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Saturday, December 15, 2007
Alone on an Island: No joy for Johnson

By ESPN Staff

Wondering what these guys were thinking when they broke from the pack in the Week 15 rankings? We like to call that being "alone on an island." Here is what our castaways had to say.

Matthew Berry on Rudi Johnson
Ranked: 22 Composite Rank: 13.8

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For me, it started with the idea of what did Rudi Johnson have that Adrian Peterson of Minnesota didn't? Because he didn't do anything against San Francisco. The 49ers have figured out how to stop a rushing attack, at least some what and while I think Rudi will be okay Saturday, I'm not convinced he has a ton of upside. And that's what I need to rank someone in the top 20. Yes, Johnson has three straight games with a touchdown, but despite averaging 20 rushing attempts a game over that span, he has yet to crack triple-digits. So he probably gets 70-to-80 yards and maybe he gets a score and maybe he doesn't. But say he does. That's still 13-14 fantasy points, which means he's a flex play. And a flex play is someone in the 20-30 range. Which is where I ranked him.

Eric Karabell on Steve Smith
Ranked: 18 Composite Rank: 26.8

Smith has averaged seven catches per game for the past three weeks, so while he hasn't scored, at least he's been involved. No matter who plays QB, the Seahawks have been giving up touchdowns recently in their wins. Kurt Warner just threw three of them. I'll hedge that Smith gets back in the scoring column in a game Seattle wins easily, and Matt Moore finds him late.

Scott Engel on Larry Fitzgerald
Ranked: 23 Composite Rank: 11.4

Fitzgerald battled his way through a groin injury Week 14 and caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown at Seattle. He clearly labored through every play, though, and has been limited in practices in the week leading up to Sunday's matchup against New Orleans. While the Saints have a notoriously vulnerable pass defense and Fitzgerald is a top-level fantasy player, he is certainly a risk because of his health and I cannot bring myself to use him over another top wide receiver. Fitzgerald may post adequate numbers again, but he is certainly not a top starting option and could go down again at any time. He will still command respect from the New Orleans secondary, but that means Kurt Warner will have other open targets such as Bryant Johnson, Jerheme Urban and Sean Morey.

Christopher Harris on Eli Manning
Ranked: 12 Composite Rank: 17.2

I'm not starting Eli in 10-team leagues (the ESPN standard size), but in deeper leagues, I can see the argument in his favor. He's 12th among quarterbacks in fantasy points on the season. But more importantly, the Redskins have allowed 25, 10 and 18 fantasy points to quarterbacks in three of their past four games. Plaxico Burress is healthier, and when that happens, he and Eli tend to hook up for big plays. The lone reason I see for having Manning rated lower than where I have him is a concern about the weather in New York, which could be bad. But barring a scary forecast, Manning finds Burress deep at least once, and probably puts together a very good second half. (His first halves? Oy.)

Nate Ravitz on Donald Driver
Ranked: 14 Composite Rank: 20.2

Listen, I know everyone wants to march in the Greg Jennings love parade, and I'm on board. But it's not like Driver is a slouch. He's still a big part of the No. 2 passing offense in the league. The Rams, meanwhile, give up the 10th-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Meanwhile, of the receivers I ranked behind Driver, who do you trust? Even if you knew for sure that Driver wouldn't score a touchdown, you'd still be reasonably confident that he'd get you six-to-eight points. Would you say the same about Lee Evans? Hines Ward (with Chaz Batch potentially involved)? Gimpy Roddy White? I wouldn't.