Thinking back to draft day 2007, we'd all love a mulligan or two. Almost all of us had the option of selecting rookie Adrian Peterson, yet we chose to draft Edgerrin James, Thomas Jones or even Cedric Benson instead. Hindsight is a beautiful thing when you can do something about it, and while most would think reflecting about draft day at this point of the season is futile, I'm of the opinion that it presents a valuable insight on players you might want to target in trades. Therefore, at this point of the season, I suggest ranking players based on this season's actual production.
In my opinion, the best way to effectively rank players is using their CAPS (Comparison to Average Positional Starter) differential. To do this, take all players who have played in three or more games (and are not on the NFL injured reserve list) and compare their average weekly score versus the average score of players at the same position who have been the most productive this season.
Based on this comparison, the following skill-position players currently rank as the 100 best fantasy options:
1. Tom Brady QB, Patriots: Brady's 28 points per game are a good 10 points per game better than the average starting quarterback in 10-team leagues. His plus-10 CAPS differential is so far superior to any other player, if a draft was being held today, he should be a unanimous No. 1 overall selection. If the Patriots continue their offensive onslaught and Randy Moss is a Patriot again in 2008, there are going to be many articles that argue that Brady should be the first overall pick.
2. Brian Westbrook RB, Eagles: Known as much for his explosiveness as for his brittleness, Westbrook has posted the largest CAPS differential of any running back, with plus-6.4 points per game (PPG). His 19.7 weekly average score shouldn't be overlooked, and if you can secure his services for less than the price of what a top-five running back should cost, you are encouraged to do so.
3. Joseph Addai RB, Colts: During the preseason, I warned that Addai should be viewed as the fifth-best running back, based on how many carries I expected him to get. Based on a number of different factors, Addai ranks as the No. 2 running back in terms of CAPS differential at plus-6.1 PPG. While some would view this ranking as an indication of Addai's talent and opportunity, others would point to the general lack of consistency at the running back position. Both would be somewhat correct; the real reason is a combination of the two.
4. Randy Moss WR, Patriots: If you don't own him or you aren't a Patriots fan, Moss might have represented all that is wrong with today's athletes. But make no mistake about it: He's just as much a reason for how productive the Pats offense has been as Tom Brady is. He has been a model citizen in Foxborough, Mass. so look for Moss to remain the most dominant wide receiver in the game.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers: No surprise here, right? L.T. hasn't been Numero Uno, like we expected, but No. 5 ain't bad.
6. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: It's hard to top the sixth-ranked overall player with an average draft position in the high 50s as the fantasy value of the year, but Peterson misses out, based on the performances of Brady and Moss above. Regardless of that, the man nicknamed "All Day" likely will finish as a top-three running back, making those who reached for his services on draft day seem very, very smart.
7. Braylon Edwards, WR, Browns: Sometimes on draft day, it's best to ignore all the surrounding factors on why a player should fail and instead focus on the talent level of that player. Going into draft day, people chose to let Edwards slip based on the Browns' shaky quarterback situation. Instead, Chris Chambers, who was being thrown to by the concussion-prone Trent Green, was taken earlier. Was Chambers' situation really that much better?
8. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: When I write the 2008 version of my annual column on why you don't select a running back in the second round if you want to win, Gates' dominant performances likely will take up at least a portion of it.
9. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals: I've been saying it for a long time: Houshmandzadeh, if he stays healthy, is a better fantasy play than his teammate, Chad Johnson. He outscored C.J. on a point-per-game basis last season and is targeted much more frequently in the red zone.
10. Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals: The most frustrating part about Boldin is that you never know how long the current quarterback will be under center. With Matt Leinart on the IR and Kurt Warner already playing hurt, Boldin is one quarterback sack away from going from fantasy star to fantasy afterthought. Considering the shortcomings of the Arizona offensive line, that isn't a heart-warming prospect.
11. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: If you were among the many who selected Romo despite his brief ré
sumé, your gamble has paid off better than you could have expected. If you are a Cowboys fan and are getting ready to write me already, just ask yourself if you really expected Romo to outpoint Peyton Manning before you send me a note.
12. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: 2008: Year of the Tight End. Or maybe it's really the Year of Disappointing Production at All Other Skill Positions. Either way, Romo's and Witten's success are dependent upon each other. If Terry Glenn ever makes his way back, Witten becomes an immediate sell-high candidate, though.
13. Dallas Clark, TE, Colts: Clark's performance is as much because of his talents as it is because of Marvin Harrison's injuries. Before 2007, Harrison was one of the most reliable plays, so once he gets healthy, expect him to cut into Clark's production.
14. Derek Anderson, QB, Browns: Anderson was expected to become the third-string quarterback for Cleveland as soon as Brady Quinn was ready to play. Instead, he's putting up numbers that just might have him finish in the top 10 for NFL MVP voting.
15. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts: While some might argue that Wayne has benefited from the recent absence of Marvin Harrison, his performance is similar to last year. Considering that he's drawing the attention of his opponent's top cornerback, this should be viewed as a plus. Because of this, there's no reason to expect a drop-off in his production once Harrison returns.
16. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: What's more surprising: The fact that Manning isn't No. 1 or that Tony Romo and Derek Anderson rank above him? The fact of the matter is that Manning is one of only four quarterbacks that provide above-average point total compared to the average score at his position. Even though he has been a slight disappointment, he's still not hurting your team.
17. Chad Johnson, WR, Bengals: For all the conversation about how his antics have been distracting, the statistics don't lie. In reality, the media is focusing on Chad during this Bengals' downswing because he's an easy target. Nobody wants to talk about the real problem, that the three players the Bengals viewed as possible every-down backs are all incapacitated in one form or another (Rudi Johnson, Kenny Irons, Chris Perry). That's the real problem.
18. Kellen Winslow, TE, Browns: Seriously, three Browns in the top 18? It's as hard to write that as it is to read it.
19. Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens: I made the case this offseason that McGahee wasn't an upgrade over Jamal Lewis because the offensive line of the Ravens isn't very good when it comes to run blocking. I was called an idiot by a number of people ... but haven't heard back from any of them when it comes to this fact: The Browns average more rushing yardage per game than the Ravens. Jamal Lewis is averaging 4.7 yards per carry to McGahee's 4.4 yards. Seems to me that one of these two things must be true -- either Lewis is better than McGahee, or the Browns' line is significantly better than the Ravens' line.
20. Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants: Just how good has Burress been? Consider this: Eli Manning ranks 98th in terms of CAPS differential. The next highest Giants receiver is tight end Jeremy Shockey, who ranks 55th overall. I know others here at the Worldwide Leader are high on Plaxico, but I view him as the definition of sell-high.
Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com