No position in fantasy football fluctuates like the wide receiver spot, which is proved not only by erratic point totals the first few weeks of the season, but in the Week 3 staff rankings. Consider that in Week 1 Kevin Ogletree, Julio Jones, Stephen Hill, Lance Moore, Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas each scored 17 or more fantasy points. In Week 2, that group, save for Thomas (fantasy's top wide receiver so far), combined for 10 fantasy points. So if you own one of those fellows, mainly the ones who should be considered as starters, how does one analyze their worth?
My general rule is to stick with the reliable top options, which is why Atlanta's Jones again received a top nod from me (No. 2). A quick look at the Week 3 wide receiver rankings shows there are some rather large differences of opinion when it comes to this position, certainly more so than at quarterback and tight end, where the fantasy starters generally remain as such. At running back, staffers and general public debate about struggling players, such as Chris Johnson and Michael Turner, but at wide receiver, even the perceived top options are all over the place. I cannot speak for my colleagues, and on a Wednesday before the games commence, nobody is wrong yet, but check out these examples:
• Houston Texans stud Andre Johnson was ranked as high as No. 2 and as low as No. 23. So far Johnson has one good game and one bad (naturally, right?), and my rank is 11th, pretty much in the middle, for a potentially fruitful matchup at Denver. The Texans are such a strong running team that I don't know how often Johnson will be among my top 10 options, if at all. He's talented but also brittle, and quarterback Matt Schaub has really dipped in relation to others at his position, from borderline top-10 early last year to 14th at quarterback in average live drafts, and now he's barely top 20.
• You knew this was coming with the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald. Again, I'm largely in the middle at No. 12, but one ranker had him third and another 28th (and those rankers were similar on Johnson as well). I'm not giving up on Fitz. I'm also not sold that his issues are related to Kevin Kolb. That would presume all would be well with John Skelton. I don't buy chemistry as an issue. I think Fitzgerald will exploit Philly's secondary, though I don't like Kolb much. Remember, Fitzgerald was a top-10 fantasy wide receiver last year. Yes, don't look back, but he has the same quarterbacks.
• A few players I'm not in the middle on: the top Dallas Cowboys options. Miles Austin drew a No. 5 rank from one of us, and myself and another had him 19th. Similarly, I didn't seem too excited about Dez Bryant. I trust Tony Romo, but not his options, either their health or consistency. Plus, while Romo has terrific numbers against the Buccaneers in his career (3-0, 11 touchdowns, 0 interceptions), what does that really tell us? The current Bucs got lit up by Eli Manning for 510 passing yards, but this feels like a trap trend to me. Austin and Bryant, the latter with just one 100-yard receiving game in his career, are not Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
• Frankly, I'm all aboard the Josh Freeman-Vincent Jackson train. I ranked Jackson 10th at wide receiver, far better than the staff average, because he really is a difference maker, and he's getting a lot of targets. Perhaps Mike Williams will start to see a more equitable distribution of Freeman passes soon, but Jackson was a top-10 fantasy option in San Diego, and he's looking good so far in Tampa.
As for thoughts about quarterbacks this week, the range on ranks for Michael Vick is interesting. The Cardinals kept Tom Brady mostly in check and now return home to face a guy with six interceptions and a fumble already. Vick scares me. ... I like both Manning brothers more than the others. Peyton does have excellent career numbers against the Texans (16-2, 42 TDs, 8 INTs), but that played no role here. These Texans play defense. But I'm not assuming another three-pick game for Manning, either. ... If I'm in a two-league or deeper format, I'd still go with unexciting veterans like Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez over those other rookies like Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden.
At running back, so far it's one good game for Adrian Peterson, one bad game. Now he gets the mighty San Francisco 49ers. I ranked Peterson 14th, but if I was going to move him in one direction, it'd probably be closer to No. 20 than No. 10. In two games against the 49ers, a healthy Peterson averaged 44 rushing yards and did not score. And these 49ers are better defensively. None of us ranked Matt Forte, and I was a bit cooler on Michael Bush than others. He's a second running back for me, someone to trust, but the way the Bears burned everyone in the Week 2 Thursday game at Green Bay does have me a tad concerned about anyone not named Brandon Marshall. Nice job, Jay Cutler.
Expect Ryan Mathews to play for San Diego, and while one staff rank was seventh and another 24th, again I was in the middle at 17. I would start him, though. Honestly, I could see either 18 fantasy points or four. ... Nobody expects Ahmad Bradshaw to play Thursday, and I guess I'm cooler on Andre Brown than others, placing him 30th. How can you trust him? ... The Giants meet the Panthers, a team that couldn't run at all in Week 1, then exploded for 219 rushing yards against the Saints. If Jonathan Stewart plays, and I think he will, I would use him over DeAngelo Williams, but I was alone on that one. It's about the receiving yards there, and neither gets the goal-line looks anyway.