The Big Rotowski: Portis, Rodgers slide
Neither player took advantage of soft Week 2 matchups, which is a bad sign for '09
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: Tom Brady owners can officially worry. He has looked stiff and inaccurate the first two games, and he came out Monday and said he knows his mechanics are off. Terrific. Brady clearly missed Wes Welker against the Jets, and Joey Galloway is a disaster in a Patriots uniform. It'd be easy simply to whistle past the graveyard and pretend nothing's wrong, but the Patriots should be 0-2, and mostly because of Brady and his offensive line. Through two games, the Falcons' run-pass mix stands at 64 rushes and 63 passes, a far cry from the 57/43 run-pass split last year. In short, Matt Ryan is allowed to do more this year, and so far he's been pretty good, though not perfect. He has missed some deep balls, but he's getting more pass plays called in the red zone, which is sweet music to his fantasy owners' ears. I was pilloried by many readers for having the temerity to keep Matt Schaub firmly ensconced within my top 10 last week. Any questions? See, the kid's not a stiff. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 10 times this season, most in the league, and his offensive line has made superstars out of Adewale Ogunleye and Antwan Odom the past two weeks. The Packers' receivers also aren't doing Rodgers any favors by dropping a bunch of passes. Raise your hand if you thought Rodgers would face the Bears' and Bengals' secondaries and come out of those games with only two touchdowns total. Tony Romo continues to spit the bit in big situations. It's all well and good to lead the world against a rancid Bucs defense. But the Giants followed their tried-and-true method of dealing with the Cowboys: toss a ton at the line of scrimmage, get Romo throwing without his feet set, and wait for the mistakes to happen. Sure, the interception that bounced off Jason Witten's foot was a little unlucky, but the throw was behind Witten. You'll get good numbers pretty regularly from Romo, but he's an enigma. Can we stop with the Joe Flacco worship for a week now? I bet I fielded more questions-slash-hate-mail about Flacco than about any other quarterback last week because I didn't instantly prostrate myself at the altar of his glory. The kid is good, but he's not going to be allowed to air it out on a weekly basis. He did a fine job beating the Chargers on Sunday, but he threw it 26 times for 190 yards and rarely threw the ball deep. That's more like it. Byron Leftwich gets the week's biggest ratings bump, but it's for all the wrong reasons. His defense is terrible, and he'll be playing from behind a lot. He's second in the NFL in pass attempts through two weeks (behind only Brady). Of course, he'll have to survive a lot of hits in the process as teams tee off on him. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Matt Hasselbeck has a broken rib, which sounds an awful lot like Donovan McNabb's injury. Hasselbeck thinks he'll be able to play next week against the Bears, but you won't want any part of that.
Running back rankings
Notes: Is it a bad sign when you have a hard time filling out your top 5 at a position, let alone your top 50? Boy. It sure does look like there's a lack of elite options at running back right now. Try as I might, it's hard for me to bump guys like Steven Jackson and Matt Forte out of my top 10 yet. Jackson still hasn't found the end zone, but he was more involved in the Rams' game plan Sunday and was one more block away from a short score. He's also in the top 10 in rushing yards in '09. Forte is nowhere near the top 10, but he still doesn't have competition for carries, something few NFL backs can say. Brandon Jacobs, Steve Slaton, Kevin Smith -- I have to believe better times are coming soon. Clinton Portis did get three targets in the passing game in Week 2, the same as Ladell Betts and Mike Sellers combined. That's the good-ish news. The bad news is that Portis doesn't look like the same guy we remember from years past. He's not exploding to the hole, and he is coming out in favor of Betts in obvious passing situations. I've been bearish on him all year, and that continues as Randy Thomas, the Redskins' best run-blocker, is out for the year because of a torn triceps. I try to be stubborn in these rankings, but also smart. Cedric Benson deserves to be the highest mover on this list. He wasn't great against the Broncos, but I was impressed with how strong he looked against the Packers, and how much push the Bengals' O-line got. Benson has a bad matchup in two of the next three games -- Week 3 against the Steelers and Week 5 against the Ravens -- so I'm not ready to call him a no-brainer start every week. But in a land of platooning midgets, Benson has been a solo behemoth. I also underrated Darren Sproles' impact in San Diego. I still question whether he'll be an effective rusher, but the Chargers are in passing formations so much these days that it might not matter. Of course, LaDainian Tomlinson's status is going to be the controlling factor for Sproles' fantasy fate, but as long as LT is out, Sproles probably should be in your starting lineup. The Thomas Jones/Leon Washington split continues to intrigue. They each got 14 carries against the Patriots last week, and any notion that Washington is simply a change-of-pace guy seems antiquated. It was disappointing that the Jets didn't throw more to Washington (two catches on three targets), but Mark Sanchez will eventually get those kinks worked out. And really, I don't know what to expect in Baltimore, either, as for one week at least, the Ravens seem to have gone back to Willis McGahee as their primary back. McGahee played in crucial moments of the fourth quarter and scored two more times, leaving Ray Rice on the sidelines more than I expected. This looks like yet another mix-and-match situation, but if McGahee is available in your league, I'd grab him. For the second straight week, Joseph Addai came out of the game on crucial drives during the second half, in favor of Donald Brown. Addai still seems like he's going to get more carries, but Brown took away the game-winning scoring run, and should continue to be a drain on Addai's value. Watch out for Rashard Mendenhall again. He broke off a long run on an impressive third-quarter drive for the Steelers on Sunday, showing more pop than Willie Parker has shown in two games.
Wide receiver rankings
|18||Roy E. Williams||Cowboys||14|
|29||Ted Ginn Jr.||Dolphins||30|
Notes: The reason I switched Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald (which is really a nominal change anyway) is simple: There are a lot more good receivers in Arizona. Don't get on Randy Moss too hard for his crummy Week 2 game; Darrelle Revis will do that to a lot of receivers. (And don't get on Moss too hard for his phony-baloney excuse about how much safety help Revis had. First of all, every corner gets some safety help sometimes, Randy; does that mean there's never been a shutdown corner in NFL history? And second, Revis was one-on-one against Moss on several occasions.) But also don't overreact when your wideout is facing Revis. The Jets won't necessarily staple their ace corner to an opposing team's No. 1 every week. These first two games were exceptions because of extraordinary receiving talent on the opposition. Donald Driver got nine targets in Week 2 and caught six of them. For the season, he has 16 targets, easily inside the NFL's top 20, and perhaps more important, that is tops on the Packers. Greg Jennings will wind up with more fantasy points, and Driver has lost a step from his glory days. But he's an excellent No. 2 and is always where's he's supposed to be. The Giants receivers' ranks were the subject of much speculation, and here they are. The reason I like Smith more than Manningham right now? I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that Smith will stay in the Giants' good graces almost no matter what, whereas with the more explosive Manningham, I'm just not sure. There are still other candidates; after all, it has been only two weeks. Still, I'm both vaguely proud of myself for having ranked Manningham here at all last week, and also down on myself for having him as low as No. 49. By any measure, he deserves to be higher. A couple more games like these first two, and he'll venture into must-start territory. I wouldn't drop either of the Broncos' top two receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, but it's looking mighty tough to start either guy right now. I still have to believe with that offensive line and those receiving weapons, and at least enough rushing talent to keep opposing defenses honest, the Denver passing offense will get its collective head dislodged from its posterior. But I have to say I'm a lot less certain than I was a couple weeks ago. I'm hanging on with Antonio Bryant for the moment until we get a real sense of how bad his knee injury is. That poor Tampa Bay defense means someone in the Bucs' receiving corps should have fine numbers this year. Donnie Avery's big fourth-quarter fumble Sunday might just be the nail in his coffin; Laurent Robinson is looking like the No. 1 receiver in the Rams' passing game right now. Hey, I don't like Nate Burleson's hands either. But the fact is he has a ludicrous 21 targets in two games. Johnny Knox was the fastest receiver at the draft combine this winter, and he seemed to take over for Earl Bennett as the Bears' No. 2 in the second half against the Steelers. Knox's skills would seem to overlap with Devin Hester's (i.e. tons of speed, pretty much straight down the field), and I don't think we've heard the last of Bennett by any means. As Jay Cutler gets comfortable, these guys will all have days in the sun.
Tight end rankings
Team defense rankings
|2||New York Giants||2|
|3||New York Jets||6|
|9||San Francisco 49ers||16|
|10||Green Bay Packers||11|
|11||New England Patriots||9|
|21||San Diego Chargers||12|
|24||New Orleans Saints||26|
|28||Kansas City Chiefs||32|
|29||St. Louis Rams||30|
|31||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||24|
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner.