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Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Bush's health continues to be issue

• ESPN's Chris Mortensen raved about Reggie Bush when he saw him at the New Orleans Saints' training camp this past weekend. Unfortunately, Saints coach Sean Payton told the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday that Bush is dealing with swelling in his surgically repaired knee, which is a mighty familiar song indeed. On Tuesday, Bush was back on the practice field, and he told the Times-Picayune that he isn't worried about the swelling or about having had his practice time scaled back over the past couple days. While it's good that Bush was able to get right back to action, meaning nothing traumatic has happened to his knees, none of this can be considered anything but a warning sign.

Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush is still waiting to live up to fantasy owners' high expectations.

If Bush is feeling pain from simply running and cutting in practice, what'll happen when the games count and the hits come? Fantasy owners had already dropped Bush's stock so far (average draft position of 57.6 after being in the top 30 last season), I was actually tempted to call him slightly undervalued; after all, if he's healthy, he's going to be on the field a ton even if Pierre Thomas leads the team in carries. Bush's receiving yards and to-the-house ability still make him a fantasy factor for sure. But if there was any question about how much risk Bush carries with him into the '09 season, these past few days answer it.

• The Houston Texans' official Web site quotes head coach Gary Kubiak as saying that Steve Slaton "needs to get much better" on the goal line, and that the Texans have "guys who can push him" in camp. This could be a motivational ploy for Slaton, but the fact is: the second-year rusher out of West Virginia is 5-foot-9 on a tall day (think 5-foot-7), and there's not a lot he can do about that. I still think Slaton is being a bit overvalued in fantasy drafts, because I think someone will emerge as a touchdown vulture with the Texans.

Chris Brown is currently looked upon as the favorite to be that guy, but anyone who's ever owned Brown in a fantasy league knows an injury-filled season is about the best we can expect. I still like undrafted free agent Arian Foster as a very deep sleeper, though Kubiak also said Tuesday that he'll try rookie James Casey, nominally a tight end but also an H-back in college, during the preseason. In other Texans news, starting center Chris Myers suffered a high-ankle sprain on Tuesday. If the injury keeps Myers out of regular-season games, that could be a semi-big blow to Slaton's value, too.

• My, how the worm has turned in Baltimore. A week ago, Derrick Mason was still retired and Mark Clayton was looking like the best-tasting Brussels sprout left at wide receiver in the Baltimore Ravens' camp. Now Mason has returned, and Clayton had to be carted off the field Sunday because of a hamstring injury. Mason told the Baltimore Sun that the team was "being cautious" with him, and that the hamstring isn't torn. But he also said he expects to miss a couple weeks of training camp. D'oh.

• The Philadelphia Eagles signed their first-round pick from April's draft, Jeremy Maclin, to a five-year contract with $9.5 million guaranteed. This is important because Maclin hails from the spread offense at the University of Missouri, where he played from the slot and didn't gain much experience running deeper routes. The more camp he was going to miss, the less likely Maclin would've been to make a fantasy impact this season. As it is, he's still got a big task ahead of him; he's set to be a split end in Andy Reid's system, but Kevin Curtis is the starter at that position right now. Now, Donovan McNabb likes to spread the ball around, so I can definitely see Maclin having a couple fantasy games this season that will make his owners smile. The problem is: it'll be hard to figure out which ones that'll be beforehand. Barring an injury to Curtis or DeSean Jackson, I think we'll see Maclin in three-receiver sets and on special teams.

• The Dallas Morning News reports that Patrick Crayton has a strong hold on the Dallas Cowboys' starting flanker job, opposite Roy E. Williams, who'll be the split end. Miles Austin has gotten a lot of sleeper pub (from me), but apparently he's not going to have much of a chance to win a starting gig in Week 1. I still think Crayton is better suited to be a slot man, and won't be surprised if Austin moves into the lineup outside eventually. For the moment, though, this puts a damper on Austin's fantasy value.

Greg Olsen
Greg Olsen was already the best fantasy option among Bears tight ends, he now has a role that matches it.

• The Chicago Tribune reports that Greg Olsen has officially taken over as the Chicago Bears' starting tight end, over Desmond Clark. Clearly, this is a nominal designation; Clark is a glorified offensive lineman and will be on the field blocking for Matt Forte a lot. But I think it also gives a peek at how important Olsen will be in the Bears' offense this season. Jay Cutler lacks for top-notch threats on the outside, meaning Olsen should lead this team in targets this season. He's a No. 1 fantasy tight end for certain.

• For the second straight day, the San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Oakland Raiders first-rounder (and the top receiver selected in April's draft) Darrius-Heyward Bey struggled catching the ball in training camp. Chaz Schilens, on the other hand, has reportedly looked much steadier. Right now, Schilens and Johnnie Lee Higgins seem set to be the Raiders' starting duo at receiver, and of that pair, Schilens is by far the more polished and seems most likely to be targeted (though tight end Zach Miller might lead the team in targets overall). Meanwhile, though, the DHB bashing has reached ridiculous proportions. The kid's basically a week into his pro career and he's already being called a bust? I think that's harsh. I also don't think the Raiders will live or die this season based on whether Heyward-Bey is an impact player. They've got more problems than him. But many are set to make this kid a fall guy, and that's not right.

• The Minnesota Vikings released wideout Aundrae Allison on Tuesday, which is notable for a couple reasons. First, Allison was a big star of Minnesota's training camp a few years ago, the kind of name we're told to file away for future reference. Second, the primary reason the Vikings thought they could afford to get rid of Allison was because a kid named Jaymar Johnson was the star of this year's minicamps. Johnson is a second-year guy out of Jackson State, and he may have worked his way up to fourth of the receiving depth chart, behind Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice and rookie Percy Harvin. Is Johnson's a name to file away? I have to admit: I've literally never seen him play. But ESPN's Cris Carter gives rave reviews. Based on that endorsement, I'm saying yes.