- Matthew Berry, Fantasy
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[Editor's Note: This column originally ran on Feb. 19, but now contains updated rankings, as of April 8.]
It is, as exercises go, fairly futile.
A Top 200 ranking for the 2009 fantasy football season in February? Make no mistake about it, I am all about futile pursuits. See "Hathaway, Anne," my obsession. But I initially resisted when I was asked to do this by the ESPN Fantasy editorial team.
It'll be done before free agency is complete, before we know where all the rookie running backs will be playing. Will my rankings really be any help to anyone, I asked? That's never stopped you before, they shot back.
Good point. So here's a look at my Top 200 rankings. If you haven't read this before, some things to note:
I did this with an ESPN standard 10-team league in mind. That means one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end and a flex player (running back, wide receiver or tight end) on each team. It is standard scoring, which means no points per reception and four points for a touchdown pass.
I also did this with my own personal biases in mind. At various points, I'll interject with reasons for why I ranked certain players where. But in general:
• I believe you should have just one kicker and one defense on a team roster at all times. When it's a bye week, you drop them and pick up replacements. If you have a particularly good defense, you can drop someone else to grab a bye-week defense, but certainly when drafting, you should draft just one kicker and one defense. As a result, I have ranked only 10 of each in the Top 200.
• In just about every draft I've done, my last two picks have been a team defense and a kicker, in that order. Read last year's Draft Day Manifesto or the one I'll write for this upcoming season for more background, but the difference between team defenses is statistically insignificant. And that's even if you could predict the order of finish, which you can't. Where did last year's consensus No. 1 defense, the Chargers, finish? Exactly. (With Shawne Merriman expected back, I did rank them below, however.) Anyway, my bottom 20 consists of defenses and then kickers, because that is how I would draft.
• I would draft two quarterbacks and two tight ends in a league this shallow, and otherwise fill up on running backs and wide receivers. And so I have ranked 20 quarterbacks and 20 tight ends.
• If you have read my work before, you know my theory on kickers. (If you haven't, here's the short version: They're useless, and they're all the same.) When I was doing this, one of the suits here at ESPN, Raphael Poplock, wandered into my office. I let him rank the kickers. And yeah, it took him less than a minute -- and that's still more time than I would have spent on it. Seriously, throw a dart.
• Players who have moved up or down in the pecking order since the last update appear in italics.
And with that, away we go:
1. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons
2. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: Here's my thinking on Turner being ranked No. 1 over Peterson. First, in ESPN standard scoring, Turner outscored Peterson by 32 points in 2008. So it not only can happen, it has happened. Second, Chester Taylor started vulturing scores in the second half from Peterson, who once again faded down the stretch (not as badly as he faded in the second half of his rookie season, but he had 11 fantasy points or fewer in three of the six games from Week 11 to Week 16). Plus, the Vikings still don't have a competent quarterback to keep teams from stacking the line. In Turner's case, the development of Matt Ryan and the emergence of Michael Jenkins as a decent No. 2 receiver behind Roddy White mean teams must respect the pass, giving Turner more room to run. And finally, Turner has been in the league for five years, Peterson only two and yet Peterson has 20 more career touches.
3. Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles
4. Matt Forte, RB, Bears
5. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: Now that Fred Taylor is gone and the Jaguars have an offseason to get the offensive line healthy, the sky's the limit for MJD.
6. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins
7. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans
8. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams
9. Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants
11. Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: He'd be higher if not for Felix Jones and Tashard Choice being so effective.
12. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
13. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers: He's by far the most-debated early-round option, and perhaps the toughest to rank. I put him here because I don't see him getting 20 touchdowns again this year, especially with a healthy Jonathan Stewart (whom I like a lot, as you'll see below) around.
14. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers: I'm betting that LT gets healthy, and that he runs behind a viable blocking fullback and better offensive line this season. LaDainian is a prideful guy, and he has a long offseason to think about his struggles this past season. That said, Darren Sproles ain't going anywhere, so LT drops outside my top 10 now.
15. Steve Slaton, RB, Texans
16. Thomas Jones, RB, Jets
17. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
18. Randy Moss, WR, Patriots: I'm assuming Tom Brady is healthy here. Also note that questions about Anquan Boldin's contract status were enough to drop Larry Fitzgerald to No. 3 among receivers.
19. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
20. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
21. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
22. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans
23. Ryan Grant, RB, Packers
24. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals
25. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers
26. Roddy White, WR, Falcons
27. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts
28. Terrell Owens, WR, Bills: Think he actually has a huge year in Buffalo. One-year contract and something to prove, plus he always does well in his first years with a team.
29. Joseph Addai, RB, Colts
30. Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: This is me saying I don't care if Reggie Bush is healthy or not.
31. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts
32. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
33. Marques Colston, WR, Saints
34. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Seahawks: Moving to a pass-friendly offense as the clear No. 1 receiver and facing a much weaker division pushes Housh into my top 10 wide receivers .
35. Kevin Smith, RB, Lions
36. Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals: Again, this is a result of the questions about whom he'll play for this season.
37. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys
38. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
39. Greg Jennings, WR, Packers
40. Brandon Marshall, WR, Broncos
41. Reggie Bush, RB, Saints
42. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots
43. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: I've moved Rivers up and dropped Cutler a bunch after his trade to the Bears.
44. Le'Ron McClain, RB, Ravens: Clearly, McClain is the Ravens runner I'm choosing.
45. Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins
46. Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers
47. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs
48. Willie Parker, RB, Steelers
49. Sammy Morris, RB, Patriots: Allow me to officially declare Laurence Maroney dead. From a fantasy perspective, anyway. Save your hate mail for the regular season.
50. Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens: But I don't think McGahee's done by any means.
51. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys
52. Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers: Look at his numbers before you scratch your head (or anything else, for that matter).
53. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs
54. Roy E. Williams, WR, Cowboys: The new No. 1 wide receiver for Tony Romo.
55. Santonio Holmes, WR, Steelers
56. Plaxico Burress, WR, free agent: Impact guy wherever he lands.
57. Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: I think he gets healthy, gets the starting gig and shows why he was such a high draft pick.
58. Santana Moss, WR, Redskins
59. Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: Wherever he winds up, it won't involve him being an every-down back. At best, he's in for a time-share. Or if he still stays in KC, he's in for blocking for Matt Cassel.
60. LenDale White, RB, Titans
61. Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos
62. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles
63. Braylon Edwards, WR, Browns: Surprised at how far he dropped? Get it? Dropped? Whatever. Some of these jokes are just for me.
64. Bernard Berrian, WR, Vikings
65. Hines Ward, WR, Steelers
66. Dallas Clark, TE, Colts
67. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
68. Kevin Walter, WR, Texans: See note about "Jackson, Vincent."
69. Donald Driver, WR, Packers
70. Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles
71. Laveranues Coles, WR, Bengals
72. Derrick Ward, RB, Buccaneers: Finally gets to be a feature back. I figure Earnest Graham still will get the goal-line carries, but Ward will get the bulk of the work.
73. Jamal Lewis, RB, Browns
74. Derrick Mason, WR, Ravens
75. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
76. Matt Cassel, QB, Chiefs: I like him, and the Chiefs have some nice weapons. But it's a new system, and he doesn't have Randy Moss, so he's atop the second tier for now.
77. Jay Cutler, QB, Bears: No elite wideouts and a new offense to learn. Yes, I like Hester and Olsen, and Forte is a great pass-catcher, but I put him here because, to me, the biggest difference is that Chicago has a great defense. Denver doesn't and I expect a lot more close games for Chicago than Denver had last year.
78. David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: He was better down the stretch than you think.
79. Correll Buckhalter, RB, Broncos: The most upside of any of the Denver backs.
80. Lance Moore, WR, Saints
81. Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Dolphins
82. Matt Schaub, QB, Texans
83. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
84. Lee Evans, WR, Bills
85. Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals
86. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: A 3-game suspension to start the season will do it.
87. Edgerrin James, RB, Cardinals: Obviously I'm buyin' "regular-season Edge," not "postseason Edge."
88. Dominic Rhodes, RB, free agent
89. Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks: T.J. Houshmandzadeh's signing helps his value, too.
90. Owen Daniels, TE, Texans
91. Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens
92. Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings
93. Kellen Winslow, TE, Buccaneers: Trade to Tampa Bay helps Winslow's career but hurts his fantasy value.
94. Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders
95. Jerricho Cotchery, WR, Jets
96. Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: Now that Marvin Harrison is gone
97. Steve Breaston, WR, Cardinals: And if Boldin goes elsewhere, Breaston goes way up.
98. Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Vikings: I have nothing to hide here.
99. Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals
100. Chris Henry, WR, Bengals: A lot will depend on what happens with Chad Ocho Cinco.
101. Deion Branch, WR, Seahawks
102. Matt Jones, WR, free agent: I'm assuming he lands somewhere and realizes this is his last chance.
103. Earnest Graham, RB, Buccaneers
104. Fred Taylor, RB, Patriots
105. Maurice Morris, RB, Seahawks
106. Bobby Engram, WR, Chiefs
107. Torry Holt, WR, free agent
108. Justin Gage, WR, Titans
109. Kevin Curtis, WR, Eagles
110. Chris Chambers, WR, Chargers
111. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants: And with Derrick Ward in Tampa Bay
112. Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins
113. Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys
114. Eli Manning, QB, Giants
115. Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins
116. Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals: I initially thought J.J. Arrington was coming back. Apparently not, so Hightower gets a bump up.
117. Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers: With this ranking, I'm assuming he remains a backup, in San Diego or somewhere else.
118. Leon Washington, RB, Jets
119. Chad Pennington, QB, Dolphins
120. Julius Jones, RB, Seahawks
121. Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR, Raiders
122. Peyton Hillis, RB, Broncos
123. John Carlson, TE, Seahawks
124. Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos
125. Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings
126. Devin Hester, WR, Bears
127. Antwaan Randle El, WR, Redskins
128. Domenik Hixon, WR, Giants
129. Patrick Crayton, WR, Cowboys: With no more T.O. in Dallas
130. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
131. Michael Bush, RB, Raiders: This ranking is about playing time, not talent. As long as he is still third on the Raiders' depth chart, he belongs down here.
132. Selvin Young, RB, Broncos
133. Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos: When healthy, he was among the hottest quarterbacks in the league. And now he gets Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal to play with.
134. Mewelde Moore, RB, Steelers
135. Dustin Keller, TE, Jets
136. Isaac Bruce, WR, 49ers
137. Amani Toomer, WR, Giants
138. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers
139. Laurence Maroney, RB, Patriots
140. J.J. Arrington, RB, Broncos
141. Chad Ocho Cinco, WR, Bengals
142. Zach Miller, TE, Raiders
143. Muhsin Muhammad, WR, Panthers
144. Greg Olsen, TE, Bears
145. Greg Camarillo, WR, Dolphins
146. Jerious Norwood, RB, Falcons
147. Donnie Avery, WR, Rams
148. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills
149. Michael Pittman, RB, free agent
150. Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins
151. Nate Washington, WR, Steelers
152. Devery Henderson, WR, Saints
153. Sinorice Moss, WR, Giants
154. Justin McCareins, WR, free agent
155. Anthony Fasano, TE, Dolphins
156. Kolby Smith, RB, Chiefs
157. Ryan Torain, RB, Broncos
158. Kevin Boss, TE, Giants
159. Donald Lee, TE, Packers
160. Tashard Choice, RB, Cowboys
161. Heath Miller, TE, Steelers
162. Dennis Northcutt, WR, Jaguars
163. Malcolm Kelly, WR, Redskins: Bit of a sleeper surprise here considering he was injured as a rookie. But the Redskins absolutely love him, and at this point you're just drafting upside anyway. He has a lot of that.
164. Mark Clayton, WR, Ravens
165. Chaz Schilens, WR, Raiders
166. Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns
167. Deuce McAllister, RB, free agent
168. Josh Morgan, WR, 49ers
169. Brandon Lloyd, WR, free agent
170. James Jones, WR, Packers
171. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens
172. Jason Hill, QB, 49ers
173. DeShaun Foster, RB, free agent
174. Lorenzo Booker, RB, Eagles
175. Bo Scaife, TE, Titans
176. Ryan Moats, RB, Texans: The answer to the question, "If Steve Slaton goes down, then who ?"
177. Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins
178. Donte' Stallworth, WR, Browns
179. Brent Celek, TE, Eagles
180. David Martin, TE, Packers
181. Tennessee Titans, D/ST
182. Pittsburgh Steelers, D/ST
183. Baltimore Ravens, D/ST
184. Philadelphia Eagles, D/ST
185. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, D/ST
186. Chicago Bears, D/ST
187. New York Giants, D/ST
188. Minnesota Vikings, D/ST
189. San Diego Chargers, D/ST
190. New York Jets, D/ST
191. Rob Bironas, K, Titans
192. Nate Kaeding, K, Chargers
193. Jason Elam, K, Falcons
194. David Akers, K, Eagles
195. Nick Folk, K, Cowboys
196. Stephen Gostkowski, K, Patriots
197. Mason Crosby, K, Packers
198. Ryan Longwell, K, Vikings
199. Josh Brown, K, Rams
200. Jeff Reed, K, Steelers
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is now on Twitter.com as "TheRealTMR." He may or may not be interesting on it. He is a five-time award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend
Matthew Berry, the Talented Mr. Roto, updates his top-200 list less than three weeks before the NFL draft.