- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
This week just feels weird without Adrian Peterson. He's the guy I rank first at running back as well as in my Thursday flex rankings every week. I don't even have to think about it. Anyone else in the top spot just feels so wrong. Let's just say I don't miss Marshawn Lynch or Justin Fargas, two other starting running backs on bye this week. I'll find someone else to rank 24th and 30th or wherever those guys would have ended up. That's easy. Replacing the top guy isn't.
I still hear Peterson owners whining because the Minnesota Vikings running back hasn't been so much better than everyone else. It's true, Peterson isn't running away with the title of fantasy's top player, and he might not after the bye, either. He's tied for second with Matt Schaub and behind Aaron Rodgers in fantasy scoring, and although he has a double-digit lead on every other running back, check out how those other contenders have gotten there. Maurice Jones-Drew comes off a 29-point performance and has two games better than that already. He also has three games in single digits. Chris Johnson is next, and although he has delivered two of the top games in all of fantasy this season, he also has been in single digits four times. Drew Brees has delivered a few stinkers. So have Andre Johnson and Randy Moss. When has Peterson really let you down? Four consecutive weeks now, he has given you strong games, between 16 and 19 points. He hasn't truly gone nuts since Week 1, but that's OK, because I'd prefer consistency. Just don't deliver a stinker.
This week Peterson won't help you at all. If you're like me, you look at your active lineup and can't be at all pleased. Something is just missing, as in your best player is out playing golf while you so desperately need a win! How rude! Anyway, all four of us rankers settled on Jones-Drew as the top running back this week, but rest assured we'll miss Peterson.
A few other things I noticed while ranking players this week:
Houston, we have a problem: I honestly don't consider Ryan Moats very much of a threat for this week, which appears obvious given my Steve Slaton rank at No. 13. I and Matthew Berry basically trust Slaton, while Christopher Harris and Erik Kuselias take a different stance, putting Moats and Slaton in the same area (the 27th-30th region). I understand that reasoning, but that would mean an actual timeshare. To me, even in an actual time-share, most times the running backs don't split the fantasy points evenly. One of them does better. What's also interesting is that I ranked Moats where Harris and Kuselias did. One would think a motivated Slaton will get the football plenty and hold on to it this week. But we all seemed to agree about Moats' production, at least.
This week's lock ready to disappoint: I blogged about the disappointing David Garrard on Monday, when suddenly the Tennessee Titans' defense played a good game, but now Alex Smith and the 49ers get to face it. Our ESPN Fantasy projections seem to trust Smith quite a bit, giving him 239 yards, three touchdowns, 19 points and a No. 6 rank. I saw those projections, but I still couldn't rank Smith any higher than No. 15 at quarterback. I thought for sure the other rankers would like Smith more than I would ... but then none of them did. This doesn't mean we trust the Titans, because none of us ranked their defense better than No. 17 -- I had it at No. 22 -- but isn't it odd that Smith's ranking wasn't better this week than those of Garrard, Matt Cassel and Matt Ryan, all of whom are struggling? Says a lot about our faith in Smith. By the way, we all ranked Michael Crabtree as a WR3. He is gaining our trust.
Battle of the Bays: I placed fantasy's top player No. 1 at quarterback, although the cumulative Aaron Rodgers rank was fourth. Not a big deal. The Buccaneers are terrible, and I do expect the Packers to enjoy themselves, so I went against my standard Ryan Grant thinking and made him top-10, and Greg Jennings joined Donald Driver among my top 11 wide receivers. The Packers might have to score 45 points for all these ranks to look smart, and sadly, they might do that. The Packers' defense also ended up No. 2 for the week, and we all saw how a certain future Hall of Fame quarterback -- on bye this week, thankfully! -- strafed it in Week 8. Very telling.
Eric Karabell discusses his Week 9 rankings, including why he put such guys as Steve Slaton, Ryan Moats and Ryan Grant where he did.