Roto Arcade

Shuffle Up: Luck of the Draw; Cruz takes the yellow jersey

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Kids at Play (USP)

You should know the rules of the game by now, amigos. Shuffle Up is a forward-looking piece. The ranks below are not Week 8 ranks; they're rest-of-season ranks. If I had a fresh draft starting right now, this is the blueprint for the quarterback and wide receiver position. Next week (and all odd-numbered weeks), I'll rank the running backs and tight ends.

Your respectful disagreement is always welcome. Win the debate, win the rank. I might tweak this list as the day goes along. Let's figure out this crazy world together.

Strength of schedule is one additional piece of the puzzle as we run the Shuffle this week. While I'm not the biggest fan of looking ahead too far in the NFL - things change so quickly - we're deep enough into the dance where I felt it has some value.

My spreadsheet and special sauce says these are the teams with the easiest passing schedules from Weeks 8-16, in order: Indianapolis, Houston, Jacksonville, Denver, Baltimore, Kansas City, New York Jets, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Dallas. And these are the teams with the uphill climb, with the most unfortunate listed first: Arizona, Seattle, Minnesota, St. Louis, San Francisco, New Orleans, San Diego, Chicago, Washington, New England. Take it all with the appropriate grain of salt: a tricky schedule probably can't hurt the Saints offense, and a good schedule isn't likely to boost Blaine Gabbert to stardom.

Full QB/WR ranks await you after the jump:

1. Drew Brees
2. Aaron Rodgers

If you prefer Rodgers at 1 and Brees at 2, that's fine. Rodgers has a better schedule and (perhaps) more toys to work with. Brees already had his bye and works indoors, and his defense is obviously horrendous. The game isn't won on this debate.

3. Robert Griffin III
4. Matt Ryan
5. Peyton Manning
6. Tom Brady
7. Eli Manning
8. Ben Roethlisberger
9. Andrew Luck

I traded Brady for Luck in one of my leagues this week, partially for diversity (I already had Brady shares alsewhere, no Luck shares) and partly because it's a multiple-QB league and I wanted to be clear for the Week 9 New England bye. Luck's schedule also comes into play: he's facing the easiest passing slate from Weeks 8-16, as the spreadsheet currently says. That's a fluid thing, of course; defenses will improve and regress as the season goes along, like any other unit. And I worry about where Luck might be if anything happens to Reggie Wayne, his only significant target. That all said, he seems like a nifty mix of upside, floor, rushing ability and volume. Save me a seat, I'm on the bandwagon.

10. Michael Vick
11. Cam Newton
12. Tony Romo
13. Matthew Stafford
14. Josh Freeman
15. Andy Dalton
16. Philip Rivers

You can't bury Newton too low because he's still an elite runner. But the Panthers also sound like a team ready to make radical changes on offense. … Vick only has one full season on his resume, and he's only run for two touchdowns in his last 19 games. The elite upside is probably gone for good here. But for whatever you might think of Andy Reid on game day, he's still a terrific offensive designer six days a week.

17. Joe Flacco
18. Carson Palmer
19. Jay Cutler
20. Matt Schaub
21. Brandon Weeden

Weeden's impressed me just about every week; he's started to hit second and third options and he throws a catchable ball. Well, it's catchable in theory: you could set the football on a tee and some of these Browns receivers would still drop 1-2 a week. … The setup for Cutler isn't favorable; the Bears will control plenty of games through defense and conservative offense, and the Chicago offense continues to struggle with pass protection on the deeper drops.

22. Christian Ponder
23. Ryan Fitzpatrick
24. Alex Smith
25. Ryan Tannehill
26. Russell Wilson
27. Jake Locker

Locker obviously doesn't have his job back yet and the Titans have no incentive to change things so long as Hasselbeck is winning. But the QB list at this point is all about upside, which is why you find Locker here.

28. Sam Bradford
29. Mark Sanchez
30. Brady Quinn
31. John Skelton
32. Blaine Gabbert
33. Matt Hasselbeck
34. Nick Foles
35. Colin Kaepernick
36. Jason Campbell
37. Tim Tebow
38. Kevin Kolb
39. Chad Henne
40. Shaun Hill
41. Matt Cassel
42. Kyle Orton
43. Ryan Lindley
44. Matt Flynn

And now, for the wideouts.

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The new No. 1 (USP)

1. Victor Cruz
2. Calvin Johnson
3. A.J. Green
4. Roddy White
5. Demaryius Thomas

Before you flip out at the Thomas rank, go look at Denver's schedule again. Better yet, scout him Sunday night against New Orleans. You'll like what you see.

6. Brandon Marshall
7. Percy Harvin
8. Reggie Wayne
9. Jordy Nelson
10. Marques Colston
11. Julio Jones
12. Larry Fitzgerald

I can't go any lower on Fitzgerald — he has the work ethic to persevere through a bad situation, and he's produced with spotty quarterbacks before.

13. Vincent Jackson
14. Wes Welker
15. Eric Decker
16. Andre Johnson
17. Antonio Brown
18. Miles Austin
19. Mike Wallace
20. Dez Bryant

The Texans are using Johnson on less snaps this year, and he's no longer someone who runs through tackles or makes defenders miss. It doesn't make him a stiff, obviously, and the Texans have a fun schedule. But if you're waiting for Johnson to be a WR1 again, you live in a dream world.

21. Jeremy Maclin
22. Hakeem Nicks
23. DeSean Jackson
24. Randall Cobb
25. Stevie Johnson
26. Dwayne Bowe
27. James Jones
28. Steve Smith
29. Torrey Smith
30. Lance Moore
31. Denarius Moore

Moore looked like the best player on the field in the Atlanta loss, and he backed it up with another score last week. Health is the only hurdle to stardom. He's got a nifty rapport working with Palmer, too. … Cobb and Jones both received a Thursday upgrade with the news on Greg Jennings (groin surgery, could miss another six weeks).

32. Malcom Floyd
33. Mike Williams
34. Brandon Lloyd
35. Kenny Britt
36. Josh Gordon
37. Brian Hartline
38. Titus Young
39. Jeremy Kerley

The upgrade for Young is obvious, with Burleson out. Young also made a handful of nifty catches down the stretch in Chicago. The light is starting to go on. …Kerley is another laterally-explosive player who's just about impossible to cover in the slot, and he's been effective outside the numbers as well.

40. Sidney Rice
41. Andre Roberts
42. Darrius Heyward-Bey
43. Anquan Boldin
44. Michael Crabtree
45. Brandon LaFell

As maddening as the Carolina game planning has been, it was encouraging to see LaFell involved, creatively at that, in Week 7. He needs to become someone who gets 8-10 targets (at least) every week; he has the speed, size and power to do a lot of different things.

46. Robert Meachem
47. Davone Bess
48. Stephen Hill
49. Donnie Avery
50. Brandon Gibson
51. Kendall Wright
52. Jerome Simpson
53. Nate Washington
54. Santana Moss
55. Emmanuel Sanders
56. Cecil Shorts

Shorts is owned in 6% of the Y, while Justin Blackmon is at 25%. Numbers should be flipped. One guy is making plays (Shorts has three scores and 12-284), one guy is not (Blackmon 14-126-0, looks confused on a weekly basis).

57. Greg Little
58. Andrew Hawkins
59. Ryan Broyles
60. Danny Amendola
61. Domenik Hixon
62. Mario Manningham
63. T.Y. Hilton
64. Golden Tate
65. Leonard Hankerson
66. Chris Givens
67. Kevin Walter
68. Jon Baldwin
69. Brandon Stokley
70. Pierre Garcon
71. Justin Blackmon
72. Devery Henderson
73. Alshon Jeffery
74. Vincent Brown
75. Donald Jones
76. Kevin Ogletree
77. Mohamed Massaquoi
78. Dexter McCluster
79. Greg Jennings
80. Joseph Morgan

I'm not the type to expect miracles (or best-case scenarios) from players back from injury, so Jennings is now buried on this list. Heck, you can push him out of the Top 80, that would be fine with me, too. Don't waste a roster spot.

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