“Longed for him. Got him. Shit.” – Margaret Atwood
I doubt the award-winning poet and novelist was contemplating fantasy football when she wrote those words, but it sums up the current calamitous position of Shonn Greene and BenJarvus Green-Ellis owners nicely. While I wouldn’t have touched either of those players within multiple rounds of their ADPs, I fell victim to the siren song of Tim Hightower in Washington even as I warned against drafting him.
Rest of the Way Rankings
Now that we’re a quarter of the way through the NFL season, it’s time to make peace with our folly and embrace the current fantasy reality. Buy low candidates do exist, but in most cases it’s time to cut the deadweight and move on.
Unlike most fantasy gurus, I’ve watched every play of every game this season. I
may be am certainly wrong on occasion, but I’m not uninformed. These rankings often diverge significantly from other expert lists. I think that may give you the edge you need to win your league. It will definitely give you a feeling of smug superiority when Adrian Peterson wins the fantasy MVP at year’s end.
Players who saw their full season outlook change for the better are bolded in green. Fallers are in red. (Some players moved multiple spots in the rankings without seeing a significant change in their own projections. Those players are not highlighted.) Last week’s rankings are in parentheses.
1. Tom Brady (LW 1) – Brady stays on top due to an easier remaining schedule and the consistency that results from an up tempo offense and lousy defense.
2. Aaron Rodgers (4) – After a game for the ages, Rodgers’ owners can thumb their nose at the wait-on-QBs crowd, that is, as long as they didn’t still lose to . . .
3. Cam Newton (8) – Newton is averaging a shocking 8.5 yards per attempt to go with his significant rushing value. He’s already performing at a much higher level than Michael Vick ever has, and his wide array of talents has led to creative and aggressive play-calling by my new favorite OC (Rob Chudzinski).
4. Matthew Stafford (2) – The slow starts are becoming a concern, but it’s worth noting that Stafford successfully adjusted to hostile road environments the last two weeks. He led the Lions and many fantasy squads back from the brink.
5. Drew Brees (3) – The Saints clearly don’t have the same firepower at the skill positions as the Packers and Lions, but this is about as far as Drew Brees will ever fall.
6. Tony Romo (7) – Since the NFL merger, Tony Romo has no peer when it comes to the all-important yards per passing attempt metric. He’s well over his career average this season, despite his injury-ravaged WR corps.
7. Michael Vick (12)
8. Philip Rivers (6)
9. Ryan Fitzpatrick (5) – Even after a depressing start versus the very underrated Bengals pass defense, the Amish Rifle ranks an impressive 5th in Expected Points Added Per Play according to Advanced NFL Stats.
10. Matt Ryan (11) – Ryan is second in the NFL in attempts but is one of the few upper echelon QBs with a ypa below 7.
11. Eli Manning (14)
12. Matt Schaub (10) – The injury to Andre1500 crushes his value.
13. Joe Flacco (13) – Every time I’m ready to jump on the Flacco bandwagon, he produces a game where he can’t hit the broad side of a barn. After the Jets debacle, he ranks 30th in the NFL in PFF’s accuracy percentage, a metric which removes drops, throwaways, and spikes.
14. Matt Hasselbeck (16)
15. Ben Roethlisberger (9)
16. Jason Campbell (17)
17. Tarvaris Jackson (29) – Sometimes there’s a man.
18. Alex Smith (28) – Nearly 10% of Smith’s targeted passes have been dropped this season. He’s been better than you think in 2011 and is improving quickly under the tutelage of his first legitimate NFL coach.
19. Kevin Kolb (18) – Kolb has 5 TDs, 12 sacks, and a 1-3 record versus a weak schedule.
20. Josh Freeman (19) – An adjusted yards per attempt of 5.0 is not playable.
21. Jay Cutler (22)
22. Colt McCoy (23)
23. Andy Dalton (25)
24. Sam Bradford (15) – Speaking of drops, Rams receivers acted as their own defender on 5 balls last weekend alone.
25. Tim Tebow (UR) – Should take over after the bye and be a religious pauper’s version of Cam Newton.
26. Jon Beck (UR) – Grossman won’t last past Week 8, and Beck offers pretty decent upside.
27. Mark Sanchez (21) – Flopped in the more aggressive role. The Jets are going back to ‘ground-and-pound’ this week, which will almost certainly be followed by a quick kick philosophy the rest of the way.
28. Matt Cassel (27) – Shockingly looked competent when the Chiefs abandoned their 1940s game plan.
29. Blaine Gabbert (30) – Didn’t look as bad as his numbers last week. The Jags have the worst skill position players in the league.
30. David Garrard (UR) – Should be playable by mid-season. The Dolphins trio of receivers is better than you think.
31. Curtis Painter (31) – Bill Polian deserves to be fired, not to have this legacy handed off to his son.
32. Christian Ponder (UR) – The Dodgers have provided a road map for the commissioner’s role in these situations.
1. Ray Rice (1) – The bye in Week 5 completes the unsavory portion of Rice’s schedule. He could come relatively cheaply this week, especially when dealing with owners who are .500 or worse and are already in must-win mode.
2. Darren McFadden (2)
3. Ryan Mathews (3) – This is really your last chance.
4. LeSean McCoy (4) – The poster boy for the difference between high value and low value touches.
5. Matt Forte (6) – Forte isn’t good after contact. The solution? Don’t let the defense touch you.
6. Arian Foster (10) – Injuries to Ben Tate and Andre Johnson gave his rise up the rankings a boost of rocket fuel.
7. Adrian Peterson (7) – Would have to be a combination of Bo Jackson and Barry Sanders to be a Top 5 back in this offense.
8. Fred Jackson (8)
9. Felix Jones (9) – The bye comes at the perfect time. Expect more splash plays starting in Week 6.
10. Jahvid Best (5) – Best was plagued by drops this past week, hiding just how many looks he’s getting in the passing game.
11. Darren Sproles (20) – If you watch the Saints without preconceived notions, it’s obvious Sproles is the best fit for this offense. Not only is he a lock to reach 80 receptions, he’s going to earn more regular carries as well.
12. Ahmad Bradshaw (16)
13. Jonathon Stewart (17) – His incredible raw athleticism is shining through in the Panthers pass-first offense. Bigger games are ahead.
14. Chris Johnson (11) – Counterintuitively, the injury to Britt is going to hurt CJ more than Hasselbeck.
15. Michael Turner (24) – Last year Turner’s percentage of yards gained on runs of 15 or more yards was 31%. This year it’s at 55%. I think you know which one I believe to be a fluke.
16. Chris Wells (31) – There are almost certainly fantasy players out there who’ve never watched an Arizona Cardinals game. They make the perfect trade partners.
17. Peyton Hillis (12) – Hardesty was bizarrely featured in the passing game last week, which should be a one week phenomenon.
18. James Starks (19) – With John Kuhn and Aaron Rodgers as the goal line backs, Starks has a lower ceiling than I’d hoped.
19. Maurice Jones- Drew (15) – The Jags have no identity and Jones-Drew is hurt by the egregious lack of talent at the other skill positions.
20. Brandon Jacobs (18)
21. Frank Gore (25)
22. Mike Tolbert (27)
23. Dexter McCluster (30) – We’ve reached a surreal place when you might really prefer to own Dexter McCluster to Rashard Mendenhall, but that’s where we are.
24. Isaac Redman (UR) – Redman was listed two weeks ago as the No. 1 handcuff and suddenly he’s thrust into the limelight. Considering his superiority to Mendenhall in short yardage and the passing game, he may never completely relinquish the job.
25. Stevan Ridley (39) – Ridley isn’t yet a no-brainer weekly start, but that time may be only a few weeks away.
26. Ryan Torain (UR) – Torain should be injured or benched by Week 9, but you have to pick him up and ride him until then.
27. Mark Ingram (29) – It’s ridiculous how much better Pierre Thomas is than Ingram. Thomas has forced 8 missed tackles on 27 carries and averages 3 yards after contact. Ingram has forced 2 missed tackles on 53 carries and averages 1.94 yards after contact.
28. LaGarrette Blount (30) – There are undoubtedly fantasy players out there who don’t know the depths a Bill Polian-crafted run defense can plumb. Target them in trades.
29. Rashard Mendenhall (14) – Isaac Redman currently has the best success rate in all of football at 58%. Mendy sits third worst at 30%. Injury and OLine struggles aren’t his only problems.
30. Roy Helu (23) – The future at tailback in Washington, Helu could still find himself as the lead back by the fantasy playoffs.
31. Steven Jackson (22) – With Bradford at the helm and a legitimate NFL coordinator in town, everything looked bright for Jackson heading into the season. Instead, it’s the same as it ever was.
32. Pierre Thomas (37) – Following the Fred Jackson career path. Thomas is destined to always play second fiddle to an inferior back.
33. DeAngelo Williams (41)
34. Willis McGahee (UR) – Has it really come to this?
35. Daniel Thomas (21)
36. Ryan Grant (40)
37. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (33) – If you didn’t get out last week, it’s probably too late.
38. Bilal Powell (UR) – The next big RB breakout. If Powell can’t unseat Greene, Tomlinson, and McKnight, they should just cut him now.
39. Michael Bush (34) – It depends how bad his injury is.
40. Kendall Hunter (UR)
41. Cedric Benson (UR) – It now appears the NFL suspended Benson in an attempt to completely undermine its own authority.
Not NFL Talents: Shonn Greene, Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Bush, Knowshon Moreno
1. Calvin Johnson (1) – On pace for 32 TDs. I’ve seen stranger things happen.
2. Wes Welker (2)
3. Miles Austin (12)
4. Steve Smith (9) – Playing with his first legitimate NFL QB ever, Smith frequently appears to be in a scene from Crouching Tiger.
5. Hakeem Nicks (6)
6. Roddy White (5)
7. Mike Wallace (3) – The Steelers beyond-unmitigated-disaster OLine has rarely affected the passing game. It started to show up in a big way this week.
8. Greg Jennings (12) – A good sell high candidate, the Packers aren’t going to suddenly morph into the 2007 Patriots. Running up the score on the Broncos was a fluke.
9. Dez Bryant (16) – Jerry Jones is pushing a narrative where Bryant has shown incredible toughness by playing through the injury. He could find himself in the Top 5 if he ever decides to show up after halftime.
10. Julio Jones (19)
11. Larry Fitzgerald (10)
12. Stevie Johnson (8)
13. Vincent Jackson (11) – Injuries and target rate keep Jackson out of the Top 5.
14. Dwayne Bowe (14) – Just think what he might do in a legitimate NFL offense.
15. Andre Johnson (3) – Will move up every week as his return nears. You should buy or sell Johnson based on your current probability to make the playoffs. Teams that are .500 or worse need to swap him for someone to help you compete through the bye weeks. 4-0 teams should be working the phones to add him to your rosters.
16. DeSean Jackson (20)
17. Sidney Rice (18) – It turns out Tarvaris Jackson was bad, but not that bad. Having a receiver like Rice helps.
18. Jeremy Maclin (25) – Injury didn’t look like an issue.
19. Brandon Lloyd (17) – Decker’s emergence helps, but this is going to be a difficult offense to excel in, especially with the inevitable move to Tebow.
20. A.J. Green (30)
21. Brandon Marshall (13)
22. Percy Harvin (28)
23. David Nelson (15)
24. Reggie Wayne (32) – Painter really helps Wayne and Garcon.
25. Eric Decker (38) – Currently 14th in targets and averaging more than 2 yards per pass route, this may still understate his value
26. Jordy Nelson (41) – Consistency or the lack thereof is a largely illusory fantasy trait, but players like Nelson and Meachem are a weekly lineup headache waiting to happen.
27. Mike Thomas (43) – Struggled with drops last week, but the Jaguars appear ready to open it up.
28. Marques Colston (34)
29. Santana Moss (21)
30. Denarius Moore (27)
31. Torrey Smith (39) – I believe in my Smith analysis more instead of less after watching Flacco struggle against the Jets.
32. Mike Williams (29) – Averaging less than 1 yard per pass route.
33. Santonio Holmes (26) – The Jets have embraced the role of villain, so it’s hard not to find some entertainment in their season spiraling out of control.
34. Robert Meachem (37)
35. Titus Young (45) – He’s quickly moving past Nate Burleson.
36. Antonio Brown (40)
37. Anquan Boldin (36) – Just can’t get open anymore.
38. Johnny Knox (46) – Finally seems to be earning the No. 1 WR role back. May not matter in this offense.
39. Greg Little (35) – Little is the Browns receiver to own if you must own one, but it’s becoming more obvious that the Browns decision to trade down was a poor one.
40. Jerome Simpson (47)
41. Lance Moore (31)
42. Davone Bess (42)
43. Nate Burleson (24) – He popped up as a Lee Evans comp in my piece on Torrey Smith. Needless to say, that wasn’t a good thing.
44. Pierre Garcon (UR)
1. Jimmy Graham (3) – Graham and Gronkowski were the two TEs I targeted this season based on historical comps that suggested a very high probability of breakout. Don’t ever believe a fantasy expert who tells you to de-emphasize TEs.
2. Rob Gronkowski (1)
3. Jason Witten (4)
4. Jermichael Finley (2)
5. Owen Daniels (6) – But expect him to get the Antonio Gates treatment from opposing defenses while AJ is out.
6. Aaron Hernandez (5)
7. Vernon Davis (7)
8. Brandon Pettigrew (9)
9. Jermaine Gresham (11) – Another second year TE who fit the breakout mold.
10. Dustin Keller (10) – For at least one week, it was obvious the defense was more concerned with Keller than the receivers or the running game.
11. Tony Gonzalez (14)
12. Greg Olsen (15)
13. Antonio Gates (8) – Starting to appear as though his career is in jeopardy.
14. Jared Cook (16)
15. Kellen Winslow (12)
16. Dallas Clark (15)
17. Ben Watson (18)