- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Tuesday night, it looked as if Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was unlikely to recover from his concussion in time to suit up for Sunday's home tilt with the rival New York Giants. So I advised Vick owners to prepare for the scenario that he wouldn't play, proudly saying on "NFL Live" that Mike Kafka would be my No. 20-ranked quarterback for this week. Isn't it amazing how much things can change in a week? Who would have guessed the Northwestern product would ever play, let alone be ranked by a fantasy analyst?
Well, Wednesday morning I changed my mind again; a few minutes before our Week 3 rankings were released, I saw the news that Vick was now likely to play and slotted him back in as my No. 5 quarterback -- as did two other rankers -- and removed Kafka. Vick playing would add clarity to the situation; it's nearly impossible to tell what the inexperienced Kafka would do, though with his weapons and the Giants' shaky secondary, it would have been interesting. Now with Vick likely to start, it's irrelevant. But this underscores how a fantasy owner should always be looking for the right depth at quarterback.
The quarterback rankings look strange this week, and I certainly played a role in that. Cam Newton in our top 10? You betcha! Ryan Fitzpatrick over Ben Roethlisberger? Shootout on the way! I even gave Rex Grossman a top-15 ranking among quarterbacks, something I didn't think I would do.
The question about where to rank Vick, Newton and Tony Romo is interesting, not only based on their matchups, but their health. Vick has a concussion. I am surprised the Eagles would start him, but I'm not a doctor and don't know the severity of his injury. A decade ago everyone played through concussions. Now that's not the case. But you won't see me cautiously ranking Vick 20th at quarterback, either. I trust that if the team/doctors give a stud quarterback the go-ahead, he will perform well.
Romo barely missed my top 10, not because he broke a rib and punctured a lung, but because his top wide receivers might actually be Kevin Ogletree and Jesse Holley. It's a far cry from Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. And Newton's walking boot doesn't concern me at all. What should concern fantasy owners a bit, however, is that the Panthers' opponent is the Jacksonville Jaguars, and their rookie quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, will be making his first start. The Panthers trailed the first two weeks, thus Newton could ignore the running game and throw for 800-plus yards. If the Jags can't move the ball, Newton won't need to throw for 400 yards again.
Regardless, I trust a beaten-up quarterback statistically if he's going to play, more so than a healthy guy who isn't doing much, such as Joe Flacco or Josh Freeman. Eli Manning belongs in that group as well. Don't look at his preseason ranking, because it just doesn't matter anymore.
Here are a few other thoughts about this week's staff rankings:
Quarterback: I was asked by a prominent ESPN manager if it would be crazy to start Newton over Aaron Rodgers this week, knowing that the Packers are at Soldier Field in Chicago. Rodgers hasn't been dominant in past road trips there, with an average of 252 yards and one touchdown pass in three outings. Well, I didn't rank Rodgers first overall this week, but there remains a reliability factor there. I stick with Rodgers. Meanwhile, I did put Fitzpatrick over Roethlisberger -- and Matthew Berry had the Bills' quarterback seven spots ahead of Big Ben -- based on their matchups. The Patriots have not stopped the pass. Sure, they haven't lost to the Bills seemingly since the Reagan administration (it was actually 2003), but that only fuels the notion that the Bills will be throwing plenty in a 38-31 type of game.
Running back: I was very interested to see where the Houston running backs landed. Christopher Harris and myself had Ben Tate in the top 10 (his consensus was 13). Tate looks terrific and yes, I would start him this week. I was asked by a prominent ESPN baseball writer whether he should consider Arian Foster this week, and I said no. I'd be surprised if he plays, especially since Tate has been so good. The poor baseball writer has Foster, Jamaal Charles, Peyton Manning and Miles Austin -- and he's still 2-0. What a crazy game! There's also much love for the Lions' Jahvid Best and the Bills' Fred Jackson. Two rankers thought Knowshon Moreno would play -- though not me -- but each curiously ranked Willis McGahee much better. Meanwhile, Thomas Jones didn't get as much love from the group as I gave him.
Wide receiver: My top 10 nearly mirrored the staff average, but there was some deviation on the Panthers' Steve Smith. A pair of top-8 finishes and two others at 16. I trust him, but the Panthers should get to run some this week, too. We all think Brandon Lloyd returns, but three of us had Eric Decker at No. 33 anyway. It's also interesting that three of us had Percy Harvin at No. 22, but one ranker had him at 31. Free Percy Harvin! C'mon, Donovan McNabb, make him relevant!
Good luck with your rankings. We'll update ours Friday.
Eric Karabell analyzes this week's rankings decisions, including where to rank Michael Vick, Arian Foster, Ryan Fitzpatrick and others.