Every Friday during the NFL season, we'll review the Yahoo! weekly position ranks. If an expert breaks from the herd on a particular player, they'll be asked to show their work. You're encouraged to discuss the wisdom or lunacy of these opinions in comments.Marshawn Lynch, argument No. 1 (Pianowski's rank 3, Yahoo! composite rank 10).
Lynch is about as safe as it gets at the running back position this year, and that equals "every week start" no matter the format. He's collected 20 or more touches every Sunday; he's already scored four times; he's becoming more dynamic as a receiver (7-55 the last two weeks); and he's been a double-digit point grabber in Y! fantasy for three games out of four. In a crazy world of backfield platoons and inconsistent production, what's not to like from that resume?
Arizona's front seven has some pretty stats of its own through a month of play, but I'm not confident the reality matches the spreadsheet (the Niners hardly had the ball in Week 1; the Dolphins were pathetic in all areas a week later; old man Thomas Jones doesn't have any burst left). Clinton Portis got 87 total yards and a touchdown against the Redbirds in Week 3, and I consider that the floor for Lynch in this spot.
Marshawn Lynch, argument No. 2 (Evans' rank 22, Yahoo! composite rank...still 10).
In terms of appearance, not fantasy upside, Beast Mode is positively frightening. His looks alone can turn defenders into stone. However, Arizona will be wearing blinders. The Cards have excelled defensively in the trenches. Against a couple of respectable rushing offenses (San Fran, Miami, Washington and the Jets), the Cards have surrendered just 3.5 yards per carry and no 100-yard rushers. Lynch has averaged a mediocre 3.5 yards per carry this year. That, combined with Buffalo’s long trip west, means Lynch will be more hamster than Beast in Week 5.
Editor's note -- No Lynch post is ever complete without this magical video:
OK, moving on...
Dwayne Bowe (Funston's rank 20, Yahoo! composite rank 10).
At Carolina, this just seems like an LJ, Gonzo kind of game for the Chiefs. Carolina’s allowed just the third-most fantasy points to receivers in the past three weeks and have allowed more than 66 receiving yards to just one receiver. Bowe is the most-targeted WR in the league, but we know that LJ has a mandate that he gets 25-30 touches a week, and the Panthers have struggled against tight ends, so you have to figure the Chiefs will look to Gonzo often. Given the matchup and my expectation that he’ll see fewer targets than usual, I think Bowe could very well disappoint in Week 5.
Aaron Rodgers (Behrens' rank 8, Yahoo! composite rank 13).
Rodgers (shoulder) is going to be a game-time decision in Week 5, but he'll be worth starting in basically any format if he gets to face Atlanta. The Falcons' pass defense looks adequate on paper, but that's a reflection of the quality of quarterbacks they've faced so far. Tyler Thigpen was unusually generous in Week 3 (14-for-36, 128 yards, 3 INTs); Jake Delhomme shredded Atlanta in Week 4 (20-for-29, 294 yards, 2 TDs).
Rodgers clearly intends to play, despite being limited all week. Here are a few quotes cherry-picked from Wednesday's Wisconsin State Journal:
"The swelling's going down. But now really, it's really about the strength. If I get the strength back, then I can throw. I'll be able to play" ... "There's different (pain-killing) options once you get to later in the week."
"The strength around (the shoulder) is fine. It's going to be a matter of, can I make the throws I need to make? The pain, that's something I can deal with. I'm not going to guess. I'm just going to rehab and get ready for Sunday."
Ben Roethlisberger (Pianowski's rank 16, Yahoo! composite rank 9).
It's frustrating to see Big Ben struggling like this: he's dinged up, a little shell-shocked in the pocket, and still looking for his first 200-yard passing game of the season. Even against the nasty Baltimore run defense last week, the Steelers kept Roethlisberger under wraps – just 24 pass attempts – and for the year he's thrown a measly 82 passes. Roethlisberger has handled the Jaguars pretty well in Pittsburgh, but a trip to Jacksonville is a much different assignment; the Jags shut out Big Ben & Co. in a prime-time showdown in 2006, and this unit ratchets it up a notch at home. Even with the entire Steelers backfield watching this one from sick bay, I don't have any confidence Roethlisberger will get multiple touchdowns or a slew of yardage through the air this week. You need to at least consider other options.Andre Johnson (Evans' rank 22, Yahoo! composite rank 8).
Quietly frustrated, Johnson has been a monumental disappointment thus far. Expect the underachievement to continue Sunday. Even without Bob Sanders, Indianapolis still has enough talented personnel in their secondary to effectively contain Houston’s gifted receiver. Yes, the passing offenses the Colts faced are suspect (Chi, Min and Jac), but no wideout has surpassed 50-yards or scored against them this season. It appears Andre 3000 won’t be dropping any sick couplets this week. Keep him active in all 12-team leagues, but anticipate marginal end-game totals.
Ryan Grant (Funston's rank 7, Yahoo! composite rank 15).
Whether a banged-up Aaron Rodgers plays or Matt Flynn plays, I think you have to expect Green Bay to shift emphasis more to the running game this week. The Packers will host an Atlanta defense that is allowing 4.6 yards per carry, and I expect Ryan Grant, who is finally over that hamstring injury that plagued him in the preseason and early on in the regular season, will be asked to carry the ball 20-plus times for the first time in ’08. Write it in pen: Ryan Grant goes over the 100-yard mark this weekend.
Lee Evans (Behrens' rank 9, Yahoo! composite rank 18).
If it weren't for Brad's extreme anti-Buffalo positions this week (see above), my Lee Evans rank wouldn't seem like such an outlier. Brad ranked Lee Evans (no relation) 31st among the wide receivers, and that destroyed his composite rank. Having watched the Arizona defense surrender eight passing TDs over the last two weeks, I'd find it difficult to bench Lee Evans in any league. He's averaging 83 receiving yards per game through four weeks.
Photos via Getty Images