- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Remember former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith? Sure you do! The Heisman Trophy winner was a fifth-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2007, and he made two starts in his three seasons there. Now a member of the San Francisco 49ers, there's really little reason to expect much from Smith. Then again, I ranked him No. 25 at quarterback this week. Let's just say there are times when I complete my weekly rankings and I'm just not comfortable with the final result. This week is one of those times.
In what was a total surprise to me, Smith was announced Wednesday morning as the 49ers' starting quarterback for Week 8 with Alex Smith on the shelf because of a separated shoulder. Troy Smith's insertion speaks volumes about backup David Carr, but hey, if you're a 1-6 team playing a "home game" in London, why not try something different? What was Carr going to do, anyway? Heck, what was a healthy Alex Smith going to do?
The real reason I ranked Troy Smith at No. 25 is because there are six teams on bye this week, so only 26 quarterbacks warranted being ranked in the first place. Even though Smith has proved little in his career, I liked him better than erratic Arizona Cardinals veteran Derek Anderson. Again, it speaks volumes. He's the only guy left out. I wouldn't go out of my way to actually use Smith, but then again, some pretty usable quarterbacks are on bye this week, led by Eli Manning, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, not to mention sack/interception master Jay Cutler. Maybe you need any quarterback that is going to play. I'd argue Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Freeman and Jon Kitna are actually decent options this week, but in the really deep leagues, who knows?
The change from Alex Smith to Troy Smith -- I originally had Alex ranked 21st -- does have me rethinking the Michael Crabtree ranking, however. This week's 49ers opponent is the Denver Broncos, and they just got tuned up by the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders did much of this damage with the running game, racking up a silly 328 rushing yards. The ESPN Fantasy rankers have Frank Gore a close second to Adrian Peterson for top running back honors this week. Batter up! But with the passing game, I don't want to rely on Crabtree, and possibly not tight end Vernon Davis either.
The tight end position is a mess, with Dallas Clark and Jermichael Finley no longer around, so I'd argue if you own Davis, he's your guy. But Crabtree doesn't come recommended this week. I'll likely move him closer to the 28-32 range at wide receiver later this week, as the Troy Smith announcement was late-breaking news. Crabtree caught touchdown passes in Weeks 5 and 6, but other than that, his best fantasy game was worth five points to standard leaguers. Is Crabtree an all-or-nothing option? Not that Alex Smith was Peyton Manning or anything, but expecting much from the second-year wide receiver with Troy Smith at the helm, now that scares me.
Here are some other thoughts I had regarding my Week 8 rankings:
Bleeding Purple: I ranked Brett Favre 10th at quarterback, a good bit better than the other rankers. You might be wondering, have I lost my mind? Well, hear me out. He's going to play, we all believe. And when he does play, he'll be facing a below-average secondary and a defensive line that doesn't exactly torture passers. In other words, I see Favre gutting it out and putting up decent numbers. It's a good matchup. We know Favre loves the attention, and now that the free world knows he's hurt, he has his sympathy points and can simply perform. It's not a great week for quarterbacks, so while the others have Favre at 16, 16 and 18, I'm going all in.
Dynamic Duo: I realize everyone and their plumber is complaining that Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles isn't getting enough touches, but don't expect things to change. Charles has been good enough to warrant starting, with 71 or more rushing yards in five of six games, and he's the No. 17 running back in standard fantasy scoring this season. Charles is a terrific option this week against the brutal Buffalo Bills. But so is Thomas Jones! Why can't both guys go nuts? I ranked Charles sixth, same as colleague Matthew Berry, and Jones 11th, two spots behind where Erik Kuselias ranked him. Overall, the crew has both Chiefs running backs in the top 12. Use 'em both.
Kitna's krew: Similarly, I don't want to merely guess whether Roy E. Williams or rookie Dez Bryant is going to have the bigger game Sunday with Kitna slingin' it against the terrible Jacksonville Jaguars. I left Miles Austin in my top 10, at No. 10, using the Randy Moss theory that the very best options can still be among the best no matter the quarterback (in case Tarvaris Jackson replaces Favre), and I went with Williams and Bryant at 26 and 27, respectively. The other rankers were thinking the same thing, as the consensus had them reversed, but still at 26 and 27. I view Williams and Bryant more as flex options, because they both exist to take touches from the other. But flex options still matter.