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Shuffle Up: Waiting for Doug Martin; yellow jersey for Tony Gonzalez

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Stop: Hamster Time (USP)

If you could have the answer key for just one fantasy position, you'd probably opt for running back. It's a high-volatility spot, and it's a place where virtual unknowns often turn into superstars. (Somewhere, Priest Holmes is winking back at us, in-between his checkmate move.)

The lists below are not Week 7 ranks. Instead, the Shuffle Up objective is to gauge value for the balance of the fantasy season. How would I draft if I had a new league forming today? How should we rank the players for trade and pickup purposes? What's happened to this point counts as an audition, but this isn't intended to be a bland reciting of the leaders to this point. We want to figure out the next step.

Try not to flip out when players are ranked next to one another; in many cases, there's little to no difference there. And the commenting breaks are made for the spacing of the article; they don't really reflect tiers. Most of all, be sure to consider the golden rule: no one gains 10-20 percent of bonus value simply because they're on your roster.

Full commentary will follow shortly, in addition to tight end ranks. And in the even-numbered weeks, we'll sort through the quarterbacks and wide receivers. I'll tweak this list during the day; win the intelligent debate, and you might just win the rank. I also encourage your Tweets on this series; I'm at @scott_pianowski, and use the hashtag #shuffleup.

1. Arian Foster
2. Ray Rice
3. LeSean McCoy

I don't see a big difference between the top two guys. Foster's YPC has cratered and the Houston offensive line has mediocre numbers in the Pro Football Focus metrics, but he's also getting run into the ground and receiving a ton of goal-line carries. McCoy's results from the first six weeks were mildly disappointing as well, but I suspect the Eagles offense will be more McCoy-centric (and less Vick-focused) out of the Week 7 bye. Say whatever you want about Andy Reid when it comes to in-game management; he's still a very good head coach the other six days of the week.

4. Adrian Peterson
5. Jamaal Charles
6. Maurice Jones-Drew
7. Marshawn Lynch
8. Trent Richardson
9. Matt Forte
10. Ryan Mathews
11. Alfred Morris
12. Darren McFadden

McFadden is the trickiest call of the Top 12; it hasn't been injuries derailing him thus far, it's been ineffectiveness. Perhaps the fine play of Carson Palmer lately, and the healing progress made with the receivers, will help to open some running lanes. I realize McFadden is struggling with the new Greg Knapp offense and zone blocking scheme, but it shouldn't be that difficult for a back of this talent to eventually adjust. Then again, McFadden has never played more than 13 games in any pro season — when does the other cleat drop on that angle?

13. Reggie Bush
14. Stevan Ridley
15. Doug Martin
16. C.J. Spiller
17. Willis McGahee
18. Frank Gore
19. Darren Sproles

I wanted to see something from Martin and the Tampa Bay offensive line after their bye and I was not disappointed. Martin went for 76 yards on 13 carries against Kansas City last week (a zesty 5.8 yards a pop), and had receptions totaling 42 and 13 yards. A cozy 131 yards for the day.

Some fantasy owners noted LeGarrette Blount's day (7-58, touchdown) and worried about a pending time share, but consider when Blount made his hay. He only had two carries (for a piddly five yards) until a late possession (less than five minutes to go, Tampa ahead by 24). Blount tacked on 53 yards on five straight carries and scored a touchdown, garbage time production all the way. Does it count? Sure. Is it repeatable? I wouldn't bet on it.

The Bucs have a cushy rushing schedule in the next few weeks: New Orleans (Week 7), Oakland (Week 9) and Carolina (Week 11) highlight that stretch. Minnesota is a challenge in Week 8 and San Diego is close to neutral in Week 10.

I know there's a passionate Spiller lobby in Yahoo! Nation, but I think I've given a fairly lofty rank to someone who doesn't have a starting gig to call his own. If Fred Jackson were no longer in the mix, I'd call Spiller a Top 5 back immediately. But I can't call the plays for Chan Gailey, or dictate his substitution patterns.

20. Ahmad Bradshaw
21. Michael Turner
22. DeMarco Murray
23. Chris Johnson
24. Fred Jackson
25. Rashard Mendenhall
26. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
27. Steven Jackson
28. Mikel Leshoure
29. Michael Bush
30. Pierre Thomas
31. Alex Green
32. Shonn Greene

Greene had just one broken or missed tackle through the opening five weeks (per Pro Football Focus), then he collected eight of them in the romp over the Colts. I suspect the Indianapolis PR staff will keep that out of the press notes. Here's why the Greene revival is a near-lock to stop: NE, MIA, bye, SEA, STL, NE, ARI are the opponents in waiting. Hellish schedule for a running back. There isn't one plus matchup in that mix.

I really don't want to say much nice about Chris Johnson, but he is a starting back with little competition behind him. And although the Tennessee offensive line has been a major disappointment, at least it did move some people against Houston (shocker) and Pittsburgh in the last three weeks. … Bradshaw is terrific when healthy enough to play, and no one questions his toughness. But I can't see him withstanding the punishment for a full season, or anything that close to it.

33. William Powell
34. Daryl Richardson
35. Jonathan Stewart
36. Felix Jones
37. Ben Tate
38. David Wilson
39. Mike Goodson
40. Kendall Hunter

I'd like to go higher on Powell, a sneaky low-power runner who should be the primary man in Arizona. But the Cardinals offensive line is clearly the worst unit in the league, and the schedule isn't friendly (Minnesota, San Francisco, Green Bay, bye). … Goodson looked dynamic in the Atlanta game (96 yards on five touches), making it clear he's Oakland's second-best back. He's a little undersized at 210 pounds, but he should nonetheless be snapped up as a spec play in medium and deeper groups.

41. Donald Brown
42. Isaac Redman
43. Brandon Bolden
44. Vick Ballard
45. DeAngelo Williams
46. Jacquizz Rodgers
47. LeGarrette Blount
48. Robert Turbin
49. Montario Hardesty
50. Toby Gerhart

While I don't think Mendenhall is a poor receiver, Redman is probably a better fit as Pittsburgh's third-down back and hurry-up back. Redman had a superb day receiving (4-105) in the loss at Tennessee. … Maybe someday we'll understand why Carolina dumped a ton of money into its backfield, only to ignore it on Sundays. Williams seems like the third option at best in the Panthers rushing game (after Newton and Stewart), and the loss of Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil is a significant hit.

51. Ronnie Hillman
52. Shaun Draughn
53. Andre Brown
54. Ronnie Brown
55. Joique Bell
56. Rashad Jennings
57. Mark Ingram
58. Danny Woodhead
59. Jackie Battle
60. Bernard Pierce
61. LaRod Stephens-Howling
62. James Starks
63. Bryce Brown
64. Phillip Tanner
65. Peyton Hillis
66. Shane Vereen
67. Evan Royster
68. Daniel Thomas
69. Bilal Powell

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Smile Gonzo, you're the new No. 1 (USP)

1. Tony Gonzalez
2. Rob Gronkowski
3. Jimmy Graham

You can go any order on this Top 3 and it won't look out of place. But with Gronkowski and Graham clearly nicked up at the moment (it worries me that Graham didn't practice immediately after a full week off), I decided to promote Gonzo to the top spot. Gonzalez has a score in four of six games, and his two "bad" games still totaled nine catches for 93 yards. He never takes a Sunday off.

4. Vernon Davis
5. Aaron Hernandez
6. Kyle Rudolph
7. Owen Daniels
8. Antonio Gates
9. Jason Witten
10. Brent Celek
11. Jermaine Gresham
12. Heath Miller

I've always respected Miller in a "he won't hurt you" sort of way, but maybe there's extra upside for him in 2012. Miller leads all tight ends in red-zone and goal-line targets (10 and 7, respectively), despite the early bye week. Rudolph is second in red-zone targets, as you might have guessed. … With Vick struggling to see development with intermediate and deep routes (the secondary bust on the Maclin touchdown last week doesn't count), Celek becomes more important than ever in the Philadelphia offense. … How many touchdowns would Davis score in a pass-first offense, tied to a franchise QB? The world may never find out, and that's a crying shame. A Brees, Brady, Rodgers or Manning could make a Hall of Famer out of Davis.

13. Jared Cook
14. Greg Olsen
15. Fred Davis
16. Brandon Pettigrew
17. Jermichael Finley

Finley runs sloppy routes, his hands are a mess, and he's had some curious comments in the press — taking shots at Aaron Rodgers. Other than that, he's an absolute gem. … You can't trust Pettigrew so long as he keeps dropping sure catches (and sure touchdowns). And it's not as if he's some seam-wrecking monster: his career YPC is a modest 10.0. He's been overrated for a while.

18. Martellus Bennett
19. Dennis Pitta
20. Scott Chandler
21. Jacob Tamme
22. Brandon Myers
23. Coby Fleener
24. Joel Dreessen
25. Anthony Fasano
26. Dustin Keller
27. Marcedes Lewis

It's a shame Lewis has fallen off the map so much, because he's looking at some nifty matchups for a tight end over the next three weeks. Oakland and Detroit are giveaways, and Green Bay is also on the plus side. Someone tell Blaine Gabbert that a young quarterback is supposed to gravitate towards a veteran tight end. … Why don't the Broncos throw to Dreessen more often? He's snagged 17 of 23 targets, and he's capable of running through a defender or two.

28. Dwayne Allen
29. Lance Kendricks
30. Zach Miller
31. Tony Moeaki
32. Jordan Cameron

Hang on, gamers, we're not done. Settle in for Mr. Brad Evans and the Yahoo! Fantasy Minute, breaking down the Thursday night affair between Seattle and San Francisco.

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