The Big Rotowski: Week 8 Ranks

Christopher Harris
Yahoo! Sports

Note: As of Friday, updated Week 8 rankings can be found HERE

We've passed the halfway point in just about every fantasy league format. You probably know what you've got. Maybe it's not a lot. And maybe that's my fault.

Oh, we experts are sanguine in August, aren't we? We're sure about the Big Three running backs, the emergence of LaMont Jordan, the pitiable Jets offense, the perfection of Chad Johnson and the all-consuming suckitude of Bernard Berrian. Then, inconveniently, the games begin, and reveal how much "being a good fantasy player" corresponds with equal parts "playing the percentages" and "getting blind-ass lucky."

With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to take a quick look, position-by-position, at the best and worst picks in my super-deep, 16-team league: the League of American Recreational Gridiron Enthusiasts (or "L.A.R.G.E."). Sixteen rounds long, 16 teams wide and nine years' worth of expertise tend to smooth out results, but even we make huge and hilarious mistakes. I think our example can serve as a litmus test for most standard leagues out there.

Quarterback: The Good: Donovan McNabb. He was taken by Lucky Larry's Country Club with the first pick in the fifth round, as the eighth QB overall. The Bad: Daunte Culpepper of the Astrological Love Thermometers. Ninth pick, fourth round, four spots (gulp) ahead of Eli Manning. Whoops.

Running Back: The Good: How about a double-dip for the Bootjack Trailers? With the seventh pick of the first round, he takes Brian Westbrook ahead of Edgerrin James, Warrick Dunn, Julius Jones, et al, and with the seventh pick of the second round, he takes Kevin Jones. Keepers included, Westbrook was probably around the 12th back selected, while Jones was probably around 23rd-ish. Nice. The Bad: Mike Bell 18 picks before Tatum Bell; DeAngelo Williams four picks before Laurence Maroney; James one pick before Clinton Portis.

Wide Receiver: The Good: We'll give the Clarksville Clutter a nod, taking Berrian with the 11th pick of the 16th round. Then again, Clarksville took Mark Bradley with the sixth pick in the 15th round, so the Blind Squirrel Theory may apply. (Come to think of it, what did Clarksville owner Tony know about the Chicago passing game that the rest of us missed?) Anyway, for less sheer randomness, how about the Overland Undertakers taking Andre Johnson as roughly (with keepers) the 21st receiver, with the 12th pick of the fourth round. The Bad: Chad Johnson was the third overall receiver, taken by the Hollywood Stars with the third pick of the second round; he's currently right around 46th in scoring. Chris Chambers of the Flaming Moes, the ninth overall receiver, may turn out worse (Chambers is a Joey-Harrington-bound 39th in WR scoring so far).

Tight End: No real surprises, unless you count what must always been known as The Marques Colston Affair.

Kicker: The Good: There's no such thing as a good kicker pick. There are only bad kicker picks. The Bad: Lucky Larry's Country Club decided taking Jay Feely with the second pick in the eighth round would be a real hoot. That's right: first kicker taken.

Defense: The Good: Sure, it was early, but the Ion Maidens taking the Chicago Defense with the 16th pick of the fifth round (and the first overall defense) was evidently a risk well worth taking. The Bad: The poor Pig's Eye Polars took the Washington Defense with the 14th pick of the eighth round, making them the sixth fantasy defense taken. Right now they're the 31st-best-performing fantasy defense. Ouch.

Anyway, I also wanted to note that due to some continued email-forwarding glitches, I haven't received many/any of your emails so far this week. We believe the problem is solved, so if you've got a pressing question, please email me again. I swear I'm not ignoring you. On to the Week 8 rankings. Remember: Buffalo, Detroit, Miami and Washington are off this week. As always, you can check back Friday for updates in my weekly rankings, as well as ratings from the other Yahoo! Sports Fantasy experts.

Quarterbacks

Rank Name Opponent Week 7 Rating
1 Donovan McNabb JAC 2
2 Peyton Manning @ DEN 1
3 Eli Manning TB 4
4 Michael Vick @ CIN 7
5 Marc Bulger @ SD bye
6 Carson Palmer ATL 8
7 David Carr @ TEN 16
8 Rex Grossman SF bye
9 Tom Brady @ MIN 6
10 Philip Rivers STL 14
11 Jake Delhomme DAL 13
12 Brett Favre ARI 12
13 Drew Brees BAL bye
14 Chad Pennington @ CLE 9
15 Matt Leinart @ GB 23
16 Byron Leftwich @ PHI 3
17 Damon Huard SEA 24
18 Brad Johnson NE 18
19 Bruce Gradkowski @ NYG 20
20 Tony Romo @ CAR NR
21 Vince Young HOU bye
22 Alex Smith @ CHI bye
23 Charlie Frye NYJ 22
24 Ben Roethlisberger @ OAK 25
25 Steve McNair @ NO bye
26 Jake Plummer IND 21
27 Andrew Walter PIT 26
28 Seneca Wallace @ KC NR

Notes: Was I the last fantasy defender of Michael Vick before this latest resurgence? Could be; I certainly got enough harrassing mails about where I had him ranked. Now, I don't believe what we saw out of No. 7 against Pittsburgh is what we'll get in any given week, including this week in Cincinnati. The very notion that Vick could actually beat someone throwing seems crazy, and I'm still not staking my fantasy life on it. But I still like him as what amounts to a third running back. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it … Carr has been the very model of a modern major general for the Texans. He's fourth in the NFL in QB rating, and has only thrown four picks, compared to 14 and 11 each of the last two years. He's also only been sacked once in the last two games … Leftwich's rating last week was probably too high; he had bad mobility problems, and could have been replaced by David Garrard at several intervals. It could still happen this week, so check back Friday. Philly can still be had via the air, and when Iron Byron is right, he's been throwing the ball with far more authority than I remember from last year. Jacksonville would've been better off resting him in Houston … Grossman returns from his putrid Monday experience, but the Niners' defense cures a lot of ills … The Jets figure to try and run against the Browns, though the loss of Gary Baxter certainly opens the field for Pennington. Still, that game will probably be one of those hard-to-look-at 17-14 affairs … See, it's nothing personal for Leinart. He's got a fine match-up with the Packers this week, making him startable in deep leagues … Gradkowski's found himself mocked in fantasy circles for being too much of a caretaker quarterback, and last week's line (13-for-26 for 104 yards) was pretty ugly. But if the Bucs' line can keep him relatively clean (the Cowboys' couldn't), Gradkowski has the arm to beat the shaky Giant corners … Roethlisberger seems like he'll play, but I'd assume the Steelers will do their business against the Raiders on the ground … Romo already looks better to me than J.P. "My Hair Is On Fire" Losman, and he can be a starter. (Obviously, for the purposes of this list, I've assumed Drew Bledsoe will take a seat.) He's got weapons, but still, playing Carolina in Charlotte is a very tough assignment, and Romo showed Monday he'll make the big mistake … Walter and the Raiders passing game actually have a fine match-up against Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, I don't think the offensive line talent is there to give Oakland consistent pass protection against what will be a swarming blitz … Wallace isn't an absolute nightmare waiting to happen, at least not from a fantasy perspective. He can run. Matt Hasselbeck owners should pick up Wallace, and see what happens.

Running Backs

Rank Name Opponent Week 7 Rating
1 LaDainian Tomlinson STL 2
2 Brian Westbrook JAC 3
3 Larry Johnson SEA 5
4 Willie Parker @ OAK 7
5 Tiki Barber TB 10
6 Warrick Dunn @ CIN 18
7 Steven Jackson @ SD bye
8 Tatum Bell IND 13
9 Chester Taylor NE 16
10 Rudi Johnson ATL 12
11 Thomas Jones SF bye
12 Travis Henry HOU bye
13 Ahman Green ARI 26
14 Julius Jones @ CAR 14
15 Edgerrin James @ GB 9
16 Carnell Williams @ NYG 11
17 Fred Taylor @ PHI 8
18 Reuben Droughns NYJ 24
19 Deuce McAllister BAL bye
20 Frank Gore @ CHI bye
21 Laurence Maroney @ MIN 17
22 Corey Dillon @ MIN 20
23 Leon Washington @ CLE 31
24 Maurice Jones-Drew @ PHI 25
25 Joseph Addai @ DEN 21
26 Jamal Lewis @ NO bye
27 Wali Lundy @ TEN 30
28 Dominic Rhodes @ DEN 19
29 DeShaun Foster DAL 22
30 Reggie Bush BAL bye
31 Brandon Jacobs TB 33
32 Maurice Morris @ KC 28
33 Marion Barber @ CAR 27
34 Cedric Benson SF bye
35 Justin Fargas PIT NR
36 Jerious Norwood @ CIN 36
37 Zack Crockett PIT NR
38 LenDale White HOU bye
39 Kevan Barlow @ CLE 29
40 Najeh Davenport @ OAK 34

Notes: In a shocking development, Tomlinson will kick three field goals for San Diego this week … 4.7 yards per carry against what had been a very difficult San Diego defense to run against made for a terrific week for Larry Johnson. Seattle is stingy against the rush, but L.J. is hot … Parker has his worst game of the year, and bumps up three spots? I think the Steelers will run wild over the Raiders this week; Pittsburgh is pissed about last week, Oakland is a little smug and self-satisfied, and with anything resembling an offensive line, you can run on the Raiders … Barber is going to start scoring. It's going to happen. Will he log as many touchdowns as ESPN does stories about his pending retirement? Probably not. Still, the odds are going to even out for Tiki … Dunn struggling against a Steelers defense that's so bad against the pass was eminently predictable. I think the Falcons get back to their rushing roots against a beaten-up Bengals front-seven … Steven Jackson is a risky pick every week, because of the Rams' excellent passing game, but this week he's a true boom-or-bust guy. He's been really consistent and has run very powerfully, but the Chargers are smarting from the beat-down they took in Kansas City. With San Diego particularly depleted in the linebacker corps, though, I think Jackson can get points … I guess I'm buying into Henry, at least for this week. Houston isn't as good against the run as Jacksonville made them look last week (Fred Taylor's fumble was just a killer), and Henry's going to keep running for a big contract for however long the Titans let him … James only carried the ball 13 times in Oakland last week, while Matt Leinart tossed it 32. I grant you that the much-maligned Arizona offensive line is bad. And I grant you that Arizona got way too conservative with the lead against the Bears. Still, they're better off giving it to Edge more. I say he scores this week against a Packers defense that has to be worried primarily about the pass … Droughns is someone I talked about in a Yahoo! video segment this week. If he doesn't break out against the weak Jets' rush defense, it's time for the Browns to give Jerome Harrison the starting gig. Droughns claims he's relatively healthy now, and while Cleveland's offensive line is just as bad as Arizona's, there's no excuse for being the 42nd-ranked fantasy RB … The New England situation is frustrating: Maroney looks great in flashes, but is wasting energy returning kicks. Dillon is clearly the goal-line option. Neither is a fantastic play this week in Minnesota … In my mind, McAllister is verging on RB1 status; he gets nearly all red-zone carries (he has four scores), and is averaging more than 15 carries a game. Bush gets about 10 a game, and then all those receptions. The problem this week is Baltimore's in town … If you've got Leon Washington, you can play him with confidence … The Colts' backs are downgraded this week in Denver, and I've assumed for the moment that LaMont Jordan won't play, so Fargas and Crockett are listed.

Wide Receivers

Rank Name Opponent Week 7 Rating
1 Anquan Boldin @ GB 9
2 Torry Holt @ SD bye
3 Steve Smith DAL 1
4 T.J. Houshmandzadeh ATL 7
5 Darrell Jackson @ KC 4
6 Andre Johnson @ TEN 6
7 Terrell Owens @ CAR 5
8 Marvin Harrison @ DEN 2
9 Laveranues Coles @ CLE 8
10 Chad Johnson ATL 10
11 Plaxico Burress TB 12
12 Randy Moss PIT 16
13 Reggie Wayne @ DEN 14
14 Reggie Brown JAC 22
15 Hines Ward @ OAK 25
16 Donald Driver ARI 26
17 Bernard Berrian SF bye
18 Marques Colston BAL bye
19 Jerricho Cotchery @ CLE 28
20 Reggie Williams @ PHI 13
21 Javon Walker IND 18
22 Terry Glenn @ CAR 17
23 Eddie Kennison SEA 40
24 Joey Galloway @ NYG 23
25 Muhsin Muhammad SF bye
26 Keyshawn Johnson DAL 27
27 Joe Horn BAL bye
28 Doug Gabriel @ MIN 30
29 Deion Branch @ KC 21
30 Amani Toomer TB 24
31 Braylon Edwards NYJ 35
32 Antonio Bryant @ CHI bye
33 Bryant Johnson @ GB 33
34 Mark Clayton @ NO bye
35 Brandon Jones HOU 34
36 Troy Williamson NE 37
37 Isaac Bruce @ SD bye
38 Drew Bennett HOU bye
39 Joe Jurevicius NYJ NR
40 Eric Moulds @ TEN 32
41 Chad Jackson @ MIN NR
42 Michael Clayton @ NYG 39
43 Arnaz Battle @ CHI bye
44 Michael Jenkins @ CIN 44
45 Santonio Holmes @ OAK NR
46 Derrick Mason @ NO bye
47 Eric Parker STL 48
48 Drew Carter DAL NR
49 Nate Washington @ OAK NR
50 Ernest Wilford @ PHI 29

Notes: Boldin only caught four passes for 59 yards last week, but Matt Leinart still targeted him 13 times. The Packers struggle against big receivers, and Boldin is clearly the rookie QB's security blanket. He can have a very big game in what might be a shootout this week … Holt is leading receivers in fantasy points per game, but San Diego has still allowed the second-fewest points to opposing receivers. Holt will get his, but I don't expect a three-touchdown day … One week after ranking Houshmandzadeh ahead of Chad Johnson for the first time, I see no reason to change. Even if 7/11 is the better receiver, Housh is getting just as many targets (each was thrown to 12 times last week), and Housh has lately been a better red-zone threat. If you took away the names on the backs of the uniforms (and considering the amount of attention each gets), I bet you'd rank Housh higher, too … Harrison and Wayne travel to Denver to play that stingiest of all stingy NFL defenses. Of course, the Broncos have amassed the back half of their impressive streak against three inept offenses in a row (Baltimore, Oakland and Cleveland), and I don't think Denver will shut down the Indy wideouts completely. But I don't think they're going to combine for three scores again, either … Given how Atlanta's passing game looked against the Steelers, I think Randy Moss scores again this week … Sleeper of the week: Kennison. It's kind of a shot out of left field, but Seattle gives up the third-most fantasy points to receivers, and Kennison is still a good red-zone threat. Damon Huard targeted his WRs a paltry 11 times (for four receptions) against San Diego, but that won't fly this week … The Niners are so bad against the run that teams haven't built up big numbers against them via the air. That should change this week, as the Bears come off a bye and seek to reestablish the momentum they lost in the desert. Berrian and Muhammad are starts … I have Brandon Jones rated as Tennessee's top receiver, but of course if David Givens is back, there's a chance Jones doesn't even start. Young has a special rapport with Jones, so if he does start, I like him better than Bennett. Check back Friday … The Minnesota receiving situation is a weird one. Marcus Robinson should be the top-rated guy, as he's been the most consistent end-zone visitor, but his back looks like it'll prevent him from playing. Travis Taylor and Williamson each were concussed in the Seattle game, and Taylor's injury seems far more likely to keep him out. Though his injury looked worst, Williamson sounds like the healthiest of the group.

Tight Ends

Rank Name Opponent Week 7 Rating
1 Antonio Gates STL 1
2 Alge Crumpler @ CIN 6
3 Todd Heap @ NO bye
4 Jeremy Shockey
TB
2
5 Dallas Clark @ DEN 5
6 Kellen Winslow NYJ 4
7 L.J. Smith JAC 3
8 Desmond Clark SF bye
9 Heath Miller @ OAK 10
10 Tony Gonzalez SEA 7
11 Alex Smith @ NYG 11
12 Jason Witten
@ CAR
13
13 Ben Watson
@ MIN
12
14 Owen Daniels @ TEN 21
15 Jerramy Stevens @ KC 15
16 Bo Scaife @HOU bye
17 Ben Troupe HOU bye
18 Chris Baker @ CLE 14
19 Jermaine Wiggins NE 19
20 Eric Johnson @ CHI bye
21 Courtney Anderson
PIT
23
22 Joe Klopfenstein
@ SD
bye
23 David Martin ARI NR
24 Bryan Fletcher @ DEN NR
25 Kris Wilson SEA NR
26 George Wrighster @ PHI 25
27 Kris Mangum DAL 26
28 Daniel Wilcox @ NO bye

Notes: The irresistible force meets the immovable object: Gates takes on the Rams. St. Louis has gotten very good linebacker play from Will Witherspoon and Pisa Tinoisamoa, and has yielded the fewest points per game to fantasy tight ends. Guess who I think wins this battle … This isn't an overreaction to Crumpler's huge day; with Vick looking a little more like an actual QB, Crumpler is the prime receiving option on an offense that suddenly looks moderately robust … The Niners allow the most fantasy points to tight ends, which makes Desmond Clark almost as attractive as red-hot Dallas Clark … Though he didn't register any catches, Stevens did play against the Vikings (who are notoriously tough on TEs) last week; he was targeted twice. I'm not expecting the moon from him yet, but he deserves to be ranked in the middle simply because when he's right, he's an elite receiving option at this position. It's possible Seneca Wallace will use him … The Tennessee guys are pretty much impossible. As one dude, they'd be lovely. As two, they're just frustrating … Per popular request, I'm removing Colston for this list for now. Don't be surprised if you see him in our Friday updates listed at TE, though.

Kickers

Rank Name Opponent Week 7 Rating
1 Robbie Gould SF bye
2 Adam Vinatieri @ DEN 1
3 Nate Kaeding STL 2
4 Jeff Wilkins @ SD bye
5 John Carney BAL bye
6 Josh Brown @ KC 8
7 John Kasay DAL 7
8 Ryan Longwell NE 5
9 Dave Rayner ARI 13
10 Neil Rackers @ GB 14
11 Jay Feely TB 9
12 Jeff Reed @ OAK 17
13 Shayne Graham ATL 6
14 Josh Scobee @ PHI 3
15 Morten Andersen @ CIN 16
16 Mike Vanderjagt @ CAR 4
17 Lawrence Tynes SEA 12
18 Matt Stover @ NO bye
19 Joe Nedney @ CHI bye
20 Jason Elam IND 10
21 David Akers JAC 11
22 Kris Brown @ TEN 25
23 Stephen Gostkowski @ MIN 18
24 Rob Bironas HOU bye
25 Mike Nugent @ CLE 23
26 Sebastian Janikowski PIT 22
27 Phil Dawson NYJ 21
28 Matt Bryant @ NYJ 24

Notes: Gould, Wilkins and Carney are all back this week, and they are the second-, third- and fifth-highest-scoring fantasy kickers in standard leagues that reward for distance. Carney continues to be extremely under-owned in Yahoo! leagues; he's owned in about 60 percent of leagues, while pretty much everyone else in the top-10 is at 80 percent or above. Carney kicks in a dome, and the Saints are much better than predicted. He needs to be owned in every league … Rayner has been a surprise as Longwell's successor in Green Bay. He already has a 54-yarder this season, and would've had a 55-yarder before halftime in Miami last week, except for a series of weird penalties that wound up canceling the made kick. The weather at Lambeau will get bad eventually, but for now, he's usable … Now that Rackers had a big day in Oakland, Elam and Akers are probably the most disappointing kickers in fantasy. Neither has a double-digit fantasy day yet this year; last year, Elam had seven and Akers had two (and remember, he missed four games with an injury … in 2004 he had eight). The only other kickers who've failed to log a double-digit game this year are Jeff Reed, Stephen Gostkowski and Sebastian Janikowski. Reed gets a chance in Oakland this week.

Defenses

Rank Name Opponent Week 7 Rating
1 Chicago Bears SF bye
2 Baltimore Ravens @ NO bye
3 Pittsburgh Steelers @ OAK 2
4 Carolina Panthers DAL 5
5 Philadelphia Eagles JAC 4
6 Green Bay Packers ARI 17
7 Minnesota Vikings NE 13
8 Atlanta Falcons @ CIN 6
9 Jacksonville Jaguars @ PHI 3
10 San Diego Chargers STL 1
11 Denver Broncos IND 7
12 New York Giants TB 11
13 Arizona Cardinals @ GB 12
14 New England Patriots @ MIN 14
15 Dallas Cowboys @ CAR 9
16 Kansas City Chiefs SEA 19
17 Seattle Seahawks @ KC 8
18 Cincinnati Bengals ATL 10
19 New York Jets @ CLE 16
20 Oakland Raiders PIT 22
21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ NYG 24
22 St. Louis Rams @ SD bye
23 New Orleans Saints BAL bye
24 Indianapolis Colts @ DEN 15
25 Cleveland Browns NYJ 25
26 San Francisco 49ers @ CHI bye
27 Houston Texans @ TEN 26
28 Tennessee Titans HOU bye

Notes: Chicago and Baltimore are back, and warrant the top spots in any team-defense leagues … The Steelers' pass defense was exposed yet again as one of the league's weakest. Troy Polamalu made a fantastic interception in the Atlanta game, but he's too much of an all-or-nothing player in my book (the same goes for Roy Williams in Dallas). If Pittsburgh can't shore up the cornerback spot opposed Ike Taylor, it's not going anywhere this January. For this week, however, in Oakland, feel free to continue using them … The Packers have participated in some scoring festivals, and I wouldn't be entirely shocked if this week's game against Arizona was another, as they allow the most passing yards per game in the NFL. But the front seven is coming around faster than just about anything else on this team. Aaron Kampman has 6.5 sacks, A.J. Hawk registered 12 tackles last week, and 3.7 yards per carry for opposing backs is entirely respectable. The secondary isn't good, Charles Woodson's heroics last week notwithstanding, but it's made a few big plays. The home game against rudderless Arizona this week doesn't hurt … It's time to take the Vikings seriously on defense. They've got the third-best points-per-game average in standard-scoring fantasy leagues, and have allowed 16, 13, 19, 17, 17 and 13 real NFL points. The secondary is an absolute strength here, and Kevin Williams has four sacks from the defensive tackle position. Not the best match-up against New England this week, though … Some good defenses have some angry opponents that scare me. Atlanta, Jacksonville, San Diego and Denver all would be ranked higher with less scary offenses playing them … The Giants played spectacularly well against Dallas on Monday night, and if Tampa doesn't do any better with pressure than the Cowboys did, the Giants' bad secondary will get another respite. The Bucs have done a decent job protecting Gradkowski the past few games (two sacks apiece against New Orleans, Cincinnati and Philadelphia), so I think Tampa Bay can get some things done via the air this week … Those still holding out for the Colts to be an elite fantasy defense are going to have to look elsewhere. Injuries, car accidents and mysterious dismissals plague a unit that wasn't as good as its numbers last year.