Commentary

The Big Rotowski: Ranking Matt Cassel for the rest of the season

Updated: September 9, 2008, 5:41 PM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

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
RANKNameTeamLast Week
1Peyton ManningColts2
2Tony RomoCowboys3
3Drew BreesSaints4
4Ben RoethlisbergerSteelers5
5Donovan McNabbEagles7
6Jay CutlerBroncos8
7Carson PalmerBengals6
8Derek AndersonBrowns11
9David GarrardJaguars9
10Matt SchaubTexans12
11Eli ManningGiants13
12Brett FavreJets14
13Aaron RodgersPackers16
14Marc BulgerRams15
15Philip RiversChargers17
16Matt HasselbeckSeahawks10
17Jake DelhommePanthers18
18Kurt WarnerCardinals21
19Jon KitnaLions20
20JaMarcus RussellRaiders24
21Trent EdwardsBills25
22Matt CasselPatriotsNR
23Jason CampbellRedskins19
24Jeff GarciaBuccaneers23
25Tarvaris JacksonVikings26
26Kyle OrtonBears30
27Matt LeinartCardinals27
28Chad PenningtonDolphins29
29Matt RyanFalcons31
30Vince YoungTitans22
31J.T. O'Sullivan49ers32
32Joe FlaccoRavens37
33Brodie CroyleChiefs28
34Damon HuardChiefsNR
35Kerry CollinsTitansNR
36Rex GrossmanBears34
37Shaun Hill49ers40
38Brady QuinnBrowns36
39Chad HenneDolphins38
40Troy SmithRavens33

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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.

Running back rankings
RANKNameTeamLast Week
1LaDainian TomlinsonChargers1
2Adrian PetersonVikings2
3Brian WestbrookEagles3
4Joseph AddaiColts4
5Steven JacksonRams5
6Frank Gore49ers6
7Clinton PortisRedskins7
8Marshawn LynchBills8
9Marion BarberCowboys9
10Ryan GrantPackers10
11Larry JohnsonChiefs11
12Jamal LewisBrowns12
13Brandon JacobsGiants14
14Willis McGaheeRavens17
15Willie ParkerSteelers20
16Maurice Jones-DrewJaguars13
17Reggie BushSaints18
18Darren McFaddenRaiders16
19Earnest GrahamBuccaneers19
20Selvin YoungBroncos21
21Thomas JonesJets22
22Michael TurnerFalcons23
23Matt ForteBears24
24Laurence MaroneyPatriots15
25Julius JonesSeahawks29
26Jonathan StewartPanthers27
27Ronnie BrownDolphins26
28Fred TaylorJaguars28
29DeAngelo WilliamsPanthers30
30Edgerrin JamesCardinals25
31Kevin SmithLions31
32Chris JohnsonTitans36
33Chris PerryBengals32
34Sammy MorrisPatriotsNR
35Ricky WilliamsDolphins33
36Justin FargasRaiders35
37LenDale WhiteTitans34
38Tim HightowerCardinals43
39Chester TaylorVikings38
40Derrick WardGiants50
41Felix JonesCowboys40
42Ray RiceRavens41
43Jerious NorwoodFalcons42
44Rudi JohnsonLionsNR
45Andre HallBroncos49
46Rashard MendenhallSteelers37
47Ahmad BradshawGiants39
48Jamaal CharlesChiefsNR
49Kevin JonesBearsNR
50Kenny WatsonBengalsNR

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.

Wide receiver rankings
RANKNameTeamLast Week
1Terrell OwensCowboys2
2Reggie WayneColts3
3Braylon EdwardsBrowns4
4Larry FitzgeraldCardinals5
5Andre JohnsonTexans6
6Marques ColstonSaints7
7Plaxico BurressGiants8
8Randy MossPatriots1
9Calvin JohnsonLions9
10T.J. HoushmandzadehBengals10
11Santonio HolmesSteelers11
12Brandon MarshallBroncos14
13Steve SmithPanthers13
14Anquan BoldinCardinals16
15Chad Ocho CincoBengals15
16Jerricho CotcheryJets18
17Torry HoltRams12
18Roddy WhiteFalcons17
19Greg JenningsPackers19
20Roy WilliamsLions20
21Marvin HarrisonColts21
22Dwayne BoweChiefs22
23Lee EvansBills23
24Donald DriverPackers25
25Hines WardSteelers26
26Wes WelkerPatriots24
27Santana MossRedskins27
28Chris ChambersChargers30
29Ronald CurryRaiders32
30Bernard BerrianVikings36
31Eddie RoyalBroncos44
32Joey GallowayBuccaneers29
33Patrick CraytonCowboys35
34Laveranues ColesJets28
35Sidney RiceVikings33
36Anthony GonzalezColts31
37DeSean JacksonEagles48
38Vincent JacksonChargers39
39Justin GageTitans37
40Muhsin MuhammadPanthers45
41Ted Ginn Jr.Dolphins38
42Reggie WilliamsJaguars42
43Javon WalkerRaiders41
44Courtney TaylorSeahawks51
45Reggie BrownEagles43
46Mark ClaytonRavens46
47Bryant Johnson49ers50
48Kevin WalterTexansNR
49Devin HesterBears40
50Donte' StallworthBrowns47

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
RANKNameTeamLast Week
1Antonio GatesChargers1
2Jason WittenCowboys2
3Kellen WinslowBrowns3
4Tony GonzalezChiefs4
5Dallas ClarkColts5
6Jeremy ShockeySaints6
7Chris CooleyRedskins7
8Owen DanielsTexans8
9Heath MillerSteelers9
10Vernon Davis49ers12
11Todd HeapRavens10
12Donald LeePackers14
13Greg OlsenBears17
14Tony SchefflerBroncos11
15Alge CrumplerTitans13
16Ben UtechtBengals15
17L.J. SmithEagles18
18Randy McMichaelRams21
19Kevin BossGiants19
20Benjamin WatsonPatriots16
21Robert RoyalBills29
22Zach MillerRaiders20
23Dustin KellerJets22
24Anthony FasanoDolphins25
25Desmond ClarkBears23
26Dante RosarioPanthersNR
27Marcedes LewisJaguars24
28John CarlsonSeahawks27
29Alex SmithBuccaneers28
30Leonard PopeCardinals26

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
RANKNameLast Week
1Minnesota1
2San Diego2
3N.Y. Giants3
4New England4
5Green Bay5
6Jacksonville6
7Dallas8
8Pittsburgh9
9Baltimore10
10Tennessee11
11Chicago14
12Seattle7
13Tampa Bay12
14Buffalo13
15Philadelphia15
16Indianapolis16
17Oakland17
18Carolina18
19N.Y. Jets19
20Arizona20
21Houston21
22Washington22
23New Orleans23
24Cleveland24
25Denver25
26San Francisco26
27Atlanta28
28Cincinnati29
29Miami30
30Kansas City31
31St. Louis27
32Detroit32

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.