The Big Rotowski: Boldin, Tomlinson climb up rankings
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: I called Philip Rivers a top-five option last week, then ranked him sixth. D'oh. With the O-line troubles San Diego faces every week, LaDainian Tomlinson can't be relied upon to be his old self every week anymore, his big effort against the Saints notwithstanding. Rivers is sixth in the league in attempts (after being 13th last year) and is still first in yards per attempt. I'm not freaking out about Ben Roethlisberger's poor day against the Giants; that pass rush is a terrible matchup for a highly mediocre Steelers O-line. But boy, Big Ben really took a pounding. Too many more days like that, and we're going to be talking about injury timetables. Since missing the Colts game in Week 5 (forever known as the Sage Rosenfels game), Matt Schaub has thrown for 379, 267 and 280 yards, six touchdowns and two picks. Granted, his past two games were against Detroit and Cincinnati. But he's a borderline fantasy starter in all leagues right now. Brett Favre is what he is. The ungodly media fawning and announcer drivel notwithstanding, he does play pretty well a lot of the time, but he's back to his pre-2007 days, refusing to pass up the temptation of throwing into coverage. Hence Sunday's three interceptions. There's obviously great upside, but I view Favre as a matchup play some weeks. I've ranked Matt Hasselbeck as though he's got a chance to return in the next week or two. I guess I'm buying into the Mike Holmgren media machine. If he comes back healthy (which is a mighty big if), he'd warrant a higher spot on this list. The Niners have announced that Shaun Hill will get the start over J.T. O'Sullivan when they return from their bye. But don't be fooled by the numbers: Hill wasn't all that great Sunday until a couple of garbage-time throws. He's a short-pass specialist who'll limit the upside of everything in that offense that doesn't have "Gore" stitched on its jersey.
|Running Back Rankings|
Notes: LaDainian Tomlinson looked more like himself in London; perhaps crummy food and no sun agrees with him! (Sorry, my legion of British readers.) LT's foot finally looked, to my non-medical eyes, like it didn't hurt when he tried to cut on it, and the results were there, albeit against a Saints defense that can stop either the run or the pass, but not both at the same time. For the second straight week, Ahman Green looked better than Steve Slaton, but Slaton is going to get the most work as long as the Texans are winning. It also doesn't help Green's cause that he had to leave the game with a leg injury (which turned out to be a cramp). Slaton's short-term value takes a hit because of Green's re-emergence, but he actually rises in these rankings because I don't think Green can stay healthy for the rest of the season. It wasn't Maurice Jones-Drew's fault that he converted 12 carries into 29 yards against the previously not-so-good-against-the-run Browns. There just weren't any holes. You'd have thought that the Jaguars would have shored up their makeshift O-line during their bye and come back fresh. You'd have been wrong. Reserve guard Chris Naeole broke his hand during pregame warmups Sunday, which didn't help. MJD had better produce over the next two week in road games against the Bengals and Lions, because after that he's got the Titans and Vikings. Darren McFadden didn't play Sunday because of his toe injury, and it's pretty clear at this point that this is something that's going to bother him at least well into November. For now, Justin Fargas has more value, and will show it against worse defenses than the Ravens. Next week against the Falcons could be a good start. As of this writing, it appeared that Deuce McAllister and others who have been busted for taking water pills (which can be used to mask steroid use) won't have their hearings with the league until mid-November, and even then, it's not clear what'll happen. That at least gives McAllister a couple of nice matchups when the Saints return from their bye (against Atlanta and Kansas City), though Reggie Bush will start working his way back into action soon. Outside two Nate Washington bombs (each for a touchdown, though one was called back by a holding penalty), the main Steelers' offensive highlights Sunday belonged to Mewelde Moore, who ran it 19 times for 84 yards and a 32-yard score against the Giants. Mike Tomlin says Willie Parker will come back and play this week, but he said that last week, too, and didn't even list FWP on the injury report until Friday. Moore is going to have a role in this offense no matter what. And while Leon Washington's fantasy numbers this week were plumped by his 60-yard scamper on which the Chiefs momentarily decided not to tackle, the Jets have to be considering using Washington more frequently. He's looking like a nice pickup for Thomas Jones owners.
|Wide Receiver Rankings|
|27||Roy E. Williams||Cowboys||31|
|50||Antwaan Randle El||Redskins||NR|
Notes: Anquan Boldin is back, and despite missing two games with a broken face, he leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns with seven. The Cardinals have apparently given up any pretense of a running game, and will easily be able to support the fantasy relevance of Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston. Since the legal system is currently having its way with Santonio Holmes and his marijuana cigars, it's hard to know what to do with him. The Steelers didn't seem overly inclined to use him this week, and it's also uncertain whether charges will be handed down quickly. The NFL might not be able to step in until the law does. For now, I've ranked Holmes as though he'll miss another game or two the rest of the way, but his status could vary wildly depending what happens. Reggie Brown was inactive this week as Kevin Curtis returned to the Eagles' starting lineup. But DeSean Jackson maintained his status as Philly's best fantasy wideout, as I believed he would. A tandem of Jackson and Curtis is short on size, but can get the job done. Coming out of the University of Houston, Donnie Avery was considered extremely fast but very raw, and what we've seen out of him during his emergence the past three weeks hasn't done anything to undo that perception. However, those who criticized the Rams for making Avery the first receiver taken in April didn't acknowledge that the kid has really good ball skills. Marc Bulger underthrew Avery almost every time he targeted him, but Avery made nice plays, and made the Patriots' overwhelmed secondary look stupid. He's clearly the deep threat in the St. Louis option, while Torry Holt has become a possession receiver like Keyshawn Johnson was late in his career. Two weeks ago, Mike Furrey had six catches for 89 yards. This week, Shaun McDonald gets five catches for 68 yards. There's no real rhyme or reason yet with the Lions' second receiving option. I guess for the moment, McDonald gets the edge.
|Tight End Rankings|
Notes: As of this writing, it was unclear how bad Jason Witten's ribs are, though X-rays were reportedly negative. Wade Phillips didn't sound overly enthusiastic about his tight end being able to play against the Giants next week, especially considering Dallas has a bye thereafter. Kellen Winslow was suspended, then un-suspended, and everyone involved came out looking like a first-class dunce. Regardless, he didn't play last week, and while all parties are (finally) saying the right things, one gets the idea that Winslow might be plying his trade elsewhere next year. Tony Scheffler is expected back from his groin injury this week. Vernon Davis' benching by Mike Singletary has gotten huzzahs of praise from the media; but of course, these are the same talking heads who kept singing the praises of Davis and his limitless potential up until, oh, I don't know, last Saturday. I don't think Singletary will hold this against Davis, because the organization is paying the kid too much money. But I keep going back to a teammate of Davis' from last year who said that Davis was the least mentally prepared football player he'd ever been around. Todd Heap might still have a good game or two left in those legs, but I don't think he needs to be rostered in fantasy leagues any longer. I'll reiterate what I said last week: He looks ungodly slow, and I was wrong about him during the first month of this season.
Notes: Jason Ferguson suited up for the Dolphins on Sunday despite his rib injury, and though he didn't make a tackle, he played well otherwise and offered a morale boost. When he's in there to plug up the middle, the Dolphins are a different defense, and are pretty usable against all but the most explosive offenses. The Packers got healthier during their bye week, and given the shaky-looking options I had ranked ahead of them last week (hello, Chargers!), Green Bay is looking better by the game. I guess we all underestimated the importance of Shawne Merriman. The Chargers still get sacks (17, tied for ninth in the league), but don't generate enough consistent pressure to cover for Antonio Cromartie, who's not playing at full speed. A lot of defenses look burnable against the Saints, but boy, that was a revolting display. The Cowboys are going to be in super-rough shape on defense for at least one more week. Now Anthony Henry is out, so the Giants won't see any of Dallas's top three corners next week. Look out below. Terence Newman may be back after the team's Week 10 bye.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Harris: Week 14 Instant Impressions
- Four Downs: Winter weather? No problem
- Week 14 sneaky pickups
- Hard Count: Best, worst defensive matchups