Posted: Thursday August 30, 2012 8:16AM ; Updated: Friday August 31, 2012 2:49PM
Eric Mack

Fantasy Fast Forward: Redskins' RB mess, Week 4 notes, rankings

Story Highlights

It's anyone's guess which of the four Redskins RBs will be most productive

Giants WR Hakeem Nicks looks ready to go, but RB David Wilson's stock fell

Keep an eye on Cowboys WR Dwayne Harris as a possible waiver wire grab

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Roy Helu of the Washington Redskins in NFL preseason action against Tampa Bay.
After a bumbling start against the Bucs, Roy Helu's strong performance clouded the Redskins' backfield picture.
Richard Lipski/AP

The final week of the preseason tends to be a time for general managers, talent evaluators and the players who will be bagging groceries at your nearby supermarket. We were still able to find some pertinent fantasy happenings in the mostly inconsequential last warm-ups for the 2012 season.

So, as teams send around 700 players to the waiver wire, here is a rare Friday edition of the Fantasy Fast Forward:

Game changers

1. Roy Helu is back, and impressively. Darn it!

This is a good news/bad news item for fantasy football owners. It seemingly makes things clearer for us when declaring who the Redskins' starter should be, but in actuality, it just makes Washington's backfield a bigger mess.

Helu, the late-season 2011 breakout, got back on the field Wednesday night after battling a pair of sore Achilles' tendons this preseason, rushing for 90 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries against the Buccaneers. His return started woefully, perhaps giving credence to coach Mike Shanahan's preseason ire, when he dropped a pitch, picked it up, dropped it again and accidentally kicked it out of bounds for a 14-yard loss.

"After that first pitch, when I got in the [next] series for run after run, that's where I started feeling more in tune [with] where blocks would be," Helu told the Washington Post. "It was good to get out there, just throwing my heart out there."

Helu impressed with his next 16 touches, which included a pair of 17-yard receptions. He had two runs of 15 yards, including one of his TDs, and a pair of 10-yard jaunts. He was ripping off yardage in bunches once he got going.

Now, what the heck do we make of the Redskins' backfield?

• Helu was supposed to be the darling, but he has spent all camp in Shanahan's doghouse, inexplicably, due to durability concerns. He looks like a potential world-beater again.

• Veteran Tim Hightower, coming off knee surgery, was slated to start if he could prove healthy this preseason. He was held out of Week 4 and released on Friday.

• Sophomore Evan Royster started Wednesday night ahead of Helu and did all right, rushing 10 times for 44 yards. That's an acceptable average, but he was clearly outplayed by the sophomore in the doghouse, Helu.

• Sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris handled most of the first-team reps during the preseason and hasn't done anything to disappoint. In fact, Shanahan has gone so far as to suggest that Morris might be the Week 1 starter. He was held out of Wednesday night's game, too, a sign that he is ahead of Royster and Helu.

This is clearly a mess to avoid in drafts this weekend, but it is definitely something to watch for potential waiver-wire sleepers at the thin RB position. It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see the back no one owns wind up the most productive in fantasy. Right now all three backs can make a case to start, so they should be owned in most leagues.

"We have some solid backs on this team," Royster told the Post. "It's definitely a good problem to have for a coach's standpoint. But it's tough on us. We just want to make this team as best we can."

If you have to rank them for fantasy Week 1:

1. Morris

2. Royster

3. Helu

But, if you rank them for full-season fantasy potential (flip it upside down):

1. Helu

2. Royster

3. Morris

It is going to be weekly guesswork until someone takes charge, if someone takes charge.

"Whoever's going to be out there [as the starter], we still have to compete each week," Helu said.

Best of luck here.

2. Chiefs backs going dutch? 50-50 split

As good as Jamaal Charles has looked in his brief appearances in the preseason, the bad news is how well Peyton Hillis has played. Hillis is now rumored to be taking more than just the red-zone touches, perhaps as much as a 50-50 split. That might mean 15 touches per back per game.

Charles will rush for the better average -- he has the highest per-carry average in NFL history for a back with as many carries (6.1 to Jim Brown's Hall of Fame-leading 5.2) -- but Hillis might wind up the more productive fantasy back. Think about these weekly averages: 50 yards and a TD for Hillis, and 90 combined yards for Charles.

That makes Charles more of a late second-round pick than a late first. The Chiefs just coddle Charles too much.

3. Steeling the role?

Isaac Redman has had an injury-plagued camp and Rashard Mendenhall (knee) won't be full-go until October, so Dwyer's performance late in the preseason is noteworthy. Dwyer, 23, just might have earned a split with Redman to start the season. The third-year back from Georgia Tech is younger than Redman, 27, and Mendenhall, who is a free agent. Jonathan Dwyer just might be able to develop into a long-term option for the Steelers this season. Redman is getting overdrafted right now, and even if you believe Mendenhall becomes the feature back in October, Dwyer is a solid late-round flier.

The good: Isaiah Pead, Rams

After the OTAs, Pead was the second-coming of Chris Johnson -- the good version. For most of training camp, Pead looked more like the CJ2K of 2011, a bust. Pead might have salvaged his backup status to Steven Jackson with a solid effort Thursday night, though. Pead is a potential game-breaker and Jackson is a serious risk for injury because of his age and wear and tear. Fellow rookie Daryl Richardson, who has outplayed Pead this preseason, is a viable late-round sleeper in his own right.

The bad: Brandon Jackson, Browns

There is talk Jackson might have beaten out Montario Hardesty as Trent Richardson's backup. That is silly talk. Jackson has proven to be a fantasy nobody. Hardesty might be, too, though. Richardson looks like he will be a go for fantasy Week 1. Richardson is a decent start, while his backups are hardly worth owning.

The ugly: Moreno gets no respect

Knowshon Moreno somehow never got into John Fox's good graces and is buried behind Willis McGahee, Lance Ball and rookie Ronnie Hillman on the Broncos' depth chart. Moreno needs a change of scenery, because he looked spry in his seven carries for 49 yards and would be a decent fantasy sleeper in a better situation. Maybe we will get lucky and see Moreno get cut or traded to a team like the Steelers or Lions.
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