The Big Rotowski: Brown, Marshall 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 to help you set your lineup.
RANK Name Team Last Week 1 Peyton Manning Colts 1 2 Drew Brees Saints 2 3 Philip Rivers Chargers 3 4 Matt Schaub Texans 4 5 Matt Ryan Falcons 6 6 Jay Cutler Bears 7 7 Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 11 8 Tom Brady Patriots 5 9 Joe Flacco Ravens 8 10 Kurt Warner Cardinals 10 11 Aaron Rodgers Packers 9 12 Donovan McNabb Eagles 12 13 Eli Manning Giants 14 14 Tony Romo Cowboys 13 15 Carson Palmer Bengals 15 16 Brett Favre Vikings 16 17 Kyle Orton Broncos 18 18 Matt Hasselbeck Seahawks 21 19 Matt Cassel Chiefs 20 20 David Garrard Jaguars 17 21 Mark Sanchez Jets 23 22 Shaun Hill 49ers 19 23 Jake Delhomme Panthers 24 24 Trent Edwards Bills 22 25 Jason Campbell Redskins 25 26 Chad Henne Dolphins 29 27 Matthew Stafford Lions 27 28 Derek Anderson Browns 28 29 Josh Johnson Buccaneers 30 30 Marc Bulger Rams 32 31 Vince Young Titans 36 32 JaMarcus Russell Raiders 31 33 Kerry Collins Titans 26 34 Matt Leinart Cardinals 35 35 Daunte Culpepper Lions NR 36 Kevin Kolb Eagles 37 37 Tarvaris Jackson Vikings 38 38 Rex Grossman Texans 39 39 Kyle Boller Rams 33 40 Seneca Wallace Seahawks 34
Notes: Man, it's hard to rank the second tier of quarterbacks. I feel pretty good about Nos. 1-4 right now. After that? Put 'em in a barrel and pick one out. I held out on Ben Roethlisberger for as long as I could, but touchdowns were really the main thing that were missing and he threw three Sunday against the Detroit Lions. He is second in the NFL in pass yards and the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't shy about heaving it. Tom Brady was one missed bomb to Randy Moss away from posting a second straight good fantasy week. But the fact remains: After looking quite solid against the Baltimore Ravens, he was back to the guy with the spotty accuracy and slightly jittery feet we'd seen every game before Week 4. Brady also had Wes Welker streaking down the middle on what would've been a long catch-and-run score, and blew that throw, too. You never used to see that, even pre-2007. The argument that he's completely over his knee injury now looks foolish. I continue to rank him in the top 10 because I think he'll get better, the way Peyton Manning did last year. But I understand his owners' concerns. Aaron Rodgers got nothing but good news during his bye week, and I still dropped him two spots? Crazy. The Green Bay Packers announced that they signed Mark Tauscher to eventually be their right tackle again, and that Chad Clifton has a good shot at playing left tackle in Week 6. So the idea that I don't even have him in my top 10 is borderline laughable, and I admit it. But again, from Nos. 5-13, I can't say I strongly prefer anyone. There's quite a lot of good quarterback play in about half the league right now. If you're evaluating the list for trade purposes, and someone wants to pay you a ton to "downgrade" from, for example, Matt Ryan to Donovan McNabb? I'd do it in a heartbeat. Any questions, David Garrard owners? This doesn't look like the same efficiency expert we remember from a few years ago. He's wild. Granted, there was nothing he could've done to rescue the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, but I still thought he played terribly. His offensive line isn't holding up to pressure, and he's flinging it madly. There'll be some garbage time, yes. But considering he got pulled in the fourth quarter this week, you won't always be able to count on it. I've rated Vince Young above Kerry Collins for the first time, under the premise that no matter what Jeff Fisher says, soon he'll have no choice but to insert VY into his lineup and see what he can do. Next year, Young is due $7.5 million with a $4.25 million roster bonus tacked on, which clearly the Tennessee Titans can't pay if he's not ready to be a very good starting quarterback. And they can't know that unless they play him a lot this season. It sounds like Collins will go against the New England Patriots in Week 6, but the Titans are off in Week 7, which would be the perfect time to give Young a look. I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of a no-pressure, quasi-meaningless decent fantasy second half for VY.
Running back rankings
RANK Name Team Last Week 1 Adrian Peterson Vikings 1 2 Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars 2 3 Chris Johnson Titans 3 4 Michael Turner Falcons 5 5 Matt Forte Bears 6 6 Steven Jackson Rams 4 7 Ronnie Brown Dolphins 12 8 Frank Gore 49ers 10 9 Brandon Jacobs Giants 7 10 Marion Barber Cowboys 9 11 Cedric Benson Bengals 16 12 Pierre Thomas Saints 13 13 DeAngelo Williams Panthers 8 14 Steve Slaton Texans 11 15 Kevin Smith Lions 14 16 Brian Westbrook Eagles 15 17 LaDainian Tomlinson Chargers 17 18 Ryan Grant Packers 18 19 Clinton Portis Redskins 19 20 Ray Rice Ravens 20 21 Joseph Addai Colts 21 22 Thomas Jones Jets 22 23 Marshawn Lynch Bills 23 24 Knowshon Moreno Broncos 25 25 Rashard Mendenhall Steelers 28 26 Willis McGahee Ravens 24 27 Darren Sproles Chargers 26 28 Ahmad Bradshaw Giants 30 29 Leon Washington Jets 27 30 Jonathan Stewart Panthers 29 31 Tim Hightower Cardinals 33 32 Donald Brown Colts 34 33 Fred Jackson Bills 32 34 Cadillac Williams Buccaneers 35 35 Derrick Ward Buccaneers 36 36 LeSean McCoy Eagles 37 37 Willie Parker Steelers 38 38 Julius Jones Seahawks 39 39 Tashard Choice Cowboys 44 40 Ricky Williams Dolphins 46 41 Jamal Lewis Browns NR 42 Larry Johnson Chiefs 40 43 Darren McFadden Raiders 42 44 Sammy Morris Patriots NR 45 Felix Jones Cowboys 43 46 Beanie Wells Cardinals 45 47 Jerome Harrison Browns 31 48 Michael Bush Raiders NR 49 Jamaal Charles Chiefs NR 50 Correll Buckhalter Broncos 49
Notes: I'm trying to shake things up, I really am. I finally have Steven Jackson out of my top five; that move was decided at about 1:15 p.m. ET Sunday, when Jackson started dancing at the Minnesota Vikings' goal line and dropped the football a few inches away from his first touchdown. The good news is that the St. Louis Rams keep giving him the ball; Jackson is second in the league in combined rushes and receptions, just one behind Cedric Benson. No matter how bad the Rams are on offense (and they actually weren't that bad against the Vikings, not nearly as bad as I feared), a usage pattern like that will result in better fantasy days for Jackson if he stays healthy. Frank Gore will presumably be back in the San Francisco 49ers lineup after the team's Week 6 bye, and watching two weeks of Glen Coffee plod certainly impresses on me how much better Gore is. As you've no doubt heard, Benson became the first rusher in 40 games to eclipse 100 yards on the ground against the Baltimore Ravens. I've read a few places where people say they're impressed by how fast Benson looks. I can't say I'm completely on board with that; I thought his touchdown run Sunday came on a play where the Ravens guessed wrong. But at some point, you're just picking nits. If his name wasn't Cedric Benson, we'd all feel more comfortable, but hey, I recommended that you start him last week (and got "Called Out" for it by Tristan H. Cockcroft), so I'm not ever going to tell you to sit him right now. DeAngelo Williams is a big sinker, and it's not just because of his fumble that put the Carolina Panthers in an early hole Sunday. As I've maintained would happen, Jonathan Stewart was a significant factor in the Panthers' running game, and he got the first two cracks at a first-and-goal situation in the second half. Their O-line isn't blasting open opposing defenses any more, so Williams isn't getting to flash his quickness in and out of the hole. It's a problem. I'm sure there are some Ray Rice owners who want me to elevate their fellow way higher, but while I've maintained (and written) that Rice is easily my favorite Ravens running back to own even in the face of Willis McGahee's onslaught, not every day will go quite as swimmingly as Sunday did for Rice. It was just a week ago we were all lamenting the unfairness of Rice's losing so many scores, remember? He's the better player here by a good margin, but I don't think McGahee is done as a factor. If Tim Hightower could, like, get any rushing yards? I'd be all set to elevate him. The popular storyline in Phoenix now is that Beanie Wells can't be on the field during passing situations, and so defenses know that when Wells is in, the play call is a run. And there may be some truth to that. Right now. But Wells isn't innately a terrible blocker; he simply needs to get comfortable. And once he does (I have to admit, I'd hoped it would happen during the team's bye), Hightower's value -- which is based in equal measure around the receiving game and goal-line runs -- will drop. I bit hard on Jerome Harrison and was very surprised to see Jamal Lewis get 31 carries in Buffalo. Harrison will have better days, I think, and Lewis is certainly no great bet to stay healthy at that level of workload. Plus, honestly, I still believe if the Browns had worked Harrison even half that hard, he'd have gained more yards than the plodding Lewis did. But you can go only with what the NFL team is actually doing, and it's pretty clear that for the time being, Lewis is the starter. Marion Barber will probably get his quad well during the Dallas Cowboys' bye, so I'm not ready to clamor for Tashard Choice to become a fantasy starter, despite the fact that he looked like the better back in Kansas City. What that performance does do, in my mind, is put Choice squarely into the mix for Felix Jones' touches.
Wide receiver rankings
RANK Name Team Last Week 1 Andre Johnson Texans 1 2 Reggie Wayne Colts 2 3 Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals 3 4 Calvin Johnson Lions 4 5 Randy Moss Patriots 5 6 Chad Ochocinco Bengals 6 7 Brandon Marshall Broncos 13 8 Anquan Boldin Cardinals 7 9 Vincent Jackson Chargers 8 10 Roddy White Falcons 15 11 Marques Colston Saints 14 12 Steve Smith Giants 9 13 Steve Smith Panthers 11 14 Greg Jennings Packers 12 15 DeSean Jackson Eagles 10 16 Hines Ward Steelers 16 17 Santonio Holmes Steelers 17 18 Donald Driver Packers 18 19 Braylon Edwards Jets 24 20 Wes Welker Patriots 20 21 Dwayne Bowe Chiefs 22 22 T.J. Houshmandzadeh Seahawks 28 23 Santana Moss Redskins 23 24 Jerricho Cotchery Jets 19 25 Derrick Mason Ravens 25 26 Roy E. Williams Cowboys 26 27 Mario Manningham Giants 27 28 Nate Burleson Seahawks 39 29 Eddie Royal Broncos 35 30 Kevin Walter Texans 30 31 Mike Sims-Walker Jaguars 32 32 Terrell Owens Bills 21 33 Bernard Berrian Vikings 29 34 Antonio Bryant Buccaneers 36 35 Steve Breaston Cardinals 31 36 Devin Hester Bears 37 37 Ted Ginn Jr., Dolphins 41 38 Johnny Knox Bears 40 39 Miles Austin Cowboys NR 40 Nate Washington Titans 38 41 Jeremy Maclin Eagles NR 42 Lee Evans Bills 33 43 Percy Harvin Vikings 42 44 Earl Bennett Bears 43 45 Devery Henderson Saints 44 46 Josh Morgan 49ers 48 47 Patrick Crayton Cowboys 34 48 Mohamed Massaquoi Browns 45 49 Hakeem Nicks Giants NR 50 Donnie Avery Rams NR
Notes: Calvin Johnson's knee will be the subject of much speculation this week, but the way the Detroit Lions are currently operating with injuries, we're probably not going to know much definitive until Sunday morning. The team has a bye in Week 7, so there's a decent chance they play it safe against the Green Bay Packers this week. Coach Jim Schwartz said Monday that Megatron's knee injury isn't "significant." I told you not to go crazy about Brandon Marshall last week. Well, I think you can start to go a little crazier. I wasn't all that impressed by his game-long performance against the Dallas Cowboys, but he was awfully tough in the red zone against the New England Patriots. It probably doesn't matter all that much if I rank him No. 13 or No. 7, because you're most likely starting him either way. But his touchdown chops have clearly re-emerged. I guess maybe Roddy White responded to his detractors, eh? It was never about his talent, but rather concerns that the Atlanta Falcons weren't throwing the ball downfield as much. And they still may not be; his 90-yard touchdown in Week 5 was a short one he took to the house after the catch. But the entire 10-target, eight-catch, 210-yard effort was a reminder of the damage the guy can do any week. I'm not downgrading DeSean Jackson because he had one catch for 1 yard Sunday. Well, not directly. It's just that Jeremy Maclin now looks like a starter going forward, and he's a much more viable option than Kevin Curtis was. My prior theory was that all the other so-so receiving options in Philly made Jackson stand out. And I still wonder whether Maclin can consistently do much more than run really fast straight down the field. But I don't see how Andy Reid doesn't keep using the guy. He's not quite as fast as Jackson (he ran a 4.45 combine time compared to Jackson's 4.35), but is probably 3-4 inches taller and about 30 pounds heavier, which is impressive. T.J. Houshmandzadeh benefits big-time from Matt Hasselbeck's return, and I was saying and writing that before Housh posted a big game Sunday. Nate Burleson is also overcoming my bias against his hands to climb up into every-week consideration, at least in deeper leagues or leagues that start three receivers. Mike Sims-Walker missed the Jacksonville Jaguars' game in Seattle, but he wasn't hurt. He was suspended for violating team rules. Last week, I promised that if Terrell Owens couldn't perform against the Cleveland Browns, I'd get him out of my top 30. A deal's a deal. But I'm still not dropping him. I was against dropping Eddie Royal, too, and if you listened to that advice, you're feeling pretty good about it right now. The Buffalo Bills are a wreck, and the fact that they've played two of their past three games in high winds hasn't helped. A lot can change in a few weeks. Trent Edwards isn't my favorite, but he's not this lame. He's saddled with a too-conservative head coach and an offensive line that's probably the greenest in the NFL. I can still see a light at the end of the tunnel for T.O., but I admit it's growing fainter. Miles Austin was a favorite of mine heading into training camp this summer, then the Dallas Cowboys stubbornly refused to let him start, which would've meant Patrick Crayton staying in the slot, where he played for much of last year. (Austin's own shaky-handedness during the preseason didn't help.) But after his 250-yard effort Sunday, Austin has probably forced the team's hand. The Cowboys are on bye in Week 6, so we probably won't know anything for certain this week, but I have to assume Austin's now a starter, and Crayton, who fumbled a punt Sunday, will be the slot man in three-receiver sets. How have I reacted to Austin Collie's big day? I've dropped Anthony Gonzalez and Pierre Garcon completely off the list. Listen, there are obviously huge points to be had in the Indianapolis Colts' passing game. But do you know who's getting 'em, other than Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark? This may be pure stubbornness on my part, and I'd probably have the three other receivers ranked Nos. 51, 52 and 53. But I don't know how you're going to be able to start any of them in any given week, unless the others get injured.
Tight end rankings
RANK Name Team Last Week 1 Tony Gonzalez Falcons 1 2 Dallas Clark Colts 2 3 Antonio Gates Chargers 3 4 Jason Witten Cowboys 4 5 Owen Daniels Texans 6 6 Greg Olsen Bears 7 7 Vernon Davis 49ers 10 8 Brent Celek Eagles 8 9 Chris Cooley Redskins 5 10 Kellen Winslow Buccaneers 13 11 Heath Miller Steelers 12 12 Jeremy Shockey Saints 11 13 John Carlson Seahawks 9 14 Todd Heap Ravens 16 15 Visanthe Shiancoe Vikings 19 16 Zach Miller Raiders 15 17 Jermichael Finley Packers 26 18 Dustin Keller Jets 14 19 Benjamin Watson Patriots 20 20 Bo Scaife Titans 18 21 Marcedes Lewis Jaguars 21 22 Anthony Fasano Dolphins 27 23 Kevin Boss Giants 17 24 Tony Scheffler Broncos 25 25 Brandon Pettigrew Lions 22 26 Martellus Bennett Cowboys 29 27 Randy McMichael Rams NR 28 Steve Heiden Browns 23 29 Sean Ryan Chiefs 24 30 Jerramy Stevens Buccaneers 30
Team defense rankings
RANK Name Last Week 1 New York Giants 1 2 Minnesota Vikings 3 3 Philadelphia Eagles 4 4 New York Jets 2 5 Baltimore Ravens 5 6 Pittsburgh Steelers 7 7 San Francisco 49ers 6 8 Cincinnati Bengals 8 9 Green Bay Packers 9 10 Denver Broncos 10 11 Indianapolis Colts 11 12 Chicago Bears 12 13 New Orleans Saints 13 14 Dallas Cowboys 14 15 Miami Dolphins 17 16 Atlanta Falcons 16 17 New England Patriots 15 18 Arizona Cardinals 18 19 Buffalo Bills 20 20 Seattle Seahawks 21 21 San Diego Chargers 22 22 Tennessee Titans 19 23 Washington Redskins 23 24 Carolina Panthers 26 25 Cleveland Browns 27 26 Detroit Lions 30 27 St. Louis Rams 29 28 Houston Texans 28 29 Jacksonville Jaguars 25 30 Oakland Raiders 24 31 Kansas City Chiefs 31 32 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.
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