The Big Rotowski: Despite retirement talk, Warner on the rise
(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: Peyton Manning is wearing his owners' patience thin. His "best" game of 2008, which took place Sunday, would've been a mediocre one last season: 25-of-34 for 247 yards, two scores and a pick. The Colts' offensive line was healthier in Houston, but Manning was still pressured way more than we ever remember from the past couple years and, for what it's worth, he had a sideline argument with Marvin Harrison. Don't worry about Kurt Warner supposedly "considering" retirement. I know he's a good guy, and very empathetic, but he's finally reached where he feels he belongs. They're going to have to take that starting gig away from him. I get called out for "loving" Peyton's little bro, but Eli Manning has been better all four weeks they've played. I'd still rather own Peyton, but Eli is just about an every-week play. David Garrard has thrown it 35, 32 and 32 times in five games this year. In '07, he threw it that much just four times all season. As the Jags get more aerial, Garrard gets more valuable. Jason Campbell has a great record (4-1), a great quarterback rating (96.7) and hasn't turned the ball over once. But he's not a great fantasy back. But he's 19th in yards-per-attempt, which is one of my favorite fantasy-indicative stats. The Redskins don't throw it downfield, which caps Campbell. Kyle Orton has thrown seven touchdown passes the past three games, after amassing zero his first two weeks. He has four interceptions in that same span, but the larger point is that he's attempted more than 30 passes in four of his five games. He's verged on No. 2 fantasy quarterback status. Brian Griese played poorly again, and Jeff Garcia was adequate in relief. Griese has an injured elbow and Garcia is healthy; even if Griese plays this week against Carolina, I think Garcia winds up starting more games by season's end.
Notes: Ranking LaDainian Tomlinson is clearly going to be one of the adventures of writing this column all year. LT's toe got stomped on against the Dolphins, and now he says that one week off wouldn't help; he'd need to take a few weeks off for there to be any difference. He doesn't look like himself, but the Chargers put him position to get a whole bunch of carries, and in key situations. For now, I won't move him out of the top five. Brian Westbrook's ankle came through all right in Week 5, but he reportedly broke ribs and needed a painkilling injection. Don't underestimate the guy, but in the short term, he might be limited. Michael Turner keeps making hay against undermanned defenses, but hey, he still gets to run against Denver, St. Louis, Oakland and New Orleans twice, among others. He's going to have some more good games. My fantasy question of the week: When does Ronnie Brown start qualifying at quarterback? (Kidding.) Here's hoping you took my advice from last week and sold high on Larry Johnson. Earnest Graham has a 5.9 yards-per-carry average, but he can only lay claim to the meaty half of a platoon with Warrick Dunn right now. Graham got 10 carries and five catches in Denver, while Dunn got 11 carries and three catches. Maurice Jones-Drew let me down this week; I thought he'd break out against a depleted Steelers O-line. Wrong-o. Don't go crazy with DeAngelo Williams. If you started him, bully for you, and he's still a fine flex. But he'll have goose eggs again this year, when Jonathan Stewart scores touchdowns. Justin Fargas is expected to return to the Raiders' starting lineup in Week 6. Darren McFadden hasn't taken hold of the starting job as many hoped, and his toe still isn't right, even after the Raiders' bye. Fargas looks like the more valuable property at the moment, though that's obviously subject to change. Selvin Young has a bad groin, Andre Hall has a bad hand, and Michael Pittman may see his carries increase. Ryan Torain, anyone? After all the drama, Kevin Smith did start for the Lions, and Rudi Johnson only got eight total touches in Week 5, and then he whined to the media, as Smith did last week. Neither guy is particularly scintillating. Speaking of non-scintillating: Cedric Benson was actually pretty good for the Bengals in the first half last week. But he's Cedric Benson. Chris Perry fumbled again and leads the NFL in that dubious category, and Benson is going to cut into the kid's value big-time. I was right about Laurence Maroney, and I was also so very, very wrong. I was right that the Patriots would give him one more chance to be their lead dog. I was wrong that Maroney would do something different with that chance. LaMont Jordan was actually the most effective New England rusher Sunday, but he hurt a leg. Sammy Morris is completely unspectacular, but at least he moves the chains.
Notes: T.J. Houshmandzadeh got 13 targets in Week 5, compared to five for Chad Johnson. There's little question who's got more fantasy value right now. Anquan Boldin wants to play in Week 6, but after surgery to repair a fractured sinus, it seems unlikely. He'll be higher on this list once it's clear when he'll return. Steve Breaston is eminently usable until Boldin comes back. Marvin Harrison didn't look good in Houston. He made apparent mistakes on a couple routes, and didn't get much separation. For the first time in memory, he and Peyton Manning don't seem like they're on the same page all the time. Deion Branch hurt his heel and didn't return to the Giants game; the Seahawks don't think it's a big deal, but Bobby Engram is clearly the better option now, especially in PPR leagues. Two sell-high candidates at receiver: Chris Chambers, who has five touchdowns but only 11 receptions, and Isaac Bruce, who has four scores and 14 catches. Unfortunately, you might not get much for Chambers for the moment, as he's got a sprained ankle and is expected to miss Week 6's tilt against the Patriots. Vincent Jackson is actually nearly as good a fantasy option as Chambers is (and is clearly better in Week 6). He's got six more catches and 76 more receiving yards. Anthony Gonzalez left the Houston game with a concussion. Reggie Brown has been Donovan McNabb's top target for two straight weeks. I still prefer DeSean Jackson (it's not bad when a "terrible" game for Jackson consists of a special-teams return for a touchdown), but Brown is coming. Greg Camarillo and Ike Hilliard probably aren't as fast as you are, but they each are making a living by being possession receivers in low-risk offenses.
|Tight End Rankings|
Notes: Antonio Gates still has a hip injury that's severely limiting him, and he didn't do much in Week 5. But in a season with exactly one consistent tight end performer (Jason Witten), I still wouldn't take anyone other than Witten in a straight-up trade for Gates. As Kyle Orton has seen his production increase, Greg Olsen has done the same. In his past two games, Olsen has seven catches for 122 yards and a score. Todd Heap caught four passes Sunday, bringing his season total to seven. It's heartening to see the Ravens use him a bit more, but I'm still a little more convinced he's an afterthought in a run-first offense. Tony Scheffler is definitely out for Week 6's game with what the Broncos are calling a "groin strain," but the Denver Post reports that the team is evaluating Scheffler for what might be a sports hernia. This is scary news, as clearly it would be a multiple-week injury if that's the case. For the moment, Nate Jackson looks like a possible No. 2 fantasy tight end, though Daniel Graham could get in the mix, too. Visanthe Shiancoe scored Monday night, his second touchdown of the season. He's becoming an option as a No. 2 tight end. Vernon Davis: we're finally done with you. Mike Martz came out this week and said he doesn't think Davis is there yet as a receiver. Do we need more evidence?
Notes: The Vikings' defense can't be blamed for New Orleans scoring 27 points, especially considering two of those touchdowns were Reggie Bush punt returns. But they can be blamed for sacking Drew Brees only once, giving them just eight on the year. The rush defense is still awesome (55 yards rushing on 22 carries against the Saints), and you keep starting them, but my patience is wearing a bit thin. What happened to Jacksonville's pass defense? Wait, I can answer that: Reggie Nelson and Drayton Florence are hurt. Sure, Rashean Mathis saved the fantasy performance with a pick-six Sunday night, but the Jags are disappointing. That goes double for Seattle. Sure, the Giants are rolling, and are especially tough at home. But even without Plaxico Burress on the field, the Seahawks couldn't keep pace. There's no reason to start this unit right now. The Dolphins have turned in consecutive impressive efforts. They sacked the heck out of Matt Cassel in Week 3, and basically shut down LaDainian Tomlinson on Sunday. It's no stretch to say that this unit wasn't capable of this in '07. The 49ers have a couple nice pieces on defense (hello, Patrick Willis), but the Patriots really shoved around a weak defensive line.Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com.
You can e-mail him here.