Patrick Daugherty

Risers and Fallers

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Five Up, Five Down

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Player stock can be every bit as volatile as the Dow Jones during the preseason. One lost fumble can send you tumbling down the depth chart, while one big run could have you rocketing up it. Here are five who have seen their stock rise in the past week, and five who have seen it fall.

Reggie Bush
If Bush wasn't already locked in as the Dolphins starter, he is after Friday. Miami's biggest summer acquisition flashed his trademark explosiveness while even taking on a few piles in a performance that saw him rack up 48 yards on just eight carries. He tacked on two catches for 33 yards for good measure, and appeared to be light years ahead of unaggressive rookie Daniel Thomas. Obviously, Bush will only go as far as his health will take him, but if he can stay on the field, he may be able to double the amount of touches he was receiving his final few seasons in New Orleans.

Beanie Wells
Wells is a riser, but no thanks to himself. When the Cardinals drafted Ryan Williams in the second round last spring, it was a clear message to Wells that he needed to step up after two seasons of plodding runs and ineffectiveness in the passing game. However, with Williams now done for the season with a knee injury, Wells has as much job security as any back in the NFL, with only pint-sized LaRod Stephens-Howling and anonymous Alfonso Smith behind him on the depth chart. He hasn't looked any less plodding through his first two preseason games (he's taken the ball 17 times for just 66 yards), but is an extremely safe pick thanks to the bell-cow carries he's now guaranteed to receive.

Tim Hightower/Roy Helu
As Ryan Torain sits out with a hand injury (not a good look for a running back), Hightower and Helu are going off. Hightower took the ball six times for 70 yards and a score against the Colts on Friday, while Helu went 14 times for 101 yards. Both also managed to turn in runs of at least 50 yards, and made their presence felt in the passing game. Barring injury or a monster performance from Torain upon his return to practice, Hightower has cemented himself as the Redskins starter with Helu as his change-of-pace backup.

Alex Green
When you show up to camp as a third-round pick for the defending Super Bowl champions, odds are you won't get a whole lot of respect, even if you deserve it. That's why it was so surprising when Packers HC Mike McCarthy went out of his way to praise Green on Friday. "He seems to handle the third-down concepts and responsibilities seamlessly so far," McCarthy said. "I am very impressed the way he handles third down. It's a tough down for a running back in our system." Green appears to be going from third on the depth chart to featured third-down back in Green Bay much faster than anyone thought possible.

Leon Washington
Limited to kick-return duties as he worked his way back from a severe leg injury last season, Washington will have the reins taken off this year if Seahawks HC Pete Carroll gets his way. "We love him," Carroll said. "We love what he does, but think he just needs reps in this zone scheme that we're running and so he can show us where he's special and unique in our stuff." Washington still has the explosiveness to thrive in a bigger role, and could burst back onto the fantasy scene after being off of it for almost two full seasons if the Seahawks follow through on their pledge to get him more involved. That's admittedly not a guarantee with Carroll prone to talking out of his you know what.

Jonathan Baldwin
Coming in to any NFL draft, you will find that the league's army of talent evaluators are not shy about applying the "diva" tag. If you ever so much as shot a sideways glance at your quarterback in college, you're liable to be labeled a character concern. But while some earn the title undeservedly, Baldwin worked hard for it. He threw both his coaches and quarterback under the bus, was arrested in May of 2009 for allegedly groping a female student and showed stunning immaturity when he decided to mix it up with a few draft analysts last spring. So it can hardly be considered surprising he's now sidelined with a cracked thumb — an injury he reportedly suffered in a locker room brawl with Thomas Jones. A rookie who's proven nothing getting into a fight with an unquestioned team leader — sounds like a diva, but more importantly, it sounds like someone who's not escaping his coach's doghouse any time soon.

Jahvid Best
When Best entered the league with the label of "fragile," it was due in large part to one play. Not only did Best suffer a severe concussion on that touchdown, it vividly illustrated a pretty simple fact: at less than 200 pounds and 5-foot-10 on his tippy toes, he is not a large man for a football player. Now dealing with another concussion in the wake of Detroit's second preseason game on Friday, Best insists he is "not concerned at all." However, the fantasy owners who have conspired to make his ADP 35.5 this summer very much should be. Best is injury prone until proven otherwise.

Tim Tebow
When it became clear that Tebow wasn't going to be the starting quarterback in Denver, it was hard to believe his stock could sink any lower. But that's just what it did on Friday when the Denver Post reported the "feeling" around the Broncos is that Brady Quinn — yes, that Brady Quinn — would be the one pressed into service were Kyle Orton to go down with injury. With the NFL allowing third quarterbacks to be active this season, such an order on the depth chart wouldn't be quite as big of a deal as it would have been in years past. Tebow could still be active and come in and run his package of gimmick plays if the Broncos so choose. However, the latest chink in Tebow's supposedly superhuman armor could be the most damaging, and the surest sign yet that he might not ever get a fair NFL shake.

Montario Hardesty
It was one step forward, two steps back for Hardesty this week. After finally participating in Browns practice on Monday, he was nevertheless held out of their second preseason game on Friday. Although Brandon Jackson has hardly set the world ablaze in his absence (he could manage just 19 yards on eight Friday carries), he's nevertheless been on the field, and is a proven third-down back. Seeing as Hardesty has yet to play a single NFL snap — preseason or otherwise — in his two-year career, the odds he overtakes Jackson after his latest no-show on Friday are slim.

Blaine Gabbert
It was never going to be easy for Gabbert to unseat David Garrard this preseason, but he received an unexpected opening when a balky back held Garrard out of Jacksonville's first preseason game and nearly two weeks of practice. However, after completing just 9-of-16 passes for 85 yards against the Patriots last week, Gabbert was equally unimpressive on Friday against the Falcons, converting 11-of-23 throws for just 96 yards while continually feeling phantom pressure and looking indecisive in the pocket. He's still likely to see action at some point in 2011, but after Friday it's clear it won't be in Week 1.

Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
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