Eric Karabell Football: NFL

Week 3 ranks reactions: Believe in Brady? 

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
4:09
PM ET

Tom BradyAP Photo/Lynne SladkyTom Brady has two single-digit fantasy performances to open the season.
The Tom Brady fans/apologists swore that the New England Patriots quarterback was far from done after a disappointing 2013 season, that all he needed was better pass protection and his full corps of weapons at his disposal. I'm neither a fan nor apologist, just objective analyst, and I agreed that Brady was a tad underrated in drafts. The skills remain. Patriots management felt so confident about the offensive line that Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins was shipped off to Tampa Bay for a reserve tight end Brady has targeted four times so far, while starting tight end Rob Gronkowski has certainly been at Brady's disposal for roughly half the snaps and leads the team in targets so far. No excuses, right?

Well, Brady has delivered a pair of uninspiring nine-point fantasy efforts the first two weeks, and there's no need to rehash the metrics, for he's played every bit as poorly as it appears. For perspective, 100 players/defenses have more points so far, including 28 quarterbacks. Derek Anderson and Kirk Cousins achieved 18 points in one game each. It's pretty clear that this Sunday, Brady's performance at home against the lowly Oakland Raiders will be a significant turning point for his value. Rock Oakland's world for 25 fantasy points and Brady looks reliable again, trustworthy, capable of supplying top-10 numbers. Disappoint with another single-digit effort and, well, many are going to wonder whether he's even worth owning anymore.

2014 rankings update: Peterson situation 

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
1:39
PM ET

Adrian PetersonJeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsIt is still unknown when or if Adrian Peterson will play again this season.
The obvious risk in cutting Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in a fantasy league at this point is that he does suit up and play again this season, and based on the ridiculousness I've seen in the past few weeks, with constant altering of decisions based on reacting to external reactions, I say it's 50-50 he does play again. Fantasy owners need to separate their views on off-field situations -- real-life things that really matter -- and think about value and potential playing time and upside. On Monday, I was pretty skeptical that Peterson would play in Week 3. When I awoke Wednesday, that decision was seemingly clarified. Would it surprise me if Peterson plays in a month? Not one bit.

So it is that Tuesday's end-of-season rankings get the rare Wednesday update because Peterson's situation is so critical in every fantasy league, it warrants attention. Again, don't confuse matters. Separate all the legal and moral issues and focus on one thing: Will this person play again this season? Will it be soon? We know he's a special player on the field. I originally dropped Peterson from No. 3 overall to No. 13 for the Tuesday blog entry, a weekly staple, because I was concerned he would miss more time than the Vikings -- or the NFL, I suppose -- was originally letting on. These are hot button issues and everyone seems to have an opinion now, and as we've seen those external opinions drove the change in decision. There's a court hearing in early October and you bet this situation could change again by then.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was originally a top-three overall pick just like Peterson, and brings similar upside. And he has a high ankle sprain. My feeling is that Charles misses roughly a month of playing time, so I dropped him in the rankings to barely RB2 status. I was going to do this with Peterson. I'm not remotely comparing the reasons they are missing games, but to the point at hand for a fantasy column, I could see each playing in a month. However, I do think the situation with Peterson is more dire, and public perception and demand will force him to miss more time, perhaps all of it. I dropped Peterson to No. 40 for running backs. I suppose this is similar for ranking purposes to what's going on with Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. He should be playing in the second half of the season and he's an obvious difference-maker. For now I'm hedging on Peterson because as we've seen, no decision is really final, and this player could play at any point.

I did rank Peterson better than his teammates Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon, though, again not by much. I don't think Asiata is a great option and he's shown this, really. Sure, he caught a touchdown pass and if the Vikings get a goal-line run, he's the man, but his yards per carry show he's not special. McKinnon could be but at this time -- and I doubt anything changed for him this week -- the Vikings appear willing to go nearly exclusively with Asiata as the running back, mixing in McKinnon and awesome wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as well. I don't think Patterson becomes the main running back. I agree with most people that McKinnon has far more upside than Asiata should one of them get 20 touches per game, but there's little evidence that's pending. So add Asiata for this week, but he didn't approach my top-20 running backs. Good luck with your teams and more important with your lives.

Here are all of this week's end-of-season rankings, including the rest of the positions and their analysis from Tuesday.


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There was limited movement in the end-of-season rankings after Week 1, because little had changed. It was, after all, only one game. There weren't many major performances or injuries, but of course, that was anything but the case in Week 2. As a result of the many injuries, you'll see some of the top names from draft day slipped in the rankings, because while all players are risks to some degree, when you know a player is hurting, it has to change perceptions and value. We'll discuss the risers and fallers by position, but let this be a reminder that average draft position is meaningless at this point, even if you drafted a week ago. You've already acquired the players, but now it's about winning games.


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Four Downs: Injuries dominate Week 2 

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
10:54
PM ET

Robert Griffin III, A.J. Green, Jamaal Charles Getty Images, AP PhotosRobert Griffin III, A.J. Green, Jamaal Charles were among the big names injured Sunday.
The unfortunate NFL stories leading up to Sunday's game were basically about anything but the action on the field -- Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy -- so it wasn't surprising the theme of Sunday afternoon was again barely about the players regaling us with gaudy statistics. This time, it's about important injuries. The most valuable fantasy option to leave early was surely Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, bolting with a toe injury and a big, costly zero for fantasy owners. Miami Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno, one of the surprise stars of Week 1, and suddenly trusted for a road tilt in Buffalo, suffered a dislocated elbow after one rushing attempt for 4 measly yards. And then there is the Washington football team, or what's left of it.


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Week 2 flex rankings 

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
11:39
AM ET

It's amazing how one week of games can alter so many opinions. Your second-rounder from August might not be among your top options for a flex position this week because of injury or a tough Week 1. Perhaps he's not even on your roster anymore! But for the players who are still upstanding or just standing members of your fantasy rosters, the Thursday flex rankings are here to help. You should know the drill by now: We combine the top running backs, wide receivers and tight ends to form a top-100 list, though it remains one man's opinion and it's recommended that you make your own decisions.

Best of luck to all in Week 2 and beyond!


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2014 ranks update: Don't overreact 

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
1:28
PM ET

Welcome to the first installment of the 2014 end-of-season rankings! This has been one of our Tuesday staples in this space the past few seasons as these looking-ahead rankings tend to generate much discussion, which is definitely a good thing. Agree, disagree, whatever the case -- the goal here is to rank the players at each position as if you were drafting today and aiming to evaluate and quantify value for the rest of the season. This helps with potential trades, free-agent pickups and long-term decision-making if you need to make room on the bench for a new player. Plus, it's entertainment. Don't forget that part of the game, too.

We go position-by-position in this space, and as always, it's still one man's opinion, but as you've seen at ESPN Fantasy, we have many opinions! Also, don't confuse these with the Week 2 rankings because they're totally separate. The individual and staff rankings for the pending week are produced each Wednesday. Note that the "previous" ranks by position below are actually the preseason staff version, which certainly differed from my own, but that's OK. The point is, don't presume that a player has dropped from his previous rank because of something that occurred in Week 1 or any perceived slight; it's just how I viewed the player weeks ago. From here on out, the "previous" column will be from the prior end-of-season rankings!


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Separating tight ends into tiers 

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
10:49
AM ET

As we finish up "tier week" in the KaraBlog and realize there will be no more quiet NFL weekends until February -- and this is a good thing -- it's worth pointing out that the tight end position is just a little bit different. In ESPN standard leagues, it's probably not necessary to draft a second tight end, so that's 10 or 12 teams, one tight end each, and some pretty good ones available in free agency. We can tier the position, but it kind of comes down to whether you want to spend a first-rounder on the best tight end, select one of the reliable ones in the middle rounds, or wait until the end.

So let's break it down, and remember that these are my rankings and mine alone; the results will and should differ from my colleagues and those of the dear readers -- make your own rankings and tiers! -- and while this is a game we play for various reasons and all want to win, it still remains about the fun. Enjoy yourselves and have a great weekend!


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Wes Welker, D.J. Swearinger, Jeff TarpinianAP Photo/Jack DempseyWes Welker suffered yet another concussion Saturday after this hit from D.J. Swearinger.
It's difficult to say for sure if Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker will be available for Week 1 of the regular season after he suffered yet another concussion during the team's game with the Houston Texans on Saturday. However, fantasy owners dismissing the two concussions Welker suffered during the 2013 season -- and the three missed contests during our playoff time because of them -- got another reminder that there's danger lurking here. I admit my original ranking of Welker among the top 20 wide receivers didn't show enough caution, but now reality has struck again and we all must be concerned. Welker swiftly slides out of my top 20 wide receivers and his teammate Emmanuel Sanders gets a boost to the point I'd simply choose him first, though not quite in the same spot.


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Manning-CharlesGetty ImagesYou can own Peyton Manning and Jamaal Charles in an auction league, but it will cost you a lot.
Fantasy football auctions can be a blast, but they can also overwhelm newcomers who aren't quite prepared for the quick pace or the constant adjustments needed during the process. Even now, after dozens of auctions to stock fantasy teams over the years in several sports, I still make the occasional mistake of either vastly overpaying for a player "I just gotta have" or letting another go too cheap because I didn't realize I actually had the funds to afford him or just added up the funds wrong. It happens to all of us.

Experience and proper planning are critical to constructing consistently strong auction teams -- and it is worth it! -- but ultimately just like a job interview, the more experienced one is, the better off you'll likely be. How does one gain this experience? Well, whether you're a seasoned veteran in the art of auction drafts or a newbie, we're here to help! Really, auction or draft day should be a fun experience, the signature day of the fantasy season for most, so making it worthwhile is paramount.


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Weekend wrap: Hakeem Nicks gains value 

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
10:53
AM ET

Hakeem NicksBrian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsFour of Hakeem Nicks' five catches against his former team were for first downs.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Hakeem Nicks doesn't seem like the most well-liked fantasy option for this season, as he is appearing outside the top 40 at his position in ESPN ADP, and it's easy to understand why. For one, Nicks really burned fantasy owners who made him a top-10 wide receiver two seasons ago, and those who invested last year were rewarded with nary a touchdown catch. That's right, he was the only one of the top 75 wide receivers in ESPN standard scoring who didn't score, though he ended up 32nd in receiving yards and really wasn't so bad. Plus, he managed to participate in 15 games, tying a career best. It doesn’t necessarily prove he's durable, but hey, 15 games work for us!

Nicks was the story in Saturday's 27-26 loss to the New York Giants -- the Giants scored all their points in the meaningless fourth quarter -- with five receptions for 53 yards. It should have been a greater performance, but his silly taunting penalty erased a long gain. Nicks and quarterback Andrew Luck were certainly clicking, and while the receiver admitted that proving a point to his old team was a motivating factor, fantasy owners should be paying attention for potential value. After all, when I see the Colts offense, I see a unit that doesn't figure to boast a strong running game -- I'm not believing in Trent Richardson -- and while Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton figure to start, neither is a lock for stardom. All three wide receivers should matter.


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Stock watch: Quarterbacks 

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
11:18
AM ET

Fantasy owners sure aren't waiting on their quarterbacks in ESPN live drafts, so in a sense, the stock is up for pretty much everyone at the position. Not only is Denver Broncos stud Peyton Manning being selected in the middle of the first round -- which I believe is ill-advised for several reasons -- but of the 25 quarterbacks being chosen in these standard drafts, all but two of them have seen their stock rise in seven-day plus-minus over the past week. Think about how odd that is. Running backs and wide receivers are going in the other direction, but everyone apparently loves their passers.

So who are the only two relevant quarterbacks apparently held in lesser regard than this time a week ago? The fall of Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles was predictable. After all, he threw two interceptions in the first quarter of the "critical" first preseason game at Soldier Field, which of course means everything he achieved during the amazing 2013 season was a complete hoax and he's doomed to lose his starting job to Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley or Ron Jaworski (yes, he once played). The sad thing is some of you think I'm being serious. Nothing that Foles does -- or doesn't do -- in August has any bearing on September, in my opinion, but if he slips past Colin Kaepernick, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson outside the top 10 at his position, it's excellent value. Should Foles play well on his three drives this week, I wonder if his stock will rise again. Oh, why bother.


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Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let’s analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s new? Well, the San Diego Chargers added running back Donald Brown! Isn’t that enough? The Chargers didn’t make many changes in the offseason, as the former Indianapolis Colts running back was pretty much the only fantasy-relevant addition, but barely. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt bolted for Tennessee, with Frank Reich promoted to the job, but the organization expects a seamless transition. So what’s new in San Diego? The Padres might be the worst offensive team in baseball history. The Chargers won’t be, but not because of any changes.

Something to prove:

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Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let’s analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s new? Well, the Colts won 11 games a year ago in a weak division and didn’t make many changes at all this offseason, perhaps believing new isn’t always an improvement. If anything, the offseason news here was more about excellent linebacker Robert Mathis being suspended the first month of the season and about owner Jim Irsay getting his life back together. Anyway, a wide receiver who didn’t turn any of his 53 receptions last season into a touchdown pass was signed, a brittle running back who used to play with that wide receiver in New Jersey was re-signed, but neither of them is expected to even get the chance to be fantasy stars. Basically quarterback Andrew Luck has the same personnel in place, and it’s going to be up to him to turn it into a Super Bowl contender. Hey, Luck is off to a good start. It took predecessor Peyton Manning six seasons to win his first playoff game. Luck has already achieved this feat.

Something to prove:


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Summer Snapshot: Tennessee Titans 

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
1:36
PM ET

Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let’s analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s new? Well, it’s a new era for Titans football because longtime running back Chris Johnson is now a member of the New York Jets. Titans fans don’t seem like they’ll miss him, realizing that any chance for another 2,000-yard season is a ship that clearly has sailed. Plus, the next 2,000-yard running back -- well, let’s see 1,000 yards first -- was drafted a few months ago! The Titans also brought in Ken Whisenhunt to be the head coach and parted ways with maddening wide receiver Kenny Britt and veteran kicker Rob Bironas. One of those fellas was consistently productive, the other, not so much. This qualifies as a new start for the franchise -- youngsters were drafted at several key offensive positions and a few should contribute right away -- and perhaps the last chance for quarterback Jake Locker to start.

Something to prove:


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Summer Snapshot: Houston Texans 

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
1:25
PM ET
Summer is here, and the NFL preseason games will be underway before you know it. As teams train and hold camps, let’s analyze what fantasy owners should be looking for in the next few months. Join the conversation on Twitter: #FantasySnapshot

What’s new? Well, there’s a new coach, a new quarterback and a new stud defensive end in town, so yeah, quite a bit has changed. The Texans went from 12 wins and a division title in 2012 to somehow losing their final 14 games of the 2013 season, and massive adjustments were warranted and executed. Former Penn State coach and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien gets his first NFL head coaching chance. He’s serious and intense, and he's brought in a bunch of other new coaches getting their first opportunities. It’s all new here, except at running back and wide receiver where a few older gents try to stay healthy and perhaps more importantly, happy.

Something to prove: Where do we begin?

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