Every Friday during the NFL season, we'll review the Yahoo! weekly position ranks. If an expert breaks from the herd on a particular player, they'll be asked to show their work. This may get ugly. It's not like any of us entered the fantasy sports industry because we wanted more accountability...
Eli Manning (Pianowski's rank: 9; Yahoo! composite: 13). I wouldn't say I'm mad for Eli Manning. While there's no way to show this on site, I consider him at the top of a tier and very similar to the names below him. That said, I like his durability, I like his rapport with Plaxico Burress, and I like his set-up entering the season -- the New York media is focused on the other big-name QB in town, and the Super Bowl run adds confidence and takes pressure off Manning. He was a Top 10 fantasy QB in 2005-06 before a mild slip last year (an early shoulder problem held him back some). He can rebound to those previous levels of production.
Wes Welker (Behrens' rank: 20; Yahoo! composite: 13). During the Friends & Family draft, Scott Pianowski asked me this question: "Why the hate for Wesley?" It hadn't occurred to me until that moment that relative to my peers, I'm not crazy about Welker. Here's the thing: even if you believe that the Patriots will repeat last year's unprecedented, record-shattering offensive success, how much better do you think Welker can possibly be? He was targeted 145 times. He caught 112 passes. It produced a vintage Troy Brown line: 1175 yards, 8 TDs.
We know that he's a human first down. We know he's the perfect complement to Randy Moss. It's just that he's not Plan A in the red zone, and his numbers from 2007 -- when he was 15th at his position in per-game fantasy points -- seem very close to his ceiling.
Still, for the record, if a receiver is ranked in the top 20, that means they're a recommended starter in a 10-team, two-WR league. So "hate" is a strong word.
Reggie Bush (Funston's rank: 18; Yahoo! composite: 23). I have a stars-aligning feeling in general for the Saints and, offensively, I think they can be better than ever with the addition of TE Jeremy Shockey and the emergence of an offensive line that should be considered among the top five units in the league. With the Saints' expected ability to be able to spread the field against a very cupcake schedule, it's not a stretch to envision a return to 2nd-half rookie season levels for a re-dedicated Bush:
"I'm taking a whole different approach this year ... I'm just trying to cut everything down and cut a lot of stuff out and cut a lot of people out and just focus on football. It starts now."
I have Bush No. 18 among RBs. Last season, he ranked No. 19 among RBs in fantasy points per game. He's scored 16 TDs in his past 22 NFL games (two postseason games included). Frankly, I really don't think I'm too far out on a limb with where I've slotted him.
Brandon Marshall (Buser's rank: 24; Yahoo! composite: 17). My reasoning for dropping Brandon Marshall to 24th in the most recent WR rankings can be summed up in one word: overreaction. Couple his tumultuous offseason and subsequent two-game suspension with reports that he looked out of shape in early workouts, and my gut reaction was "avoid this guy". Upon further review...you'll find Marshall a bit higher in my rankings the next time around. Between Marshall's renewed focus, Rod Smith's influence, and an ever-evolving relationship with his QB, I can see that he deserves the uptick. And taking a truly objective look at his 2007 splits, you can't help but feel that 14 games from Marshall does figure to be at least as good as 16 games from most.
Hey, the next time my rankings aren't fluid will actually be the first.
Vernon Davis (Evans' rank: 7; Yahoo! composite: 9). Davis may possess questionable focus and a politician's ego, but his extraordinary athletic talents will finally be maximized by aerial mastermind Mike Martz. In the 49ers revamped spread system he is expected to receive "way more touches" in what could be a 70-catch season. Sure, the current quarterback situation is eerily reminiscent to Carolina's three-headed ferret from '07, but whether it's J.T. O' Sullivan, Alex Smith or Shaun Hill who emerges from the fray, someone will throw a ton, which means plenty of downfield looks for the third-year tight end.
Davis has also worked extensively this offseason and training camp to improve his timing routes and defensive reads. Given VD's incredible physical gifts, presumed mental advancements and Martz's pass-till-you-puke philosophy, his chances for a breakout season are favorable. This explains why he's slotted at No. 7 in the Noise's preseason TE rankings.
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