Shuffle Up and Run: Chris Johnson’s Treehouse of Horror

Scott Pianowski

When you're a fantasy scribe by trade, you essentially rank things for a living. Today we meet up with running backs, kickers and defenses.

The listings below are rest-of-season ranks, how I'd attack a fresh draft tonight. It's an even-numbered week, which means we hit the backfield and the two fringe positions. The passing postions (QB, WR, TE) will return to the floor next week. Assume a standard scoring format (no PPR kickback, no return yards).

What's already happened on the field matters as an audition, but this is not intended to be a list of scoring leaders. What we're focused on is value from this point forward. Your intelligent and respectful disagreement is always welcome, but for the love of all that is holy, support your position. Give us something to think about. Win the argument, and I'll consider an adjustment. And sorry, Rutherford, your players don't gain 20 percent of bonus value merely because you own them.

I'll add comments as the day goes along and I reserve the right to make changes in the first few hours. Ready for the running backs? Take the handoff, hit the hole, get to the second level. Make the jump.

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Running Back
1. Fred Jackson
2. Arian Foster
3. Adrian Peterson
4. LeSean McCoy
5. Ray Rice
6. Matt Forte
7. Ryan Mathews
8. Michael Turner
9. Frank Gore
10. Maurice Jones-Drew
11. Ahmad Bradshaw
12. Darren McFadden
13. Rashard Mendenhall
14. Chris Johnson
15. Beanie Wells
16. Darren Sproles
17. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
18. Steven Jackson
19. Cedric Benson
20. DeMarco Murray
21. Shonn Greene
22. LeGarrette Blount
23. Ryan Torain
24. Jonathan Stewart
25. Daniel Thomas
26. Mike Tolbert
27. Peyton Hillis
28. Michael Bush
29. Ben Tate
30. Jahvid Best
31. DeAngelo Williams
32. Brandon Jacobs
33. Jackie Battle
34. James Starks
35. Knowshon Moreno
36. Marshawn Lynch
37. Roy Helu
38. Montario Hardesty
39. Mark Ingram
40. Delone Carter
41. Willis McGahee
42. Pierre Thomas
43. Maurice Morris
44. Ryan Grant
45. Keiland Williams
46. Felix Jones
47. Bernard Scott
48. LaDainian Tomlinson
49. Isaac Redman
50. Kendall Hunter
51. Stevan Ridley
52. C.J. Spiller
53. Alfonso Smith
54. Joseph Addai
55. Kregg Lumpkin
56. Reggie Bush
57. Danny Woodhead
58. Javon Ringer
59. Marion Barber
60. Dexter McCluster
61. Thomas Jones
62. Donald Brown
63. Carnell Williams
64. Justin Forsett
65. LaRod Stephens-Howling
66. Deji Karim
67. Ricky Williams
68. Toby Gerhart
69. Jason Snelling
70. Jonathan Dwyer
71. Taiwan Jones
72. Ronnie Brown
73. Joe McKnight

Comments: The Top 6 backs essentially form Tier 1. In a redraft, I could see any of them going first overall without any wild controversy. Jackson's consistency and his ability to make things happen as a runner and receiver earned him the top spot, but if your preference is anyone in this pool, you'll be able to make a strong argument . . . I'm no doctor or psychic; ranking injured backs like McFadden and Wells is next to impossible. McFadden hangs with the top backs when he's healthy, and Wells would probably push into the Top 10 if we knew for sure that he'd make it back for those two cushy St. Louis games. Missing an angry Ravens bunch in Week 8 isn't a big deal . . . Johnson's schedule has been utterly hellish, as Brandon Funston noted in the Week 8 Skinny, so better days figure to be ahead. The Colts haven't been bad against the run on a per-carry basis (at 4.3 YPC, they're middle of the pack) but the gross numbers are bloated because of the volume (that's life when you're 0-7). The injury-ravaged Panthers run defense (4.7 YPC) lies in waiting for Week 10. But it's astounding to me that Johnson didn't have a run longer than three yards last week, after the bye and all, and he hasn't been anything special as a receiver. Is it a physical problem? A confidence issue? Is runner vision and block reading something that can go into a slump? The Johnson file is full of questions today; no one has concrete answers . . . Mike Shanahan is a lot like Tony La Russa — the man in the bullpen is always more interesting than the guy on the mound. Say hello to Mr. Helu. Hopefully the Redskins have a better handle on modern communications than the Cardinals do. Back in Washington, we also have to keep an eye on Evan Royster, assuming he's promoted from the practice squad (at press time, we were still waiting) . . . The Bills have finally found something for Spiller to do, giving him work as a receiver. They say it's a temporary move; we'll see.

Kicker
1. Jason Hanson
2. Neil Rackers
3. John Kasay
4. Mason Crosby
5. Stephen Gostkowski
6. Billy Cundiff
7. Sebastian Janikowski
8. Dan Bailey
9. David Akers
10. Nick Novak
11. Robbie Gould
12. Rian Lindell
13. Alex Henery
14. Matt Bryant
15. Josh Scobee
16. Ryan Longwell
17. Rob Bironas
18. Matt Prater
19. Graham Gano
20. Nick Folk
21. Mike Nugent
22. Shaun Suisham
23. Lawrence Tynes
24. Connor Barth
25. Dan Carpenter
26. Olindo Mare
27. Jay Feely
28. Ryan Succop
29. Phil Dawson
30. Steven Hauschka
31. Josh Brown
32. Adam Vinatieri

Comments: Kicker is a context position; we want to align with winning teams most of all. Teams that are getting scotched by 27 points in the fourth period don't kick field goals (and sometimes they eschew the extra point as well) . . . Hanson works mostly indoors and his coach trusts him with 50-plus kicks. That goes a long way with me . . . Kasay turned out to be in the perfect setup, on a pinball-scoring club, playing indoors, and tied to a late bye week . . . Janikowski is currently on a lot of waiver wires, nicked up and in his bye week. I'd never want to waste a valuable bench spot on a kicker, but he'll be an interesting bidding item next week, provided we can be sure on his health. Then again, it could be risky being tied to an injury-prone kicker who plays most of his games on the West Coast.

Defense
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. San Francisco 49ers
5. Chicago Bears
6. Philadelphia Eagles
7. New York Jets
8. Detroit Lions
9. New York Giants
10. New Orleans Saints
11. Minnesota Vikings
12. Cincinnati Bengals
13. Houston Texans
14. Washington Redskins
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
16. New England Patriots
17. Atlanta Falcons
18. Tennessee Titans
19. Oakland Raiders
20. San Diego Chargers
21. Arizona Cardinals
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
23. Cleveland Browns
24. Buffalo Bills
25. Kansas City Chiefs
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
27. Seattle Seahawks
28. Miami Dolphins
29. Denver Broncos
30. Carolina Panthers
31. Indianapolis Colts
32. St. Louis Rams

Comments: The Bills have been lucky with interceptions and runbacks, but I can't trust any team with just four sacks this late in the season . . . The Eagles are 12-0 after the bye in the Andy Reid era; if they beat Dallas this week, they're right back in the NFC East race. The Giants have an insane schedule after drawing Miami this week: at New England, at San Francisco, Philadelphia, at New Orleans, Green Bay, at Dallas, Washington, at New York Jets, Dallas . . . Maybe I'm giving the Pittsburgh laundry too much respect, because this defense hasn't been forcing anything and there are so many key members down for the season. Then again, a middle-of-the-road defensive ranking basically means they're a matchup play and nothing more.

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Image courtesy Associated Press