The Big Rotowski: Ranking Matt Cassel for the rest of the season
Editor's note: These rankings are meant to capture fantasy value from today through the end of the NFL regular season. We'll publish them every Tuesday during the season to help you make decisions about trades and waiver-wire acquisitions; as such, this list won't always reflect news that comes out later in the week. Remember, every Wednesday you'll find week-specific positional rankings from four of our fantasy football writers.
Quarterback rankings RANK Name Team Last Week 1 Peyton Manning Colts 2 2 Tony Romo Cowboys 3 3 Drew Brees Saints 4 4 Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 5 5 Donovan McNabb Eagles 7 6 Jay Cutler Broncos 8 7 Carson Palmer Bengals 6 8 Derek Anderson Browns 11 9 David Garrard Jaguars 9 10 Matt Schaub Texans 12 11 Eli Manning Giants 13 12 Brett Favre Jets 14 13 Aaron Rodgers Packers 16 14 Marc Bulger Rams 15 15 Philip Rivers Chargers 17 16 Matt Hasselbeck Seahawks 10 17 Jake Delhomme Panthers 18 18 Kurt Warner Cardinals 21 19 Jon Kitna Lions 20 20 JaMarcus Russell Raiders 24 21 Trent Edwards Bills 25 22 Matt Cassel Patriots NR 23 Jason Campbell Redskins 19 24 Jeff Garcia Buccaneers 23 25 Tarvaris Jackson Vikings 26 26 Kyle Orton Bears 30 27 Matt Leinart Cardinals 27 28 Chad Pennington Dolphins 29 29 Matt Ryan Falcons 31 30 Vince Young Titans 22 31 J.T. O'Sullivan 49ers 32 32 Joe Flacco Ravens 37 33 Brodie Croyle Chiefs 28 34 Damon Huard Chiefs NR 35 Kerry Collins Titans NR 36 Rex Grossman Bears 34 37 Shaun Hill 49ers 40 38 Brady Quinn Browns 36 39 Chad Henne Dolphins 38 40 Troy Smith Ravens 33
Notes: The big story is Tom Brady and what to do with Matt Cassel. It's a pretty major leap of faith on my part to put him even this high, considering the kid hasn't started a game since high school. But he went 13-of-18 for 152 yards and a score (albeit against a middling Chiefs defense) and still has that arsenal of weapons. The Pats figure to go quite a bit heavier on the run, but hey, maybe that means Randy Moss will have more room a couple of times a game. Either way, Cassel should be a caretaker. Derek Anderson played better than his numbers (11-of-24 for 114 yards and a score), and deserved better, especially from Braylon Edwards. That said, if Anderson has more outings like Sunday's, Brady Quinn will get a call. Marc Bulger was horrid against Philly, but I knew he would be. It won't be a completely lost season for St. Louis' offense, but Bulger is no longer an every-week fantasy starter. Matt Hasselbeck drops out of starter territory because all his passing weapons are injured. But I'm not completely writing off his value because Deion Branch and Bobby Engram will return. Vince Young is out for a couple of weeks with a leg injury and will be spelled by Kerry Collins. Worse, his confidence reportedly was shaken when Titans fans booed him midgame. It just gets uglier for VY. Brodie Croyle has a separated throwing shoulder, and head coach Herm Edwards has designated Damon Huard his new starter.
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Notes: Willis McGahee reportedly has an excellent chance to play in Week 2 in a favorable matchup against the Texans, so his overall season value starts to rise a bit. Rashard Mendenhall got 10 carries to Willie Parker's 25 in a Week 1 blowout, and he also returned kicks. Parker's owners suddenly are starting to feel a bit happier. The Jaguars lost both their starting guards: Vince Manuwai is out for the year, while Maurice Williams will miss as much as two months. This isn't a disaster, especially because Uche Nwaneri (Manuwai's replacement) can play. But it certainly doesn't help Maurice Jones-Drew or Fred Taylor. I'm not ready to make the big plunge on Michael Turner just yet. The Lions were gutless in Week 1. Listen, I'm willing to be sold; if Turner plays well against the Bucs this week, I'll notice. Same goes for Matt Forte, although performing well on the road against the Colts on national TV is a bigger deal. The funny part is listening to the announcers go on and on about how fast Forte is; he's not that fast: at the NFL draft combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds. That time doesn't make him a plodder, but he was only ninth-quickest among running back prospects. (By comparison, the Titans' Chris Johnson ran a 4.24.) Speed isn't Forte's best quality; power and maturity are foremost for him. Despite Tom Brady's injury, Laurence Maroney's value takes a dive because of how obvious the Patriots made it that they don't see much difference between him and Sammy Morris. Although New England probably will grind it out much more, Maroney will be cannibalized big time. Julius Jones' value takes a jump despite a horrible Week 1 (13 carries, 45 yards overall and eight carries for minus-5 yards in the first three quarters) because Maurice Morris is out for multiple weeks with a knee injury. Edgerrin James might have broken the century-yard mark, but he looked slow to me and lost goal-line carries to Tim Hightower. Chris Johnson is impressive, and the Titans apparently will (and should) use him more than LenDale White, though White still will get goal-line carries.
Notes: Until we see him stumble, Randy Moss still has to be considered a No. 1 fantasy wideout, even in Tom Brady's absence. Still, 20 touchdowns is already a fond dream. Torry Holt got a personal foul for shoving an official in Week 1 and has a shaky offensive line protecting his quarterback. The Colts' Marvin Harrison looked good, leg-wise, in his return, but fumbled again in his second straight game with a killer turnover (the first was the playoff loss to San Diego). Dwayne Bowe is an impressive specimen who lost concentration and dropped a ton of balls against New England in Week 1, plus he has Damon Huard throwing the ball to him for the moment. Javon Walker didn't play Monday night, which just underscores why I like Ronald Curry better this year. After the Monday night game in Green Bay, it seems clear that I had the values of Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice flip-flopped. Rice scored, but Berrian was a more essential part of the game plan. Eddie Royal was incredible against the Raiders, but remember: Brandon Marshall will return in Week 2. Royal should be owned, but he won't be the No. 1 receiver he was Monday night. DeSean Jackson was impressive in Week 1 against the Rams. For the moment, he must be considered Philly's No. 1 receiver, and he could be entrenched in that lineup by the time the veterans heal. With Nate Burleson out for the season, Courtney Taylor is just about the last man standing for Seattle. Unfortunately, he had a drop-laden and mistake-laden game in Week 1. Devin Hester wasn't nearly the part of the Bears' offense I'd hoped he would be. It seems pretty clear that Chicago will go with a four-man receiver rotation for the moment.
Tight end rankings RANK Name Team Last Week 1 Antonio Gates Chargers 1 2 Jason Witten Cowboys 2 3 Kellen Winslow Browns 3 4 Tony Gonzalez Chiefs 4 5 Dallas Clark Colts 5 6 Jeremy Shockey Saints 6 7 Chris Cooley Redskins 7 8 Owen Daniels Texans 8 9 Heath Miller Steelers 9 10 Vernon Davis 49ers 12 11 Todd Heap Ravens 10 12 Donald Lee Packers 14 13 Greg Olsen Bears 17 14 Tony Scheffler Broncos 11 15 Alge Crumpler Titans 13 16 Ben Utecht Bengals 15 17 L.J. Smith Eagles 18 18 Randy McMichael Rams 21 19 Kevin Boss Giants 19 20 Benjamin Watson Patriots 16 21 Robert Royal Bills 29 22 Zach Miller Raiders 20 23 Dustin Keller Jets 22 24 Anthony Fasano Dolphins 25 25 Desmond Clark Bears 23 26 Dante Rosario Panthers NR 27 Marcedes Lewis Jaguars 24 28 John Carlson Seahawks 27 29 Alex Smith Buccaneers 28 30 Leonard Pope Cardinals 26
Notes: I liked that Vernon Davis spent more time running down the field when he was in pass patterns than I remember last year. That could mean he'll make some big plays this season. Heap had a disastrous outing in Week 1 (one catch, five yards, a bruised back), and he's obviously not durable, but if the Ravens will play their game that close to the vest, Heap could be a big part of it. The Broncos weren't kidding: Nate Jackson really will play some. He stole away part of Tony Scheffler's fantasy value, even though Scheffler caught a long one Monday (but subsequently dropped a bunny in the end zone). Benjamin Watson has a bad knee, and his status for Week 2 is unknown; also, the Patriots like David Thomas some. It's time to stop thinking of Robert Royal as a glorified offensive tackle. In the second half of his career, in Dick Jauron's offense, he's a weapon. Yeah, he probably won't catch five passes every game, but remember: Royal scored three times in each of the past two years and already has one touchdown in '08. This summer I wrote that Dante Rosario would bypass Jeff King as Carolina's primary pass-catching tight end, and his game winner against the Chargers was awesome, as were his seven catches for 96 yards. But let's see him do it again, shall we?
Defense rankings RANK Name Last Week 1 Minnesota 1 2 San Diego 2 3 N.Y. Giants 3 4 New England 4 5 Green Bay 5 6 Jacksonville 6 7 Dallas 8 8 Pittsburgh 9 9 Baltimore 10 10 Tennessee 11 11 Chicago 14 12 Seattle 7 13 Tampa Bay 12 14 Buffalo 13 15 Philadelphia 15 16 Indianapolis 16 17 Oakland 17 18 Carolina 18 19 N.Y. Jets 19 20 Arizona 20 21 Houston 21 22 Washington 22 23 New Orleans 23 24 Cleveland 24 25 Denver 25 26 San Francisco 26 27 Atlanta 28 28 Cincinnati 29 29 Miami 30 30 Kansas City 31 31 St. Louis 27 32 Detroit 32
Notes: It's too early to make snap judgments about fantasy defenses, but a couple stood out. Looks like I was right about the Giants. I still say they might struggle in the season's second half because a lot of their depth is gone. But they're good. Seattle wasn't strong against a not-very-explosive Bills offense, and one wonders whether the offensive struggles that may be coming in the next month while all those receivers mend might take their toll on the defense. The Bears looked terrific on the defensive line against the Colts. The Rams are even worse than I thought. The Lions are exactly as bad as I thought.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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