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Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The Big Rotowski: Brees jumps to Numero Uno

By Christopher Harris

(Editor's Note: These rankings are meant to capture fantasy value from today through the end of the NFL regular season. We'll publish them every Tuesday during the season to help you decide about trades and waiver-wire acquisitions; as such, this list won't always reflect news that comes out later in the week. And remember, every Wednesday you'll find week-specific rankings from all our fantasy football writers.)

Quarterback Rankings
RANK Name Team Last Week
1 Drew Brees Saints 3
2 Jay Cutler Broncos 2
3 Tony Romo Cowboys 1
4 Peyton Manning Colts 4
5 Donovan McNabb Eagles 5
6 Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 6
7 Kurt Warner Cardinals 7
8 Philip Rivers Chargers 8
9 Eli Manning Giants 10
10 Brett Favre Jets 11
11 Matt Hasselbeck Seahawks 13
12 Matt Schaub Texans 14
13 Aaron Rodgers Packers 12
14 Trent Edwards Bills 16
15 David Garrard Jaguars 19
16 Jason Campbell Redskins 20
17 Jake Delhomme Panthers 15
18 J.T. O'Sullivan 49ers 17
19 Derek Anderson Browns 18
20 Carson Palmer Bengals 9
21 Marc Bulger Rams 21
22 Matt Cassel Patriots 22
23 Jon Kitna Lions 23
24 Brian Griese Buccaneers 25
25 JaMarcus Russell Raiders 24
26 Matt Ryan Falcons 26
27 Kerry Collins Titans 28
28 Joe Flacco Ravens 32
29 Kyle Orton Bears 27
30 Damon Huard Chiefs NR
31 Gus Frerotte Vikings 29
32 Brady Quinn Browns 30
33 Chad Pennington Dolphins 31
34 Matt Leinart Cardinals 33
35 Vince Young Titans 34
36 Tarvaris Jackson Vikings 36
37 Chad Henne Dolphins 37
38 Jeff Garcia Buccaneers 38
39 Shaun Hill 49ers 40
40 Brodie Croyle Chiefs 35

Notes: Drew Brees has a ludicrous 72.3 percent completion rate, and this isn't exactly an offense in which he's dumping it off 25 times a game, either. Through four weeks, he looks like the NFL MVP. … Kurt Warner turned over the ball six times Sunday, but the Cardinals don't plan on going to Matt Leinart anytime soon. Warner did a terrible job of sensing the pass rush and thus didn't do a lot to protect the ball when he got sacked. Still, I think the media is being too hard on him. The fact was he was getting rocked out there. He's probably not a top-10 real-world quarterback, but in fantasy, he's still pretty good. … I know Brett Favre's numbers were spectacular in Week 4, and it's hard to believe, but he's the NFL's highest-rated passer right now. Still, for every six-touchdown impresario effort, you'll also get a stink bomb like last Monday night. … I'm tempted to lower Aaron Rodgers more than I did, not because he played a bad game against Tampa (he did), but because he got hurt, and his shoulder could be a problem. Matt Flynn would start in Rodgers' place in Week 5; track that during the week. … Jason Campbell played wonderfully against the Cowboys, and actually threw it downfield a bit more. He's still a West Coast guy, tossing mostly short passes, but hey, zero interceptions is zero interceptions. If the Redskins eventually open it up a touch more, Campbell could be an every-week starter. … Carson Palmer's failure to play against the Browns was, for me, a kind of last straw. There are rumblings around the Cincinnati beat reporters that Palmer's elbow injury is a lot more serious than he's letting on. Ryan Fitzpatrick was mostly horrible in Week 4, and probably wouldn't be worth rostering if Palmer misses significant time. I don't think you can drop Palmer yet, but I'd bench him for sure.

Running Back Rankings
RANK Name Team Last Week
1 LaDainian Tomlinson Chargers 1
2 Adrian Peterson Vikings 2
3 Marion Barber Cowboys 3
4 Clinton Portis Redskins 7
5 Frank Gore 49ers 5
6 Joseph Addai Colts 6
7 Brian Westbrook Eagles 4
8 Marshawn Lynch Bills 8
9 Steven Jackson Rams 9
10 Brandon Jacobs Giants 10
11 Reggie Bush Saints 13
12 Larry Johnson Chiefs 16
13 Jamal Lewis Browns 14
14 Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars 15
15 Earnest Graham Buccaneers 18
16 Willie Parker Steelers 12
17 Michael Turner Falcons 17
18 Ronnie Brown Dolphins 19
19 Ryan Grant Packers 11
20 Matt Forte Bears 21
21 Jonathan Stewart Panthers 24
22 Thomas Jones Jets 22
23 Darren McFadden Raiders 20
24 Julius Jones Seahawks 25
25 Chris Johnson Titans 26
26 Willis McGahee Ravens 23
27 Steve Slaton Texans 35
28 LenDale White Titans 27
29 Chris Perry Bengals 28
30 DeAngelo Williams Panthers 29
31 Edgerrin James Cardinals 32
32 Laurence Maroney Patriots 30
33 Selvin Young Broncos 31
34 Fred Taylor Jaguars 34
35 Rudi Johnson Lions 43
36 Darren Sproles Chargers 39
37 Deuce McAllister Saints NR
38 Le'Ron McClain Ravens 44
39 Tim Hightower Cardinals 40
40 Sammy Morris Patriots 38
41 Ricky Williams Dolphins 37
42 Felix Jones Cowboys 36
43 Kevin Smith Lions 33
44 Derrick Ward Giants 41
45 Warrick Dunn Buccaneers 47
46 Jerious Norwood Falcons 46
47 Chester Taylor Vikings 42
48 Michael Bush Raiders 48
49 Michael Pittman Broncos 45
50 Justin Fargas Raiders 50

Notes: Larry Johnson had a huge game when his owners needed it most. The Broncos are terrible against the run even with Dewayne Robertson, so I'm not turning cartwheels. In fact, this might be prime "dealing-LJ" time. But since complaining about a lack of carries after the Oakland tilt in Week 2, Johnson has been given the ball 52 times in two games. … Here's hoping Willie Parker misses only one more game. There are rumblings that his knee injury could be worse than the Steelers are letting on. … Ryan Grant is the big tumbler; he's looking more and more like a one-hit wonder. His hamstring might still not be right, but that's no excuse for losing a huge third-quarter fumble that Tampa Bay returned for a touchdown. The Packers must get their offensive line in order, too. … Steve Slaton didn't do much on the ground to follow up his big Week 3 effort, but he caught eight passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. That's actually more the type of game that his skill set seems fitted for, so we'll have to see if he's big and rugged enough to make it as an inside rusher. Still, he has the Texans' confidence for the moment. … For me, the single most surprising thing that came out of Week 4 was Deuce McAllister getting 20 carries. After the Denver game, Saints coach Sean Payton told reporters he'd had no intention of using McAllister, a statement which now looks more like gamesmanship for the Niners game than anything else. McAllister isn't at all fast anymore, but he's still intense, and he punished tacklers Sunday. He's suddenly the goal-line option in a high-octane offense, and needs to be owned in all leagues. He probably won't stay healthy, but for now, sign him. … Rudi Johnson takes over for Kevin Smith as the Lions' starter, which means their values are flip-flopped this week. I'm not convinced Smith won't start again at a later date; he didn't really do anything to lose the job, but the Lions apparently just want a steadying presence back there. A few games of 3.0 yards per carry could cure them of that desire.

Wide Receiver Rankings
RANK Name Team Last Week
1 Terrell Owens Cowboys 1
2 Brandon Marshall Broncos 2
3 Reggie Wayne Colts 3
4 Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals 4
5 Greg Jennings Packers 9
6 Steve Smith Panthers 8
7 Calvin Johnson Lions 7
8 Plaxico Burress Giants 5
9 Andre Johnson Texans 6
10 Braylon Edwards Browns 10
11 Randy Moss Patriots 13
12 Dwayne Bowe Chiefs 17
13 Anquan Boldin Cardinals 11
14 Roddy White Falcons 18
15 Santana Moss Redskins 24
16 Lee Evans Bills 21
17 Jerricho Cotchery Jets 19
18 Santonio Holmes Steelers 15
19 Torry Holt Rams 16
20 Roy Williams Lions 20
21 Laveranues Coles Jets 30
22 T.J. Houshmandzadeh Bengals 12
23 Marvin Harrison Colts 23
24 Wes Welker Patriots 26
25 Chad Ocho Cinco Bengals 14
26 Marques Colston Saints 28
27 Donald Driver Packers 22
28 DeSean Jackson Eagles 32
29 Hines Ward Steelers 25
30 Eddie Royal Broncos 29
31 Chris Chambers Chargers 27
32 Anthony Gonzalez Colts 31
33 Bobby Engram Seahawks 34
34 Bernard Berrian Vikings 33
35 Isaac Bruce 49ers 39
36 Patrick Crayton Cowboys 35
37 Justin Gage Titans 47
38 Deion Branch Seahawks 38
39 Kevin Walter Texans 40
40 Joey Galloway Buccaneers 37
41 Matt Jones Jaguars 41
42 Muhsin Muhammad Panthers 48
43 Vincent Jackson Chargers 42
44 Kevin Curtis Eagles 45
45 Arnaz Battle 49ers NR
46 Derrick Mason Ravens 50
47 Bryant Johnson 49ers 36
48 Antonio Bryant Buccaneers NR
49 Reggie Brown Eagles NR
50 Sidney Rice Vikings 46

Notes: The only thing that could derail Greg Jennings is a long-term injury for Aaron Rodgers. For the moment, I'm assuming Rodgers gets back to action soon, which keeps Jennings valuable. He leads the league in receiving yards and has a ludicrous 19.3 yards per catch. Also, 15 of his 25 catches have been for first downs. … Plaxico Burress will miss Week 5, which wasn't baked into his ranking last week, so I haven't taken off any more for whatever else might be coming down the pike from the league for his current transgressions. I also chose not to put any other Giants receivers in my top 50 (remember, these are rankings for the rest of the season, not this week), though that would change if Plax becomes subject to more discipline. … Dwayne Bowe is a freak of nature. Huge, fast and quick, the only thing he lacks is elite hands, as he couldn't cleanly catch what would've been a long touchdown before getting his feet in bounds. The Chiefs threw it his way all day, and the Broncos' supposedly-great defensive backs knew it, but they still couldn't stop him. … Anquan Boldin got absolutely clobbered with a helmet-to-helmet hit by Eric Smith in garbage time, and while I'm not one to question why a team would still be trying to win a game when it's down late, it was a weird fourth quarter. The Jets went for a two-point conversion as though to rub it in, and the Cards refused to take a knee. The result was Boldin ending up in the hospital. The team isn't sure yet whether Boldin will miss this week's game, but I have a feeling he's going to be limited for a little while. … Santana Moss took advantage of Terence Newman's terrible coverage on a couple occasions Sunday, and while he didn't score a touchdown, he proved he belongs among the ranks of the every-week starters. … One of Laveranues Coles' scores was the direct result of Eric Green crumpling to the ground with an injury, but the heartening thing for Coles owners was that Brett Favre kept looking his way. Expecting No. 1 fantasy receiver numbers is folly, but he's a clear No. 2 right now. … Yes, I've finally taken the plunge on the Bengals' receivers. It's all about the quarterback, and I'm simply afraid Carson Palmer is really hurt. … Bryant Johnson couldn't play because of the same hamstring injury that limited him throughout camp. I'm worried this isn't a one-week thing.

Tight End Rankings
RANK Name Team Last Week
1 Jason Witten Cowboys 1
2 Antonio Gates Chargers 2
3 Kellen Winslow Browns 3
4 Tony Gonzalez Chiefs 4
5 Dallas Clark Colts 6
6 Owen Daniels Texans 7
7 Chris Cooley Redskins 5
8 Tony Scheffler Broncos 8
9 Todd Heap Ravens 9
10 Greg Olsen Bears 12
11 Heath Miller Steelers 11
12 Zach Miller Raiders 17
13 Vernon Davis 49ers 10
14 Anthony Fasano Dolphins 14
15 John Carlson Seahawks 18
16 Dustin Keller Jets 22
17 Jeremy Shockey Saints 20
18 Benjamin Watson Patriots 21
19 Donald Lee Packers 16
20 L.J. Smith Eagles 13
21 Randy McMichael Rams 15
22 Bo Scaife Titans 28
23 Kevin Boss Giants 23
24 Dante Rosario Panthers 24
25 Alge Crumpler Titans 19
26 Robert Royal Bills 25
27 Desmond Clark Bears 26
28 Marcedes Lewis Jaguars 27
29 David Thomas Patriots 29
30 Alex Smith Buccaneers NR

Notes: Don't be shocked by Owen Daniels' production (seven catches, 87 yards). He's really that good. He's fourth among tight ends in receiving yards -- in only three games. … Zach Miller made a big first-half play against the Chargers and was targeted all day, finishing with five catches for 95 yards. He's a borderline fantasy starter with JaMarcus Russell at the helm. … Dustin Keller is making a name for himself in the Brett Favre constellation. He has only six catches for 84 yards this season, but the Jets do seem to consider him a very nice deep weapon in the middle of the field. It wouldn't shock me if he scored a couple more long ones this year. … Donald Lee is mostly a blocker right now for the Packers. He's not a fantasy starter. … L.J. Smith couldn't go in Week 4 because of his back, and anyone who has owned Smith in the past knows he's a multiple-week-injury guy. … Randy McMichael was seen leaving the Edward Jones Dome on crutches, with his foot in a protective boot. I've dropped him here because his coaches seemed to indicate after the Bills game that he could have a serious injury. … Alge Crumpler isn't the primary pass-catching tight end in Tennessee; Bo Scaife is.

Defense Rankings
RANK Name Last Week
1 NY Giants 1
2 Tennessee 2
3 Minnesota 3
4 Pittsburgh 4
5 Chicago 5
6 Baltimore 6
7 New England 7
8 San Diego 11
9 Philadelphia 14
10 Tampa Bay 12
11 Jacksonville 9
12 Dallas 10
13 Buffalo 13
14 Carolina 16
15 Seattle 17
16 Green Bay 8
17 Oakland 18
18 Indianapolis 19
19 Arizona 15
20 San Francisco 20
21 Houston 21
22 NY Jets 22
23 Washington 23
24 Atlanta 24
25 New Orleans 25
26 Miami 27
27 Cleveland 29
28 Cincinnati 28
29 Denver 26
30 Kansas City 30
31 St. Louis 31
32 Detroit 32

Notes: Not much reason to change things at the top; the good defenses played well this week. The Patriots will have a lot to prove against the 49ers next Sunday. … The Eagles probably should've won Sunday night against the Bears; they played quite well on defense again and were a stuffed goal-line stand on offense away from a rugged road victory. Philly's linebackers are just playing out of their mind, paced by Omar Gaither and Stewart Bradley. … The Jaguars lost Rashean Mathis in the second half of the Houston game, and it showed. Right away, the Texans started passing the ball at will. Free safety Reggie Nelson also needs to get healthy; he missed Week 4 entirely. … The Cowboys have all the talent in the world on defense, but they've put up stinkers in two of their four games. Is it possible the world's most glamorous team lacks, dare I say it, focus? Terence Newman might make Pro Bowls, but I still contend he's one of the most overrated players in the NFL. … Charles Woodson, on the other hand, is playing spectacularly well for the Packers despite an injured toe, but overall the Green Bay defense is succumbing to the injuries they didn't experience last year. A.J. Hawk pulled a groin muscle Sunday, and it might be serious. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins also got hurt in Week 4, and the team is having a hard time finding healthy safeties. They're not an every-week starting defense. … The Cardinals' D shouldn't be completely pounded for allowing 56 points Sunday; after all, the offense assisted with seven turnovers. Still, Antrel Rolle got beaten, to use a hockey phrase since that season is almost starting, like a rented mule, and corner Eric Green has a sprained knee. … Who'd have thought a defense with Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly -- not the league's best corners, but without question still in the top half -- could be so terrible. The Broncos shouldn't be owned in fantasy leagues.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for You can e-mail him here.