- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
- 0 Shares
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. And remember, every Wednesday, you'll find week-specific rankings to help you set your lineup.
Notes: Aaron Rodgers' numbers weren't impressive Sunday night (17-of-28, 184 yards, 1 TD), and before that 50-yard game-winner, they looked downright anemic. But I think he'll be fine. The Bears held up much better than I expected (Charles Tillman's playing helped), and Rodgers didn't make many mistakes. A home game against the Bengals should be a fine matchup in Week 2. Matt Schaub and Kurt Warner tied for the Most Fantasy Owners Panicked award this week, and with good reason: Each offense looked awful. The Jets and 49ers blitzed the living hell out of the Texans and Cardinals, respectively, and the O-lines in question didn't hold up well. Schaub and Warner were under constant duress, and it showed -- each guy was a mess. But it was Week 1. There are actual coaching staffs involved. Before we jump off the bus, let's see whether improvement comes soon. Jay Cutler made a few bad decisions Sunday night, but three of his four picks seemed due to receivers breaking off routes. Of course, that's what happens when you don't have an NFL-average receiving corps, and it probably will keep happening. Still, I think Cutler's struggles will be overplayed in the media. Donovan McNabb wouldn't rule out playing in Week 2. The Eagles will need him to counter the powerful Saints offense. Either way, right now, I'm not looking at his ribs as a super-long-term problem. I'm not ready to elevate Ben Roethlisberger to "fantasy star" territory after one game. First of all, he's an injury risk, because his style of play and O-line might get him hurt. (Great line from a lunch conversation Friday in Bristol: "It looks like he's a Madden 2010 character, and someone's hitting the 'pump fake' button too much.") Plus, I remain unconvinced that the Steelers are destined not to be able to run the ball. The Titans' D might simply be that good. Nor will I go overboard yet for Joe Flacco, although obviously in the cases of both Big Ben and Joltin' Joe, the arm strength is there to be a downfield threat. I just think eventually both offenses will revert to running more. But my mind is open to being changed. Marc Bulger was laughably bad against Seattle: 17-for-36 for 191 yards (5.3 yards per attempt) doesn't begin to describe it. He looked shaky and shell-shocked. I'm not a big QB-handcuff guy, but Warner owners might want to look into Matt Leinart just about now. The Niners tossed around the 38-year-old Warner like a rag doll. The Panthers signed A.J. Feeley to be Jake Delhomme insurance Monday. Don't be shocked if Feeley gets a look next month. Of course, this doesn't make the $20 million guaranteed the team gave Delhomme this winter look very good.
Running back rankings
Notes: My top two running backs from the preseason weathered the first week just fine. After that? What a mess. It takes quite a bit of blind faith to leave Steven Jackson at No. 3, but at least the job is entirely his, and I have to think that offensive line, which has three or four talented bodies, will get better. The Rams should have a pretty tough test Sunday at Washington, though. Michael Turner is what he is, which is why he was no higher than fifth on my preseason list. He won't be on the field during passing situations, and when he's up against good run defenses, there's a chance he'll get shut down. But he should have a great game Sunday against Carolina. I kept trying to tell DeAngelo Williams owners not to count Jonathan Stewart out. But did they listen? Most troubling of all is the fact that on the Panthers' first series, Stewart seemed to get the goal-line carries, and Williams got his touchdown only after Stewart got a first down inside the 2 and was gassed. I also tried to tell folks not to be too carried away by Steve Slaton. But it won't be this bad most weeks. Slaton showed great quickness and open-field maneuvering a few times (although he lost a killer fumble after a long catch against the Jets), and he'll have tons of good games. The Jets' backfield situation is in flux. I swear, it looked to me like Leon Washington was the feature back for a while there. Eventually Thomas Jones made his stat line look respectable (20 carries, 107 yards, two scores), but 94 of those yards came after the 12:18 mark of the fourth quarter. In other words: garbage time. Until then, the carries were 13 for Jones and 12 for Washington, and the rush yards were 13 for Jones and 56 for Washington. Hmmm. I'm not hyperventilating yet over Cadillac Williams or Mike Bell, despite fine Week 1 performances from each. Williams still is a good bet to get hurt, and nobody has any idea how Sean Payton will resolve his running back situation. I think Pierre Thomas is the best option, but his knee is shaky right now. And don't be freaked about Julius Jones' big numbers: 62 of his 117 yards came on one run, a play that, viewed from the right camera angle, made it look like the Rams' linebackers and safeties had accidentally turned invisible. Otherwise, Jones had a ho-hum 3.1 yards per carry. Willis McGahee scored twice, sending Ray Rice owners into paroxysms of self doubt, but that's always going to be a risk with the Ravens. The interesting news, which keen observers noticed in the preseason, is that McGahee has supplanted Le'Ron McClain as the main red zone back (although McClain did get a 1-yard score Sunday, too). Rice's problem clearly is going to be limited upside in touchdowns. I'm still buying Beanie Wells over Tim Hightower, although neither guy will carry you to glory. There was such a noticeable difference when Wells got the ball; he's bigger, quicker, more decisive and more powerful than Hightower. And while Hightower's getting 12 receptions is lovely for one contest, if that winds up being the Cardinals' formula going forward, they're not going to win many games. Hightower just isn't a North-South runner.
Wide receiver rankings
Notes: The big riser from my preseason rankings is Chad Ochocinco. He looks like 2008 was a bad dream. Not only is it an obvious help having Carson Palmer back, but maybe "Eightyfive" has learned the smallest dose of humility (underneath all the bluster). As I was doing these rankings, I kept saying to myself, "Yup, I'd rather have Ochocinco than that guy. Yup, I'd rather have him than that guy." At some point, among the top 15 or so, you're counting how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. But I really like Ochocinco right now. So why did I lower the Panthers' Steve Smith but neither of the two Johnsons at the top of the list? Maybe Jake Delhomme freaked me out worse than anyone else in Week 1, or maybe it's how conservative Carolina's play calling can be. You still should start him, but I think I had him just a bit overrated this summer. I drank the Santonio Holmes beverage. I know how disappointing he was in 2008, never eclipsing 100 yards receiving in a single game. But reviewing Thursday night's game, I thought Holmes' explosiveness and hands really stood out. I'm still nervous the kid is the type to believe his clippings, but there's room in fantasy lineups for both him and Hines Ward. I actually wanted to drop Marques Colston lower than this. I just don't think Brees discriminates; he doesn't care which of his four receivers he throws to (Robert Meachem just missed this list). But Colston is the best player of the group, so I'll leave him this high for now. Expect some ebb and flow, though. Antonio Bryant's surgically repaired knee reportedly hurt him in the second half Sunday, so I was tempted to lower him more than I did. This bears watching. Ted Ginn Jr. should have had better numbers against the Falcons, but he kept getting open and Dolphins quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Pat White kept underthrowing him. I know that's a symptom of Ginn's condition, but I'm still buying him. I have hopes that eventually Chad Henne will take over the job. The big winners in the Giants' wide receiver derby appear to be Steve Smith and Mario Manningham. Domenik Hixon was an afterthought, and Hakeem Nicks got hurt.
Tight end rankings
Defense/Special teams rankings
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.
Christopher Harris updates his fantasy football rankings for the season every week.