I'm heading down to Puerto Vallarta tomorrow for a few days, but as I procrastinate packing for my trip, I'm taking a few minutes to review today's rankings. Many of the rankings are what we would expect for the elite players, but the defensive rankings have me a little confused.
I'm not David Letterman, but here's my rundown of what the experts see for the Top 10 at each position as of June 9th.
Drew Brees is a pretty easy pick to lead the pack. I think another 5,000 yard season might be difficult, but 4,500-4,800 yards shouldn't be difficult for him to achieve.
Welcome back Tom Brady. He was last year's #1 choice, and coming in at #2 this year after the injury isn't too shabby. The Patriots must feel pretty confident in Brady's health, because Matt Cassel's in KC. Assuming he's fully recovered, he should put up some impressive numbers again. Moss. Welker. etc.
"Mr MVP" Peyton Manning is pretty consistently ranked across the web at #3. He may have started out slow last year, but he's such a consistent performer that he's still a must-start for any team.
I like Philip Rivers at #4, but I think he could easily switch places with Manning. As LT suffered through a poor season last year, Rivers lit it up. 4,000+ yards and 34 touchdowns. When they couldn't run it, they'd go to Rivers. Can't wait to see what happens in '09.
Aaron Rodgers officially stepped out of Brett Favre's shadow last year and makes it onto the Nerd's Top 5. 4,038 yards and 28 TD's makes for a great fantasy QB.
Who's Matt Leinart again? Kurt Warner's back for another year and that means the Cardinals are the team to beat. Warner should see similar numbers to last year's 4,582 yards and 30 TD's.
No T.O. this year, but there's still Jason Witten and Roy Williams. That should be enough of a receiving corp for Romo to still beat last year's stats (he did miss three games after all), but the Romo-T.O. combo will be missed by fantasy owners.
The benching in Week 12 last year seemed to put a fire under Donovan McNabb. He threw 9 TD's after coming back and led the Eagles to the playoffs. As long as he stays healthy, he'll remain a Top 10 QB.
The future looks very bright for our #9 spot, Matt Ryan. He's got a bulldog in the backfield in Michael Turner and Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez hauling in his throws. What's not to like about this setup?
Jay Cutler was a fantasy star last year with over 4,500 yards, but it will be tough for him to come close to those numbers in Chicago. Who would you rather throw to: Brandon Marshall or Devin Hester? Don't get me wrong, Cutler will still do well, but I think Matt Schaub should have rounded out the Top 10.
The consensus is pretty strong on Adrian Peterson to lead not only RB's, but overall as well. All reports seem to indicate that he's gotten bigger, better, and stronger in the offseason and that means fantasy points for you.
Michael Turner was a monster last year rushing for almost 1,700 yards and 17 TD's. He gets the ball a lot and that's both good and bad. As long as he doesn't get banged up, he should be the workhorse in 2009.
Chicago has a new gun behind center and that's going to suit Matt Forte just fine. Defenses will be kept honest with Cutler's arm leaving some wiggle room for Forte who is coming off what can only be described as an incredibly surprising rookie year.
Here's a nice surprise to see in the Top 5. Maurice Jones-Drew is a new comer to this high of a ranking. Why? Simple. Fred Taylor is gone and that means it's the MJD show. I think he's a Top 10 for sure, but #5 is just plain weird to see.
The Rams upgraded their offensive line and plan on going to a new offensive scheme. This puts Jackson in the center of the action. As a Jackson-owner, I'm happy to see the changes, but that doesn't make me worry about lingering issues with his quad or what injury is coming next. Sometimes you've just got to roll the dice. If he's healthy, he bring you points.
DeAngelo Williams lays claim to the #6 spot. He could easily be in the top 3 if it weren't for Jonathan Stewart. Williams basically led all backs in fantasy points last year, but Carolina will continue to split the backfield. Williams is still an awesome back and worthy of his Top 10 appearance.
Blink your eyes and you just might miss Chris Johnson's next TD. He's that fast. Similar to Willaims, Johnson has to share duties with LenDale White. All indications are that Tennessee's not happy with White's off-field antics and that could mean more carries for Johnson. Let's hope so.
My, how the mighty have fallen. LaDainian Tomlinson was last year's #1 pick in leagues across the country. He had the fewest TD's since his rookie year and he didn't see nearly the amount of carries that he's been used to. He's still a great back but he's got his work cut out for him with Darren Sproles competing for playing time.
#9 belongs to Frank Gore. Hopefully Mike Singletary can turn things around and bring back the Gore of 2006. Gore can still put up some yards, but he's got a pretty tough schedule ahead of him.
Rounding out the Top 10 is Steve Slaton. Yes, the Texans drafted him with the 89th overall pick and things just sort of fell into place for Slaton. Injuries in the Houston backfield gave him his opportunity and he made the best of it. Look for another break out season in 2009.
There's no surprise with this year's #1 WR, Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards are a passing team and Fitz is ridiculously good. Even if Boldin stays in Arizona, expect Fitz to get the bulk of the looks. He's good enough to capitalize on every one of them.
Andre Johnson is expected to have a monster year in 2009 (if Matt Shaub can stay healthy). Similar to Delhomme-Smith, his value plummets when a different man is behind center. Consider the fact that Dan Orlovsky is Schaub's backup and that's a scary thought. When Schaub is healthy, Johnson owners can rejoice with lots of points.
With Tom Brady back, New England is expecting to launch an aerial attack and that means more deep balls for Randy Moss. He won't have the numbers he did two years ago, but he's still an elite wideout with his elite QB back in the game. That's a great recipe.
Calvin Johnson was Detroit's offense last year. Yep - all by himself. The QB situation in Detroit is as bad as General Motors, but even with a poor QB last year, Johnson managed to tie the league leader in TD receptions last year. Just imagine what he could do with a decent QB!
"Mr. MVP" Peyton Manning's new favorite target falls in to the #5 spot. He's consistent and he should be the first guy on Peyton's reads this year. Expect a great season.
Delhomme is under center and that is great news for Steve Smith. He's explosive and he's a playmaker. Nobody seems to doubt that we'll see a better year out of him this year.
Greg Jennings surpassed Donald Driver as the "Go To" guy in Green Bay last year with almost 1,300 yards. He seems to have a great relationship with Aaron Rodgers and could easily be a Top 5 WR in 2009.
Roddy White hits #8 after coming off a great year. Matt Ryan likes him and the way he does anything to get to the ball. If he can come close to last year's numbers, he's a Top 10 receive at the end of the season. I guarantee it.
Injuries plagued Anquan Boldin last year and limited his production. He's healthy and if he stays in Arizona, he's a solid Top 15 pick. If not, his value will drop depending on where he goes.
I have to admit that I love the Top 10 pick. Dwayne Bowe was Mr. Consistency last year. He may not have been the breakout he could have been, but he was just so consistent. Tony Gonzalez is gone so that should mean more looks for Bowe. Oh, yeah, Matt Cassel's throwing the ball now. You gotta like this.
Depending on where you look and whom you ask, the #1 and #2 TE rankings could be interchangeable. The Nerd sees Jason Witten edging it out for the top spot. Romo's favorite target should see another 1,000 yard season and could see more looks now that T.O. went up to Buffalo.
Tony Gonzalez follows Witten closely in the rankings. He was the best TE in the league last year, but his departure to Atlanta seems to have the experts off a bit on him. Most likely because ATL is such a run-oriented team. That's not enough of a reason to think that Gonzalez won't put up great numbers again.
Antonio Gates follows up with the #3 spot, fresh off another season plagued with injuries. If he stays healthy, expect another great season.
Dallas Clark had a great year in 2008 statistically. He reached career highs in both receptions and receiving yards. Harrison is out, but Wayne and Gonzalez are still there so some extra looks could be coming Clark's way.
Rounding out the Top 5 is Chris Cooley. He didn't perform quite as well as we had all hoped last year, but he should do better in '09. He had a single TD last year. That's it. Don't give up on him though. He's never had less than 6 in a season prior.
Greg Olsen's value went up this year with Jay Cutler's arrival in Chicago. Fantasy owners should be crossing their fingers that Cutler forms a bond with Olsen the way he did with Tony Scheffler in Denver. That could mean career highs for Olsen.
Kellen Winslow's move to Tampa Bay could be a good thing for his fantasy point totals. Most experts are concerned with his ability to stay healthy. Interestingly enough, Jerramy Stevens is still on the team and will serve as backup to Winslow. What message does that send?
Owen Daniels claims the #8 spot and is one of the faster TE's in the league. Unfortunately, his projections are out of his control. As good as Daniels is, his stats are tied to Schaub. If Schaub stays healthy, Daniels will benefit. I'm guessing that Daniels will have career highs in 2009.
John Carlson's true fantasy value is up in the air. T.J. Houshmandzadeh's arrival along with Deion Branch and Nate Burleson gives the Seahawks some great tools. Hopefully he's not used too much for blocking and gets his targets.
Dustin Keller rounds out the Top 10 TE list and I like him better than Carlson. We'll see what the Jets do about their QB situation, but Keller is the go-to TE in New York. Chris Baker is gone so Keller is the main man and that should translate into points for you.
There's not much surprise at this year's #1 Defense. Pittsburgh's D is simply dominating. 2008 saw the Steelers grab 51 sacks, 20 interceptions, and 3 TD's. Opposing offenses can't run on them. They can't throw on them. They're that good.
The Ravens come in at #2 amid speculation about their cast. Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister are gone, but guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are still there. It's possible that the Ravens belong somewhere around the #5 mark, but it's too early to tell.
I like the Giants D this year with Osi Umenyiora's return. In fact, this team has such stellar defensive players that they're bulging at the seams with talent. Look for a big 2009.
The NFC's Vikings have Kevin and Pat Williams who make up the bulk (and I mean the bulk) of the front line. This team combined for 45 sacks last year and shut down opposing backs, but can they do a better job of stopping the air assault in 2009. For my beloved Packers, I hope not. :-)
The #5 spot goes to the Philadelphia Eagles. They've got a solid team even with a couple of new faces. Expect lots of blitzing out of the front seven this year.
The NFC Central has two dominating defenses. The Vikes and our #6 team, the Chicago Bears. There seems to be some inconsistencies among the experts as to what kind of year the Bears D will see. Urlacher and Briggs are very good when they have the support of the guys up front, but the secondary remains suspect. They could easily drop a few spots in the coming months. Keep an eye on them.
The Patriots follow with a renewed sense of urgency. They made some great moves in the offseason signing guys like Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs to bolster their holes at corner. They also have Jerod Mayo who was Defensive Rookie of the Year and deserved the title.
The Jets make good on #8 and most of the experts believe that they'll be beating up offenses in 2009.
I'm a little surprised to see Dallas at #9 and can't help but wonder how the Cowboys beat out the Titans for a Top 10 spot. DeMarcus Ware leads the Cowboys D again, but that's not the area that needs work. The secondary was not very good last year and you can't expect the front guys to do all the work. Expect lots of sacks but temper your expectations on the takeaways.
The Cardinals lay claim to the #10 spot. The Cardinals?? Projecting defensive capabilities must be a difficult task, because I find it hard to believe that the Cardinals belong this high in the rankings. They gave up a ton of points last year (5th most in the league) and the roster is basically the same this year. Rarely do I doubt the Nerd, but I'll have to go with my gut on some of these defensive rankings, starting with the Cards.
I'll do my best not to think about football when in Mexico, but I've got to double and triple check these defensive rankings when I get back. I'm staying at Dreams Puerto Vallarta, which I would expect to be very nice as it's part of the Dreams chain. Looking forward to it.
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