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Fantasy football: Griffin, Ryan top Future Perfect

I'm not a fan of math. Back in my school days, math (along with his sidekick science) would try to gang up on me and distract my attention from much more entertaining subjects like English and PE. Part of the reason for my disdain was that it never takes much for an equation to go haywire.

"Does it look right to you?" was the refain my parents frequently sang. Of course, if I knew whether or not it looked right, I probably would have been teaching the class, not sitting near the back trying to convince the guy sitting behind me that Michael Jordan went to North Carolina, not NC State.

All of that makes it somewhat ironic that I'm now writing a column that is so heavily reliant upon numbers. Not to worry, we keep a math professor on staff that looks over my shoulder and checks my work. Either that or I rely heavily on spreadsheets and formulas. Choose the answer that makes you feel better.

Either way, the answer to the question "does it look right to you?" became a little bit clearer now that we've seen two weeks of the NFL season. After seeing a bushel of wide receivers (What is the exact term for a group of wide receivers? Is it anything like a murder of crows?) nesting atop last week's rankings, it feels a little better to see quarterbacks and running backs starting to announce their presence with authority.

Still, there are some names that are a little surprising to see at the head of the class. Then again, it's important to remember that a player's standing here in "Future Perfect" isn't exclusively dependent upon his own performance. Since there is the added component of the (ever-shifting) strength of schedule, there will be some guys that rise and fall on the basis of what other teams do on a weekly basis.

Not to mention that we're still early enough in the season that one really good or really bad game can have a major impact on a player's ranking. It's just a reiteration of last week's Carlos Pena example. That's why you'll see plenty of players who weren't ranked this week suddenly occupying prominent positions on this week's list. Similarly, there are a handful of guys who looked like studs after Week 1 that are trending toward the dud side of the ledger after Week 2.

That same grain of salt can even be taken with a guy like Julio Jones. Sure, I like Jones to be a great fantasy receiver by the time the year is out. I still believe he'll be a top five option by December. But do I think he'll be the second best fantasy prospect overall for the remainder of the year? Nah. Not quite. There are too many factors that go in to a receiver (even one potentially as great as Jones) being a top-level producer over the course of a full season.

Finally, keep an eye out for guys that are injured -- players that either missed last week's action or are likely not to play this week. The numbers dictate their spot on the list and their lack of production in a given week will undoubtedly drop them down the list. But you, my intelligent friends, won't fall for the okey-doke just because you see a name high on the list. You know enough to check the weekly injury reports before going gaga over someone's lofty standing.

Speaking of which, enough chatter. Time for those rankings...


» Robert Griffin III's favorability ratings continue to be high both inside and outside the Beltway. After two weeks, he would have to be considered the leading candidate not only for Rookie of the Year honors, but fantasy football MVP. Yes, I know there's still a long way to go in the season, but unlike that other campaign going on, this is one that the majority of the country (New York, Philadelphia and Dallas aside) will enjoy watching. Look for Griffin to hold on to the top spot again this week after facing off against a Bengals team that was shredded by Brandon Weeden last week.

» There was plenty of hype around Matt Ryan during the preseason and so far, he's delivered. Matty Ice has been exceptional in his first two games and has used every weapon out there. Julio Jones not having a good night? Go to Roddy White. Receivers being locked down on the outsides? Hit Tony Gonzalez over the middle. No one ever doubted Ryan's decision-making in the pocket, but in his second season with this group, Ryan looks like he's found a comfort zone. A matchup against the DB-challenged Chargers this week and a division that hasn't been particularly stout against the pass in 2012 bodes well for Ryan.

» Three touchdown passes can do wonders for your fantasy standing. Just ask Philip Rivers, who rode three short TD tosses to the third spot on the list this week. The specter of last year's 20-interception season undoubtedly scared plenty of people away from the Chargers QB on draft day, but a closer look would have told them that last season was an anomaly when compared against the rest of his career. Will he throw a few picks this year? No doubt. But Rivers is still a quality point producer from the quarterback spot. He could, however, be knocked down a peg or two against the Falcons this week.

» Another guy who benefitted from three TD passes this week was Eli Manning. It also helped that he threw for 510 yards. Imagine where he'd be without the three first half interceptions he had last week against the Buccaneers. By this point, I'd hope that people have moved away from the idea that Manning can't be a high-level fantasy football quarterback. For the time being, he's certainly surpassed his brother in that regard.

» Alex Smith is sixth. Alex Smith is sixth? Alex Smith is sixth! There was a time when his picture appeared in football glossaries next to the phrase "game manager". No one is going to confuse him with Tom Brady or Drew Brees, but going back to last season, Smith has shown an ability to move an offense. This year, he has a few more weapons on the edges to open things up for Vernon Davis in the middle. For Smith to stay in the top 10, he'll need to post quality numbers (including a TD pass or two) every single week simply because the opposing defenses in his division look strong this year. A date with the Vikings in Week 3 should help his cause.

» It's pretty incredible to see Michael Vick ranked as highly as he is. Through two games, Vick has twice as many interceptions (6) as touchdown passes (3). He's also lost a fumble and generally taken a beating behind a suspect offensive line. But with nearly 700 passing yards (and a rushing touchdown to boot), Vick is finding ways to produce for fantasy owners. I've said repeatedly that he's one of the biggest risk/reward options available. If he can stay healthy, he'll reward a lot of people. Though he does face a stiff challenge this week from the Cardinals defense.

» The Chiefs might be the biggest disappointment in the NFL through two weeks, but it hasn't impacted Matt Cassel's fantasy production. On the contrary, Kansas City's poor defense has given Cassel and company the opportunity to collect a slew of garbage-time points and the beauty of fantasy football is that garbage points count the same as points earned in a close ballgame. This week, Cassel has a chance to earn big money all day long in a matchup with the Saints. This could be a shootout. Regardless, Cassel is maintaining his value as a No. 2 QB in most leagues.

» Speak up if you expected to see Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers this far down the list after two weeks. I'll wait.

» The issue for Rodgers has been facing off against two of the league's toughest defenses in San Francisco and Chicago. It won't get much better this week with the underrated Seahawks secondary on tap. Brady's issues have been a little bit harder to pinpoint so far, although a patchwork offensive line hasn't helped anything. A trip to Baltimore to face the Ravens isn't going to help matters.

» If three touchdowns is a big boost, consider three interceptions to be a heavy anchor. It's an anchor that dragged Peyton Manning well down the list after a solid opening week. Some ups-and-downs were to be expected this season from Manning and I'd be surprised if he doesn't rebound in the next few weeks. However, don't look for it to happen this week against the Texans.

» Mark Sanchez, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Tannehill ... I'd expect them to hover near the bottom of the list for most of the season. They may trade spots a few times. They may disappear and reappear. But this feels about right for that group.

Running backs

» Talk about making the most of an opportunity. C.J. Spiller has been lights out since taking over for the injured Fred Jackson. That's going to make things very interesting when Jackson is ready to return to action. In two games, Spiller has carved up good defenses (Jets) and not-so-good defenses (Chiefs) alike. This week, he faces the Browns, who've been known to give up yards to opposing running backs. I'm not sure he'll still be No. 1 on this list next week, but if he falls out of the top five, I'll be quite surprised.

» I said it last week and I'll say it again. Reggie Bush simply needed to be the lone offensive option in order to be successful. His 172 rushing yards and two TDs were more than fantasy football owners have a right to expect on a weekly basis, but there is no doubt that he is the focal point of Miami's offense. That could be a double-edged sword as the year goes along. Bush will see plenty of touches (and quite a few targets), but eventually opposing defenses will tailor their game plans to key on him. That could very well start this week against the Jets.

» Willis McGahee might have found a weakness in the Falcons defense, running through them for 113 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Over the course of the season, McGahee and Peyton Manning could end up being a pretty nice combination. When one is struggling the Broncos can rely on the other. That balance should help both players in the long run. In the short run, a meeting with the stout Texans defense isn't particularly fantastic for the veteran RB.

» Trent Richardson's first big day in the NFL helped him shoot up the rankings in a hurry. The Browns rookie looked like the player Cleveland expected (at least for one week) when they moved up on draft day to select him. Judging by his explosivness and ability to make cuts, his knees appear to be just fine. Now the question is: was Week 2 the start of a trend? We'll learn a lot more after this week's game against Buffalo, but there's plenty of reason to be optimistic.

» Alfred Morris. This is how Shanahanigans begin.

» Matt Forte is still in the top 15, but if he misses any significant time, that's sure to change. Michael Bush is lurking not too far behind, and the Rams defense has been somewhat generous to opposing running backs.

» After a spectacular Week 1, Adrian Peterson took a step back with a lackluster Week 2. He could backpedal again this week with the stingy 49ers defense on tap. Peterson, in many ways, faces the same issue as Reggie Bush -- if the Vikings can't find any other source of consistent offense, he'll be the focus of every defense. He was able to overcome that when he was operating at 100 percent. Now that he admits to not being full strength? It could be a problem. I'm still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I'm also lowering my expectations slightly.

» Not since Ronnie Harmon has a running back been so valuable without actually running the ball. Even so, Darren Sproles might have surpassed him. Through two weeks, Sproles doesn't have a single rushing attempt, but he has 18 catches for 163 yards -- leading the team in both categories. The Saints have their share of problems to fix, but as long as Drew Brees keeps slinging it to Sproles, fantasy owners won't complain. Especially those playing in PPR leagues.

» Jackie Battle and Shaun Draughn are a couple of names on this list that might draw curious interest from fantasy football owners looking for help at the running back position. Let me stop you right there. By the time we get to October, both of these names are likely to be fantasy afterthoughts. Ryan Mathews should be back soon and Jamaal Charles says he's ready to go for Week 3. Battle and Draughn have limited value at best.

» Who ever expected Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson to be so close to each other on this list? McFadden will get better. Goodson will fall off. At least, the Raiders had better hope so. If they're going to succeed on the field, it will be because McFadden excels in the backfield. Look for the Silver and Black to start feeding Run DMC ... although week against the Steelers doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

» Andre Brown will have an opportunity to make a fantasy impact with Ahmad Bradshaw out of action for the time being. It also helps that David Wilson hasn't found the exit to Tom Coughlin's doghouse. The Giants aren't afraid to run a RB rotation -- and have had success with it in the past -- but as long as Big Blue is short-handed in the backfield, Brown is the guy you want to target. Especially this week against the Panthers, who are woeful against fantasy running backs.

» Michael Turner moved up the list this week thanks to his first-quarter TD run againt the Broncos. Otherwise, it was another disappointing day from a back poised to be one of this year's biggest fantasy busts. Turner was once nicknamed "The Burner", but it looks like his flame is dying out. He looks slow in the backfield, isn't making people miss and doesn't appear to have the power to run through tacklers. Combine that with Atlanta's newfound love of the aerial game and Turner's on his way out.

» That's more like it, Shonn Greene.

» Speaking of disappointments, Jamaal Charles has not produced the way fantasy owners would have hoped at the start of the year. Last week's minor injury didn't help. Neither did the Chiefs falling way behind early in the game. Hopefully a possible shootout with the Saints this week will reverse his fortunes.

» According to Jeff Fisher, Steven Jackson had an injury and wasn't benched for incurring an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Whatever the reason, it halted Jackson at the start of what looked like was going to be a pretty nice day running the ball. Turns out, Daryl Richardson enjoyed the spoils, but if Jackson really was held out as a precaution, you can't count on Richardson for this week. Then again, with the Bears on the schedule, you may not have been able to count on Richardson this week anyway. Same goes for Jackson, for that matter.

» The devolution of Chris Johnson as a fantasy stud continues. Judging by the tweets we receive @NFLFantasy, plenty of you are trying to fire sell Johnson. The problem is, everyone knows how bad he's been for the past year. Good luck trying to move him. For now, the best advice might be to stash him on your bench and pray for a revival.

Wide receivers

» Kevin Ogletree is still at the top of the list. Color me surprised (I believe that's a bright shade of orange). It goes to show what a really strong first week will do for you. But last week's one-catch, 26-yard outing helped the rest of the pack close the gap in a hurry. Unless he shows up well against the Bucs this week (which isn't a completely ridiculous notion), he'll be relinquishing the top spot after this week.

» Welcome to the list, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks! Both Giants receivers had huge games last week agaisnt the aforementioned Buccaneers and vaulted into the top five. Nicks is likely to fall back this week since he won't play against the Panthers. However, both of those players are likely to hang around near the top of this list most of the year.

» Dwayne Bowe is more proof that garbage points are still good points for fantasy owners. The long range forecast for Bowe is even better when you consider the teams in his division have been known to give up points to fantasy receivers. This week's game against New Orleans isn't a divisional game, but it's still a very favorable matchup for the Chiefs primary receiver.

» Last week, Danny Amendola lived up to his promise as a sleeper in most leagues. If these rankings were adjusted for PPR leagues, he'd probably be further up the list. Nonetheless, Amendola is still living up to his billing as the new Wes Welker. However, allow me to be something of a wet blanket. He'll be Welker circa 2006, when the then-relatively unknown receiver was catching passes from Joey Harrington. Maybe one day he'll rightfully take his place at the right arm of a Pro Bowl quarterback. But he's still worth being on 100 percent of rosters across fantasy football.

» Roddy White and Julio Jones spent the past week trading places like they were Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. Okay, maybe it wasn't that extreme, but Jones' underwhelming Monday night performance definitely affected his ranking. Don't panic, he'll be fine. But it was a reminder that White isn't to be overlooked. Both of them are worthy of being looked at as No. 1 receivers.

» Last week, Vincent Jackson wasn't on the list. This week, he's 16th. Next week? He could be in the top 10. He could drop down into the 30s. There's just no telling with this guy on a week-to-week basis. Jackson has the ability to be a top ten fantasy wideout, he just hasn't shown the consistency. And that was when he was working with Philip Rivers in San Diego. The numbers are likely to be even more unpredictable with the erratic Josh Freeman.

» Few people spent any time talking up Andrew Hawkins before the season started. But two weeks into the 2012 campaign, it might be time to give him a little bit of run. He's been the presumptive No. 2 receiver in the Bengals offense and has actually outpeformed A.J. Green so far. I don't expect that trend to continue, but if Hawkins can produce even respectable numbers this week against the Redskins, it could be time to start taking him seriously as a fantasy factor.

» Everyone expected an Arizona Cardinal receiver to be on this list. No one expected it to be Andre Roberts. After scoring touchdowns in his first two games, it's time to consider adding him to fantasy rosters. Larry Fitzgerald (who currently ranks 72nd) won't be a dud all season long, but the sands of the hourglass are running out on his days as a fantasy stud. However, neither is a particularly attractive option this week against the Eagles.

» That's more like it, Stephen Hill.

» Johnson and Johnson (Andre and Calvin) have seen their stock fall in the last couple of weeks. In Andre Johnson's case, the Texans have wholeheartedly sold themselves to the running game. Not surprising, considering how successful the tandem of Foster and Tate have been. And before you scream Madden curse, Calvin Johnson and the Lions have run upon a pair of pretty good defenses to start the season. Look for Megatron to blast further up the list after this week's game against the Titans.

» Yes, it's early, but Jordy Nelson has not been anything approaching what people expected at the start of the season. Even with Greg Jennings out of action last week, Nelson was mediocre. In two games he's has yet to find the end zone while names like Tom Crabtree and Donald Driver have made Lambeau Leaps this season. It looks like the Packers will be without Jennings yet again this week, but a matchup with the ball-hawking Seahawks secondary isn't exactly a match made in heaven.

» While plenty of people are wringing their hands over Wes Welker's lack of production, few have spent a lot of breath wondering what's up with Brandon Lloyd. Just about everyone believed he was poised to make the leap to the upper echelon of fantasy WRs with Tom Brady slinging the ball in his direction. But a funny thing happened on the way to the top ... Lloyd isn't getting the ball as much as everyone thought he would. In the first two weeks, Lloyd has a combined 12.90 fantasy points and hasn't scored a touchdown. You would imagine that without Aaron Hernandez, Lloyd's fantasy outlook would improve. Then again, with a thigh injury that has him limited in practice this week, maybe not.

» I'm not ready to call Randall Cobb a one-week wonder -- especially not with Jennings sill a question mark. But I was never fully on Cobb's bandwagon. I'm willing to give him another look this week against Seattle, but if you're looking for an alternative target in the Packers offense, James Jones appears to be the better option.

» Greg Little, are you always destined to be an "almost"? He's almost a sleeper. He's almost worth a weekly flex play. He's almost on the verge of being sent to the waive wire. Last week, he had a pretty nice day. This week, I like his chances of having another solid week against the Bills. And I'm almost back on his sleeper bandwagon again. There's that word again. Almost.

» Rod Streater's shelf life might be waning. I have a hard time thinking he'll be completely shut out of the offense, but as Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey find more of a rhythm with Carson Palmer, they'll start to gobble up the majority of the targets. Surprisingly, this could be an interesting week to consider Streater as a flex option in deeper leagues. The Steelers will likely focus on the primary receivers, meaning Streater could get open for a few catches. Provided Palmer isn't flattened by the pass rush.

Tight ends


» Hi there, Dante Rosario! You certainly caught us all by surprise last week with your three touchdown catches. Plenty of Antonio Gates owners saw that and probably cried actual tears into their beers. We hope you've enjoyed your stay near the top of this list because it's likely going to be brief. Gates is expected back this week and even if he wasn't, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Atlanta Falcons would have something for you. They see a great tight end every day in practice. I'm pretty confident they know how to game plan against the position.

» Cowboys fans insist that they aren't missing Martellus Bennett, but they have to be wondering where this level of production was when he was still sporting a star on his helmet. Instead, he seems to have found a home with the Giants. The biggest difference is that Bennett has cut out a lot of the drops that plagued him in Dallas. Eli Manning hasn't had a tight end with this type of ability since Jeremy Shockey was still roaming the Meadowlands. Considering how much Manning relies on his tight ends, Bennett's fortunes rely almost completely upon himself.

» The 49ers might have added more weapons at receiver, but Vernon Davis is still the primary option in the passing game -- as proven by his two-touchdown game against the Lions last Sunday night. As Alex Smith continues to improve at quarterback, Davis' value will only continue to grow. This week against the Vikings should be another nice week for the big tight end.

» Since New England's tight end corps is mostly Rob Gronkowski in the wake of Hernandez's injury, he could find himself at the top of this list within a couple of weeks.

» I don't want to get too excited about Scott Chandler. He got off to a hot start last year only to fade away. I don't want to believe. I don't want to believe. But I'll probably come around if he does it again this week. I want to kick myself already.

» I'm going to keep beating the drum. Bran-don My-ers clap clap clapclapclap. Bran-don My-ers clap clap clapclapclap. He's a sleeper, folks. Get him while the getting's good.


» They might be old and/or injured in a few key spots, but the Ravens defense is still not to be trifled with. It certainly helps when you've forced six turnovers in the first two games of the season. They will definitely be tested this week against at Patriots offense that is likely licking its wounds after a surprising home loss in Week 2.

» Instead of listing "Packers", I was tempted just to show "Clay Matthews" after his monstrous game last Thursday night. Still, Green Bay's defense has shown up pretty well in the first two weeks, allowing the fifth-fewest total yards. This week's matchup against a suspect Seahawks offense should help keep them near the top of this list.

» Speaking of the Seahawks, last week's shutdown of the Cowboys helped them jump right in the midst of the defensive rankings. That's what happens when you block punts and score touchdowns. They'll have their hands full against the Packers on Monday night, but this group has a good chance to remain on this list for most of the season.

» It's pretty amazing that there are three NFC West defenses on this list ... and the 49ers aren't one of them. That could change after this week's game against the Vikings. In the meantime, don't sleep on the rest of the defenses in that division. They're probably better than most people realize.

Follow Marcas Grant on Twitter @MarcasG.

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