Fantasy fallout from Cutdown Saturday

August, 31, 2008
The turk came calling this weekend, and some big names in fantasy football are looking for work. Let's take a look at the big news:

Rudi JohnsonKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRudi Johnson will be doing much sitting around and waiting for a job.
The Bengals cut Rudi Johnson. Cincinnati saved itself $9 million by releasing Johnson, four-time Pro Bowl OT Willie Andrews and CB Deltha O'Neal. Johnson is the big name for fantasy purposes, obviously; he had a bad hamstring throughout training camp and didn't see time in any of the Bengals' exhibition games. The third-leading rusher in team history is on the street looking for work, and even if he finds it, it would take a favorable series of events for him to have any fantasy value. Chris Perry has impressed the Bengals with his rugged inside rushing, and he's always had very soft hands. For the moment, Perry is viewed as Cincinnati's every-down back, though that's subject to change as soon as Week 2. Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey are the backups. I'm not convinced the gig will be Perry's all year, but for the moment, I'd consider him on the borderline of the top 30 backs in fantasy.

Chris Brown goes on injured reserve. For an R&B singer, Brown sure is tough. But for an NFL player? Not so much. Signed for two years and $3.6 million after he left Tennessee, the owie-prone Brown had an injured back all through camp and reportedly wasn't getting any better. Combined with the releases of Marcel Shipp and Darius Walker, this leaves the Texans extremely thin at running back; they have only Ahman Green, Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor. Green is expected to start in Week 1, but we all know how this movie will end. Slaton is currently battling a toe injury and is an undersized rookie. And Taylor has probably been the best and most consistent guy in this camp, but he's a former fullback. Taylor does look like a mighty interesting sleeper, though. I do think Houston will find another back on the waiver wire. Hopefully not Rudi Johnson.

The Packers prune their backfield. Vernand Morency and Noah Herron got turfed by Green Bay on Saturday, leaving only Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson and Kregg Lumpkin as their backfield options. On the one hand, that seems like pretty good news for Grant's fantasy owners, as the Packers evidently aren't worried enough about his hamstring to carry a bunch of alternatives. On the other hand, if Grant gets hurt, there's little evidence that Jackson can handle the load himself, and suddenly Lumpkin would become a goal-line option and fantasy-relevant player.

The sad story of Roydell Williams. Williams led the Titans in touchdown catches last season (granted, he had only four) and tied for the team lead in receptions, but he needed major ankle surgery this winter and never could get back into the swing of things. Williams reportedly still has a steel plate in his leg and only recently started running again. Biren Ealy, who was penciled in as the Titans' third receiver on many depth charts this summer, was also released, leaving the Titans with a top three receiving corps of Justin Gage, Justin McCareins and Brandon Jones. If that underwhelming group doesn't do it for you, well, No. 4 and No. 5 on the depth chart are second-year men Chris Davis and Paul Williams, with rookie Lavelle Hawkins not really in the mix.

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Ashley Lelie gets cut again. The 49ers threw a lot of receivers at the wall to see who'd stick in Mike Martz's offense; Lelie wasn't one of them. Isaac Bruce is the only sure starter by the bay. Bryant Johnson, lured away from Arizona for pretty big money for a guy who'd never caught more than 49 passes in a season, battled a hamstring injury throughout camp and played in only the Niners' final preseason game. In a Martz system, many guys catch passes, and even more are given chances. Johnson, Josh Morgan, Jason Hill and Arnaz Battle figure to fit in that category. I'm still on the record as being suspicious of Johnson; I liked Hill early last month, but now I'm guessing Morgan will wind up being a very impressive rookie.

Browns still search for a third receiver. Cleveland released Travis Wilson, who was considered the leading candidate for the third receiver's gig. Return specialist Joshua Cribbs is probably third on the depth chart right now, but he isn't a slot man, so he'd probably earn significant time only if Braylon Edwards or Donte' Stallworth were to get hurt. Syndric Steptoe might be the current favorite for slot duties; coach Romeo Crennel says he hasn't completely ruled out Joe Jurevicius for the season, but it's sounding less and less like Joltin' Joe will be able to go.

Don't be fooled by Marcus Pollard. Ever. Pollard was cut by his second team this week, as the Falcons let him go. Martrez Milner, who's battled a foot injury in camp, is still the pass-catching tight end in Atlanta. But Mike Mularkey's offense is expected to be pretty conservative and may opt for a blocker at tight end much of the time.

Backup quarterback pruning. The Colts axed both Quinn Gray and Jared Lorenzen, which isn't huge news, but it indicates that the team seems pretty sure Peyton Manning will be fine for the opener. … The Giants cut Anthony Wright and waived Andre' Woodson, though Woodson could wind up on the team's practice squad. This means David Carr, who had a great preseason game against the Patriots at the right time, is Eli Manning's only backup. And that means Giants fans had better pray Eli Manning stays healthy. … The Bucs cut Chris Simms, as expected, but will still carry four quarterbacks: Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, Luke McCown and Josh Johnson.

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Kickers, kickers, kickers. Martin Gramatica beat out rookie draftee Taylor Mehlhaff out of Wisconsin and wins the important Saints kicking job. But if you've owned Gramatica in fantasy leagues the past few seasons, you know that headache probably just isn't worth it. … Nick Novak beat out rookie Connor Barth for the Chiefs' job. You don't want him. … The Giants signed John Carney to kick for them while Lawrence Tynes recovers from his knee injury. … Both Brandon Coutu, a drafted rookie out of Georgia, and veteran Olindo Mare have made the Seahawks' roster, at least for the moment. It's unclear exactly how the kicking duties will be split, but there's been speculation that Coutu will get first crack at field goals, while Mare will handle kickoffs.

Patriots cut a Gator loose. New England released former second-round pick Chad Jackson, who quite recently was thought to be the logical inheritor of the valuable third-receiver role on the Patriots' explosive offense. Jackson was given multiple chances to shine in camp and the preseason, but had numerous drops and fell behind Jabar Gaffney on the depth chart. Don't expect Jackson to stay unemployed for long, but also don't expect him to have nearly as much fantasy value in his new landing spot as he would have in New England. Meanwhile, the solid-but-unspectacular Gaffney becomes a deep-league fantasy option.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.



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