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There are 26 quarterbacks with more Fantasy points than Tom Brady, so why does the future Hall of Fame QB crack my Top 10 this week? First, I have faith in his ability to produce when this Patriots roster is healthy. But more importantly, I think the Raiders defense is as bad as they have shown through two weeks. Opponents are completing 77.1 percent of passes against them this year, a concerning stat if Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers were responsible for those numbers. However, I’m not sure “concerning” is the right word when Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick produce those numbers.
No player in football has thrown more passes and averages more passes per attempt than Matt Ryan, a nice style of play when opposing a defense that is allowing 73 percent of passes to be completed and has yet to record an interception. I would have him ranked higher if not for a nagging Roddy White injury that has me a little concerned and the negative effect of Thursday night football on the passing game.
Eli Manning has graded out very well this season when not under pressure (using Pro Football Focus’ grading system, he has been twice as good as brother Peyton in such situations this season!), a trend I’ll take to the bank, as only the Saints have seen opponents pass more while recording fewer sacks this season than the Texans.
Running Back Ranks:
Arian Foster may be a liability when it comes to playing 16 games, but these are my Week 3 rankings and I’ll take my chances on him making it through this week. Through two weeks, he has carried the mail 34.1 percent more often than LeSean McCoy and 111.5 percent more than Marshawn Lynch … the only two backs that eclipsed the 300 carry plateau in 2013. Houston clearly wants to maximize the impact their stud back can have when healthy, a strategy that has resulted in great returns for Foster in the early going this season and should continue this week.
I don’t think the change under center can do anything but help Alfred Morris, and given the Colts’ approach to limiting the effectiveness of the Eagles up-tempo offense, I think it is very possible we see a second straight game with 20-plus touches for the Redskins’ workhorse. He gets an Eagles team that will be on a short work week and surrendered 191 yards and two scores on 40 touches to the vaunted duo of Ahmad Bradshaw/Trent Richardson. This just in: Morris is a better runner than both of those players. Cut that in half and it puts you in the RB1 conversation, and if Morris assumes the role of a clock-melter, as I expect, there is no reason he can’t go above and beyond those numbers.
Donald Brown finally gets a chance at an extended workload and this Bills defense isn’t a bad place to start. Some may question his ability to handle anything more than a complimentary role, but consider this: he has scored six rushing touchdowns in his last six games with 10-plus carries. I’m not expecting Danny Woodhead to all of a sudden become a between the tackles runner now that Ryan Mathews is sidelined, so that 10 carry plateau shouldn’t be an issue. Philip Rivers has been very efficient since the beginning of last year and that has resulted in a strong rushing attack. There are going to be open holes on Sunday and I trust the veteran to make the most of them in his first San Diego start.
Wide Receiver Ranks:
Marques Colston averaged 47 percent more receptions and 21 percent more yards per reception at home last season, a direct result of the vast difference in the splits of Drew Brees. Consider this: Last season, nine teams had the ability to play indoors (down to eight this season with the stadium renovations in Minnesota). The quarterback that led those nine teams in total passing yards was much more valuable inside than they were outside, averaging 7.34 yards per attempt (+6.5 percent from their outdoors numbers) and 2.07 touchdowns per interception (+39.9 percent). In other words, you can count on New Orleans to bounce back from their 0-2 start, and I anticipate that Brees finds a rhythm by funneling the offense through his only consistent receiver.
Randall Cobb has very quietly been the fourth most productive receiver in Fantasy this season. The reason no one is noticing is because teammate Jordy Nelson is keeping pace with Calvin Johnson for the top spot at the position, but that should change this weekend in Detroit. Nelson has hauled in just ten passes for 141 yards and zero touchdowns in his last three games against the divisional rival, but that shouldn’t be a surprise given the Lions’ effectiveness against WR1s. Since Week 11 of last season, Greg Jennings is the only WR1 (for his team, not from a Fantasy perspective) to record more than four catches against the Detroit secondary, with the two top receivers (Victor Cruz and Kelvin Benjamin) this season combining for just four receptions. I’m not suggesting that Nelson gets shut down to that level, but I do think there is something to be said for the Lions focusing in on the most dangerous weapon, thus giving Cobb some extra room to work this weekend in what figures to be an entertaining affair.
If Cecil Shorts is active this week, he could have a very nice start to his 2014 campaign. Only eight players had more targets and a lower aDOT (average depth of target) last season than Shorts, a style of pass-catcher that caused major problems for the Colts last week in the form of Darren Sproles. Shorts should bring some consistency and experience to this Jags pass attack, and for a team that figures to fall behind early, that could result in sneaky good Fantasy value.
Tight End Ranks:
Name all of the players, not just tight ends, in the league with at least 17 targets, 0 drops, and an aDOT of at least 9.0.
Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, and … Larry Donnell. For those of us who didn’t spend an early pick on a tight end, the position has become similar to streaming defenses in that you look for any positive trend you can find and ride it out as long as possible. I touched on Manning being in a spot to succeed this weekend and that should allow Donnell to continue his strong start for at least one more week.
Have ranking questions? Sit/Start quandaries? I take questions of all kinds at all times.