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Volume 6, Issue 80 (Thursday, July 7th)

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Tonight's update brought to you by: FANSTAR

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Hi Folks,

Thanks to our Maurile Tremblay for rounding up these stories tonight. Let's get to it.

J

SITE NEWS

A. 135 New Cheatsheets Released
http://footballguys.com/05cheatsheets0707.htm

Even the newest Fantasy Football owners know that the kind of league and the scoring system you play in will make a great deal of difference as to what kind of cheatsheet you need. A player like Brian Westbrook will have a much higher ranking in a league that emphasizes running back reception yardage than he will in a TD only league. Most sites give you a handful of cheatsheets. You hope to find a list that is semi close to what your league is designed for and give it your best shot. But Footballguys isn't most sites. We've created 135 different league scenarios for you and given you cheatsheets rankings for each different situation. You're virtually guaranteed to find a set of rankings that's designed for your league. And as a bonus, we also give our cheatsheet rankings for the National Contests to show you how we'd draft today if we were playing in one of those formats.


INSIDE THIS ISSUE

1. DEN - RB M. Anderson Eager To Return As Lead Ballcarrier
2. DEN - RB Griffin's Road Back
3. MIA - Weighing In On Two RB Issues
4. DAL - WR Merritt's Stock Rising Quickly
5. CHI - WR Muhammad Raises Bears Offensive Bar
6. CHI - Bears RB Coach Tim Spencer Discusses T. Jones/C. Benson
7. BUF - Bills Want Conditional Pick For Henry?
8. BAL - Baltimore Offense Shifting Focus
9. TEN - October Return For TE Troupe?

1. DEN - RB M. Anderson Eager To Return As Lead Ballcarrier

Clipped from: Rocky Mountain News article by Jeff Legwold, 7/7/05

These days, the numbers simply swirl around Mike Anderson.

The Denver Broncos running back missed 17 games last season because of two torn left groin muscles. He will be 32 in September. He is almost five years removed from a 1,487-yard rushing season in 2000 that earned him the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

And now, even as Anderson basks in the happiness of being able to return from an injury that kept him on the sideline for an entire season, he finds himself trying to regain what he once had at one of the Broncos' most crowded roster positions.

"But I'm up for it," Anderson said Wednesday. "I feel refreshed. Rejuvenated. I guess with the year off I was able to get some rest. The knees stopped throbbing a little bit. What can I say? It is tough. I can already see it.

"But I'm up for that challenge."

After spending most of his time at fullback the past three seasons, Anderson was told by the Broncos at the end of the 2004 season to concentrate on playing running back this time around, certainly the news he had been hoping for as he tried to return from the injury.

On the flip side, however, while he is the only runner in the group with a 1,000-yard rushing season on his NFL resume, Anderson finds himself in a tightly contested race to carry the football.

There is so much competition that Reuben Droughns, who led the team with 1,240 rushing yards last season, essentially was told he was headed back to fullback before he was traded to the Cleveland Browns to quench his desire for more playing time.

Tatum Bell, the Broncos' leading returning rusher with 396 yards in 2004, and Anderson likely will begin training camp getting the most work with the offensive starters.

But there also is Quentin Griffin, who began 2004 as the starter before suffering a season-ending right knee injury; Ron Dayne, a Heisman Trophy winner and New York Giants first-round pick; and Maurice Clarett, a third-round pick in the April draft.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

The one constant at the running back position in Denver is that anything can happen. Reuben Droughns was quite a surprise last year, as were Clinton Portis in 2002, Mike Anderson in 2000, and Olandis Gary in 1999.

Most observers - FBG included - believe that Tatum Bell will take over the featured role in the Broncos' backfield this year. But Bell has been injury-prone in the past, and the rest of the depth chart is filled with questions as well. Quentin Griffin lacks size and durability. Maurice Clarett lacks speed, and has been out of football for two years. Ron Dayne lacks vision, quickness, moves, power, and speed.

So it is not out of the question that Anderson could end up as the team's most prolific runner by the end of the 2005 season. We like Tatum Bell to fit that bill, but in Denver there are no sure things. So keep an eye on how things shake out during preseason and the beginning of the regular season.

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2. DEN - RB Griffin's Road Back

Clipped from: DenverBroncos.com article by Andrew Mason, 7/7/05

When one looked back at the Broncos' 2004 campaign immediately following the 49-24 wild-card loss at Indianapolis, it was easy to focus on the recent weeks and difficult to recall the season's opening act, particularly when it came time to call roll at running back.

Reuben Droughns? He'd become the star of the ground game through much of the year, becoming the fifth different 1,000-yard back of the last decade in spite of not starting until Week 5.

Tatum Bell? He was hurt early, but split carries with Droughns in the last month of the year and showed flashes of the talent that caused the Broncos to make him their highest running back selected in 19 drafts, averaging 5.3 yards per carry and scoring three times.

It was almost as though Quentin Griffin was the forgotten man. His moment in the spotlight was months in the past; his final start of 2004 came on Oct. 3 at Tampa Bay. Nine months, a knee injury and a half-year of rehabilitation later, Griffin is back on the field, but only as part of a bridge mix of running backs that includes one former 1,000-yarder (Mike Anderson), one ex-first-round pick (Ron Dayne), Bell, and rookie Maurice Clarett.

But being overlooked by observers doesn't faze Griffin one bit.

"I don't think I was ever 'the guy' coming in," Griffin said. "I earned my spot to play and I want to do the same thing, earn it again. I don't mind coming under the radar."

Under the radar and bearing a brace, but in Head Coach Mike Shanahan's eyes, Griffin's working at a solid pace.

"Well, he's practicing full speed, so he's come back and he's come back well," Shanahan said. "Any time you have an injury like that, it takes some time. But he's worked hard with the rehabilitation and hopefully he's full speed and ready to go."

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

This is the second of two underdog running back stories out of Denver today. Griffin appears on track to come back from his injury and play a situational role in the Broncos' offense this year. He has fine run skills, but lacks the versatility of Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson due to his lack of size.

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3. MIA - Weighing In On Two RB Issues

Clipped from: Miami Herald article by Jason Cole , 7/7/05

Ricky Williams has gotten his weight up to 215 pounds, but the bigger issue is that Williams and the Dolphins appear headed toward at least one season together, assuming everything goes as planned.

Moreover, the running back likely will get ample opportunity to prove himself after players report to training camp July 24. That's because running back Ronnie Brown, the No. 2 overall pick, probably won't report on time.

Williams' agent, Leigh Steinberg, said Wednesday that Williams is up to 215 as he works out in preparation for camp. Steinberg said he spoke with Williams on Tuesday and that Williams sounded ''in good spirits and ready to go'' after a year away from the NFL.

Williams' weight and conditioning have been an issue since an SI.com article in May had him weighing 195 (he played between 225 and 235 during his first two seasons with the Dolphins).

However, Williams began working out diligently while still in California, according to multiple sources, and has regained much of the weight.

As for Brown, the holdup for him is more about recent history. In the past six years, the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft has not signed until after the No. 1 pick.

The last time the No. 2 player signed first was in 1998, when quarterback Ryan Leaf signed with San Diego one day before QB Peyton Manning signed with Indianapolis.

Much of that has to do with the slotting of contracts and how the No. 2 pick should get a deal commensurate with the No. 1 pick. Agent Todd France, who represents Brown, said Tuesday he and the Dolphins haven't had extensive discussions about the contract.

''We've had some talks, but nothing has gotten too specific,'' said France, who declined further comment.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

This is one of the more interesting situations in the NFL this year. Ricky Williams is one of the top running backs in the league when he is focused and in shape. He is reportedly weighing 215 pounds right now, which should be a sufficient playing weight. He has generally played at 225-235 in the past, but in my opinion he was at his best when he was at the bottom end of that range.

The Dolphins drafted Ronnie Brown to be the immediate starter, but that was before Williams announced the end of his retirement. Our current projections have Brown running for about twice as many yards as Williams, but whether we have it exactly right or we have it reversed, the fantasy value of both backs is limited as long as they have to share the position with each other.

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4. DAL - WR Merritt's Stock rising Quickly

Clipped from: DallasCowboys.com article by Chad Peters, 7/7/05

Some players prefer staying out of the spotlight. Others seem incapable of ever attracting it.

But in Ahmad Merritt's case, he cannot get out of its way. Literally.

Jammed between quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Drew Henson in the locker room at Valley Ranch, the spotlight is always around - which can become a bit of a nuisance at times for the 5-foot-10, 195-pound receiver, his locker invaded when the high-profile quarterbacks are interviewed by large masses of media.

Make no mistake, though. Merritt may serve as a mere roadblock for the spotlight at times, but the Cowboys already have taken notice of the fourth-year veteran and former Chicago Bears receiver following an impressive showing in the team's May mini-camp.

"I'm not looking for publicity or to be the No. 1 marketing guy on the team," said Merritt, 28, signed by the Cowboys in April to a one-year contract after sitting out the 2004 season. "I just really, really want to be out there."

Merritt was the Cowboys' lone off-season acquisition at a position that presents a potential concern given the recent injury histories of receivers Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn and Quincy Morgan - the trio combining to miss 12 games last season. But he seemed more like camp fodder at the time of his signing than a legitimate challenger for a roster spot at wide receiver given his lack of production during his three seasons (2001-03) with Chicago (19 reception for 170 yards in 29 games).

But Merritt took matters into his own hands after during that promising mini-camp, showing he might have more to offer the Cowboys than just special teams assistance. Merritt, used sparingly on offense in Chicago for three years after spending the 2000 season on the Bears' practice squad, made a handful of catches during the mini-camp, highlighting his speed and surprisingly soft hands.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

Merritt has some momentum heading into training camp, but he still has a ways to go before he works himself into the rotation at WR. Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn are entrenched as the starters, and Quincy Morgan appears to have a lock on the #3 WR position. Most articles you read in July will have a positive spin, and this one is no exception - but realistically, Merritt is a long shot to have fantasy value this season.

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5. CHI - WR Muhammad Raises Bears Offensive Bar

Clipped from: ChicagoBears.com article by Larry Mayer, 7/7/05

The Bears addressed their most pressing need by signing all-pro receiver Muhsin Muhammad Feb. 26, less than 24 hours after he was released by the Carolina Panthers.

Muhammad, who appeared in one Super Bowl and two Pro Bowls in nine seasons with Carolina, had 93 receptions last season while leading NFL receivers with 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns, both of which would have established Bears franchise records.

Bernard Berrian and Justin Gage are expected to be the primary contenders for the No. 2 receiver job behind Muhammad. Berrian possesses tremendous speed and displayed improved pass-catching ability during offseason practices. Gage boasts size, strength and leaping ability and figures to be featured after virtually disappearing from the offense last season.

Third-year pro Bobby Wade and rookie second-round pick Mark Bradley also will compete for playing time. Others who could be in the mix include Eddie Berlin, Kareem Kelly, Carl Ford and rookie fifth-round pick Airese Currie, a speedster who's recovering from foot surgery.

Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake answers questions about the position:

After watching Muhsin Muhammad in offseason workouts, is he as good as advertised?

He's better than I expected. When I saw him on film, I thought there was no one close as far as the guys that we may have had a shot at (in free agency). But I didn't anticipate him even being as good as he is. He just does the little things so subtly. You can tell that he really has been a student of the game. He's picked up so many different things over the years and his work ethic is tremendous. You don't get to where he is unless you have that and I see it each and every day.

How much of an impact do you think he'll make this season?

He's going to make a tremendous impact, not just from his production but in what he brings to the table as far as the whole offense is concerned. When you have a guy who has the ability to do the things that we feel he has the ability to do, it has a positive effect on everybody.

How competitive is the battle for the No. 2 position?

It's very competitive right now. You've got Justin Gage and Bernard Berrian and it's kind of been going back and forth. Neither one has backed down. Justin had the first shot and Bernard hasn't backed down. In fact, he's raised his level of play. Justin has done the same, and that's what you want. You want those guys to have that competition, but you also want those guys to raise their game to a different level.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

It's no surprise that Muhammad has looked good in the Bears' offseason workouts. He runs excellent patterns and catches everything thrown at him. The limiting factor on his fantasy potential is the Bears' effectiveness in the passing game - will Rex Grossman be anything more than adequate?

Whoever wins the battle to start opposite Muhammad will be a worthwhile sleeper pick in the very late rounds. Justin Gage has the edge in experience, but Bernard Berrian has better speed and big-play potential. Bobby Wade will also compete for playing time; he is a possession receiver who may be used in third-down situations.

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6. CHI - Bears RB Coach Tim Spencer Discusses T. Jones/C. Benson

Clipped from: ChicagoBears.com article by Larry Mayer, 7/7/05

The Bears bolstered their backfield by selecting Texas running back Cedric Benson with the fourth overall pick in the April draft.

Highly productive and durable, Benson possesses excellent vision, quick feet and toughness. The 5-10, 222-pounder is a punishing inside runner with great balance and body control.

Benson won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back as a senior in 2004 after rushing for 1,746 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also became just the fifth running back in NCAA Division I-A history to top 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons.

Assuming he reports to training camp on time, Benson is expected to compete for the starting position with Thomas Jones, who led the Bears in rushing last year with a career-high 948 yards and 7 touchdowns on 240 carries in his first season in Chicago.

Playing for a Bears offense that ranked last in the NFL in several key categories, Jones also broke Walter Payton's team record for receptions by a running back with 56 and became the first player to lead the Bears in rushing and receiving since Neal Anderson in 1989.

Special teams standout Adrian Peterson doubles as a quality No. 3 back and Bryan Johnson returns from a foot injury to reclaim the fullback job in coordinator Ron Turner's offense.

Bears running backs coach Tim Spencer answers questions about the position:

What were your impressions of Cedric Benson during the offseason practices?

He obviously knows how to run the football and does that very well. He made some very nice, sharp cuts. It's kind of hard to really get a feel when you don't have pads on, but I like what I see. It's a new system for him, so there's a bit of a learning curve. But he's got down the run plays and the main concepts in the passing game. Obviously it's going to be time on the field that's really going to sharpen him up, but I like what I see. You have to.

Assuming Cedric gets into camp on time, what type of impact can he make as a rookie?

I think that he'll make an extreme impact. He'll certainly help our team win some football games. He's a proven warrior on the field. He wants to do it. He's got a passion. He wants to be here, wants to play and really wants to prove to a lot of folks that he's capable of doing what he did in college. He has that inner drive that you can't coach and I like that about him. He wants to learn, wants to do well and wants to do things right.

How will you be able to keep both Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones happy and involved with the offense.

That's the age old problem when you have a couple of good running backs. Everybody wants to be the guy. Everybody wants to get every carry they possibly can, but in all honesty, both of them probably will not be happy with what they get. But I think they'll get enough to be able to do whatever they would like to accomplish. When you get the opportunity, you have to make plays. You have to pick up the blitz, catch that pass and make that certain block for someone. If they just go out there and play the game and understand what we're trying to do in the offense and not worry that such and such did this, they'll be fine. They'll be very successful.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

The Bears' situation is not completely different from the Dolphins': two high first-round picks on each team, one rookie and one veteran, battling each other for playing time at the running back position. Thomas Jones has not been nearly as productive as Ricky Williams has, but he played well in 2003 and 2004 in less-than-optimal team situations.

Jones and Benson have different running styles: Jones relies on his quickness and moves, and is a dangerous open-field runner, while Benson is more of a bruiser who uses his power to break tackles. The key sentence from the article is the quote from Bears' RB coach Tim Spencer, saying that both Jones and Benson will probably be unhappy with the number of carries they get. Similar to the situation in Miami, the presence of each RB limits the fantasy potential of the other.

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7. BUF - Bills Want Conditional Pick For Henry?

Clipped from: Jaguars.com article by Vic Ketchman, 7/7/05

Join jaguars.com senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Joni from Jacksonville: Hey, Vic, welcome back! ESPN recently reported that Fred Taylor will miss the first weeks of training camp. Is that report accurate? Also, they say the Jags are interested in Travis Henry and that the Bills won't let him go for less than a third-round pick. Is that the right price for the Jags?

Vic: I don't know when Fred Taylor will be ready to go. We're just going to have to wait and see. As far as Travis Henry is concerned, my information is that the Bills want the compensation in a trade for him to be conditional. My information is they want the compensation to be upgraded to a second-round pick if Henry achieves a designated level of production. I think that's the stumbling block in a trade. A second-round pick starts to get a little pricey. I have no problem with a third-round pick. As far as I'm concerned, if the price is a third-round pick, pull the trigger.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

We've been hearing for months that the Bills were seeking a third-round pick for Henry. Now here's Vic Ketchman saying he'd have no problem trading a third-round pick for him. Ketchman is not a Jaguars team official; he's the Senior Editor for the team's official website. But he's probably as plugged in as any writer is about what Jaguars team officials may be thinking.

The Titans had been considered the most probable destination for Henry during most of the offseason, but the Jaguars appear to be just as serious a possibility.

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8. BAL - Baltimore Offense Shifting Focus

Clipped from: Los Angeles Daily News article by Vincent Bonsignore, 7/7/05

Kyle Boller took a knee on the 30-yard line at Hart High of Newhall's football field Wednesday, and a hush fell over the 40 kids attending his annual quarterback camp.

"The moment you've all been waiting for," Boller said, cocking his arm back and launching a long, high spiral into the still summer air.

Throwing the ball far never has been a problem for the strong- armed Boller - as his 70-yard bomb from his knees emphatically proved. His gifted right arm wowed the Baltimore Ravens enough to gamble a high first-round pick on him two years ago, and it immediately punched Boller's ticket into the Ravens' starting lineup to start his rookie year, the first time in Ravens' history a rookie has received the quarterback job.

Two up-and-down seasons later and 31 days from the most pivotal training camp of his young career, Boller knows it's time to add more pertinent details to his resume than the most explosive throwing arm in the NFL.

It's time for Boller to bridge the gap from young quarterback to confident leader, validating the trust a franchise put in him while satisfying the desires of an impatient fan base expecting nothing less than stardom and a playoff berth.

Nobody knows that more than Boller himself.

"This is my third year, and I've got two years of starting under my belt," Boller said. "So I'm excited about getting out there and making the plays I know I'm capable of making. This is a big year for me.

The Ravens aren't just expecting a breakout season from the former Hart and University of California standout, they're insisting on it. A franchise long defined by a superior defense and the smash- mouth running of Jamal Lewis, Baltimore is shifting its offensive focus from Lewis' legs to Boller's arm.

On the field, free agency delivered veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason, and the draft brought in explosive Oklahoma receiver Mark Clayton, giving Boller the type of fleet-footed, sure-handed receivers he has lacked during his first two seasons. From the injured-reserve list comes young tight end Todd Heap - Boller's favorite target - whose shoulder injury sabotaged the chemistry Boller and Heap were building last year.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

This is a make-or-break year for Boller. He has been unspectacular (to be kind) in his first two seasons as a starter, but he has the physical tools to succeed and he now has improved weapons to work with in the offense. Free agent acquisition Derrick Mason and first-round draft pick Mark Clayton are a rather nice upgrade over last year's starters, Travis Taylor and Kevin Johnson, and the team should have TE Todd Heap back healthy this season. New offensive coordinator Jim Fassel wants to run a balanced offense, and if things click for Boller, he will present nice value for where he is currently going in most fantasy drafts.

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9. TEN - October Return For TE Troupe?

Clipped from: Nashville Tennessean article by Jim Wyatt, 7/7/05

The Titans are optimistic that Troupe, who broke a bone in his left foot and had surgery in May, will be ready for the start of the season. An October return appears more realistic, however.

Veteran Erron Kinney is the No. 1 tight end and Reese said there's a chance the Titans will sign another player at the position leading up to camp.

[ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ [ OUR VIEW ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ] ]

That's a small blurb from an article about Titan rookie TE Bo Scaife, but the fantasy implications center on Ben Troupe and Erron Kinney. Early in the offseason, Troupe was on almost everybody's sleeper list, but an injury suffered in mini-camp will keep him out of the first part of the season. As a result, starter Erron Kinney has been added to many of those same sleeper lists.

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That'll do it for today, Folks. Have a great Friday and we'll see you tomorrow with the update.

J

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