<
>

Talented Mr. Roto: Fantasy Football Top 200

8/5/2008

These are my rankings.

Sorry, let me rephrase.

These are my rankings. As in mine.

As in, they have all my biases and thoughts. Read my "Love/Hate" and "Draft Day Manifesto" pieces for deeper reasoning on specific players and the theories that shaped these rankings, but allow me to highlight a few I noticed as I was doing these.

• I'm much lower on Frank Gore than most folks. He has played all 16 games only once in three years. He has never scored double-digit touchdowns. In the past five years, the lead running back in a Mike Martz offense has averaged 1,265 total yards. That includes years with Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson, by the way. That yardage total would have been 21st in terms of total yards from scrimmage among all players (running backs and wide receivers) in 2007. Sorry; maybe I will be wrong. But I don't think Gore is Faulk circa 1999 this year.

• I'm not worried about Willis McGahee's injury. Yet.

• I also am way down on Larry Johnson and Ronnie Brown. LJ is discussed in "Love/Hate," and Nate Ravitz and I discussed Brown on Tuesday's podcast. Also, here's a link to the scientific study I referenced about players coming back from ACL injuries.

• Nate and I discussed Steve Smith and Brandon Marshall on Monday's podcast, but I like Marshall more and my rankings reflect that. I moved both guys down a bit, since neither is a legit No. 1 in my mind. Marshall outperformed Smith in 2007, he's less of an injury risk, there's more competition for the ball in Carolina and Jake Delhomme's health is no sure thing.

• Overall, as I stated in my "Manifesto," I am much higher on wide receivers this year and down on running backs.

• My rankings reflect the fact that a contrite, motivated Chad Johnson is going way too low these days.

• Considering the Seahawks tied for the sixth-most passing touchdowns in 2007 and still don't have a real running game, I'm high on Matt Hasselbeck and both Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson.

• These rankings reflect where I'm falling on a number of teammates with questionable playing time to start. I like Kenny Watson over Rudi Johnson, regardless of what anyone else says. I like Anthony Gonzalez over Marvin Harrison, Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart and Matt Forte over the field in Chicago. And I like Donald Driver over Greg Jennings, whose value was very touchdown-dependent in 2007. I got to interview Greg when we shot the ESPN Fantasy commercials (You can play for free this year! With free live scoring!), and I asked him about that, whether there was more of an effort put on trying to find him in the end zone, etc. Greg was very candid, and the answer was no. Brett Favre was just looking around, and Greg happened to be open at the right times. In other words, it was nothing designed, just the luck of the coverage and the play. Favre and Driver remain very close, and remember, it was Driver, not Jennings, who was the Packers' leader in receptions and receiving yards in 2007.

• Speaking of his Brett-ness, I'm fairly certain it's a company priority that I mention him at every possible opportunity, so I'll take this moment to tell you I ranked him based on the idea that this is where he should be taken if you are drafting this week. If we know for sure he is staying in Green Bay and is the starter, his ranking goes up. Depending on where he actually ends up, it very well could go down.

• I'm high on David Garrard and down on Jay Cutler from a fantasy perspective. I think Cutler is a terrific talent and I'm thrilled he's got his diabetes under control, but the fact remains that he has a run-first team and only two legit weapons to pass to, one of whom will miss the first two or three weeks of the season.

• I did a Fantasy Football Now segment for "SportsCenter" in which Erik Kuselias and I argued over tight ends. I took Tony Gonzalez as my No. 1 in that segment, but I am changing to Dallas Clark here because of the news that the Colts plan to use Clark in the slot a lot more this year. Still like Gonzalez and Jason Witten, and count me among the folks who are very nervous about Antonio Gates' toe injury. Also remember that Gates had six fantasy points or fewer in four of his last five games of 2007.

• By the way, if you want to jump on the Vernon Davis bandwagon, feel free. You won't step on my toes. Forget the fact that he has yet to do anything. A Martz offense does not feature the tight end much, and tight end is deep this year.

• I like Marc Bulger as a sleeper this year, but you'll see him with a bunch of other guys below. Anytime you see players of the same position bunched together like that, it's my way of saying those guys are basically the same level and it's a question of personal preference.

• I want to make sure Reggie Williams is healthy, and if he is, he'll move up considerably from where I have him.

• I am not a Vince Young fan. And there are a number of quarterbacks I did not rank. If they aren't listed, it's my way of saying, "They are a dime a dozen and not worth drafting. Pick him up during the season if you have a bye-week need."

• I ranked 200 players. An ESPN standard league is 10 teams with 16 roster slots, so 160 players deep. A 12-team league goes 192 deep, and a 14-team league with 14 slots goes 196 deep, so this list is designed to work for multiple formats. To wit, I spent my last 14 slots on kicker rankings to make a few points. First, you take your kicker with your last pick and not before. If it's a 10-team league, that's picks 151 through 160. To further underscore my point, I spent exactly 28 seconds ranking those 14 kickers. I timed it. It would have been 24, but it took me a few seconds to find Josh Scobee on the list. Seriously, kicker rankings don't matter.

• These rankings are based on ESPN standard scoring, which means, among other things, no points per reception and only four points for a passing touchdown.

Enjoy. Debate is healthy. You don't agree with a ranking? That's fine. I'm fairly sure there will be some here you won't. But argue with some analysis and reasoning, not just, "Bills rule -- you suck!"

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 a Sports 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.

Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend