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Charles snags first-round status
Bummed out that the 2012 fantasy football campaign is kaput? You’re preaching to the choir. As one who writes about the rotisserie world for a living, you would think the interval between the end of NFL regular season and start of spring training would be a welcomed respite. Not the case, as the sabbatical forces me to engage in dreaded endeavors like conversations with friends, going out on dates, catching up on television shows and other activities that constitute what most call “having a life.” Basically, my nightmare.
If you share this sentiment, we have a going-away pigskin present for you. To keep that fantasy thirst satiated until pitchers and catchers report, here is next season’s upper echelon of players, along with performers that fell just short of reaching this stratum:
Missed the Cut
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
One of the toughest omissions on our list, as Beast Mode submitted his finest season in his six-year career with 1,590 yards on the terrain and 12 total touchdowns. Plus, you can’t put a price on Lynch’s ongoing comedic Skittles-on-the-sideline routine. (Sadly, my attempt to replicate this awesomeness by rewarding our co-ops with Reese's cups after solid projects has been futile.) Unfortunately, Lynch’s off-the-field issues last summer might translate to a four-game suspension to begin 2013, leaving him out of our first round. If the Seattle back is able to avoid Judge Goodell’s gavel, reinsert Lynch into this elite tier.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Don’t laugh. The mix of Bryant’s strong second half (50 receptions, 879 yards, 10 touchdowns) with the unbridled fervor from Cowboys fans could correlate to the maligned wideout going in the early second round next summer. Bryant’s good, but he’s not that good…yet.
Chris Johnson, Titans
Rarely does a 1,240-yard rusher disappoint his contingent, and perhaps that designation is too caustic in regards to Johnson’s 2012 performance. Alas, it would be erroneous to say his proprietors were satisfied with their selection, as Johnson’s inconsistency turned his starting status into a weekly deliberation. Note that Johnson had five games with 120 rushing yards or more this season. In that same breath, he also managed five outings with 28 yards or less. This feast-or-famine approach is fine for a third-round pick. For a supposed cornerstone of a fantasy franchise? Not so much.
Peyton Manning, Broncos
Manning delivered everything his owners could have imagined and more this season: 400 completions, over 4,650 yards, 37 touchdowns and just 11 picks (three which came in the Georgia Dome Debacle in Week 2). These figures were good for the sixth-highest output among quarterbacks in standard formats, with that ranking elevating to fourth-best in PPR leagues. So why is the 6’5” field general with a laser-rocket arm on the outside looking in? For one, the man’s medical past does not convey longevity, and Manning will be 37 at the start of next season. Thanks to new remedial methods, players’ permanence continues to be expanded, but the last I checked, Father Time remains undefeated. Additionally, unlike running backs, serviceable signal callers can be attained relatively easily, as five of the top 10 fantasy arms owned an average draft position in the fifth round or later. As a personal investor in Manning in three different leagues this year, I can attest to his Mile-High magnificence. However, his prestige does not associate to a first-round pick in 2013.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
The chasm between Gronkowski and his colleagues (other than Jimmy Graham) is so vast that the argument could be made for this preeminent standing. Nevertheless, despite the delight deriving from yelling “GRONK!” at the top of your lungs when the adolescent behemoth scores for your team, the New England tight end did suffer two serious ailments in a 10-month span, raising an injury flag over the 23-year-old.
Pump the breaks before you scribe that hate mail, muchacho. Martin supported a robust rushing mark of 90.9 yards per game, and his 11 ground trips to pay dirt were tied for third-best in the NFC. Likewise, Martin was one of the more active backs in the receiving arena, hauling in 49 balls for 472 yards and a score. So why the animosity? Martin’s season stats are embellished by a two-week bonanza against the Vikings and Raiders, brandishing over 486 total yards and six end-zone excursions in that span. Withdraw that radiance, and suddenly the rookie’s harvest looks slightly more pedestrian over 14 games (1,068 rushing yards, 272 receiving yards, six touchdowns). And though I’m not the biggest proponent of this theory, I’m also superstitious enough not to discount the dreaded sophomore slump. In the 11-15 range, Martin deserves a gander, but you’re dancing with the devil by selecting the Boise State product any higher.
Brandon Marshall, Bears
Megatron gathered the headlines, and rightfully so. However, it warrants mentioning that, in PPR leagues, Marshall finished just eight points behind Calvin Johnson thanks to doubling up the Detroit receiver in scores (11 for Marshall, five for Johnson). In fact, Marshall’s 118 grabs for over 1,500 yards, to go along with the aforementioned touchdowns, placed the Bears primary target more than 30 points ahead of his nearest competition in PPR formats, with Dallas’ Bryant ranking third and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green fourth. Though not worthy of a first-round snag, Marshall is undoubtedly the second-best wideout available in next year’s draft.
Darren McFadden/ Maurice Jones-Drew
FACT: Since entering the league in 2008, Run DMC has spent 29 percent of his team’s games in sweats on the sideline. Not exactly the stability you’re looking for out of an alleged high-end commodity.
As for Jones-Drew…anyone else calling shenanigans on the timing of MJD’s ankle surgery? Keep in mind, Jones-Drew was entangled in a lengthy and acrimonious holdout during training camp, so is it that much of a reach to assume he prolonged the procedure in order to miss offseason workouts? And if this claim seems unnecessarily malicious, I didn’t even have Jones-Drew on any team this season. Can only imagine the disgust spewing from this paragraph if I handed the mic to MJD proprietors.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins
Concededly, by far the most controversial non-inclusion on our list. Don’t believe the figures from Griffin were an aberration this fall; if anything, the former Heisman winner’s passing production should improve with a full year of Pierre Garcon and the return of Fred Davis (and if not Davis, at least a viable tight end whose initials aren’t “Logan Paulsen.”
Unfortunately, a majority of Griffin’s worth stems from his aptitude on the soil (815 rushing yards, seven touchdowns). Expect those numbers to significantly decrease, with Mike Shanahan and company pulling the reins on their quarterback’s rush forays in order to preserve his health. I still see the Washington arm as a top-10 player at his position, but there’s too much inherent risk drafting Griffin at this level. However, there is an upshot to Griffin’s cutback in rush attempts…
The Top 12
No. 12 - Alfred Morris, Redskins
…with Morris the beneficiary to amplified action in the Washington offense. I’m slightly concerned that the heightened workload (335 attempts, third-most in the league) might lend itself to injury next season, yet Morris is young enough that these anxieties should be alleviated. What impressed me most from the rookie rusher was his consistently, as Morris failed to surpass 76 rushing yards just twice this season. You would hope he becomes more involved in the receiving forum (a meager 11 catches in 2012), but hard to complain about 13 touchdowns.
No. 11 - Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Denver’s Manning and Minnesota’s Peterson have garnered attention for illustrious rejuvenations from injuries, but how about some love for Charles? This was a guy who entered 2011 as the fourth overall fantasy pick after posting 1,467 rushing yards, 468 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2010. Yet, in preliminary pieces looking forward to the 2013 fantasy calendar, Charles is nowhere to be found in spite of amassing 1,500 rushing yards, 236 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Not bad for someone who had to work with Brady Quinn the majority of the year.
It appears Andy Reid will be in the Arrowhead saddle for 2013. While Reid’s usage, or lack thereof, of LeSean McCoy will be referenced as reason to avoid Charles (more on this in a moment), I still anticipate the former All-Pro back as the, ahem, “chief” component of Kansas City’s offensive assault.
No. 10 - Calvin Johnson, Lions
Not the biggest advocate of taking receivers in the first round, and highly unlikely the Detroit wideout replicates his record-setting standard from this season. Still, got to pay homage to Megatron. Only tidbit I have involves the Lions’ search for a serviceable receiving complement, as many accept that Johnson could be capable of more if Motown had someone to shift the adversarial focus. Don’t subscribe to this notion, as Johnson’s targets would take a significant decline and thus leave him with fewer prospects. Fortunately for Johnson managers, the Lions are far from attaining this goal, so Johnson should continue his conquests.
No. 9 - LeSean McCoy, Eagles
Might seem like a precipitous drop for an entity that some envisioned as the top back of 2012. Frankly, I think this spot is generous, given McCoy’s failure to get into the end zone (a scant two rushing touchdowns this year versus 17 land dives in 2011) and the emergence of backup Bryce Brown. And while we’re here, there’s a universal misnomer that McCoy was misused this season by the Eagles, which states the Philly back was left in the cold. Hold on, sports fans, truth bomb heading in your direction: in 15 games in 2011, McCoy was bestowed 321 touches (273 rushes, 48 receptions) for an average of 21.4 opportunities per outing. In 12 contests this past campaign, the total workload was 254 ventures (200 carries, 54 grabs) equating to…21.2 touches per game. Can’t say that comprises a misappropriation of assets.
However, assuming Michael Vick is not under center in the City of Brotherly Love next season and the Philadelphia front line is healthy, McCoy can rectify his 2011 form. Though he’s far from a lights-out pick, McCoy has enormous upside for a player at this juncture of the draft.
“A hearty contingent believes the former Heisman winner’s statistical onslaught was a bit of an aberration and that regression is inevitable, verified by his standing outside the overall top 20 on a multitude of preseason projections. Undoubtedly, replicating 14 rushing touchdowns might be too tall of an order. Then again, if Newton was capable of such carnage with just an abbreviated assimilation period in 2011 thanks to the lockout, imagine the wrath he can inflict with an entire offseason under his belt.”
Well guess what, haters? Thanks to a second-half revival, Newton finished as the fourth-highest scorer in standard leagues this season, so swallow that scoreboard justice.
If Newton gets any kind of receiving help this offseason, the third-year man could be an unstoppable force. Only apprehension regarding Newton is the vehemence of tales depicting his abrasiveness in the locker room. Usually we disregard most matters of this nature, yet the staggering amount of boorishness in accusations of Newton’s character almost gives you pause in building a team around an asserted tyrant.
No. 7 - C.J. Spiller, Bills
Considering he split substantial time with Fred Jackson, Spiller finishing as the seventh-highest scorer at this position in standard leagues (sixth-best in PPR formats) is nothing short of astonishing. Projected as the primary back in Buffalo next season, Spiller has the duo dexterity of a Marshall Faulk and wouldn’t surprise me if he finished 2013 as the top back in professional pigskin. Even if Jackson returns to the Bills, Spiller is no worse than an early second-round selection.
No. 6 – Drew Brees, Saints
Twenty turnovers were disconcerting, but despite these miscues, Brees finished as the top-rated fantasy arm in 2012 thanks to 43 touchdowns and over 5,175 yards. The return of Sean Payton, along with an improved defense, should ease up on the flight attempts from New Orleans, which should help Brees maintain his strength and stability throughout the season. As close to a “sure-thing” as one can obtain in a fantasy draft, even more so than…
No. 5 - Tom Brady, Patriots
Aside from playing outdoors, Brady has every advantage over Brees: better receivers, two superior tight ends, sound running game and strong defense that doesn’t put the New England offense in compromising positions. In short, Brady just has a higher ceiling than Brees. So why is Brees considered more of a can’t-miss selection than Brady? Three words: Bernard Karmell Pollard. (That sound you just heard was every Pats backer muttering an obscenity.)
No. 4 - Ray Rice, Ravens
Selecting Rice is like going to Subway for lunch. No one is ever excited to be heading there, can’t say you’re blown away by its presentation and you certainly won’t be bragging about getting it later on. Yet it always leaves you satisfied, and you certainly could have made a worse choice in this pursuit. And yes, this made a lot more sense when I was eating Subway last week.
No. 3 - Arian Foster, Texans
Foster possessors voiced their concern that Foster hit a wall in the second half, a claim that was unsubstantiated. Granted, Foster had five rushing touchdowns in the last two months versus 10 in the first eight weeks. However, when subtracting his Week 16 aberration (just 15 yards due to an irregular heartbeat scare), the Houston back averaged 91 rushing yards per game in the second half, comparable to his 96.3 yards mark in Weeks 1-8. The mileage on Foster is quickly escalating (956 carries, 159 receptions), but still think Foster has one more season before the wheels start coming off.
No. 2 - Aaron Rodgers, Packers
No running game. Primary targets Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson spent significant time on the sidelines. Jermichael Finley continued to underperform while trying to undermine the Green Bay quarterback’s standing in the locker room. A shuffled and susceptible offensive line. And all Rodgers did was toss for nearly 4,300 yards and 39 aerial scores. What else is there to say? Cat can ball.
No. 1 - Adrian Peterson, Vikings
I’d try to warn over possible stamina vulnerability, but such counsel has the same chance as a defender in the open field against Peterson. All Day, all hail.