Blood is Compulsory

We’re more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory.” – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

Rest of the Way Ranks

With Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, Miles Austin, Aaron Hernandez, and Steven Jackson all out or seriously limited, blood is running in the streets for many fantasy owners. 0-2 is a death knell in reality football, but for winless fantasy owners, it’s just time to get creative. Although in order to play Brad Pitt-playing-Billy Beane on your unsuspecting leaguemates, you’ll need to know where players rank now. Money in the Banana Stand is your key to fake Moneyball glory in fake football.

Official MITBS PPR draft rankings are in parentheses. You’ll note that the original rankings diverge from my fellow guessperts more than most, which may help explain some of the current ranks. Editor’s Note: For those coming from the Fantasy Football Librarian, welcome to the site. These are the post-Week 2 rankings. The Week 3 rankings have recently been added.

QB

1. Tom Brady (Preseason Ranking 5) – A mortal lock to break the all-time passing record.

2. Matthew Stafford (7) – Wait till they get in a shootout.

3. Aaron Rodgers (1)

4. Drew Brees (3)

5. Philip Rivers (6)

6. Michael Vick (2) – Even if not for the injury, Vick will become slightly less valuable in fantasy as he tries to improve as a QB.

7. Cam Newton (21) – Ron Rivera and Rob Chudzinski are my new favorite HC/OC combo. Finally somebody seems to get that ‘protecting’ your rookie QB with a conservative offense is a ridiculous concept.

8. Tony Romo (4) – Injuries threaten to derail a potential season for the ages. Expect Romo to challenge Tom Brady’s new record in 2012.

9. Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) – You can’t stop the Pistol Spread, you can only hope to . . . oh, dear God, there’s David Nelson again.

10. Matt Ryan (8) – Just doesn’t have the physical gifts of the truly elite, but the no-huddle, hurry up should boost his numbers.

11. Ben Roethlisberger (9)

12. Sam Bradford (11) – It’s going to take a couple more weeks but expect a big second half.

13. Kevin Kolb (10) – Arizona figures to become very pass-heavy as the season progresses, but Kolb hasn’t added any scrambling yards so far.

14. Matt Schaub (12)

15. Josh Freeman (14) – Doesn’t have the weapons or the play-calling to be a clear cut fantasy starter.

16. Kyle Orton (26)

17. Matt Hasselbeck (28)

18. Eli Manning (12)

19. Joe Flacco (19) – This may still be too high. Flacco has flat out no one to throw it to.

20. Jay Cutler (15) – Chicago’s become a player evaluation and play-calling morass.

21. Rex Grossman (UR) – The Washington passing game will be valuable in fantasy, but Grossman looked awful against Arizona and should lose the job to Beck shortly.

22. Jason Campbell (24)

23. Chad Henne (30)

24. Andy Dalton (32) – Losing Simpson could be a dagger.

25. Colt McCoy (28)

26. Mark Sanchez (27)

27. Blaine Gabbert (UR)

28. Kerry Collins (UR)

29. Tarvaris Jackson (25)

30. Matt Cassel (17)

31. Alex Smith (31)

32. Donovan McNabb (29)

RB

1. Ray Rice (1)

2. Darren McFadden (5)

3. LeSean McCoy (4)

4. Jahvid Best (10)

5. Ryan Mathews (15) – The tide turned in this timeshare last week, and Mathews’ emergence as one of the best backs in the NFL is right around the corner. Make almost any kind of trade necessary to get Mathews before he completely wrests the job from Tolbert and becomes a clear cut Top 5 back.

6. Matt Forte (11)

7. Adrian Peterson (8) – If you selected Purple Jesus because he fell to you at three or four but aren’t really a True Believer, the Bucs defense was just what you needed to get value in a trade. The Vikes could go 0-6 with six shutout losses in the NFC North.

8. Rashard Mendenhall (6)

9. Chris Johnson (7)

10. Peyton Hillis (14) – Disastrous Week 14-16 schedule curtails upside.

11. Fred Jackson (24) – Jackson was my No. 8 ranked back during the 2010 offseason. Then the Bills bizarrely selected C.J. Spiller. Jackson is the most underrated player in the NFL, but Spiller is also a much bigger talent than his rookie year suggested.  Jackson is a player to target in trades if the Bills are really serious about using Spiller at WR.

12. Felix Jones (9)

13. Maurice Jones-Drew (17)

14. Tim Hightower (18) – Hightower has only moved up due to the implosion of other backs. He could easily lose the job to Helu.

15. Ahmad Bradshaw (19)

16. Arian Foster (3) – His carries may be permanently curtailed to protect him for the playoffs (and unfortunately, I speak not of the fantasy variety).

17. James Starks (23) – Like Mathews, go get him now before his value gets any higher.

18. Jonathan Stewart (28) – Suddenly the receiving back in a passing offense.

19. Frank Gore (12)

20. Michael Turner (16) – Like AP, get value while his name and Week 2 stats prop up his worth.

21. Steven Jackson (13)

22. Brandon Jacobs (30)

23. Mike Tolbert (26) – There will still be worse options than Tolbert once he’s ceded the starter role to Mathews.

24. Darren Sproles (45)

25. Roy Helu (36) – A triumph of numbers over scouting, Helu will quickly establish himself as the best back in this class.

26. Ben Tate (42)

27. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (39) – His value is falling but his rank rises since others are falling faster. Stevan Ridley is coming.

28. Danny Woodhead (41)

29. Mark Ingram (20) – It’s only two weeks, but I haven’t seen anything to prove he’s a star-in-waiting.

30. Dexter McCluster (UR) – Some sites continually list McCluster’s possible WR-eligibility as the key to his value, which makes no sense. If you drafted properly, you’re much more likely to need help at RB2 than WR3.

31. C.J. Spiller (31) – Looked tremendous in limited touches in Week 2 (against a talented Oakland defense). Value figures to skyrocket if they can really get him involved as a receiver.

32. LaGarette Blount (22) – Pedestrian talent combined with limited touches is recipe for disaster.

33. Chris Wells (27)

34. Daniel Thomas (UR) – Thomas fell off the board with disastrous preseason but looked excellent Week 2.

35. Reggie Bush (35)

36. Pierre Thomas (25)

37. Knowshon Moreno (18) – There are few 2nd-string RBs a balky Moreno could hold off for the starting job. Luckily, Willis McGahee is one of those backs.

38. Bernard Scott (37) – A much better talent than Benson, Scott has a real chance to take the job during the former’s suspension.

39. Michael Bush (40)

40. Isaac Redman (44) – Little stand alone value, but the No. 1 handcuff.

41. Stevan Ridley (43)

Not Ranked: Shonn Greene, Cedric Benson, Marshawn Lynch

All three of these guys should lose their jobs by mid-season. In the meantime, they destroy your fantasy team because the allure of significant touches convinces you to put their likely 6 points in your lineup. Trade these three for anything, or just release them so you’re forced to figure out a real solution.

WR

1. Calvin Johnson (1)

2. Mike Wallace (7) – Jump in targets portends a possible No. 1 finish.

3. Kenny Britt (14) – The second most talented WR in football?

4. Andre Johnson (3) – Slow pace of Texans offense a problem.

5. Hakeem Nicks (2)

6. Larry Fitzgerald (4)

7. Roddy White (5)

8. Vincent Jackson (11)

9. Steve Smith (37) – Suckerpunch was on all my teams in 2010 because he led the NFL in Normalized Yards in 2008 and I figured he’d bounce back if healthy. Of course, the Jimmy Clausen Experience – and more injuries – rendered him unplayable. That led to some very bad WR decision-making on my part in the 8th round of drafts this year. (How can you not take Smith in the 8th Round?)

10. Stevie Johnson (8)

11. Greg Jennings (12)

12. Miles Austin (6) – Would be No. 1 if not for the hamstring re-injury. Austin is a monster, and Dez Bryant would just about have to be the most freakish WR in football to pass Miles as easily as the off-season scuttlebutt suggested.

13. Wes Welker (15)

14. Brandon Marshall (13)

15. Dez Bryant (10) – See Austin, Miles (I’m actually not ruling out that he is that talented).

16. Jeremy Maclin (27) – I had Maclin ranked above Jackson before the illness concerns arose. Thankfully, Maclin looks to have put that behind him.

17. Brandon Lloyd (22)

18. Mario Manningham (19)

19. DeSean Jackson (26)

20. David Nelson (UR) – I pointed to Nelson as someone to watch in the comments section of my PFF Possession Receiver Breakouts article, but that was still underselling him.

21. Dwayne Bowe (9) – Like everyone else, I expected Bowe’s TD% to fall but for the Chiefs offense to take a step forward. I thought – and still believe – that the Weis Effect was vastly overstated and that the additions of Breaston and Baldwin combined with a potential breakout season from Moeaki would free Bowe from the constant double and triple teams. And then that happened.

22. A.J. Green (42) – I was down on Green’s rookie fantasy potential in the preseason and this may be an overreaction to one good game. With Simpson possibly done, the triple teams are coming.

23. Percy Harvin (21)

24. Deion Branch (60)

25. Julio Jones (33)

26. Nate Burleson (36) – Megatron might lead the NFL in WR points and see Burleson lead the Lions in receptions. This offense is that good.

27. Mike Sims-Walker (30) – Could quickly emerge as the Rams playmaker.

28. Santonio Holmes (20) – There won’t be enough passes, and it’s now very clear opposing defenses only have to account for Holmes and Keller.

29. Mike Williams (18)

30. Santana Moss (34)

31. Robert Meachem (39)

32. Reggie Wayne (17) – Wayne was overvalued in drafts even before the Manning news broke.

33. Danny Amendola (32) – The falloff in value is so steep in this vicinity that Amendola could be a guy to target in trades even if he misses several more games.

34. Denarius Moore (45) – If you truly believe Al Davis won’t do something bizarre to derail Moore’s potentially gigantic rookie season, you could move him even higher.

35. Mike Thomas (23) – Watch Gabbert carefully this weekend. Thomas could move back up quickly.

36. Jordy Nelson (41) – I own and strongly believe in the talent of Nelson, but I detail why I’m worried in this week’s Advanced Targets for Pro Football Focus.

36. Marques Colston (25) – See Amendola, Danny.

37. Greg Little (52) – Little has run the most pass routes this season of any Browns receiver, and they don’t have any other realistic options in the passing game. Expect Little to break out around Week 5 and flirt with low-end WR2 value by the fantasy playoffs.

38. Jacoby Ford (36)

39. Davone Bess (35) – Hamstrung somewhat by Miami’s schizophrenic play-calling.

40. Anquan Boldin (28) – When you’re an aging possession receiver, does your value rise or fall if you’re the only legitimate WR on the field?

41. Austin Collie (16) – In some ways the Kerry Collins Debacle is worse for Collie owners than if Austin had been injured himself. Do you wait on him or not? I was forced to start him last week in at least one league (the NFFC’s 14-team format with 3-WRs and a flex), while one of the best fantasy players in the world flat out released him in a different one of my leagues. If there’s any hope left, it’s this: Collie was targeted twice in the end zone in Week 1 and led the Colts WRs in targets in Week 2. That included a red zone reception where he was taken down at the 1.

42. Lance Moore (37)

43. Eric Decker (UR)

44. Antonio Brown (UR)

45. Sidney Rice (24) – Sure, Rice is going to play with a torn labrum in an offense helmed by Tarvaris Jackson. Rice is still a Top 15 talent and the Seahawks future pass schedule is cake.

Trade for Peanuts or Release (I would actually take Ochocinco over any of these players, which is really saying something at this point):

Pierre Garcon, Donald Driver, Hines Ward, Braylon Edwards, Lee Evans, Big Mike Williams, Plaxico Burress, Roy Williams, Devin Hester

Guys You Can’t Exactly Drop But Who Suck the Life Out of the End of Your Bench:

Brandon Gibson, Andre Roberts, Arrelious Benn, Steve Smith, Jabar Gaffney, Michael Crabtree, Michael Floyd

TE

1. Rob Gronkowski (8)

2. Jermichael Finley (2) – But it’s not going to be an epic season.

3. Jimmy Graham (6) – Not running as many patterns as I’d hoped, but the other big TEs have even more questions.

4. Jason Witten (3)

5. Antonio Gates (1) – Led the projections, but not by much. Wasn’t draftable at his ADP with the plantar fasciitis a huge concern.

6. Aaron Hernandez (10) – If he only misses two weeks, he should still finish with more targets than Daniels or Davis.

7. Vernon Davis (7) – Vented with Harbaugh, but context still limits his upside.

8. Owen Daniels (5)

9. Dustin Keller (14)

10. Dallas Clark (4) – In addition to the Collins thing, he’s also older than you think.

11. Jermaine Gresham (16) – Should see an avalanche of targets with Simpson out – possibly indefinitely – and Green triple-teamed.

12. Tony Gonzalez (15) – Week 2 should go down as the last hurrah of a storied career.

13. Kellen Winslow (11)

14. Lance Kendricks (17)

15. Brandon Pettigrew (9) – Along with the injury concerns, he really can’t catch.

16. Fred Davis (UR) – Nice to see the Shanahans realizing what they have here after ignoring him a season ago.

17. Marcedes Lewis (13)

18. Ben Watson (22)

13 thoughts on “Blood is Compulsory”

    1. Footballguys suggested in their daily email that Best is already wearing down and will shortly be bench-worthy. I think that’s silly.

      Based on his absence the previous possession, I believe Best’s explosive 60-yard screen play (where he easily could have scored) came after the thigh injury. Unless Best suffers another concussion or a recurrence of turf toe, I expect him to play well as well through other types of injury as anyone else.

      The biggest issue for Best is also one of Adrian Peterson’s problems. The NFC North run defenses are very good. But as long as Best is part of that dynamic Lions passing game, he’s a clear Top 10 back.

      1. Okay. I’ll admit that peppering you with further questions is not the best way to show my gratitude for such a thoughtful response, I wanna ask another: what would you pay for CJ2k? I offered Tate and S. Holmes for him in one league, and I really don’t know whether to expect a done deal or a slap in the face. I’m not even sure which I’d prefer.

        1. No problem, Dean. I’m glad you like the rankings. CJ is tricky because his current struggles – which really stretch well back into the 2010 season – are somewhat inexplicable. The loss of Kenny Britt doesn’t do him any favors.

          PFF’s numbers suggest the Titans run-blocking is atrocious, and he seems to have lost his confidence in attacking the crease. It’s almost as though he and McFadden have switched places in terms of the ability to employ their breathtaking speed. Additionally, the Titans have struggled to really make him a factor in the passing game. Even in standard leagues, this secondary source of yardage is what makes players like Rice, McCoy, and Best so valuable.

          I think a package of two borderline starters – like Tate and Holmes – is about all I’d offer. At this point, if I were to target CJ as a buy low, it would be with the intent to flip him again as soon as he has a good game.

    1. Addai’s success against Pittsburgh was one of the strangest results of Week 3. He’ll probably move into the very bottom of the rankings this week, but he may have already had his best game. We have plenty of data points on what Addai brings to the table, and he just wasn’t that valuable even with Manning. In the current situation – and with the Colts seemingly poised to incorporate Carter around the goal line – his outlook is still bleak.

    1. Thanks jpe. I’ll keep updating the rankings. I like to watch all of the games on NFL Sunday Ticket’s Shortcuts package and get a look at the fully updated Pro Football Focus premium stats before I publish.

      I have an Advanced Targets article to write for PFF today, but I’m hoping to post the new version by early tomorrow morning.

  1. Love your rankings and love the title of your blog. Big A.D. fan. I was curious as to who are you top buy low targets are at the moment?

    1. Thanks Mike, Arrested Development was the second best show ever on TV. The new rankings are up: Inside the Box Thinking.

      We’re kind of in a weird zone where I think a lot of the trendy players actually still have upside, whereas some of the players it might be tempting to buy low on are pretty much done. This might be a better week to take advantage of players who think they’re being crafty by ‘selling high’ on players like Ryan Mathews, Fred Jackson, David Nelson, Denarius Moore. How well did it work out for people who sold on Arian Foster after Week 1 last year? Hopefully that’s where some of the value is on these rankings. Instead of just going with ‘safe’ rankings and mirroring what most other experts have, I really am trying to project forward and spot inefficiencies.

      Most of the good buy low candidates are players whose value is artificially depressed due to minor injuries. I’m very high on Miles Austin and Aaron Hernandez, and you might not have to pay the king’s ransom it would take if they were healthy.

      Hakeem Nicks is off to a slow start and might be available. It’s a good week to pick up Tim Hightower if you already have or can acquire Roy Helu. There’s a chance those guys cancel each other out for a huge chunk of the season, but there’s also a great chance one of them puts together a Top 5 second half of the season. I don’t like any of the ‘workhorse’ backs who are struggling. If you play in a very deep league where TEs are important, Jared Cook might finally get to run some routes now.

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