The season is right around the corner, and everyone is sweating their draft strategy for this weekend or the next (both if you’re obsessive like me). Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered for at least the first round. We’re giving you both the WHO and the WHY with each pick, so you can decide for yourself if the pick is right for you. Not everyone evaluates players the same, and everyone has their own draft strategy. We won’t question you.
Today, I’ll be giving you the first 11 picks (because #10 and #11 would be the same team in a snake format, so they are interchangeable). My counterparts and I have rotated through the picks and played the part of 10 different team owners. Read ahead and you might learn something.
1) Adrian Peterson (TJ) – “All Day” is as close as it gets to a sure thing in Fantasy Football production. He’s a perennial top finisher and doesn’t miss games. Plus, there’s no second back looking to snake his TDs or a QB/WR tandem that should scare away potential suitors. No brainer for first choice.
2) Chris Johnson (Armondo) – and I say that confidently knowing there’s more debate for the top-4 players this year than the past few years. You’ve got arguments that can be made for AP, CJ, AF (might as well start calling him by initials too), and even fringe arguments for Jamaal Charles, Aa-Rod and Michael Vick. (Quick aside: if I didn’t have the Meat theme going, “Michael Vick’s Canine VapoRub” very well may have been my team name. Consider the NEDN lucky.) I really don’t mind CJ as a #1 and especially a #2, for several reasons.
– New coach (but one that has been with the org for eons – VERY important fact), and a fresh offensive outlook with underrated vet Matt Hasselbeck and equally-underrated rookie Jake “The Foot” Locker coming in.
– Soon-to-be paid in the shade… we don’t know how much yet, but the “DeAngelo Williams copped $21m guaranteed, I mean come the fuck on” argument should prevail. Bud Adams might have crossed the Alps with Hammurabi, but even in his old age he knows a thing or two about running an American football team. CJ will get his comeuppance, and he’ll play like a dude who just became the richest RB in NFL history.
– Stats don’t lie… Shakira taught us that, kinda. Past 3 years, CJ has racked up 5606 total yds. and 38 TDs. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s an average of about 1850 yds. and 12.5 TDs/season, of which about 1525 yds. and 11 TDs/season were from rushing. If he stays at that same average (no reason to think that he won’t), then he’ll snag at least 13 100-yd. games, on top of the other fufillion points he’ll be scoring my mock team.
– Out-of-conference games this season include MIN, STL, CHI, NO x2, BAL, DEN, CLE, PIT, CIN, CAR, ATL, TB and BUF. Going off against 4 of the 6 worst run D’s in the league (CLE, TB, DEN and BUF) should more than compensate for the games against PIT, CHI and BAL. Von Miller will make a difference eventually, but not immediately enough to prevent CJ from running all kinds of over the Broncos.
– In-conference, HOU is the only team that can potentially cause CJ fits, with the draft additions of J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed, but that’s still TBD. JAX and IND, on the other hand, were terrible in the run D column last year, and will be terrible again this year.
– He has a record label called Flashy Lifestyle Entertainment, with signed artists Pressure Dommer, Lil EZ, Ballie and Stakkhouse. Stakkhouse, for goodness sakes!!! Game, set, match.
3) Arian Foster (Casey) – I take him with caution though for a few reasons. First of all, you can’t deny how much of a fantasy stud he was last year. Winning the rushing and TD titles, he ended the season as dominant as CJ was in 2009. Why take him? He’s still behind one of the best, young O-lines in the league. At 25, he should take a step backwards but not too much and could still approach the 300 touch mark this season. He was also a decent third option for Schaub and has one of the better pairs of hands for an RB in the NFL. An improved defense should, in theory, also help since the Texans shouldn’t have to air it out so much in the second half to fight from behind. Now the downsides. First, the back he replaced in the preseason last year, Ben Tate, is back and healthy and could siphon off some carries just to give the Texans offense some different looks. Second, he hit 327 carries last season. Under the Turner Regression Model, the curve tells us that he is more than likely to rush for fewer yards and touchdowns this season (1,616 yds and 16 TDs btw). Finally, he’s currently probable. Granted, he’s already working his way back up to speed this week after being held out of some practice last week with an hamstring injury. But this might be a red flag for later on down the line. Long story short, even with the risks, at #3 I’d still take the best player still on the board and that’s Foster.
4) Ray Rice (TJ) – Three words: No Willis McGahee! Rice was already the workhorse for the team (getting 308 carries and 63 receptions), and now he doesn’t have someone taking away his Red Zone touches (Ricky Williams ain’t what he used to be). Many people complained that Rice was a bust last year, but he finished 10th in RB scoring despite a slow start and I have to believe he’ll improve on those 6TDs from last season. Also, that WR corps doesn’t look like it’s going to contribute much with aging stars Boldin and Lee Evans and a missing piece at TE. Rice has a huge upside this season with very little concern that he won’t at least repeat last season.
5) Jamaal Charles
(Armondo) – I know, I know, Thomas Jones got more carries, whatever. But even though Jones got the rock 245 times, Charles snagged it 230 times. The differences? Thomas Jones got 896 yds. on those carries, while Charles got 1467 (good for 2nd in the league behind AF). Charles also pulled down 45 balls in 66 targets for 468 yds. and 3 TDs for the Chefs
, compared to 14/20/122/0 for Jones. The biggest stat working against Charles, of course, is rushing TDs – 5 for him and 6 for Jones – but his number of carries has risen every year since his 2008 rookie season, and there’s no reason to think that it won’t continue to increase. His average has steadily risen too – never below 5.3, spiking at 6.4 in 2010. That is the best of any player with over 100 carries, and one of only four with > 200 carries and > 5.0 YPC (LeSean McCoy, Darren McFadden and LeGarette Blount are the others).
And consider this: Thomas Jones is 32, with > 200 carries for the past 7 seasons. Dude tired than a mug, and it’s gonna catch up to him. When it does – either through decreased production, injury, or a likely combination of the two – Charles becomes the best fantasy football player on the planet. Period.
6) LeSean McCoy (Casey) – Perhaps my first reach, but hear me out here. First of all, McCoy is an every down back because of the Eagles offense and Michael Vick. Not only is he always an option in the passing game, but he’s a solid pass blocker in the backfield, meaning he’ll see more plays. The longer a guy is on the field, the bigger chance he has to score. Second, because of that, he’ll get points from catches on top of his rushes. 78 catches, leading all RBs, for 592 yards and 2 TDs is nothing to sneeze at. Third, he is a legitimate top-10 running back. He’s coming off a 1,080 yard season on 207 touches. The fact that we know this is a pass-first offense may turn off some owners but while McCoy was 19th in carries, he was the 7th best fantasy running back. Only 7 rushing TDs, but with his ability to break long runs, he doesn’t need to be a goal line basher. Also, I’m not convinced that Ronnie Brown will chip into McCoy’s workload significantly. Dual threat. That’s all I got say.
7) Frank Gore (TJ) – This is really the first reach of the draft, but at #7 I’m grabbing the last RB that I see as a first rounder. Take away the 5 missed games due to injury and Gore could have had a monster season. In just 11 games, he had 4 games of over 100yds rushing, 1 of over 100yds receiving and had 5 TDs. Then consider that SF will be relying on him because the QB situation with that O-line will mean a lot of running plays and check downs. The injury doesn’t concern me at this point because it was the first time he ever missed significant games.
8) Michael Vick (Armondo) I’m so sorry guys, but let me explain.
First off, and most importantly, Vick’s upside is ridiculous compared to other QBs. Last year, his legs got him 676 yds. w/a 6.76 YPC mark, and 9 touchdowns as well. Also DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin both had over 900 yds. receiving last year, something that only Hakeem Nicks/Mario Manningham and Miles Austin/Jason Witten can claim to have done on the same team. If he stinks, he’ll still put up decent numbers. But if he breaks out, he’ll outpace any other QB having a killer year.
Second, he played 12 games last season. That’s it. Averaging his stats, those extra four games would have put his totals at 4024 yds./28 TDs passing, 901 yds./12 TDs rushing. That would have put him fifth in both passing stats. PLUS the rushing yards. Swoon.
Third, to play a bit of Devil’s advocate, there are still some RBs that I could reasonably take in this slot – namely Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner, or the curse-breaker Peyton Hillis – but I just can’t fathom that any has the potential upside of Vick. Plus the RB pool is so deep (giggity) this year that I can still nab a stellar guy in the second round (think LeGarrette Blount, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Darren McFadden caliber).
An addendum to this is that I’m just gonna turn around, whistle, and pretend that Pittsburgh preseason game didn’t happen.
9) Roddy White (Casey) – First of all, I stick to a basic strategy that I don’t pick up a QB in the 1st round. Aaron Rodgers is the clear #1 quarterback, however, once you get past Rodgers the next 6 QBs are only separated by about 20 points. So you can wait unless round 1 becomes a QB frenzy.
Second, it looks to me and apparently TJ, that there’s no other first round-worthy RBs right now. The only guy in ESPN’s top 10 is MJD and we’ve already talked about how he may be the biggest 1st round risk what with the injury risk and a woeful offense possibly lead by a rookie QB. And we can ask Carolina how well that worked out for them last season.
Third, Armando and I had a lengthy conversation about who really is the #1 fantasy receiver, Johnson or White. Armando also threw Larry Fitzgerald’s name into the mix because of the acquisition of gunslinger Kevin Kolb and the massive contract he signed over the weekend. However, I’m sticking with White. He’s playing on a top offense with a solid QB. He’s been a 1,000+ yard receiver for the past 4 seasons, despite passing the 100 catch mark for the first time last season. And, I think he’s got a better #2 in Julio Jones than Johnson does in Kevin Walter or Jacoby Jones. Why does that matter? Well, you’d think that a better #2 would take away targets and Jones will, but at the same time, Jones will also pull defenders with him. I think Johnson will see more double teams in coverage than White. Plus, many owners will still be feeling the sting from his disappearing act down the stretch that may have cost them playoff games. Not that Johnson won’t end up scoring 150+ points, but he once again may not end the year as the best receiver, White has a pretty good shot at it.
(Armondo’s Interjection) – This actually brings up a very good discussion point… if you could choose between a guy who scores exactly 12 PPG every game of the season without fail (156 pts. total for the regular season) and one that scores 20 PPG for 7 games and 5 PPG the remaining 6 games (170 pts. total)… which would you choose? I’m starting to wonder if that isn’t as clear-cut as I would’ve thought in the past…
– The important thing with scoring is having those guys who will contribute in the FFB playoffs. The dangerous part is that a a guy who falls off toward the end will be useless in the playoffs, but you’d be tempted to keep the guy in your lineup because of his potential (think Peyton Hillis 2010). You’ll always be hesitant to bench the guy, but really he’s just dead weight.
That being said, 12ppg isn’t great for your top RBs or QB but I’d take it at any other position if it happened every week. Give me double-digits at #2 WR, RB/WR, TE, K, or D/ST and I’m a happy owner. However, since this is the first round, anyone taken should be looking at 15-20pts every week with upside near 30.
Okay, the final pick of the first round is kind of tricky. Really, I get two picks here. However, I also have to plan ahead because I don’t pick again until #30/#31. A LOT of good players will come off the board before I select again. I also quite a few options as far as position goes. I am not a QB guy in standard scoring leagues because grabbing Schaub or Romo won’t upset me with my 4th Rd pick, but not landing a top RB or WR will kill me inside (and probably for the season as well).
10) Rashard Mendenhall
(TJ) – MJD would have been an obvious choice here (and I wouldn’t criticize anyone for picking him), but I don’t trust the Jacksonville offense. His lack of TDs last season coupled with the injury are enough to scare me off early. With Mendenhall I get a fairly sure thing. I know he’ll get the touches and has the ability to make things happen. Pittsburgh will give him the ball in the red zone, and they have always been a run first offense. A repeat of 2010 is a reasonable expectation, and that makes him worthy of a first round pick.
11) Calvin Johnson (TJ) – Kind of a reach at #11, but I don’t pick again until #30 and I need a top WR. Could have taken Andre Johnson, but I think the ceiling on Megatron with a healthy Matt Stafford (hopefully) is higher than Andre’s. I’m missing out on a lot of great players any way you slice it, so I’m taking the guy that I want. There really isn’t a wrong answer here so long as a WR or RB is taken. Or Aaron Rodgers.
So there you have it. Of course, some people will question the picks, but remember that it is all about how YOU value players and positions. Remember that Arian Foster was a 4th or 5th round pick in almost every draft in 2010 and finished #1. Michael Vick wasn’t even drafted, but if you nabbed him off the waiver wire you probably made the playoffs (if not, you really need to rethink your entire team/strategy).
There is no sure thing, but you set yourself up for success if you have a plan and know the guys you want and where you’re willing to pick them.