Fantasy football draft analysis: Andre Johnson moving up

Are you ready? Have you perused the updates to positional rankings on Have you already drafted and spent ample time wringing your hands with the hope that the text message that came through concerns your automatic payment of a bill and not an injury report on one of your players?

In this installment of my preseason ranting, I’m circling back to the draft board to note trends and shifts in philosophy. After all, the draft board of 2010 resembles nothing that you’ve seen in fantasy history. Let’s break it down.

The back-and-forth shuffling at the sixth position continued this past week. Once again, Andre Johnson has wrested the spot away from Atlanta tailback Michael Turner. The top 5 in standard leagues remains unchanged, although the myriad issues in Minnesota have created separation between top overall pick Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson.

Interestingly, fantasy owners continue to push quarterbacks higher and higher on draft day. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are firmly entrenched inside the top 10, with Rodgers separating himself markedly from No. 9 overall pick Steven Jackson. I would not be surprised to see Brees surpass Jackson before the opening kickoff two weeks from now.

The rapid advancement of the top quarterback options (all the way down to Jay Cutler) has pushed a number of running backs down the draft board. In terms of ADP, workhorses Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant are being bounced to the latter-part of the second round. Of the backs considered to be RB1s by the fantasy universe right now, only Ryan Mathews is seeing an improvement in his draft status. Mathews has been impressive in two preseason games, and it appears that Norv Turner’s commitment to a 300-touch total for the rookie is there.

I’ve been curious to watch the movement of wide receivers on the board this season. There’s no disputing that the aforementioned Andre Johnson stands head and shoulders above the other players at the position. In the past couple weeks, Randy Moss has leapt over Larry Fitzgerald for the second receiver slot on draft boards. All you had to do was watch Matt Leinart operate or receive the Tweets about Fitzgerald’s knee to see the arrow pointing south. Steady Indianapolis stalwart Reggie Wayne ranks fourth, but then things start to get cloudy.

According to the current ADP reports, Calvin Johnson holds down the fifth slot, narrowly beating out Miles Austin, Brandon Marshall and Roddy White. I have them slightly switched about, with Austin leading the pack, followed by White, Johnson and Marshall. Fantasy owners then back their support of Rodgers by making Greg Jennings the ninth receiver off of the board (DeSean Jackson is 10th). I have Jennings slotted at the back-end of the WR1 position. His placement here is a few slots too high, in my humble opinion. Every one of these receivers has an ADP lower than 30.

I find this rush on receivers interesting in that Antonio Gates is the first tight end off of the board at the back-end of the fourth round. A total of 15 receivers come off of the board, on average, before the San Diego behemoth. Now, I agree that there is a plethora of start-worthy fantasy options at the position this season, so the need to snag Gates earlier isn’t quite so pressing. Still, it’s been interesting to watch how the top players at this position (Gates, Dallas Clark, Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis) aren’t sending owners rushing to draft them sooner.

Fantasy owners want nothing to do with the latest installment of the Mike Shanahan shell game in Washington. Clinton Portis is being selected at the back-end of the ninth round, on average, the first of the three veteran Washington tailbacks to come off of the board, far ahead of Larry Johnson and fantasy afterthought Willie Parker. Portis may have tremendous upside if Shanahan commits to him. He’s certainly a low-risk, high-reward proposition at his current draft selection point.

I noted in my recent Risers/Fallers piece that the New York Jets defense slid marginally last week into the back-end of the 10th or early part of the 11th round. The Jets are still the best defense on the board, with or without Darrelle Revis, but they’re still coming off too soon. Backup quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford are coming off of the board behind the Jets. A total of six defenses are being selected ahead of Miami quarterback Chad Henne, on average.

Finally, I’ll circle back into one of my recently completed drafts to note a potential bargain. Fred Taylor piqued the interest of New England fans and fantasy owners with his 28-yard touchdown run in the Patriots’ second preseason game. Laurence Maroney’s inconsistency and injury-riddled past, combined with the team’s propensity to work multiple tailbacks into the mix could make Taylor a sneaky handcuff pick. He was the “Mr. Irrelevant” in this draft, coming in at the 240th overall pick.

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