-year player has only one career catch, but with a new coach and a new quarterback in town—and with Laveranues Coles now in Cincy—Clowney has a huge opportunity. He has impressed as a deep threat, making grabs of 48 and 50 yards in New York's opener against the Rams. Keep him in mind for a late-round flier.
John Carney, K, Saints

With Garrett Hartley facing a four-game suspension by the NFL for testing positive for the stimulant Adderall, New Orleans signed the 45-year-old Carney, who was the NFL's third-leading scorer last season with the Giants. The Saints will generate a lot of scoring opportunities, which makes Carney worth an investment even if New Orleans lets him go after the first four games. When New Orleans flips kickers, you can too.

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Moving Down

Three players whose fantasy value is sinking:
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
The second-year back (below) has been sidelined by a sore left Achilles tendon. Think DeAngelo Williams would mind taking Stewart's share of Carolina's carries?
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks
The 11-year vet's chief protector, All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones, is sidelined indefinitely while recovering from his second knee surgery in eight months.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos
He admitted last Thursday that he was "not even close" to learning the playbook of new coach Josh McDaniels. Not good.



GOLDEN ARM Judging by Palmer's preseason work, he has put last year's season-ending elbow injury behind him.