Everyone’s busy analyzing the upcoming NFL draft, but I’m already interested in the draft after that…my fantasy football draft! To those that say, “It’s too early to start looking at fantasy projections,” I say… is it ever too early? Not for winners it isn’t! Take a look at my top 10 fantasy football players for the upcoming season:
10. RB Doug Martin (2012: 1,454 yards, 472 rec. yards, 11 TD) - Doug Martin’s incredibly rookie season was somewhat overshadowed by the other successful rookies Andrew Luck and RGIII, and yet he’s the only one to grace my list. He cemented himself as not only the Bucc’s starting running back, but one of the better running backs in the league. Josh Freeman is so hot/cold that Martin may be the only consistent offensive player on this team in the coming year, unless they make some personnel changes. Don’t shy away from taking Martin early in your draft if he is still available, even with the possibility of a sophomore slump.
9. QB Tom Brady (2012: 4,827 yards, 34 TD, 8 INT) - Even with all the questions surrounding the Patriots group of WRs this year, never bet against Tom Brady. He won Super Bowls with no-name receivers, and he’s on a mission to do so again before his window closes. Brady has thrown a TD in 48 consecutive games, only six short of the record Drew Brees set last season, and you can count on him extending that streak. As long as Brady’s receivers can stay healthy, expect big things from him this year. Also take a look at Aaron Hernandez as a late-second or early-third round pick. He rented a place in California to work out with Tom Brady during the off-season; extra effort that is sure to pay off with an increased connection between the two.
8. QB Peyton Manning (2012: 4,659 yards, 37 TD, 11 INT) - Manning and the Broncos were a force to be reckoned with during the regular season last year and with the addition of Wes Welker, there’s no reason they can’t repeat their success. Manning is ranked ahead of Brady because he will be relied on more often. New England has solid running backs to take some pressure off of Brady. I don’t really need to convince you on him, you can’t ever go wrong with drafting Manning.
7. RB Ray Rice (2012: 1,143 yards, 478 rec. yards, 9 TD) - Ray Rice is one of the best and most reliable running backs in the league. The Ravens lost WR Anquan Boldin this off-season, but the passing game shouldn’t take too big of a hit unless Flacco slumps again. His added confidence from winning a Super Bowl and the dominant emergence of WR Torrey Smith should keep the Ravens passing often. The only reason Rice is at the bottom of the top 10 is the Ravens liked what they saw last year from rookie RB Bernard Pierce, who will likely share more carries with Rice this season.
6. QB Drew Brees (2012: 5,177 yards, 43 TD, 19 INT) – 2013 was not a good year for the Saints, but Drew Brees continued to prove his dominance in the passing game. Breaking 5,000 yards again is no easy feat and is largely due to the Saints’ lack of a consistent running game, but regardless, Brees rose to the occasion and carried the team all season. The only concerning stat for Brees is his large number of interceptions. In 2013 he and Tony Romo tied for the league-high in interceptions (yes, he even threw one more than Mark Sanchez). Teams have figured out that Brees is shorter than most other quarterbacks and he just airs out the ball when he’s under pressure. Even with the high INT count, Brees is always a safe pick (see what i did there?).
5. RB Marshawn Lynch (2012: 1,590 yards, 196 rec. yards, 11 TD) - Lynch went beast-mode last season and tore through defenses like they were bags of Skittles. His ability to power through a line to get the first down provided a nice cushion to Russell Wilson so the pressure was not always on him to perform above expectations. Now that Wilson has developed into a very good passer and the Seahawks acquired the talent of WR Percy Harvin, expect them to air it out more often, which may take a few carries away from Lynch. Even still, he is an elite running back and will certainly earn double digit fantasy points week-t0-week.
4. WR Calvin Johnson (2012: 1,964 yards, 122 receptions, 5 TD) - Chances are slim that Megatron will repeat his record-setting year next season, but you can bet your life savings that he will absolutely be Stafford’s #1 target and likely rack up the yards just as easily. While his touchdown number is less than stellar, the yards he gets per game will make up for that. Those that have PPR (points per reception) leagues will thrive with Johnson as well. His endzone numbers can improve if the Lions find another receiving threat this year to draw some coverage away from Johnson.
3. QB Aaron Rodgers (2012: 4,295 yards, 39 TD, 8 INT) - The “Elite 4″ are the only quarterbacks that should ever be taken in the top 10 fantasy football picks every year, and Rodgers leads this group. Even though he threw for fewer yards this year than last year, he still was second only to Brees in TD’s, and the Packers’ lack of a running game ensures that Rodgers will be leaned on heavily all season. True, the Packers lost WR Greg Jennings, but the emergence of WR James Jones makes that loss a minor hiccup in their offensive game. Rodgers’ surgical precision and cannon of an arm are impossible to pass on this early in a fantasy draft.
2. RB Arian Foster (2012: 1,424 yards, 217 rec. yards, 15 TD) - While Schaub is sometimes streaky and WR Andre Johnson is sometimes hurt, Foster is the consistent star on the Texans’ offense. Defenses aren’t allowed to stuff the box while he’s on the field since Johnson can burn them, so there’s always a chance for him to perform. Even in 2011 when Foster missed three games he was able to put up numbers comparable to his two full years. Foster is a solid #2 pick in every fantasy league, falling only to the obvious #1 choice…
1. RB Adrian Peterson (2012: 2,097 yards, 217 rec. yards, 12 TD) - You had to see this coming. After his season was in question because of an ACL tear, AP proved why he is, without a doubt, the best running back in the league. The reigning MVP came only 9 yards shy of breaking Erick Dickerson’s rushing record, and you can bet he will be on a mission to break this record next season. It’s a tough feat, but if any running back in the league can do it, it’s AP. If you are lucky enough to have the #1 pick and don’t take him, he will make you pay all season long.