I always enjoy seeing the weekly fantasy football staff rankings for the first time each week (it's Wednesday, ba-by!). One can hear whispers around the office, such as oooh, he really likes this guy or what does he have against this fellow? In truth, I can safely say none of the four rankers -- Matthew Berry, Christopher Harris, Tristan H. Cockcroft and myself -- discuss our personal rankings beforehand. We're moving a mile a minute here, especially leading into Week 1. Still, it's interesting when one ranker seems to like a certain player or team much more than the others.
For this week, I suppose, the New York Giants are that "it" team for me. I've been talking up wide receiver Mario Manningham all preseason as someone who could vault from outside our top 20 at the position into the top 10, even with Hakeem Nicks as a teammate. I truly believe that. Manningham was good last season, and he finished strong, averaging 115 receiving yards -- with 100-plus yards each week -- and scoring four touchdowns over the final three weeks. And this team doesn't seem to have a reliable No. 3 receiver, especially with Steve Smith now on the Philadelphia Eagles.
Manningham can duplicate these feats in more games this season. It's a fallacy that he was able to do this simply because Nicks wasn't around; in truth, Nicks was pretty good in Weeks 16 and 17 as well, scoring a touchdown in each game and totaling 27 fantasy points. And Eli Manning might not be in your top 10 for the season -- he just made mine -- but only two quarterbacks have thrown for 4,000-plus yards each of the past two campaigns, and he's one of them. The interceptions will go down to more normal, credible levels. And when his big brother misses Week 1, it's little brother that will take over the longest consecutive starts streak among quarterbacks.
The Washington Redskins don't excite me much. OK, let me be more specfic: This is a last-place team. It's a last-place team offensively, with Rex Grossman at quarterback and sure-to-disappoint-by-October Tim Hightower at running back, and it's a last-place team defensively. Over the past three seasons, this franchise has won an average of six games. Last season only three defenses were more kind to fantasy quarterbacks than the Redskins (who didn't shut down the running game, either). The Giants are going to enjoy themselves Sunday.
As a result, you'll note nobody has Manning ranked better than I do (at No. 8). Nicks made everyone's top five, but I have Manningham cracking my top 10. And running back Ahmad Bradshaw didn't fare well in the 2010 season finale in Washington, but he scored four touchdowns in the two preceding games in the series. He nearly made my top 10 this week. Enjoy kicker Lawrence Tynes as well, if, well, enjoying kickers is your thing.
Here are some other observations I took from our first staff rankings of the season, other than the fact that I apparently like Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant more than most. OK, enough about kickers!
Stick with your Colts: I'm guessing this will not be the last time I discuss Kerry Collins and Indy's finest, but I didn't downgrade the wide receivers as much as others and -- guess what -- Collins even made my top 20 (at No. 17). I know he's rather old, but the Houston Texans were also the easiest defense to pick apart for quarterbacks last season, and Collins did have nine touchdown passes in the final four weeks of last season, tied for best in the league. He's not done, even if it was his intention to be officially done (retire). Are the Colts in trouble if Manning misses three months? Yes. If he misses two games, they'll be fine. So will Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.
Sophomore slump: I know better than to overrate the fine preseason San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews had (fifth in rushing yards, averaging 7.8 yards per carry), but I can't help but feel like we're punishing him a bit too much in the rankings for being injured and ineffective much of last season. I've ranked him 20th at running back, well above my colleagues. The Minnesota Vikings have a reputation for keeping the opposing run game in check, but without tackle Kevin Williams, who knows? I see Mathews having a big game, enough to be a fantasy starter.
Rising Arizona: Similarly, I see big numbers for the Arizona Cardinals' passing game. Kevin Kolb actually is my No. 10 quarterback, as I don't see the poor Carolina Panthers putting up much of a fight. Larry Fitzgerald is as safe as he has been since Kurt Warner was slingin' it. I thought about ranking wide receiver Andre Roberts, but there were more than 50 safer options there to rank. And running back Beanie Wells, not exactly on my breakout list, did make my top 20 this week, thanks to the matchup. I wouldn't go overboard on Beanie; it's true the Panthers allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs a year ago, but it seems to me they've taken strides to improve this deficiency.