Preps Talk

Fantasy football stock watch

Fantasy football stock watch

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com

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Jake Locker, QB, Titans: He's been installed as the Tennessee starter, and he'll do two specific things that are appealing to fantasy owners: chuck the ball medium and deep, and run when the pocket breaks down. Locker's Tennessee weapons are better than you might think; all signs point to a bounce-back season from tailback Chris Johnson (a handy receiver), and the receiving corps is very deep even if Kenny Britt isn't a factor. (Nate Washington might be the most underrated wideout in the league; Kendall Wright is making a rookie splash; and Jared Cook is a steadily-improving tight end.) If you need to go with more than one quarterback at the draft table, Locker is a strong upside choice to consider.

Cedric Benson, RB, Packers: While there's little explosiveness or lateral agility left to Benson's game, the Packers don't need him to be an earth-mover in the backfield. All Green Bay wants is a ball-security back who can produce 3-4 yards and a cloud of dust every so often, with some goal-line plunges thrown in. Benson offers all that, and he's a solid depth play as your third or (preferably) fourth fantasy back in standard formats. The Packers basically used Aaron Rodgers as their goal-line back the last couple of years, but they'd prefer to shift that work (and those body shots) to someone else.

Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars: He didn't endear himself to the Jacksonville organization with the post-draft DUI charge, but Blackmon's game has been impressive in training camp. The first-round pick has eight grabs for 120 yards during limited exhibition play, and quarterback Blaine Gabbert looks notably improved in his second season. Once the Top 40 wideouts are gone from your draft, Blackmon looks as good as anyone. There's certainly an upside here.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders: He's had a full training camp to get acclimated with quarterback Carson Palmer, and DHB's role could be expanding given that Denarius Moore (hamstring) and Jacoby Ford (foot) are battling injuries. Someone is likely to push 1,000 yards and 7-9 touchdowns here, and Heyward-Bey gets the best odds at the moment.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings: He's the perfect lottery-ticket back to have stashed on your bench, given all the smoke around Adrian Peterson's situation. Gerhart showed surprising chops in 132 touches last year (4.9 yards per carry, 8.3 yards per catch), and every comment on Peterson this summer is couched in the most uncertain of terms. When in doubt in the NFL, bet on the chaos - or at least be prepared for it.

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Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals: He made his preseason debut Thursday and didn't go anywhere (six carries, 12 yards), in part because Arizona's offensive line is the worst in the NFC right now. Wells is one of the most injury-plagued backs in the league, and a healthy Ryan Williams is going to push him all season. A changing of the guard is likely here, it's just a matter of when. Unless the price is peanuts on draft day, just keep Wells out of your plans.

Austin Collie, WR, Colts: He was one of our favorite sleeper targets a week or two ago, but another possible concussion has us backing off that pick. Someone is going to have a sneaky value season in the Indianapolis passing game this year, but will Collie be healthy enough to take advantage of the set-up? Go get Reggie Wayne or one of the tight ends instead.

Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets: He's now dealing with a hamstring problem along with a sore hamstring and bruised ribs. His quarterbacks aren't doing him any favors (and vice versa). If you have to take a New York wide receiver, spend a late pick on intriguing rookie Stephen Hill. There's too much downside with Holmes, given his price tag.

Matt Flynn, QB, Seahawks: He's had an up-and-down camp and the club is giving hotshot rookie Russell Wilson a chance at the job (Wilson starts this weekend in the all-important third preseason game). Even if Flynn breaks camp as the No. 1, it's doubtful he'll keep the position all year. Much like Andy Reid made Kevin Kolb in Philadelphia, it appears Flynn might be a creation of the passing laboratory in Green Bay.

Holding Steady

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: We still think he'll end his holdout before the regular-season starts - players hate to start forfeiting game checks, and all running backs know how limited their NFL window is. If you want to worry about the effect of the holdout on MJD's season, fine, but we'll be stunned if he misses actual games. He's still a good bet to be a Top 12 fantasy back when the scores are totaled at the end of the year. You might get a silly discount on Jones-Drew this weekend.

High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

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High School Lites Week 9 football roundup

High School Lites featured plenty of great action on Friday night as NBC Sports Chicago had highlights of many of the area's top matchups. Some playoff dreams came to fruition while others crashed and burned. 

Watch tomorrow as the IHSA playoff brackets are revealed tomorrow on NBC Sports Chicago+ at 8 p.m. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA football scores and highlights. 

DRIVE: Prairie Ridge: Episode 10

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Back of the Yards QB Jeremiah Harris

St. Xavier Team of the Week: De La Salle Meteors

Friday's Top 25 Games

No. 1 Lincoln-Way East 18, No. 19 Bolingbrook 14 

No. 2 Prairie Ridge 55, Dundee-Crown 14

No. 3 Maine South 56, Niles West 9

No. 4 Marist 42, Joliet Catholic 14

No. 5 Lake Zurich , Mundelein

No. 6 Phillips 53, Clark 0

No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 50, Sandburg 14

No. 10 Barrington 40, Conant 19

No. 11 Huntley 45, McHenry 7

No. 12 Naperville Central 35, Lake Park 21

No. 13 Hinsdale Central 42, Hinsdale South 14

No. 24 St. Charles North 35, No. 14 Batavia 28

No. 16 Wheaton North 20, Waubonsie Valley 10

No. 17 Crete-Monee 52, Cahokia 8

No. 18 St. Rita 47, Marmion 14

No. 20 Lyons 31, Oak Park-River Forest 14

No. 21 Nazareth 48, Marian Catholic 7

No. 22 Oswego 30, Plainfield Central 0

Mount Carmel 35, No. 23 Providence 34

Other Highlights

Tinley Park 29, Evergreen Park 0

T.F. South 21, Oak Forest 14

Glenbard North 24, Neuqua Valley 14

St. Edward 29, Wheaton Academy 28

Marian Central Catholic 44, St. Patrick 21

Saturday's Top 25 Games

No. 7 Loyola vs. Brother Rice

No. 8 Glenbard West vs. Proviso West

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.