Inside the Box Thinking

“I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it. – Terry Pratchett

A week ago, Kenny Britt owners appeared on their way to fantasy titles. Now those same owners must rely on the resiliency of their overall draft strategy to help ride out the storm. Money in the Banana Stand emphasizes a WR-heavy roster and hopes you already have Britt’s replacement ready to go. If not, examining where players reside after three weeks is a good place to start as you make FAAB bids and seek out trades. These rankings are specifically for PPR leagues, but even standard league owners should be emphasizing pass-catching backs. As always, I encourage you to trade unspectacular veteran depth for young players who will see their values continue to rise as the season advances.

Rest of the Way Ranks

Players in green saw a boost in value this week while those in red continue to free fall. Sometimes players rise in the rankings due to injuries weakening the entire field even though their own situation is also worse than it was a week ago.

QB

1. Tom Brady (LW 1)

2. Matthew Stafford (2) – Showed franchise QB moxie in rallying his team against the Vikings.

3. Drew Brees (4)

4. Aaron Rodgers (3)

5. Ryan Fitzpatrick (9) – With Donald Jones showing why the Bills were willing to trade Lee Evans, the conventionally-monikered Johnson/Nelson/Jones triumvirate is anything but dull on the field. With Jackson and Spiller to dump it to out of the backfield, Fitzpatrick is surrounded by weapons.

6. Philip Rivers (5)

7. Tony Romo (8) – Assuming his injury doesn’t get much worse – which is a rather large assumption – Romo should still have significant late season value.

8. Cam Newton (7) – Had his first off game but managed to salvage some numbers even in the monsoon.

9. Ben Roethlisberger (11)

10. Matt Schaub (14) – Schaub needs his own defense to struggle in order to put up the big points.

11. Matt Ryan (10)

12. Michael Vick (6) – As the injuries pile up, Vick’s rushing value takes a serious hit.

13. Joe Flacco (19) – Everything about the Ravens offense changed when Torrey Smith ‘took the top off’ the defense.

14. Eli Manning (18)

15. Sam Bradford (12)

16. Matt Hasselbeck (17) – Even with the loss of Britt the Titans are throwing the ball better than half the league.

17. Jason Campbell (22) – A healthy Jacoby Ford should be the last important piece for this offense.

18. Kevin Kolb (13)

19. Josh Freeman (15)

20. Kyle Orton (16) – Hold on starting job is tenuous.

21. Mark Sanchez (26) – New York is becoming a pass-first offense by necessity. Sanchez lacks the talent to take advantage.

22. Jay Cutler (20) – This is what petulance gets you, although staying in Denver would have been no prize either.

23. Chad Henne (23)

24. Colt McCoy (25)

25. Andy Dalton (24)

26. Rex Grossman (21) – Expect him to get benched mid-game next week.

27. Matt Cassel (30) – Could rebound when Haley is fired.

28. Alex Smith (31)

29. Tarvaris Jackson (29)

30. Blaine Gabbert (27)

31. Curtis Painter (UR)

32. Donovan McNabb (32)

 

RB

1. Ray Rice (1)

2. Darren McFadden (2) – Once again exhibited his trademark explosiveness. McFadden lacks the shiftiness and tackle-breaking ability of Peterson but gets vertical faster.

3. Ryan Mathews (5) – Last week I moved Mathews up to No. 5 and recommended doing anything to get him in a trade. You’ll have to give up more this week, but some Mathews owners may be timid enough to think now’s the time to ‘sell high.’ Do whatever it takes.

4. LeSean McCoy (3) – McCoy has taken another step as a runner, but the lack of receptions is disappointing.

5. Jahvid Best (4) – Best continues to struggle between the tackles, but he leads the NFL in pass routes run by a RB. His use in the passing game will continue to be a huge source of value.

6. Matt Forte (6)

7. Adrian Peterson (7) – In a special pre-draft version of my Contrarian column for Pro Football Focus, I explain why AP was a risk as the No. 1 overall pick due to his poor Yards Before Contact average. Even though he’s averaging over 5 yards per carry early this season, his YBC is still below 1.5.

8. Fred Jackson (11) – I have been operating under the assumption that the Bills’ offensive line and difficult schedule would hold him back. Instead, the Pistol is finally setting him free.

9. Felix Jones (12) – Act now while Felix’s narrative focuses on his injury-proneness. He’s about ready to take the jump.

10. Arian Foster (16)

11. Chris Johnson (9)

12. Peyton Hillis (10)

13. Tim Hightower (14)

14. Rashard Mendenhall (8) – You have to be a ridiculous talent to run behind an offensive line as bad as the Steelers’. Mendenhall isn’t.

15. Maurice Jones-Drew (13) – RBs in RB-heavy offenses are not good values in fantasy no matter how many times you hear it repeated.

16. Ahmad Bradshaw (15)

17. Jonathan Stewart (18)

18. Brandon Jacobs (22)

19. James Starks (17) – Even after a game where he was severely outplayed by Ryan Grant, Starks still has a better yards after contact metric and a superior Elusive Rating. With Grant likely out this week, Starks has another chance to seize the job.

20. Darren Sproles (24)

21. Daniel Thomas (34) – Another encouraging performance allows him to leapfrog the plodders.

22. Steven Jackson (21)

23. Roy Helu (25) – Putting up Clinton Portis-like rookie numbers over the season’s second half is not outside the realm of possibility.

24. Michael Turner (20) – I warned that Turner should have a flashing “Do Not Draft” sign before the draft. He’s now fallen into the “Hope he scores a TD” value area.

25. Frank Gore (19) – Got that contract extension just in time. May not be the starter by the end of the season.

26. Ben Tate (26)

27. Mike Tolbert (23)

28. Dexter McCluster (30)

29. Mark Ingram (29)

30. LaGarette Blount (32) – His running style screams undrafted free agent which is what he was.

31. Chris Wells (33)

32. Danny Woodhead (28)

33. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (27) – If you don’t trade him now, you may find yourself releasing him in three weeks.

34. Michael Bush (39)

35. C.J. Spiller (31)

36. Bernard Scott (38)

37. Pierre Thomas (36)

38. LaDainian Tomlinson (UR) – Green and McKnight can’t play and Powell isn’t ready.

39. Stevan Ridley (41)

40. Ryan Grant (UR) – Even in a strong performance his fantasy impact was minimal.

41. DeAngelo Williams (UR) – Rank based on the ridiculous talent he’s shown in the past, but serious concerns exist about his future.

42. Joseph Addai (UR) – Still droppable in most leagues, try to trade Addai based on last week’s encouraging performance.

Not Ranked: Shonn Greene, Cedric Benson, Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Bush, Knowshon Moreno

All of these guys are third-string talents at best. They’re quickly playing their way toward the bench.

WR

1. Calvin Johnson (1) – A legitimate threat to the single-season receiving TD record.

2. Wes Welker (13) – Welker was the far and away the top PPR receiver on a per game basis in 2009. It turns out the post-Moss offense is even more conducive to his talents. If you don’t have Welker on your team, pray Aaron Hernandez comes back in a couple of weeks to siphon targets.

3. Mike Wallace (2)

4. Andre Johnson (4)

5. Roddy White (7) – Looks like he’ll succeed despite Ryan’s struggles.

6. Hakeem Nicks (5)

7. Miles Austin (12) – Now that we’ve eliminated one of his injury absences, Austin rises quickly in the ranks.

8. Stevie Johnson (10)

9. Steve Smith (9)

10. Larry Fitzgerald (6) – Already regretting not waiting to see what he could get elsewhere as a free agent?

11. Vincent Jackson (8) – The Gates injury is disastrous for Jackson, Rivers, and Gates owners all.

12. Greg Jennings (11)

13. Brandon Marshall (14)

14. Dwayne Bowe (21) – Might be in the conversation as one of the NFL’s best receivers if he played on a real team.

15. David Nelson (20) – Donald Jones’ emergence should help Nelson going forward.

16. Dez Bryant (15)

17. Brandon Lloyd (17)

18. Sidney Rice (45) – See Bowe, Dwayne.

19. Julio Jones (25)

20. DeSean Jackson (19) – Lack of versatility turns him into a Forest Gump aphorism every week.

21. Santana Moss (30)

22. Deion Branch (24) – A one week blip as teams turn their focus even more to Welker.

23. Mario Manningham (18)

24. Nate Burleson (26)

25. Jeremy Maclin (16) – Another injury faller.

26. Santonio Holmes (28)

27. Denarius Moore (34) – Continues to prove he’s easily the best Oakland WR. Ford’s return should help, not hurt, his progress.

28. Percy Harvin (23)

29. Mike Williams (29)

30. A.J. Green (22)

31. Lance Moore (42)

32. Reggie Wayne (32)

33. Danny Amendola (33)

34. Marques Colston (36) Returning several weeks early but to a crowded WR scene.

35. Greg Little (37) – Continues to run the most pass routes on the team. Savvy owners will get in front of his Torrey Smith-like breakout.

36. Anquan Boldin (40) – Ran an almost surreal 52 pass routes last week.

37. Robert Meachem (31)

38. Eric Decker (43) – Consolidated his value by earning 12 targets a week after breakout.

39. Torrey Smith (UR) – Rookie receivers don’t put up that kind of game and return to obscurity.

40. Antonio Brown (44) – The Steelers new No. 2.

41. Jordy Nelson (36)

42. Davone Bess (39)

43. Mike Thomas (35) – At one point last week, the Jags called running plays on 22 of 24 snaps.

44. Donald Jones (UR)

45. Titus Young (UR)

46. Johnny Knox (UR) – Even Mike Martz has to realize what Roy Williams is at this point.

47. Jerome Simpson (UR) – Following the Aqib Talib career path.

48. Austin Collie (41)

49. Mike Sims-Walker (27)

50. Steve Smith (UR) – The Philly version could emerge due to teammates’ injuries.

Trade Immediately

Pierre Garcon, Lee Evans, Plaxico Burress, Michael Floyd, Brandon Gibson

Release

Donald Driver, Hines Ward

TE

1. Rob Gronkowski (1)

2. Jermichael Finley (2) – When I said last week that it wouldn’t be an epic season, I was using 4-TD games as my benchmark for epic.

3. Jimmy Graham (3) – Will outscore all of the Saints WRs this year.

4. Jason Witten (4)

5. Aaron Hernandez (6)

6. Owen Daniels (8)

7. Vernon Davis (7) – With a big game on his 2011 resume, it’s time to sell.

8. Antonio Gates (5) – Sadly for Gates’ owners, this is probably best case scenario.

9. Brandon Pettigrew (15)

10. Dustin Keller (9) – If you own Gates – and don’t hate the Jets – I’d trade him for Keller straight up.

11. Jermaine Gresham (11)

12. Kellen Winslow (13)

13. Fred Davis (16)

14. Tony Gonzalez (12)

15. Greg Olsen (UR) – Probably an overrated talent, Olsen hasn’t completely separated himself from Shockey in the target department.

15. Dallas Clark (10) – Unmitigated Disaster.

16. Jared Cook (UR) – Britt injury will force Titans hand.

17. Marcedes Lewis (17)

18. Ben Watson (18)

19. Lance Kendricks (14) – Preseason success feels a long time ago.

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