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Ryan, Jones-Drew on the rise as fantasy football season nears

By Michael Fabiano | NFL.com

Fantasy Editor

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will be seen as a viable No. 1 fantasy quarterback in most 2009 drafts.

It's been a long (and painful) offseason for NFL and fantasy football enthusiasts, but the wait for a brand-new season is almost over!

Training camps will soon be open, preseason contests will kick off with the Hall of Fame Game (Buffalo at Tennessee, Aug. 9) at Fawcett Stadium, and fantasy drafts will begin in earnest. That means it's time to start your research (if you haven't already) and find out how the last four months will affect your draft strategies.

The best place to prepare for your draft is right here on NFL.com, where you can check out our in-depth and comprehensive 2009 draft kit. It includes projections for the six major fantasy positions, draft strategies, sleepers, busts and over 60 pieces of original content that will help you dominate the competition.

A major part of that preparation is knowing whose value is on the rise, and whose stock is falling after an offseason loaded with player movement and personnel changes.

For better or worse, here's our look at 10 of the biggest movers and shakers.

Risers

Team Player Analysis

Jacksonville Jaguars

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB There might not be a player who's stock has risen more than Jones-Drew. While he had been a productive fantasy option in the past, the presence of Fred Taylor put a cap on his level of production. With Taylor now in New England, however, Jones-Drew becomes the Jaguars' unquestioned starter and featured back. Based on his skills as a runner and receiver out of the backfield, not to mention a proven nose for the end zone, Jones-Drew is now a solid top-five selection.

Team Player Analysis

New England Patriots

Tom Brady, QB Brady's stock couldn't have been higher heading into last season, but a torn ACL sidelined him after just 11 pass attempts. Earlier offseason reports on his recovery weren't positive, as news of post-operative infections and additional surgical procedures seemed to cloud his status. But over the past several weeks, Brady has been back on the practice field and is expected to be 100 percent to start the season. Based on his potential, Brady's stock is back on the rise.

Team Player Analysis

Kansas City Chiefs

Dwayne Bowe, WR Bowe might have put on a few too many pounds in the offseason, but coach Todd Haley will no doubt have him back in shape in time for training camp. Haley has helped numerous wideouts find success in the past, a list that includes Marty Booker, Keyshawn Johnson and Terrell Owens, and his guidance makes Bowe a strong breakout candidate. The Chiefs will throw the ball a lot, and Bowe should see more than his share of targets with Tony Gonzalez out of the mix.

Team Player Analysis

New Orleans Saints

Pierre Thomas, RB Fantasy leaguers who had Thomas on their team during the second half of last season know exactly the sort of impact he can make between the white lines. The Saints must have realized that as well, deciding not to add another back during the offseason. That makes Thomas the top runner on their depth chart, ahead of the talented but injury-prone Reggie Bush. Don't be shocked to see Thomas come off the board as early as the second round as a No. 2 fantasy back.

Team Player Analysis

Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan, QB Ryan is coming off a tremendous rookie season, and his prospects are great for an even better sophomore campaign. The Boston College product spent much of the offseason in the weight room in an effort to improve his strength, and the addition of Tony Gonzalez will do nothing but improve his overall level of production. Now a viable No. 1 fantasy quarterback, Ryan has a legitimate chance to break out. He could end up being one of the biggest middle-round steals in drafts.

Fallers

Team Player Analysis

Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler, QB Cutler might be one of the most talented, young quarterbacks in the NFL, but his move from the Broncos to the Bears hurt his value. He'll have little chance to duplicate the 616 pass attempts he had last season, and the level of receiving talent around him has decreased. That's not to say that Cutler will be a complete fantasy disaster, but he could very well wind up throwing for around 500 fewer yards and scoring five fewer touchdowns compared to his strong 2008 totals.

Team Player Analysis

Buffalo Bills

Marshawn Lynch, RB There wasn't very much to like about Lynch's offseason. First he ran into trouble with police in California, then he was suspended three games by the league for violating the conduct policy. To top it all off, the Bills added veteran runner Dominic Rhodes to a backfield that already included Fred Jackson, who should see a larger role in 2009. All of this means Lynch, once considered a viable first-round pick in drafts, will now fall down into the four or fifth round as a No. 2 fantasy back.

Team Player Analysis

Philadelphia Eagles

Brian Westbrook, RB Westbrook has long been one of the top runners in fantasy land, but ankle and knee surgeries during this past offseason have his value on the decline. The Eagles also love the potential of rookie LeSean McCoy, who is expected to be Westbrook's heir apparent. Based on these circumstances, his past proneness to injuries and his age (30 in September), Westbrook has suddenly become a serious risk-reward player heading into this season.

Team Player Analysis

Indianapolis Colts

Joseph Addai, RB Addai was one of the biggest disappointments in fantasy football last season. Despite his first-round price tag, he finished with a meager 544 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns. Then came the addition of Donald Brown in the NFL Draft, which made Addai even more of a risk in fantasy circles. He'll remain atop the Colts depth chart and still has 1,000-yard potential (barring injuries), but Addai is now more of a fourth- to sixth-round selection across the board.

Team Player Analysis

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antonio Bryant, WR The Buccaneers will have a different look this season, part of which will be a new run-based offense under coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. The team will also start one of the undistinguished trio of Luke McCown, Byron Leftwich or rookie Josh Freeman at quarterback, and new acquisition Kellen Winslow will see his share of targets. All of this is bad news for Bryant, who broke out last season, but even admits his 2009 numbers could be lower based on the changes in offense

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It makes the football season even more incredible. Any football fan will love Fantasy Football. You learn so much about the NFL and it's a blast to play.

It definitely makes you keep up with everything going on around than league rather than just the Falcons.

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