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Shuffle Up: Mo Mathews, Mo Problems

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Comes with the territory (USP)

This is a Shuffle Up, my friends. These are standard ranks that consider value if the season started today. These are not Week 5 ranks and they're not PPR ranks. And this song is not a rebel song.

My actual Week 5 ranks need to be finished, so I'll shift my focus back to them for now. You're invited to peruse the ROS running back ranks after the jump. If you have respectful disagreement, I welcome your tweets. Ship them to @scott_pianowski, and include the hashtag #shuffleup. Win the debate, win the rank.

I'll add running back commentary shortly, tweak a rank or two, and fill in the tight end ranks and comments later tonight. Let's figure out this crazy season together. Quarterbacks and wide receivers return to Shuffle Up in the even-numbered weeks.

And don't forget the golden rule of fantasy: no player gains 10-20 percent of bonus value simply because you roster him.

1. Arian Foster
2. Ray Rice
3. LeSean McCoy
4. Marshawn Lynch
5. Maurice Jones-Drew
6. Adrian Peterson
7. Jamaal Charles
8. Trent Richardson
9. Darren McFadden
10. Matt Forte
11. Reggie Bush
12. Alfred Morris
13. Ryan Mathews

If you've read this series over the years, you know I'm not a Mathews guy. I don't trust his medical history, and the fumbling problem hasn't been corrected either. That said, there's only so low you can go on a back of this ability level now that he's healthy again; at some point the upside makes sense. Mathews was the No. 8 back in standard scoring last year, despite missing two games. Norv Turner is generally good to his running backs.

I don't buy Jackie Battle as a significant long-term threat — Battle's career YPA is an ordinary 4.0 and he didn't find much running room in Kansas City (15-39, 2.6, albeit with a score and 42 yards receiving). Mind you, if you have to have a Mathews handcuff or you find yourself in the market for a viable No. 2 back, okay, Battle makes some sense (and he obviously posted strong numbers in Weeks 1-3). But the Mathews benching (and the current listing of the depth chart) strikes me as a motivational ploy, nothing past that. The Chargers know who their best tailback is. Eventually, he'll get another chance to show what he can do.

14. Stevan Ridley
15. DeMarco Murray
16. Doug Martin
17. Frank Gore
18. Willis McGahee
19. Mikel Leshoure
20. Darren Sproles
21. Michael Turner
22. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

It's tricky to rank LeShoure at this juncture of his career, having played just two games and coming off a season-ending injury last year. But it's encouraging that he's been used liberally in the passing game in each start, and the Lions didn't forget about LeShoure in their last two losses — despite the flow of the game, he stayed on the field and kept a healthy touch count. Opportunity is more than half of the battle in this game. … There's not much exciting about Turner these days, but he's still a featured goal-line option for a high-octane offense, and quietly he's on a pace to snag a career-high 24 passes (not a gaudy total, but at least it's a step forward). And where is the flashy Jacquizz Rodgers we heard so much about in summer camp? He's averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per rush. … I wouldn't trust the Dallas blocking to hold my place in the grocery line, let alone open consistent rushing lanes. Sometimes the Cowboys offense looks like a bunch of intriguing puzzle pieces that have been imported from different jigsaw boxes. Where's the cohesion? Did everyone on this unit meet for the first time at opening kickoff?

For all the worrying about Ridley's workload, there he is with 74 carries, seventh in the league. The Patriots still look like a team headed for 11 or 12 wins, and that will afford them to keep the offense balanced more often than not. Sure, Brandon Bolden is an intriguing back and ready to take on a chunk of the work. And the club's fascinating with Danny Woodhead still exists, for some reason (albeit he does handle the spread formation well). But Ridley's level of play through four weeks hasn't gone unnoticed; he's carved out a decent role for himself, no matter who's around him.

While Martin hasn't done much in his opening four games, the timing could be right to deal for him. His owner might be inclined to liquidate at a nice price — Tampa is on bye, after all — and the Bucs have a favorable rushing schedule when they get back to work (Kansas City, New Orleans, Oakland). I blame most of Martin's struggles on the run-blocking problems; perhaps Schiano & Co. will have things tightened up when the club gets back to work. … I've been very impressed with McGahee to this point (numbers and tape), but I'd be careful here. He's shown YPC dips in the second half for the last two years, and he only scored one second-half touchdown last year (albeit the per-snap production was still solid). I know, new offense, Manning's in town, I get all that. The Denver line is good. It's not like I buried him on the page. But we're also talking about someone who turns 31 in two weeks. Keep rolling with McGahee as a No. 2, but maybe there's a good window to think about a sell-high, a lock-in-profits-now sort of deal.

23. C.J. Spiller
24. Fred Jackson
25. Ahmad Bradshaw
26. Chris Johnson
27. Ryan Williams
28. Cedric Benson
29. Steven Jackson
30. Donald Brown
31. Michael Bush
32. Rashard Mendenhall
33. Ben Tate
34. DeAngelo Williams
35. Jacquizz Rodgers
36. Pierre Thomas
37. Jonathan Stewart
38. Brandon Bolden
39. Shonn Greene

In-season trades rarely happen in the NFL, and even less so at skill positions, but if I ran the Bills I'd consider shopping a running back, probably Jackson (since he's the older of the two). It's not that daunting for a running back to change teams in the middle of a campaign, and there's no reason to have the offense tied to two legitimate starting backs. Jackson and Spiller have other problems staring them in the face: trips to San Francisco and Arizona are on tap, and the Bills just lost two-fifths of their offensive line (including well-regarded LT Cordy Glenn). … Mendenhall attracts some buzz simply because he's better than Ike Redman and Jon Dwyer. But the Pittsburgh run blocking has not been good all year, and Mendenhall was an ordinary back in 2011, even before he blew out his knee. If you acquired Mendenhall on the cheap, good for you — he's probably going to be the primary back on a good team and a solid offense. But the best time to shop him in trade might be in advance of him actually playing in a game.

Everyone knows what probably happens to Tate if Foster ever gets hurt; Welcome to the Machine. That's well-established territory. But it's been frustrating to see Tate receive limited work through the opening four weeks; despite Houston being 4-0 and plus-70 in point differential, Tate didn't make it past eight touches in three of his games. Mind you, Tate isn't lighting it up with a 3.9 YPC (and Foster's also surprisingly low, at 3.7). The hope before the year was that Tate might be playable as a flex option even if Foster were healthy and starting; that hasn't been the case thus far. … I thought I disliked Greene plenty, but it's clear from the comments that Yahoo! Nation is unified in its distrust of this guy. Glad we can agree on some things. The Jets line is also a concern: Pro Football Focus grades them as the AFC's worst run-blocking group through the opening four weeks. How are these guys going to move the ball against Houston on Monday night?

40. Andre Brown
41. Jackie Battle
42. Kendall Hunter
43. Bilal Powell
44. Peyton Hillis
45. Joique Bell
46. Dexter McCluster
47. Robert Turbin
48. Toby Gerhart
49. Isaac Redman
50. Ronnie Hillman
51. LeGarrette Blount
52. Evan Royster
53. Daryl Richardson
54. Mark Ingram
55. Mike Goodson
56. Jonathan Dwyer
57. Daniel Thomas
58. Bernard Pierce
59. Shaun Draughn
60. David Wilson
61. Felix Jones
62. Danny Woodhead
63. Vick Ballard
64. Rashad Jennings
65. Beanie Wells

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Fred Davis, still Fab? (USP)

And here are the tight ends.

1. Jimmy Graham
2. Rob Gronkowski
3. Vernon Davis
4. Tony Gonzalez
5. Antonio Gates

Gates is not an easy rank; you can certainly make a reasonable argument that he belongs in the 6-10 range. He's 32 and he hasn't seen a full season since 2009; chronic foot problems never really go away, and he's taken a ton of pounding all over his body through 10 years. And when he is on the injury report, it sets you up to play afternoon roulette more often than not, given where the Chargers are slotted most weeks. I'm glad I don't have any Gates shares this year; if I did, I'd be looking to move him after the next big game. Maybe he'll go off in New Orleans this weekend.

6. Martellus Bennett
7. Jermichael Finley
8. Dennis Pitta
9. Jason Witten
10. Kyle Rudolph
11. Brent Celek

No need to sweat Pitta's no-show in Week 4: the Browns were ripe for the picking on the outside with Joe Haden out, and remember the receiver positions (by that I refer to both WR/TE) are the highest-variance spots in our numbers racket, at least when considering the four basic food groups (QB, RB, WR, TE). Everyone is going to disappear downfield from time to time. Pitta built up plenty of goodwill through Weeks 1-3, and I'm also on board with Joe Flacco's step forward. Just as important, the Ravens defense isn't anywhere near the level of previous seasons. Baltimore used to wear down teams 17-10 and 23-13; we'll see more shootouts this year.

12. Greg Olsen
13. Jared Cook
14. Brandon Pettigrew
15. Owen Daniels
16. Aaron Hernandez

Let's get the Hernandez chat out of the way. There's no right answer for injured players. I'm generally less than optimistic on anyone's return when it's a major injury, a multiple week thing. That's the story with Hernandez. And the passing game is build through timing and reps — maybe it will take him a few games back before he's fully reliable for fantasy again. And remember that roster spots are a currency, especially without DL spots in fantasy football. There's a price for that hurt guy on your bench — he forces you to add another tight end, and he keeps you from adding another free agent who catches your eye.

Every year, in every sport, I usually wind up being less optimistic on the long-term injured guys. When they come back and star right away, I hear about it. When they don't — when Andre Johnson 2011 happens, or Carl Crawford 2012 happens — there isn't as much talk. That's how these things go.

To anyone that's convinced Hernandez will step right back into his normal role and production level when he returns, that's fine. That's your constitutional right. But that's not how I play the game.

17. Heath Miller
18. Jermaine Gresham
19. Fred Davis
20. Scott Chandler
21. Jacob Tamme
22. Coby Fleener
23. Dustin Keller
24. Brandon Myers
25. Marcedes Lewis

I don't see a lot of upside to Davis. He's never been a big touchdown guy (just six spikes over his last 32 games) and the Redskins have other preferred scoring weapons from in close (most notably, Morris and Griffin). And if Pierre Garcon can get back on the field at close to 100 percent — admittedly, that's no sure thing — Davis's role in the offense will probably take another hit. I grasp that Davis has been a solid yardage man for a couple of years, but in the 2012 version of the NFL, it's not that difficult to find pass-catching tight ends. I'd rather swing for a higher return once we move into the Davis tier.

26. Anthony Fasano
27. Joel Dreessen
28. Lance Kendrick
29. Tony Moeaki
30. Zach Miller
31. Ed Dickson
32. Dallas Clark
33. Kellen Davis
34. Dwayne Allen
35. Ben Watson
36. Jordan Cameron
37. Todd Heap

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