Hey folks – just a short week away from the return of actual NFL football. College gets us started this weekend, then kickoff on Thursday between Washington and the NY Giants.

Here’s the morning look at the news -

Baltimore Ravens
Troy Smith has been vying for the starting QB job and looked like he might get it – until Tonsilitis derailed him. He didn’t start game three and hasn’t been practicing. The QB situation in Baltimore is bad and if there is any value at the WR position, this is making it hard to find. Mark Clayton is probably the guy to own here but who will throw him the ball. Smith is unproven, Flacco needs work and we all know Boller isn’t the clear answer, despite good play last year. If you have to take someone, Clayton is it.

We still don’t know what is going on with McGahee’s knee, by the way. Ray Rice is an exciting prospect but 1) what if McGahee comes back and 2) he could wear down late in the season. Don’t reach for Rice, but if he falls to you as your #3 back somewhere in the 5th – 8th, take him in smile.

Jacksonville Jaguars
MJD owners can breathe a sigh of relief (or sleep soundly at night or relax – whatever trite saying floats yoru boat) as HC Jack Del Rio says Jones-Drew’s ankle is only mildly sprained. Don’t expect to see him in the preseason finale at Washington, but then again, that’s standard procedure for most studs on most teams. I still like Fred Taylor as a guy to shoot for in the 5th-8th rounds. Taylor has something left in the tank and while you can never count on him for TDs, he’s great for yardage.

The WR core is still a shambles, though. Garrard will put up respectible numbers but who knows who is catching the ball. Porter has been hurt, Williams -despite last year- is unreliable, Troy Williamson still has hands of cement and most of the guys behind them havne’t stepped up. Matt Jones has played well and probably saved his job after the cocaine fiasco a month ago, but he’s burned us before, hasn’t he? I wouldn’t draft him.

San Diego Chargers
The Darren Sproles/Jacob Hester battle continues. After excelling at the goal line this preseason, Hester was stuffed 4 times last night, though he scored on a 5th attempt. Sproles had a huge night, carrying thw ball 13 times for 102 yards and a TD which was – you guessed it – short yardage. As we have said, if LT goes down (ok, I just got a chill typing that) these guys will likely split carries. One bad preseason game does not kille Hester after several very good games. Neither does it puff Sproles up too much. Sproles isn’t an every down back, his size and skill set don’t quite fit it. Could he step up? Sure. But Hester has played well enough to get a piece of the action. I like Hester as a late back-up for LT or a high upside pick. You know I hate handcuffing, but if you must, go Hester.

Seattle Seahawks
After 3 games, we still don’t know who is playing around Nate Burleson (who looked pretty darn good last night. This week, it was Jordan Kent who stepped up on the stat sheet, with 4 catches for 47 yards and a TD. Kent has been very productive, though he fits into the split end position Burleson occupies and is a bit raw. Courtney Taylor only had 3 catches for24 yards, but threw a gorgeous block during Burleson’s 68 yard TD. That’s the sort of thing coaches love to see, as it proves you can help the run game as well as catch balls. Burleson did some nice work after the catch there as well, but Taylor just annihilated a defender.

Maurice Morris looks to have crept ahead of Julius Jones on the depth chart here in Seattle – but expect a full blown RBBC, though both backs may have some value anyway. They may not be consistent, but then again, one may break out during the season. The run game has to get going here, so the issue will get forced during the early part of the season.

Speaking of RBs -

Quick RB Notes
Mike Bush (OAK) may be getting some work at fullback – that’s usually a sign he will be left out in the carries deptartmen and is not going to have much value as a RB for you….. rookie Jamall Charles (KC) is back at practice but will not overtake Kolby Smith as Larry Johnson’s back-up. LJ is a guy who has been beat up the last few seasons, but his back-up is not really someone i will go out of my way to draft…. Seattle rookie full back and Blurb fave Justin Forsett fell back to earth after a good preseason. Last night he only got 9 yards on 4 carries, caught on pass and lost a fumble. He’s #3 here, though I still think down the road a few seasons, he may prove to be a guy who can start… I don’t buy the Rudi Johnson trade rumors out of ESPN. First off, Chris Mortenson (who I have all the respect in the world for) seems to have been off his game this year. Aside from the Favre story, we’ve seen him throw out some real hum-dingers (Miami trading Ronnie Brown anyone?). But beyond that, who is going to take Johnson and for what? He’s been hurt since the jump last season and we’ve yet to see him in preseason. And with Chris Perry being a walking injury time bomb, Kenny Irons gone and very little behind them (Kenny Watson and………?) can they afford to dump hinm? And for a ‘quality wide receiver’? They could use some shoring up at WR, but I don’t know who will be a guy they can get when Rudi is a big question mark and Shaun Alexander, Cedric Benson and others sit out there who might be cheaper and healthier. Of course, who really wants Benson? As I have said, between the injuries and the O-line questions, I have avoided the running backs here all Draft season and will continue to look elsewhere for my #2,s 3 or bench depth…. Speaking of Ronnie Brown, he and Ricky Williams are splitting reps in practice – exactly what we said would happen. Williams hasn’t proved he can still carry a whole season and Brown is still coming along from his injury. Both are good RB3s.

OK, folks – that’s it for now – will be back with more later!

Keep sending those draft questions to thunderingblurb@gmail.com – been responding to them since I got back Sunday night and will turn them around ASAP for you guys drafting up to the start of the season.