Fantasy Football

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Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31508896 No. 1 - Adrian Peterson No.+1+-+Adrian+Peterson Fantasy Football

On average, ADP fell to the third round of most fantasy football drafts because on December 24, 2011 his knee was shredded.   Turned out, Minnesota and its team of doctors had the technology to rebuild him.

During that final 10 games of the regular season, Peterson tallied eight straight games where he rushed for 108 or more yards and averaged a ridiculous 159.8 rush yards per game. If you have a reason why a guy who came nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record shouldn't be the top fantasy football draft pick of 2013, I'm all ears @FOXSportsFowler. - Ryan Fowler

Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31508892 No. 2 - Arian Foster No.+2+-+Arian+Foster Fantasy Football

To compare Foster's 2012 campaign to 2011 isn't fair because he missed several games last season due to injury. So, I compared 2012 to 2010.

Foster finished with 192 fewer rushing yards despite 24 more carries, a career-high 351. Where fantasy owners got burned, to a certain degree (the guy finished third in fantasy points scored among RBs for goodness sakes), was in the Texans passing game.  Foster wasn't targeted nearly as often.  He caught 40 balls for 217 yards in 16 games this season. By contrast, Foster eclipsed 600 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons (13 and 16 games, respectively.

The silver lining remains Foster’s fantasy value inside the red zone. He carried the ball a league-high 80 times inside the 20 yard line, 42 times inside the 10 yard line and 26 times inside the five yard line.  Foster is one of only nine other running backs to boast 15 or more rushing touchdowns in a single season over the last five years. - Ryan Fowler

Thomas Campbell - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31513717 No. 3 - Drew Brees No.+3+-+Drew+Brees Fantasy Football

Despite leading the NFL in interceptions with 19 (-38 fantasy points), Drew Brees led fantasy football in scoring with 431.6 fantasy points, 10 more than Aaron Rodgers who finished second. He threw three or more touchdowns in 11 out of the Saints' 16 games. Brees finished with over 5,000 passing yards for the second season in a row, averaging 324 yards per game with 43 touchdowns. He's averaged 5,091 pass yards, 40 touchdowns and 18 interceptions over the last three seasons.

Plus, his coach, Sean Payton, returns after a one-year hiatus/suspension where he spent most of his time as the offensive coordinator of his son's sixth-grade football team. This begs the obvious fantasy football question: why does a sixth-grade football team need an offensive coordinator? - Ryan Fowler

Tim Heitman - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31508879 No. 4 - Tom Brady No.+4+-+Tom+Brady+ Fantasy Football

Over the last three seasons, Brady has averaged 4,654 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In standard scoring leagues, and depending on rushing stats, Brady would hover around that top-tier, 400-fantasy-point threshold if he were to post those exact numbers next season.

Even at the age of 36 (as of August 3, 2013), I don't see Brady regressing to the point where his fantasy football value isn't that of a first-round, top-five pick. Shoot, in the five games without Rob Gronkowski, Brady still managed to throw 11 touchdowns. He adapts to his surroundings.  There's no need for owners to get cute and over-analayze this pick. - Ryan Fowler

Melina Vastola - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31513715 No. 5 - Ray Rice No.+5+-+Ray+Rice Fantasy Football

Like LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia, the Ravens' offense thrives when Ray Rice touches the ball. Ignoring Week 17 when Rice didn't play much, Baltimore is 32-11 when Rice receives 20 or more touches . They are 12-11 when he touches the ball fewer than 20 times. He received fewer than 20 touches in seven out of 15 games in 2012 (again ignoring Week 17).

His 1,143 rush yards, 61 receptions and 478 receiving yards are the lowest season totals since his rookie year (2008). With Cam Cameron jettisoned during the season, it'll be interesting to see if Jim Caldwell retains the offensive coordinator position (unlikely) or if the front office seeks out a fresh mind that realizes Rice is an integral part of the Ravens' offense/success and not pretend Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback. - Ryan Fowler

Andrew Mills - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31510780 No. 6 - Aaron Rodgers No.+6+-+Aaron+Rodgers Fantasy Football

Chances are Rodgers' fantasy draft stock improves a few spots in the next eight months, but for now I'm content with him at six.

Greg Jennings missed eight games and was only fantasy relevant in one, Jordy Nelson missed four games, Jermichael Finley failed to find his groove/niche, Cedric Benson suffered a season-ending foot injury, and Rodgers still managed to finish second in fantasy points scored (26.4 fantasy points per game). For every interception thrown, Rodgers threw 4.87 touchdowns, the best TD:INT ratio in the league.

Jennings could be on the move in 2013 as a free agent, but expect Nelson, Randall Cobb and the leader in touchdown receptions, James Jones (14), to fill that void for the Packers. - Ryan Fowler

Benny Sieu - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31510788 No. 7 - Marshawn Lynch No.+7+-+Marshawn+Lynch Fantasy Football

Assuming D.J. Skittles doesn't face a suspension because of last summer's arrest, Lynch is what you want in a fantasy running back. He's the definitive number one back on Seattle's depth chart with no threat of vultures and, despite playing alongside a mobile quarterback, finished fourth in fantasy points scored among fellow running backs. Lynch's 315 carries, 1,590 rushing yards and 5.0 average yards per rush were all career highs for a guy who will turn 27 this April.

My only concern is Lynch's future role in the red zone. In 2011, he received 80 percent of the team’s rushes inside the 20 yard line, fifth in the NFL. In 2012, he received 65.9 percent of the carries, while Russell Wilson received 21.2 percent. - Ryan Fowler

Steven Bisig - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31510772 No. 8 - LeSean McCoy No.+8+-+LeSean+McCoy+ Fantasy Football

LeSean McCoy ranks right up there with the biggest fantasy football busts of 2012 after boasting an average draft position of fourth overall, but failing to finish inside the top 20 in fantasy points scored among running backs. 

Pardon me as I channel my inner-Sean Maguire and preach, "It's not your fault."

McCoy missing four games due to a concussion didn't help. The shift in Andy Reid's play-calling inside the red zone didn’t help, either:

McCoy's 2012 Stats: 25 carries inside the 20 yard line, 14 inside the 10 yard line and seven inside the five yard line.

McCoy's 2011 Stats: 52 carries inside the 20 yard line, 31 inside the 10 yard line and 18 inside the five yard line.

I still believe the most interesting factoid from the Eagles' season was that in games where McCoy rushed 20-or-more times, Philly was 3-0 and 0-9 in games where he had 19-or-fewer carries.

Oh, and Bryce Brown was a fantasy fling. It was fun, but it wasn't forever. - Ryan Fowler

Dale Zanine - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31511673 No. 9 - Doug Martin No.+9+-+Doug+Martin Fantasy Football

LeGarrette Blount lingered as a potential fantasy vulture in 2012, but only for a few weeks as Doug Martin enjoyed his "Hello, world!" moment on a Thursday night in late October when he torched Minnesota for 215 yards with two touchdowns. The following week, Martin ran over Oakland to the tune of 251 yards with four touchdowns. He scored 36.3 percent of his touchdowns and recorded 17.2 percent of his rushing yardage in that one game.

With a potential ceiling reached midway through his rookie campaign, Martin averaged 82.5 rush yards per game with four touchdowns in the eight weeks that followed. But here's why I believe the best is yet to come. Prior to the game against Oakland, Carl Nicks was placed on injured reserve. He was the second Buccaneers' All-Pro guard to be placed on IR. For half the season Martin was rushing behind a hodge-podge offensive line and still managed to succeed.  With a healthy o-line in 2013, Martin's fantasy ceiling may be higher than we think. - Ryan Fowler

Kirby Lee - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31511641 No. 10 - Alfred Morris No.+10+-+Alfred+Morris Fantasy Football

If you recall, Evan Royster was named Washington's starting running back heading into Week 1's matchup against the Saints. In true Mike Shanahan fashion, Royster carried the ball two times for 10 yards. A rookie, Alfred Morris, swiped the gig away and never returned it after he racked up 96 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns in that same contest. Morris received 20 or more carries in 10 out of the Redskins' 16 games with at least 22 carries in each of the team's last six games. He finished with 76 or more rushing yards in 14 out of 16 games. All this accomplished with RG3, a running quarterback, behind center. - Ryan Fowler

Geoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31511640 No. 11 - Calvin Johnson No.+11+-+Calvin+Johnson Fantasy Football

I know. I know. The five touchdowns continue to burn. After averaging 14 trips to the end zone the previous two seasons, Megatron owners have some right to be disappointed in the Lions' (Matthew Stafford's) offensive deficiencies. Despite this, Johnson outscored Brandon Marshall (11 touchdowns) and Dez Bryant (12 touchdowns) by four and 13 fantasy points, respectively. Johnson averaged over 147 receiving yards per game the last nine contests. He caught 122 of the 205 passes thrown his way (59.5 percent). While I expect his targets and yardage totals to regress, his touchdown totals should fall between 10-12 scores in 2013 (60-72 fantasy points). - Ryan Fowler

Eric Hartline - USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Football 2186 43 Top 12 Fantasy Football Picks in 2013 31508828 No. 12 - RG3 / CJ2K / P. Manning / Marshall / Gronk No.+12+-+RG3+%2F+CJ2K+%2F+P.+Manning+%2F+Marshall+%2F+Gronk Fantasy Football

Just like making a decision at The Cheesecake Factory, the menu of top-tier options leak on to the next page. So, I thought I'd share a potpourri of fantasy football talent that could be targeted with the last pick of the first round in standard-sized leagues.

Update 1/9/13: the below summation was crafted prior to RG3 tearing his ACL/LCL and requiring surgery.  His draft status remains TBD heading into 2013's draft.

To push the curtain aside for a second, Joel Beall asked where I had RG3 ranked heading into 2013 yesterday. After a brief thought, I said somewhere between No. 6 and No. 8 overall. As the first-round studs started to stack up, RG3's ranking started to slip. My concern with ranking this quarterback too high is IF Mike Shanahan retools the offense to limit the amount of carries RG3 receives and the quarterback's fantasy value dips. Washington has too much invested in this kid for him to be lost because of an illiterate option read when they have a reliable running back. - Ryan Fowler

Geoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports
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