We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.
These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.
Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is in the books. Here are some numbers that stood out to me from the Week 1 action that's already happened.
-2 How many owners were screaming at the final play of Sunday night's Cowboys-Jets game when Felix Jones was the last to touch the ball? He was the last of many to lateral the ball as the Cowboys tried to score on the final play from their own 34. And Jones' last touch ended up in the hands of Jets DL Jamaal Westerman. The result will be minus-2 points in many fantasy leagues for the fumble lost by Jones, and perhaps the difference in a win or loss come Tuesday morning.
1 - Targets Green Bay Packers WR James Jones received Thursday night in 20 snaps of action. He turned it into one catch for one yard. Why did he re-sign with the Packers again? Was it just to jumble this receiving corps up even more for fantasy owners?
4 & 1 - Tampa Bay WR Mike Williams and Houston's Andre Johnson were each targeted a league-high four times in the red zone. Johnson caught two of his, including one for a score. Williams caught one of his for a score.
5 -We're down on Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez this year because his numbers have declined. However, he did receive seven targets Sunday against a solid Bears LB corps, and turned it into five catches for 72 yards. All of those numbers are above his 2010 16-game average of 6.8 targets, 4.4 catches and 41 yards per game. Three targets came in the first quarter, three in the third and one in the fourth. He had the third-longest day of the play for the Falcons, a 30-yard catch in the first quarter.
9.75 - Yards per attempt for Chicago QB Jay Cutler, who completed 22-of-32 passes for 312 yards and two scores. He was still sacked five times, which puts him on pace for 80 this season — well above his league-leading 56 last year.
12 - DeSean Jackson, more known for what he is able to do with limited targets, was the go-to guy for Mike Vick Sunday against St. Louis. Jackson was targeted 96 times over 14 games last season for a 6.9 per game average. Sunday, he was targeted 12 times, one behind league leader Roddy White (ATL). Jackson caught six of the targets for 102 yards and a score. He was targeted double-digit times in just three games last season, including the 2010 opener (11), but keep an eye on this trend as it pertains to how Vick sees the field. TE Brent Celek and WR Jeremy Maclin received just three targets apiece.
13 - The Titans ran the ball just 13 times against Jacksonville, and fell to 0-12 all-time when they have rushed 13 times or fewer. Only three times in Jeff Fisher's tenure did the team run 13 times or less.
21.9 - Wes Welker enters Week 2 with his yards per catch nearly double his career average of 10.9 after an eight-catch, 160-yard performance Monday night against Miami. He was at 9.2 before a 99-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter. He also has his average targets per game well above last year's average of 8.2 after Tom Brady went his way 12 times. That's a good sign for Welker owners as he is still a favorite option despite so many mouths to feed.
21.9 - Fantasy points New Orleans Saints RB/return man Darren Sproles had Thursday night. He tied for the team lead in targets (9) and turned it into seven catches for 75 yards to go with two carries for seven yards. On special teams, he had two punt returns for 92 yards, including a 72-yard TD return, and two kickoff returns for 76 yards.
25 - Matthew Stafford was 18-of-25 for 265 yards, two TDs and an interception by halftime. He went 6-of-8 in the second half with 40 more yards and a score. He had already targeted WR Calvin Johnson seven times, TE Brandon Pettigrew six times and Nate Burleson four times in the first half.
25 - Tim Hightower and Cedric Benson led the league with 25 carries apiece on Sunday. Hightower went for 72 yards and a score with his; Benson scored as well, on a 39-yard run, rushing for 121 yards. Hightower added three catches for 25 yards; Benson had one catch for 2 yards. 18.8 fantasy points for Benson, 18.2 for Higtower.
39 - Minnesota QB Donovan McNabb threw for 39 yards. ... Has that sunk in yet? He threw for 39 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception and added 32 yards rushing for a fantasy day of 9.76 points. It's going to be hard for Adrian Peterson, who miraculously had 98 yards on 16 carries, to consistently find any running room with McNabb stretching the field to the tune of 39 yards.
46 - Denver QB Kyle Orton attempted 46 passes in Monday night's loss to Oakland. And it was not all in the second half as the Broncos attempted to come back. The Broncos ran 33 first-half plays, traling by no more than 10 points, yet 23 of those 33 plays were pass attempts by Orton. He attempted 46 or more passes just twice last season under Josh McDaniels. So just because John Fox came to town, and many worried that the forward pass would cease to exist, Orton should still be slinging the ball.
71 -Dallas WR Dez Bryant had three catches for 71 yards and a score in the first quarter. The first two catches and the score came against New York Jets DB Antonio Cromartie, the final catch, a 26-yard play down the sidelines came against Darrelle Revis. It was the last catch of the night for Bryant, despite five more targets.
An in-depth look at the Texans' offense, defense and special teams this year.
Gary Kubiak is in select company. It is very rare that a head coach who has only one winning season and no playoff appearances on his résumé is asked to return for a sixth season. In fact, Bart Starr of the Packers (1975-83) is the only other coach since the NFL-AFL merger to be so fortunate.
Even Kubiak thought 2010 was a “playoffs or bust” season. He was given a reprieve and a new defensive coordinator. What can he do with them?
• Inside the Locker Room
With Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle
What are the chances that Arian Foster can repeat his elite 2010 season?
One key to Foster’s breakout season was the hands-on offseason work from Texans running backs coach Chick Harris. Harris knew which buttons to push, and he played a huge role in turning Foster into a weapon. The lockout kept them apart. How Foster handled the offseason and his new fame is anyone’s guess. Remember, Foster still had mild discipline issues during the season (he was late for and missed meetings), which is why he didn’t start at Oakland. Even if Foster comes into the season ready to roll, expect his load to be lightened by Derrick Ward and 2010 second-round pick Ben Tate, who sat out the entire season because of a broken ankle. The Texans will want to keep Foster healthy, so he is unlikely to see 327 carries again. Before Foster, 31 NFL running backs had 1,600-yard seasons. Only seven of them did it two years in a row. Among those who didn’t: Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders.
What’s the most intriguing question regarding fantasy football and this team in your opinion?
Never draft a Texans defense should be on Page 1 of any reputable fantasy football manual. That might not be the case this year, though, thanks to the arrival of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. Where Phillips goes, good defense tends to follow. The seven times Phillips has taken over as a team’s new defensive coordinator (including 2009 in the middle of his stint as the Cowboys’ head coach), the squad allowed on average 80 fewer points than it did the previous season. Deduct that many points from the 427 the Texans gave up in 2010, and you’d have the third-lowest total in team history. Phillips’ new defenses forced an average of 33 turnovers in his first season. The Texans’ franchise record for turnovers is 30 (2004).
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: @CIN, CAR, @IND
Gone are the days when we used to wonder only what pass Ds were going up against the Texans (for the record, they get the 14th, 11th and 13th pass Ds from a year ago). Need anymore of a reason why Arian Foster is the No. 1 player overall? The Texans take on the 19th, 23rd and 25th run defenses during their fantasy playoff run.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Jacoby Jones, WR Deep-Sleeper: Ben Tate, RB Overvalued: DeMeco Ryans, LB Top Rookie: J.J. Watt, DL Bounce-Back: Brian Cushing, LB Top IDP: Mario Williams, DL/LB
• Try to Avoid
Owen Daniels, TE
Daniels has failed to stay healthy the last two seasons, missing 13 games over that span. In what may be the deepest year ever for tight ends, Daniels is only worth a mid-to-late-round flier as a backup. WAIT UNTIL: 11th RD
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
After finishing 30th in the NFL in total defense, the Texans devoted most of their attention in the draft to this unit. Watt and Brooks Reed add depth to the defensive line, and both are good fits for Houston’s new 3-4 scheme. The secondary remains a huge question mark, but Brandon Harris and Rashad Carmichael are capable of contributing immediately. Expect the Texans to feature one of the NFL’s most-improved defenses. T.J. Yates has long-term upside but will be Houston’s No. 3 quarterback in 2011.