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The Talented Mr. Roto: Updating my rankings

8/19/2008

Not a lot, actually.

As I sat down to do my "Love/Hate" update, I went through my original "Love/Hate" list, which I wrote June 18, and I found that, well, not a lot had changed.

I haven't changed my feelings about many of the guys. In fact, I'm feeling even better about, "loving," Troy Smith. My Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery picks are looking even better with No. 4 in town, and Chris Johnson hasn't done anything in the preseason to diminish my enthusiasm for him.

But there has been a lot of news this preseason. Not just with Favre to the Jets but also with injuries, role changes and, of course, Anne Hathaway and Megan Fox becoming single.

So I've updated my rankings. All my rankings. But right now, you see only the football ones. It's time for a "Love/Hate" update as well. As always, players I "love" are guys I would draft at least a round ahead of where they are being drafted in ESPN.com live drafts, and those I "hate" are players I would draft at least a round later. It doesn't mean I'd draft a guy I love ahead of a guy I hate, it just means I'm more likely to end up with him on my team when all is said and done.

Players I'm taking off my Love list

Bobby Engram, WR, Seahawks: Being out six weeks will hurt you. Because Deion Branch is coming back around the same time, and because Engram is 35 years old, he dropped quite a bit in my rankings. Incidentally, this doesn't help Nate Burleson in my opinion, because it gives him more defensive attention than he wants. I upped both Ben Obomanu and Courtney Taylor as a result of the injury, and I like Obomanu a bit more.

Chad Johnson, WR, Bengals: I still think Johnson will have a big year because he has something to prove. I like him more than I like Brandon Marshall and Steve Smith, who are both guaranteed to miss the start of the season, but I think Ocho Cinco is going where he should. I have, however, dropped him out of the top 10 of my WR rankings due to the possibility that he'll also miss a couple of games.

Players I'm taking off my Hate list

Jamal Lewis, RB, Browns: I never like paying for a career year (or a resurgent one), so I initially was down on Lewis. But now that more drafts have completed, he's going where he should. Plus, the fact that no player had more YACO (yards after contact ) last year pushed him back into my good graces. I mean, how can you not like a guy who gives you great YACO?

Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: The arguments against him were health and Rashard Mendenhall. But he's healthy, and Mendenhall will get goal-line carries. Fine, Parker scored only two touchdowns last year and still was a productive running back. He won't score fewer than two this year. He's not a first-round running back, but because he's not going in the first round, we're good here. I have no issue with Parker going in the second round.

Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts: He's playing in the preseason. If he's on the field at all during the regular season, he should be going higher than the seventh round, which is where he is currently going.

Matt Leinart, QB, Cardinals: I'm on record as saying I'd rather have Kurt Warner, but if you manage to get both Arizona quarterbacks, you'll be fine. They'll put up a lot of points this year.

Players who are new to the Love list and have risen in my rankings

Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Dolphins: Chad Pennington has to throw it to someone. By the way, if I were a fan in Miami, I would wear a leather fetish outfit to the game and hold up a sign that said "Bring Out the Ginn."

Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins: Smoke 'em if you got 'em. I never get tired of that joke, hacky as it is. Anyway, Williams has looked good, and Ronnie Brown now has a hurt thumb. Pennington isn't amazing, but he is a legit NFL quarterback, and the Dolphins will be OK on offense. Williams should be among the first of the backup running backs drafted.

Chris Perry, RB, Bengals: Further proof that Rudi Johnson is no longer "Rudi." I still like Kenny Watson more, but Perry definitely will have value.

Troy Smith, QB, Ravens: The guy is a gifted athlete, and guys like him can put points on the board. With a legit run game to take away the focal point of the offense, Smith should be either a useful No. 2 QB in leagues that play two or a solid bye-week/backup type.

JaMarcus Russell, QB, Raiders: See Smith, Troy.

Random observations about my updated rankings

• Of all the places that Brett Favre could land outside of Green Bay, New York was the best possible scenario for his fantasy value. I have him in the top 10 of quarterbacks, and I upped both Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles as a result.

• I also have Thomas Jones as a solid No. 2 running back. I liked him in June thanks to the new offensive line and his new blocker, Tony Richardson. Favre's addition only helps.

• I also upped Ryan Grant. He'll be the focal point of that offense, and you can say that about only a handful of running backs.

• I still have Steven Jackson at No. 5. I'm not worried about his holdout. Yet. But if you were picking at five and wanted to take Tom Brady instead, I wouldn't blame you.

• I think Clinton Portis should be the next running back off the board because of the following facts: 1. He was second in the NFL last year in touches. 2. He was second in yards after contact 3. He had 47 receptions. He'll be a much better fit for Jim Zorn's offense than folks realize.

• I rank Peyton Manning only four slots ahead of Drew Brees, and here's why: Last year, there were seven weeks when Manning threw for one or zero touchdowns. Now there are rumors that Manning will miss the first week. The reason you draft Manning is his consistency. He never gets injured, always puts up points … well, that's no longer the case, is it? He's currently going at the end of the first round in ESPN drafts, and that's insane to me. He's a good fantasy QB this year, but I'd rather have Tony Romo (assuming Tom Brady already has been taken, of course).

• In my 50 Facts column, I actually forgot to explain why I don't consider Frank Gore a first-rounder this year. From the fine folks here at the ESPN research department: During the past five years, the lead back in a Mike Martz offense has averaged 1,109 total yards. That includes years with Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson. That number would have been good for 60th last year. Frank Gore has never had double-digit touchdowns. And whoever lines up at quarterback for the 49ers this year is not Kurt Warner circa 1999. Or, heck, circa right now, either.

• The injury to the Broncos' Ryan Torain upped the values of Selvin Young and Andre Hall on my board. I hate Mike Shanahan as much as anyone alive, but partially because he is impossible to predict. And it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Young were to get all the carries and Andre Hall were to get some goal-line touches, which is what happened in the last preseason game.

• Say what you want about our little "Fantasy NFL Draft Special," but I think some useful nuggets were in there. Look, because it's TV, there are certain constraints. They need to move it quickly, so we could only do an eight-team league. That skews everything. So although I didn't like that Merril Hoge picked Rashard Mendenhall or that Chris Mortensen grabbed Felix Jones, it told me that both guys like those running backs. And they talk to a lot more folks and see a lot more tape and training camps than you or I. I moved both guys up, along with Devin Hester, for those reasons.

• It's not looking good for Ahman Green. I still like Chris Brown the most at running back (and he was in the "Love" section of my original article), but I have moved Steve Slaton up as well.

• If I didn't rank someone, it means I feel he is no better or worse than anyone else in the free-agent pool. So although you won't see Kyle Orton's name in the rankings, it doesn't mean I'm not aware that he's the Week 1 starter. It just means I don't care.

• If you are in the New York City area, stop by our fantasy football draft party (free and open to the public; first come, first served) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Brother Jimmy's (Lex and 31st) What will be there: ESPN commentator Linda Cohn and I, along with former Giants and Jets players, giveaways and more!

• If you live in the Chicago area, feel free to come to the ESPN Radio 1000 Fantasy Football Party on Aug. 22 and 23. I'll be there both days along with John Clayton, Mike Ditka and others.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is an Emmy Award winner for his work on Fantasy Football Now and a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.

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