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Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Big Rotowski: Brown, Marshall rise

By Christopher Harris
ESPN.com

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 to help you set your lineup.

Notes: Man, it's hard to rank the second tier of quarterbacks. I feel pretty good about Nos. 1-4 right now. After that? Put 'em in a barrel and pick one out. … I held out on Ben Roethlisberger for as long as I could, but touchdowns were really the main thing that were missing and he threw three Sunday against the Detroit Lions. He is second in the NFL in pass yards and the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't shy about heaving it. … Tom Brady was one missed bomb to Randy Moss away from posting a second straight good fantasy week. But the fact remains: After looking quite solid against the Baltimore Ravens, he was back to the guy with the spotty accuracy and slightly jittery feet we'd seen every game before Week 4. Brady also had Wes Welker streaking down the middle on what would've been a long catch-and-run score, and blew that throw, too. You never used to see that, even pre-2007. The argument that he's completely over his knee injury now looks foolish. I continue to rank him in the top 10 because I think he'll get better, the way Peyton Manning did last year. But I understand his owners' concerns. … Aaron Rodgers got nothing but good news during his bye week, and I still dropped him two spots? Crazy. The Green Bay Packers announced that they signed Mark Tauscher to eventually be their right tackle again, and that Chad Clifton has a good shot at playing left tackle in Week 6. So the idea that I don't even have him in my top 10 is borderline laughable, and I admit it. But again, from Nos. 5-13, I can't say I strongly prefer anyone. There's quite a lot of good quarterback play in about half the league right now. If you're evaluating the list for trade purposes, and someone wants to pay you a ton to "downgrade" from, for example, Matt Ryan to Donovan McNabb? I'd do it in a heartbeat. … Any questions, David Garrard owners? This doesn't look like the same efficiency expert we remember from a few years ago. He's wild. Granted, there was nothing he could've done to rescue the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, but I still thought he played terribly. His offensive line isn't holding up to pressure, and he's flinging it madly. There'll be some garbage time, yes. But considering he got pulled in the fourth quarter this week, you won't always be able to count on it. … I've rated Vince Young above Kerry Collins for the first time, under the premise that no matter what Jeff Fisher says, soon he'll have no choice but to insert VY into his lineup and see what he can do. Next year, Young is due $7.5 million with a $4.25 million roster bonus tacked on, which clearly the Tennessee Titans can't pay if he's not ready to be a very good starting quarterback. And they can't know that unless they play him a lot this season. It sounds like Collins will go against the New England Patriots in Week 6, but the Titans are off in Week 7, which would be the perfect time to give Young a look. I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of a no-pressure, quasi-meaningless decent fantasy second half for VY.

Notes: I'm trying to shake things up, I really am. I finally have Steven Jackson out of my top five; that move was decided at about 1:15 p.m. ET Sunday, when Jackson started dancing at the Minnesota Vikings' goal line and dropped the football a few inches away from his first touchdown. The good news is that the St. Louis Rams keep giving him the ball; Jackson is second in the league in combined rushes and receptions, just one behind Cedric Benson. No matter how bad the Rams are on offense (and they actually weren't that bad against the Vikings, not nearly as bad as I feared), a usage pattern like that will result in better fantasy days for Jackson if he stays healthy. … Frank Gore will presumably be back in the San Francisco 49ers lineup after the team's Week 6 bye, and watching two weeks of Glen Coffee plod certainly impresses on me how much better Gore is. … As you've no doubt heard, Benson became the first rusher in 40 games to eclipse 100 yards on the ground against the Baltimore Ravens. I've read a few places where people say they're impressed by how fast Benson looks. I can't say I'm completely on board with that; I thought his touchdown run Sunday came on a play where the Ravens guessed wrong. But at some point, you're just picking nits. If his name wasn't Cedric Benson, we'd all feel more comfortable, but hey, I recommended that you start him last week (and got "Called Out" for it by Tristan H. Cockcroft), so I'm not ever going to tell you to sit him right now. … DeAngelo Williams is a big sinker, and it's not just because of his fumble that put the Carolina Panthers in an early hole Sunday. As I've maintained would happen, Jonathan Stewart was a significant factor in the Panthers' running game, and he got the first two cracks at a first-and-goal situation in the second half. Their O-line isn't blasting open opposing defenses any more, so Williams isn't getting to flash his quickness in and out of the hole. It's a problem. … I'm sure there are some Ray Rice owners who want me to elevate their fellow way higher, but while I've maintained (and written) that Rice is easily my favorite Ravens running back to own even in the face of Willis McGahee's onslaught, not every day will go quite as swimmingly as Sunday did for Rice. It was just a week ago we were all lamenting the unfairness of Rice's losing so many scores, remember? He's the better player here by a good margin, but I don't think McGahee is done as a factor. … If Tim Hightower could, like, get any rushing yards? I'd be all set to elevate him. The popular storyline in Phoenix now is that Beanie Wells can't be on the field during passing situations, and so defenses know that when Wells is in, the play call is a run. And there may be some truth to that. Right now. But Wells isn't innately a terrible blocker; he simply needs to get comfortable. And once he does (I have to admit, I'd hoped it would happen during the team's bye), Hightower's value -- which is based in equal measure around the receiving game and goal-line runs -- will drop. … I bit hard on Jerome Harrison and was very surprised to see Jamal Lewis get 31 carries in Buffalo. Harrison will have better days, I think, and Lewis is certainly no great bet to stay healthy at that level of workload. Plus, honestly, I still believe if the Browns had worked Harrison even half that hard, he'd have gained more yards than the plodding Lewis did. But you can go only with what the NFL team is actually doing, and it's pretty clear that for the time being, Lewis is the starter. … Marion Barber will probably get his quad well during the Dallas Cowboys' bye, so I'm not ready to clamor for Tashard Choice to become a fantasy starter, despite the fact that he looked like the better back in Kansas City. What that performance does do, in my mind, is put Choice squarely into the mix for Felix Jones' touches.

Notes: Calvin Johnson's knee will be the subject of much speculation this week, but the way the Detroit Lions are currently operating with injuries, we're probably not going to know much definitive until Sunday morning. The team has a bye in Week 7, so there's a decent chance they play it safe against the Green Bay Packers this week. Coach Jim Schwartz said Monday that Megatron's knee injury isn't "significant." … I told you not to go crazy about Brandon Marshall last week. Well, I think you can start to go a little crazier. I wasn't all that impressed by his game-long performance against the Dallas Cowboys, but he was awfully tough in the red zone against the New England Patriots. It probably doesn't matter all that much if I rank him No. 13 or No. 7, because you're most likely starting him either way. But his touchdown chops have clearly re-emerged. … I guess maybe Roddy White responded to his detractors, eh? It was never about his talent, but rather concerns that the Atlanta Falcons weren't throwing the ball downfield as much. And they still may not be; his 90-yard touchdown in Week 5 was a short one he took to the house after the catch. But the entire 10-target, eight-catch, 210-yard effort was a reminder of the damage the guy can do any week. … I'm not downgrading DeSean Jackson because he had one catch for 1 yard Sunday. Well, not directly. It's just that Jeremy Maclin now looks like a starter going forward, and he's a much more viable option than Kevin Curtis was. My prior theory was that all the other so-so receiving options in Philly made Jackson stand out. And I still wonder whether Maclin can consistently do much more than run really fast straight down the field. But I don't see how Andy Reid doesn't keep using the guy. He's not quite as fast as Jackson (he ran a 4.45 combine time compared to Jackson's 4.35), but is probably 3-4 inches taller and about 30 pounds heavier, which is impressive. … T.J. Houshmandzadeh benefits big-time from Matt Hasselbeck's return, and I was saying and writing that before Housh posted a big game Sunday. Nate Burleson is also overcoming my bias against his hands to climb up into every-week consideration, at least in deeper leagues or leagues that start three receivers. … Mike Sims-Walker missed the Jacksonville Jaguars' game in Seattle, but he wasn't hurt. He was suspended for violating team rules. … Last week, I promised that if Terrell Owens couldn't perform against the Cleveland Browns, I'd get him out of my top 30. A deal's a deal. But I'm still not dropping him. I was against dropping Eddie Royal, too, and if you listened to that advice, you're feeling pretty good about it right now. The Buffalo Bills are a wreck, and the fact that they've played two of their past three games in high winds hasn't helped. A lot can change in a few weeks. Trent Edwards isn't my favorite, but he's not this lame. He's saddled with a too-conservative head coach and an offensive line that's probably the greenest in the NFL. I can still see a light at the end of the tunnel for T.O., but I admit it's growing fainter. … Miles Austin was a favorite of mine heading into training camp this summer, then the Dallas Cowboys stubbornly refused to let him start, which would've meant Patrick Crayton staying in the slot, where he played for much of last year. (Austin's own shaky-handedness during the preseason didn't help.) But after his 250-yard effort Sunday, Austin has probably forced the team's hand. The Cowboys are on bye in Week 6, so we probably won't know anything for certain this week, but I have to assume Austin's now a starter, and Crayton, who fumbled a punt Sunday, will be the slot man in three-receiver sets. … How have I reacted to Austin Collie's big day? I've dropped Anthony Gonzalez and Pierre Garcon completely off the list. Listen, there are obviously huge points to be had in the Indianapolis Colts' passing game. But do you know who's getting 'em, other than Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark? This may be pure stubbornness on my part, and I'd probably have the three other receivers ranked Nos. 51, 52 and 53. But I don't know how you're going to be able to start any of them in any given week, unless the others get injured.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.