Now that you've had a chance to process the NFL draft, and I've had a chance to write about 50,000 words (no joke) for our upcoming Fantasy Football preview magazine (and take a subsequent vacation), let's see what the rookies and sundry pressing news items have done to my top 200 ranks.
At the top of the board, I'll admit that I'm wavering on Adrian Peterson over Chris Johnson. One bone of contention I've had for the Johnson boosters was the presence of LenDale White and, well, that presence is no more. So while I've been assuming a boost for AP because of Chester Taylor's departure, it would be unfair not to upgrade CJ2K if his leading backup is going to be Javon Ringer or LeGarrette Blount. For the moment, though, I'm still going with the behemoth over the water bug. But I'll be writing a piece about Johnson later this spring with an open mind, and will perhaps convince myself otherwise then.
Steven Jackson takes a relative tumble, going from No. 5 to No. 9, because the St. Louis Rams revealed that Jackson had neck surgery this winter. His team can spin it as positively as it likes, but it's very difficult to argue that Jackson isn't riskier than he was a month ago. He's one of my favorite players in the NFL and if he stays healthy, I won't be shocked to see him jump into the top five among all fantasy scorers in 2010. But his downside is more pronounced now.
I'll also mention a couple of fantasy's most vexing rushers: Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles. After ESPN's rankings summit late last month (when all our experts get together and hash out our "official" ranks, to be included in the magazine as well as in our game), I've discovered I'm quite a bit higher on Charles than many of my colleagues, who worry about Thomas Jones' presence. I worry, too. But a couple weeks ago, I went back and skimmed through bits of the Kansas City Chiefs' final eight games last year, and it's undeniable: If you like Chris Johnson, you should like Charles, too. They're really, really similar. I boosted Charles for these ranks. And Benson? There's no news that causes him to tumble from No. 11 overall to No. 15. I just don't think I could take him near the first round in an actual draft. He didn't make it through the season last year, he has a quality player (Bernard Scott) behind him and he is, shall we say, mercurial.
Other gainers of note include: Jahvid Best, who suddenly looks like the only real option the Detroit Lions have for Week 1 (and who'd be an even more intriguing fantasy option if he wasn't such a colossal injury risk himself); LenDale White, who looks like the touchdown maker (such as it is) in Seattle; Jason Campbell, who gets his walking papers and a breath of fresh air in Oakland; Ben Tate, who landed in a spot (Houston) where his team needs someone to wrest control of the backfield; Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy, who benefit from JaMarcus Russell's departure; and a couple of Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant and Felix Jones, the former of whom I expect to be a Week 1 starter, and the latter of whom looks more and more like the clear leader in the team's backfield committee.
The losers this time around include: Wes Welker and Kevin Smith, whose knee injuries loom large and whom I simply had too high last time around; Eddie Royal, whose dreams of being a flanker faded when the Denver Broncos drafted Demaryius Thomas; Joe McKnight, who could carve out a role as the New York Jets' third-down back but who certainly would've had more value had he landed someplace where he could compete for regular touches; Arian Foster (see Ben Tate); Julius Jones (see LenDale While and Leon Washington); and C.J. Spiller, who would've been my favorite rookie back had he not landed with a moribund, practically quarterback-free franchise that already has at least one very good running back in place.
2010 Top 200 Rankings
Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy.