The Big Rotowski: Brees jumps to Numero Uno
(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 decide about trades and waiver-wire acquisitions; as such, this list won't always reflect news that comes out later in the week. And remember, every Wednesday you'll find week-specific rankings from all our fantasy football writers.)
Notes: Drew Brees has a ludicrous 72.3 percent completion rate, and this isn't exactly an offense in which he's dumping it off 25 times a game, either. Through four weeks, he looks like the NFL MVP. Kurt Warner turned over the ball six times Sunday, but the Cardinals don't plan on going to Matt Leinart anytime soon. Warner did a terrible job of sensing the pass rush and thus didn't do a lot to protect the ball when he got sacked. Still, I think the media is being too hard on him. The fact was he was getting rocked out there. He's probably not a top-10 real-world quarterback, but in fantasy, he's still pretty good. I know Brett Favre's numbers were spectacular in Week 4, and it's hard to believe, but he's the NFL's highest-rated passer right now. Still, for every six-touchdown impresario effort, you'll also get a stink bomb like last Monday night. I'm tempted to lower Aaron Rodgers more than I did, not because he played a bad game against Tampa (he did), but because he got hurt, and his shoulder could be a problem. Matt Flynn would start in Rodgers' place in Week 5; track that during the week. Jason Campbell played wonderfully against the Cowboys, and actually threw it downfield a bit more. He's still a West Coast guy, tossing mostly short passes, but hey, zero interceptions is zero interceptions. If the Redskins eventually open it up a touch more, Campbell could be an every-week starter. Carson Palmer's failure to play against the Browns was, for me, a kind of last straw. There are rumblings around the Cincinnati beat reporters that Palmer's elbow injury is a lot more serious than he's letting on. Ryan Fitzpatrick was mostly horrible in Week 4, and probably wouldn't be worth rostering if Palmer misses significant time. I don't think you can drop Palmer yet, but I'd bench him for sure.
|Running Back Rankings|
Notes: Larry Johnson had a huge game when his owners needed it most. The Broncos are terrible against the run even with Dewayne Robertson, so I'm not turning cartwheels. In fact, this might be prime "dealing-LJ" time. But since complaining about a lack of carries after the Oakland tilt in Week 2, Johnson has been given the ball 52 times in two games. Here's hoping Willie Parker misses only one more game. There are rumblings that his knee injury could be worse than the Steelers are letting on. Ryan Grant is the big tumbler; he's looking more and more like a one-hit wonder. His hamstring might still not be right, but that's no excuse for losing a huge third-quarter fumble that Tampa Bay returned for a touchdown. The Packers must get their offensive line in order, too. Steve Slaton didn't do much on the ground to follow up his big Week 3 effort, but he caught eight passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. That's actually more the type of game that his skill set seems fitted for, so we'll have to see if he's big and rugged enough to make it as an inside rusher. Still, he has the Texans' confidence for the moment. For me, the single most surprising thing that came out of Week 4 was Deuce McAllister getting 20 carries. After the Denver game, Saints coach Sean Payton told reporters he'd had no intention of using McAllister, a statement which now looks more like gamesmanship for the Niners game than anything else. McAllister isn't at all fast anymore, but he's still intense, and he punished tacklers Sunday. He's suddenly the goal-line option in a high-octane offense, and needs to be owned in all leagues. He probably won't stay healthy, but for now, sign him. Rudi Johnson takes over for Kevin Smith as the Lions' starter, which means their values are flip-flopped this week. I'm not convinced Smith won't start again at a later date; he didn't really do anything to lose the job, but the Lions apparently just want a steadying presence back there. A few games of 3.0 yards per carry could cure them of that desire.
|Wide Receiver Rankings|
|25||Chad Ocho Cinco||Bengals||14|
Notes: The only thing that could derail Greg Jennings is a long-term injury for Aaron Rodgers. For the moment, I'm assuming Rodgers gets back to action soon, which keeps Jennings valuable. He leads the league in receiving yards and has a ludicrous 19.3 yards per catch. Also, 15 of his 25 catches have been for first downs. Plaxico Burress will miss Week 5, which wasn't baked into his ranking last week, so I haven't taken off any more for whatever else might be coming down the pike from the league for his current transgressions. I also chose not to put any other Giants receivers in my top 50 (remember, these are rankings for the rest of the season, not this week), though that would change if Plax becomes subject to more discipline. Dwayne Bowe is a freak of nature. Huge, fast and quick, the only thing he lacks is elite hands, as he couldn't cleanly catch what would've been a long touchdown before getting his feet in bounds. The Chiefs threw it his way all day, and the Broncos' supposedly-great defensive backs knew it, but they still couldn't stop him. Anquan Boldin got absolutely clobbered with a helmet-to-helmet hit by Eric Smith in garbage time, and while I'm not one to question why a team would still be trying to win a game when it's down late, it was a weird fourth quarter. The Jets went for a two-point conversion as though to rub it in, and the Cards refused to take a knee. The result was Boldin ending up in the hospital. The team isn't sure yet whether Boldin will miss this week's game, but I have a feeling he's going to be limited for a little while. Santana Moss took advantage of Terence Newman's terrible coverage on a couple occasions Sunday, and while he didn't score a touchdown, he proved he belongs among the ranks of the every-week starters. One of Laveranues Coles' scores was the direct result of Eric Green crumpling to the ground with an injury, but the heartening thing for Coles owners was that Brett Favre kept looking his way. Expecting No. 1 fantasy receiver numbers is folly, but he's a clear No. 2 right now. Yes, I've finally taken the plunge on the Bengals' receivers. It's all about the quarterback, and I'm simply afraid Carson Palmer is really hurt. Bryant Johnson couldn't play because of the same hamstring injury that limited him throughout camp. I'm worried this isn't a one-week thing.
|Tight End Rankings|
Notes: Don't be shocked by Owen Daniels' production (seven catches, 87 yards). He's really that good. He's fourth among tight ends in receiving yards -- in only three games. Zach Miller made a big first-half play against the Chargers and was targeted all day, finishing with five catches for 95 yards. He's a borderline fantasy starter with JaMarcus Russell at the helm. Dustin Keller is making a name for himself in the Brett Favre constellation. He has only six catches for 84 yards this season, but the Jets do seem to consider him a very nice deep weapon in the middle of the field. It wouldn't shock me if he scored a couple more long ones this year. Donald Lee is mostly a blocker right now for the Packers. He's not a fantasy starter. L.J. Smith couldn't go in Week 4 because of his back, and anyone who has owned Smith in the past knows he's a multiple-week-injury guy. Randy McMichael was seen leaving the Edward Jones Dome on crutches, with his foot in a protective boot. I've dropped him here because his coaches seemed to indicate after the Bills game that he could have a serious injury. Alge Crumpler isn't the primary pass-catching tight end in Tennessee; Bo Scaife is.
Notes: Not much reason to change things at the top; the good defenses played well this week. The Patriots will have a lot to prove against the 49ers next Sunday. The Eagles probably should've won Sunday night against the Bears; they played quite well on defense again and were a stuffed goal-line stand on offense away from a rugged road victory. Philly's linebackers are just playing out of their mind, paced by Omar Gaither and Stewart Bradley. The Jaguars lost Rashean Mathis in the second half of the Houston game, and it showed. Right away, the Texans started passing the ball at will. Free safety Reggie Nelson also needs to get healthy; he missed Week 4 entirely. The Cowboys have all the talent in the world on defense, but they've put up stinkers in two of their four games. Is it possible the world's most glamorous team lacks, dare I say it, focus? Terence Newman might make Pro Bowls, but I still contend he's one of the most overrated players in the NFL. Charles Woodson, on the other hand, is playing spectacularly well for the Packers despite an injured toe, but overall the Green Bay defense is succumbing to the injuries they didn't experience last year. A.J. Hawk pulled a groin muscle Sunday, and it might be serious. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins also got hurt in Week 4, and the team is having a hard time finding healthy safeties. They're not an every-week starting defense. The Cardinals' D shouldn't be completely pounded for allowing 56 points Sunday; after all, the offense assisted with seven turnovers. Still, Antrel Rolle got beaten, to use a hockey phrase since that season is almost starting, like a rented mule, and corner Eric Green has a sprained knee. Who'd have thought a defense with Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly -- not the league's best corners, but without question still in the top half -- could be so terrible. The Broncos shouldn't be owned in fantasy leagues.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.