ESPN's Updated Top 10:
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
2. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans
3. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
4. Arian Foster, RB, Texans
5. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens
6. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
7. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
8. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars
9. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans
10. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles
Since Matthew Berry. Christopher Harris and Eric Karabell, our weekly rankers for fantasy football now, have all been talking about their top 10 running backs in the past few days, and with CJ's continued holdout, the Foster hamstring "tweak" and a groundswell of support for Ray Rice, we've decided to shake up our top 10 running back rankings.
The New Top 10 (with old rank in parentheses)
1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings (1)
2. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (4)
3. Arian Foster, Texans (2)
4. Ray Rice, Ravens (6)
5. Chris Johnson, Titans (3)
6. LeSean McCoy, Eagles (7)
7. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (5)
8. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers (8)
9. Michael Turner, Falcons (10)
10. Frank Gore, 49ers (9)
Some performance-based running back shuffling on Saturday.
Jonathan Stewart kept falling in recent mock drafts, he played poorly in his last preseason game. He drops a few slots as we get used to his post-DeAngelo-resigning value.
Uncertainty over Peyton Manning's Week 1 status has forced us to drop Manning below Philip Rivers in our quarterback rankings, with a corresponding 7-spot/$5 swing in the overall rankings. Kerry Collins is re-added to the rankings as he comes out of retirement and joins the ranks of the most valuable backups at 34, right behind Vince Young.
Three updates this morning covering three team situations.
Cardinals running backs: Ryan Williams' season is over, which clears the way for Beanie Wells to be the lead back, but let's not forget his own injury history. Drop Williams off your draft lists and bump up Wells, as we did, into the mid-20s among running backs. We're assuming the Cardinals bring in somebody to replace Williams, however, so don't go thinking Wells has a clear shot at 300 touches. LaRod Stephens-Howling looks to see more third downs and gets a bump into Donald Brown territory; he'll be on your radar but shouldn't be on your Week 1 standard league roster. (He is a sleeper in PPR leagues.)
Patriots running backs: Based on the preseason so far, we're moving Stevan Ridley up and Shane Vereen down and adjusting their projections accordingly. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still the main man and Danny Woodhead will get the third-down looks, but how Bill Belichick decides to deploy his two rookie backs is a story we'll be following into the early season.
Raiders receivers: Due to the injury to Louis Murphy, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey look to be the top two receivers to start the season, with additional opportunity for sleeper receiver Denarius Moore (look for more on him in Christopher Harris' super-deep sleepers piece, coming Thursday). Projections, profiles and rankings have been updated for all above receivers, as well as Chaz Schilens.
Three wide receivers found new teams in the past few days. Here are the updates we've made to reflect them, with a little more detail than usual to give you a better idea of how we adapt to the news as it comes.
Lee Evans traded to Ravens. Lee Evans to No. 43 among wide receivers, behind James Jones and ahead of Plaxico Burress. The upgrade in quarterback and overall team quality warrants a bump in projections of targets, completions and touchdowns. Check out Christopher Harris' trade spin for more details.
Steve Johnson gets a token bump down one spot to WR 20, flopping with Kenny Britt, but no change to his projection. Anquan Boldin gets a bump to WR 24 ahead of Brandon Marshall and Austin Collie and merits a modest targets bump to 120. Torrey Smith, whose deep-threat role now goes to Evans, dives to WR91, aka Donnie Avery territory. We'll adjust his projection to 2.5 targets per game, which comes out to 25 catches.
Then, there's the Buffalo receivers, for what they're worth. Roscoe Parrish gets a bump to WR 70 and gets 100 targets and an extra TD as the one most worth owning after Johnson. David Nelson gets a bump up to WR 86, where Roscoe used to be. Donald Jones moves up to WR 124 and we bumped him to 40 targets and an extra TD. Brad Smith gets a bump to the same area code, WR 122, right below Josh Cribbs, since they're kind of similar players in kind of similarly bad situations. Your guess is as good as ours as far as whether he gets any more play in some sort of trick package. This is a hot mess. Sorry, Bills fans.
Steve Smith, formerly of the Giants, signs with Eagles. Not much impact here until we get clarity on Smith's injury. We've updated the profiles of Smith, Jason Avant, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Jerrel Jernigan and Riley Cooper, but no rankings or projections changes at this time.
Jerricho Cotchery signs with the Steelers. Bad landing spot for him. We moved him to right ahead of Devin Aromashodu at WR 92. Docked him a few targets, down to 65. Some moves have more impact than others.
We called it "Restoration Day."
This NFL preseason has been uniquely challenging in that the delayed free-agency and trading period which usually precedes our ranking, projecting and profile-writing of close to 500 players -- 650 if you include IDP -- created an information vacuum, and a lot of assumptions had to be made, first when Christopher Harris set out to write the skills-player profiles, then when we got our group together to create the initial rankings. (Have you been following our video summit series? It's a great chance to see what we're thinking about when making rankings decisions, and it makes it clear that sometimes, a decision to place Player A over Player B is made by only the slimmest of margins.)
But now, the NFL teams have caught up. Running back committees have been formed. Almost every team has a clear-cut No. 1 quarterback. Wide receiver roles are being defined. So it was our turn. We made many changes in the days that followed the opening of free agency, but nothing short of a complete review of our material would ensure that the assumptions we made months ago were replaced by the decisions based on the facts that we know today. Christopher Harris reviewed every single one of the profiles written and suggested rankings changes to match. We also massaged the projections to make sense based on the changes. (Please allow until Wednesday at noon for the projections changes to have fully propagated the site.) Here, then, are the highlights for the changes we've made to the draft kit in the past 48 hours, along with some of Christopher's comments on the profile updates that were made. So welcome to the Draft Kit 2.0, and Happy "Restoration Day"!
• Josh Freeman (just some verbiage about his offensive line)
• John Beck (added mention of Kellen Clemens as camp competition)
• Ricky Stanzi (slight rewording to include Tyler Palko in the KC mix)
• Kyle Boller (made him more of an obvious No. 3)
• Darren McFadden (clarified Michael Bush's status)
• Matt Forte (cleared up some Marion Barber wording)
• DeAngelo Williams (changed notion that he'll be paired with Stewart "for years to come"; Stewart may be FA next year)
• Ryan Grant (it sounds like he's the starter, and I changed verbiage to reflect that)
• James Starks (he's more of a backup/handcuff now, and verbiage changed to reflect that)
• Beanie Wells (Wells looks like the early-down starter now)
• Ryan Williams (Williams looks like he'll play in passing downs and spell Beanie for early downs)
• Ryan Torain (updated to account for his broken hand)
• Michael Bush (rewrote, because he wasn't a FA after all)
• Montario Hardesty (wrote about his injuries recurring at the beginning of camp)
• Ben Tate (put in a note about the fact that Tate has to beat out Derrick Ward for the backup's job)
• Tashard Choice (rewrote, because there are rumors swirling that he's on the roster bubble)
• Anthony Dixon (rewrote some stuff to indicate he's clearly ahead of Kendall Hunter)
• Kendall Hunter (rewrote some stuff about him, because he's struggled in camp in pass protection)
• Jordan Todman (his projection was WAY too optimistic on my part a few months ago)
• Derrick Ward (he's more of a factor for the No. 2 job than I gave him credit for)
• Brian Westbrook (cleaned him up to indicate he still hasn't signed anywhere)
• Kregg Lumpkin (wrote him a profile)
• Kevin Smith (clarified that he's a free agent)
• Brandon Jackson (he looks a bit more valuable with Hardesty already hurt)
• Charles Scott (updated to include his car accident)
• Lynell Hamilton (updated to indicate he was cut by the Saints)
• Kahlil Bell (updated to include Marion Barber on the Bears)
• The Mikel Leshoure injury and subsequent signing of Jerome Harrison; Harrison upgraded to RB 41 and given 90 carries and three extra TDs, upside given due to Jahvid Best's injury history. Maurice Morris to RB 82, Aaron Brown to RB 102. Leshoure to RB 125 (last ranked RB).
• Ryan Grant to RB 24, projection updated to 215 carries. James Starks to RB 36 as a high-level backup, projection downgraded to 130 carries.
• Beanie Wells to RB 31 to reflect that he is the starter to begin the season, but keeping Ryan Williams close since he has starter upside, at RB 34. Took 25 carries from Williams and gave them to Beanie.
• Upgraded Willis McGahee's projection to better reflect his RB 41 rank, adding 15 carries and upgrading his YPC to career average of 4.0 (up from last season's 3.8) and adding a touchdown.
• Downgraded Montario Hardesty to RB 49, reflecting that he has not yet gotten on the field. Brandon Jackson upgraded to RB 72.
• Tashard Choice downgraded to RB 68 (see above profile note) and projection halved.
• Kendall Hunter downgraded to RB 70 (see above profile note) and projection halved.
• Jordan Todman looks like a special-teams player for this season. Downgraded to RB 79 and projection downgraded to 20 carries.
• Tim Hightower upgraded to RB 49 to reflect our thoughts on Redskins backfield. Projection updated to 125 carries and 40 targets.
• Derrick Ward upgraded to RB 63 and projection updated to 75 carries to reflect our thoughts on Texans backfield.
• Kregg Lumpkin downgraded to RB 107 after reassessment of Buccaneers backfield.
• Swap between Giants RBs Charles Scott and Da'Rel Scott, at RB 111 and RB 119.
• Lonyae Miller is generating a mini-buzz in Dallas. Moved to RB 93.
• Johnny Knox (I acknowledged the training camp madness in the profile, but told people not to worry about it. The more I think about it, the more I say ... let's just leave Knox where he is. The Bears have to understand starting Hester would be incredibly stupid.)
• Emmanuel Sanders (his foot problems probably make him a worse sleeper than I originally hoped)
• Louis Murphy (acknowledged that Chaz Schilens is also in the mix)
• Titus Young (changed the analogy of what his "downside" is)
• Andre Caldwell (changed some verbiage to be a bit more pessimistic about the possibility of Caldwell starting)
• Bernard Berrian (fixed some wording about his competition)
• Mohamed Massaquoi (included a note about the chip fracture in his foot)
• Devin Hester (changed to include thought that Bears are saying he's a starter right now, but also saying we don't believe it)
• Eddie Royal (added more possibility of him beating out Eric Decker)
• Edmond Gates (tried to downplay the possibility he'll be a factor this year)
• Chaz Schilens (changed to indicate that right now he's running with the first team in training camp)
• Tandon Doss (changed to reflect a good training camp so far)
• T.J. Houshmandzadeh (just made it clearer that he's a free agent at the moment)
• Ramses Barden (re-emphasized that his ankle is still bothering him)
• Harry Douglas (getting Michael Jenkins out of his profile)
• Emmanuel Sanders downgraded to WR 62, Antonio Brown upgraded to WR 69 to better reflect what's going on with the Steelers receivers. Sanders' projections downgraded by 10 targets, Brown upgraded to 65 targets.
• Andre Caldwell downgraded to WR 101; there's no indication he's seriously in the mix to start.
• Randy Moss projection cut by 25 percent, under the assumption that if he signs, the season will already be under way.
• Bernard Berrian upgraded to WR 65 and projection adjusted to 85 targets, now that he looks like WR2 for Vikings.
• Eric Decker downgraded to WR 83, he's apparently currently losing his battle to be WR2 in Denver to Eddie Royal. Projection downgraded to 65 targets. Royal upgraded to WR 89 with 85 targets.
• Despite our doubt in his ability and eventual role, Devin Hester upgraded to WR 81 and projections adjusted to 70 targets.
• Darrius Heyward-Bey and Chaz Schilens ranks swapped (WR 99 and WR 109) to better reflect Raiders depth chart. Schilens projection upped to 65 targets, Heyward-Bey reduced to 55 targets.
• Andre Roberts bumped up to WR 67 to reflect his upgraded projection.
• Edmond Gates name changed to Clyde Gates, as per Miami Dolphins web site. Downgraded to WR 139. Projection halved.
• Cecil Shorts downgraded to WR 140. Projection halved.
• Tandon Doss upgraded to WR 98 due to good reports from camp.
• Harry Douglas upgraded to WR 126.
• Travis Beckum upgraded to TE 27 as the Giants' starter. Projection updated to 45 targets.
• Removes Matt Bosher, who will punt for the Falcons this year, not kick
• Removes Joe Nedney, as he has retired
• Dave Rayner upgraded to K 36 as the top free-agent kicker.
Up next, updates to our IDP top 150, projections and profiles.
Today's updates are too numerous to list as we are in the midst of an overhaul of our profiles, which were written in March/April and last received a major update after the NFL draft, and then on a case-by-case basis as news broke during the past week of free-agent frenzy. We're combining it with a closer look at the rankings, which were also first arrived at shortly after the NFL draft and managed on a case-by-case basis, and now merit a big-picture look. Look to this space tomorrow for a comprehensive list of the changes, which will also incorporate recent news such as the Ricky Williams signing with Baltimore and the Mikel Leshoure injury.
The following player profiles have been updated: New York Jets defense/special teams
News: Kyle Orton in line for Week 1 start.
The following player rankings and/or projections have been updated, along with their profiles.
Le'Ron McClain (McClain signs with Chiefs); Jalen Parmele (Ravens RB2?); Cadillac Williams and Keith Toston (Williams signs with Rams); Earnest Graham, Kregg Lumpkin and Allen Bradford (reassessing TB RB depth chart)
The following player profiles have been updated:Thomas Jones (McClain signing); Laurent Robinson (signs with Chargers); Jerious Norwood (Cadillac Williams signing); Detroit Lions D/ST.
Next draft kit updates (other than for major news) will be made Monday. We are planning a full review of the profiles, followed by a review of the rankings on Tuesday.