Fantasy ranks: Alex Smith a legit fill-in

Alex Smith threw three first-half touchdown passes. Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Sometimes the weekly quarterback rankings can look a little bit funny, not only when there are teams on byes -- this week we lose Cam Newton, but nothing else valuable -- but also when injuries and poor play enter the equation. Wanna play Alex Smith or Blake Bortles over Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck this week? Well, I personally wouldn’t, but I can see why someone would. This week’s quarterback rankings certainly seem a bit odd, though, as Smith, despite the lowest total QBR among qualified passers, nearly made our top 10.

Therein lies one difference between QBR and fantasy. The Kansas City Chiefs' check-down artist is 12th in fantasy points among quarterbacks so far, and he’s even found a wide receiver for one of his four touchdowns! Smith isn’t a bad quarterback, but he’s certainly not known for launching many deep passes or, really, for attempting many past 10 yards downfield. That hasn’t changed much after a month, but his receivers -- really, Jeremy Maclin -- are doing excellent work after the catch, and that should continue this week against the lowly Chicago Bears.

Last season’s Chiefs ranked 29th in passing yards and 28th in attempts. While it’s a bit early to call this a new offense, with much of the same personnel as 2014, coach Andy Reid has certainly been known to abandon the running game in the past without warning. Sure, the Chiefs have struggled defensively so far, but against a couple good quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers, Manning), and when a team trails it throws. It’s certainly possible that Jamaal Charles embarrasses the Bears this week while Smith, Maclin and Travis Kelce aren’t needed much, but the way the Chiefs have defended, I expect Jay Cutler and his pals -- well, his wide receivers -- to be busy, too. Hopefully Alshon Jeffery can play,

I’ve got rejuvenated Carolina Panthers quarterback Newton in a few leagues and didn’t have a backup, and yeah, I chose Smith to replace him. He’ll be off the roster a week from now but still, the fact that Smith was the obvious choice surprised me. Should it? After all, he just missed being a top-10 fantasy quarterback in 2013, not so much with eye-popping statistics but because he avoided interceptions. Last season he was top-20. It wouldn’t be so shocking if a big Week 5 performance against Chicago keeps him close to top-10 consideration the rest of October as well.

Quarterback: Jacksonville Jaguars sophomore Bortles earned a top-20 ranking from the crew for a road tilt against Tampa Bay. Fair or unfair? Bortles has outscored Smith -- and all but 10 quarterbacks -- so far. The Buccaneers can’t defend. Yeah, it’s fair. … I ranked Peyton Manning ninth and little brother Eli 10th. Fair or unfair? Eli generally ends up a borderline top-10 guy now, and he should have little trouble with San Francisco. Peyton generally cleans up against Oakland, but I have some doubts, clearly. Still a fantasy starter, but something isn’t right. … I thought about leaving Luck out of my top 10. I think he’ll play and play well enough to be useful, plus the Texans are a mess. The Falcons tore them apart with ease last week. I actually think we might be underranking Frank Gore, though. … Philip Rivers against Pittsburgh seems like a better play to me than to the others. Not sure why. Rivers and Keenan Allen are totally in tune and Antonio Gates is back. … I’m not buying on Sam Bradford, and I wonder when the others will stop as well. Philly’s offensive line is, well, offensive. I’d rather use Jay Cutler.

Running back: Three major players at this position currently have the “Q” tag on them, meaning, in theory, they’re 50-50 to play. Their coaches, of course, probably know already if they will play or not. They are Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and Karlos Williams. Isn’t it odd that Williams is ranked ahead of Lynch? I understand the matchup for Williams, at Tennessee -- beats Lynch’s matchup in Cincinnati -- but still, I think we’re going overboard on Williams. I rank him 15th. He has a concussion. He’s scoring touchdowns but wasn’t special at all with major carries last week. If he sits, and perhaps even if he doesn’t, Boobie Dixon is a flex option. I do think Foster runs all over Indy on Thursday and Lynch is top-10, too. Thomas Rawls did nothing on Monday. Fantasy owners get too excited about rookie fill-ins. Todd Gurley is special. Not sure Williams and Rawls are. … Why did I rank DeMarco Murray 25th? Again, I don’t know why anyone would expect the Eagles to be a good running team this week. They’ve showed nada. … I’m a bit concerned about Joseph Randle dropping footballs on various carpets, and I ranked Christine Michael just in case. Randle is a strong RB2 for now. … This is the first week, best I can tell, that Ronnie Hillman is held in higher esteem than C.J. Anderson. Pretty good reason for that, but don’t force Hillman into lineups. Denver’s offensive line is also a problem.

Wide receiver: Perhaps this surprises some people, and I know he’s had an awesome career, but among the wide receivers I ranked ahead of Calvin Johnson are Keenan Allen, Larry Fitzgerald and the aforementioned Maclin, coming off consecutive 140-yard games. Something’s wrong with Matthew Stafford. … I generally rank T.Y. Hilton better, but again, it’s about Luck, not luck. … Martavis Bryant makes his season debut and breaks my top 30, but not for the staff. … Good week to use Rueben Randle. Amazing how many people still ask about Victor Cruz. Forget about him! … Sleeper alert for Willie Snead. Made our top 40. … Kamar Aiken did not, because a few rankers disregarded him, which is fair. A few others made him a WR3. Interesting dichotomy, eh? … And this week’s tight end facing the Raiders -- they’re allowing 18 fantasy points per game to the position, next most is 13 is Denver’s available Owen Daniels. And welcome back, Rob Gronkowski!