- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Quite possibly my favorite week to do the rankings each season is Week 17, because it's the one time where anything goes, and it's easy to justify. I mean, most weeks, you see the same quarterbacks in the top 10 each week, and there's rarely a key decision to be made. You've got Kurt Warner, so he's always in, Vince Young is rarely close to in. However, this week is the one when the quarterback rankings in particular can get so crazy, one might think the fantasy rankers have collectively lost their minds. We haven't, not really. Matt Ryan over Drew Brees? Alex Smith over Philip Rivers? Eli Manning over Peyton Manning? It's all true, and I think all likely to come to fruition in the actual Week 17 scoring. This is why so many fantasy championships are decided before this final, fun, exhilarating week, because so many fantasy owners are scared to deviate from the norm that got them there.
That's right, I think this is a fun week, actually, while others who have been relying on Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals all season long might not find it so fun. Hey, I'm in the championship round in a few leagues, and I don't mind making the decision to sit Carson Palmer, who I've stuck with all season, for Alex Smith, who I've bashed for years. This week, it's clearly the right call. This is the week the big quarterback names really don't matter, because like any other week, it stands to reason that each owner needs to find his or her best options, whomever they are. Jay Cutler in the top 10 of quarterbacks? Hey, he's facing the Detroit Lions. I'm aboard. At least I know he'll be slingin' it 25 times. I don't think Brees will.
As odd as my quarterback rankings seem this week, I find it just as interesting how little change there is when it comes to the other positions, notably at running back, where there don't seem to be any reaches at all. Jerome Harrison is in my top 10 not because there is a lack of depth this week, nor because some really big names will have their playing time compromised. He's just a really good choice. Then again, of the playoff teams who have and still are possibilities for first-round byes, how many top-10 running backs are there, other than Adrian Peterson?
Wide receiver is somewhere in between quarterback and running back. Some big names are still ranked well, but then again, I never thought I'd place Mohamed Massaquoi and Devin Aromashodu over Reggie Wayne. Welcome to Week 17!
Anyway, as always it has been a pleasure to rank players all season long, and I hope they've gone a long way -- my rankings and those of my colleagues -- to helping you not only win your leagues, but to enjoy the ride. Here are some other thoughts I had about my Week 17 rankings.
Chris Johnson and Wes Welker might set records: I realize I might be alone in this, but I ranked Johnson and Welker as if they are going to have terrific weeks. In our projections, Ray Rice is the top running back, but I can't remove Johnson from the lead spot. He needs upwards of 200 rushing yards to break the NFL single-season record, and I think he's going to get close. As for Welker, he'd basically need an individual-game record of receptions to get the single-season mark, and no matter how much I hear Tom Brady could sit some, I don't believe it. Welker, like Brady and Randy Moss, is going to have a huge day in a Houston scorefest, and both New England weapons made my top 5.
Running backs out but not forgotten: I didn't forget to rank DeAngelo Williams, Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs and Pierre Thomas, among others, but I find it hard to believe these guys actually suit up at all. All four of those teams have other options, and none of these teams needs to win the game. As a result, Jonathan Stewart made my top 10, Mike Bell and Jason Snelling look like borderline RB2 options and as for the New York Giants, well, it's possible we see a lot of throwing by Eli Manning. I did rank Joseph Addai, but he didn't fare well, and Donald Brown did.
Trusting quarterbacks we've often bashed: OK, back to the lead point of the blog, which was the quarterback rankings look kind of ridiculous. No, I don't feel wonderful about heading into a championship match with Cutler, Ryan or the other Manning, but that's what often defines Week 17. I'd prefer to play things safe if I know my starting quarterback could sit out part of most of a football game. If I lose because Cutler throws four interceptions against one of the worst defenses in football, I guess that is better than relying on Peyton Manning for all of three series total. And I'll say this about the backups for the Colts, Chargers, Bengals and any other teams that might be sitting their quarterbacks early, don't get cute and play a backup in fantasy football. I know someone who started Jim Sorgi in his championship matchup last season. Sorgi threw for 178 yards, but no touchdowns. Afterward, he wasn't pleased. Go with a regular starter in a good matchup, even someone you never thought you'd need to rely on.
Eric Karabell discusses the final rankings of the 2009 season, noting how volatile quarterbacks are.