Most fantasy football veterans have been part of a draft where the
player with the first pick uses every last second of the clock before
submitting his choice. In my experience, this usually happens for
one of two reasons: he is either trying to be a wise guy and irritate
the rest of the league, or he is actually having a hard time deciding
who to take. Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about the
gamesmanship, but if you’re truly having trouble deciding
who to pick, hopefully the following will help.
Depending on who you talk to, the first overall pick in is either
the hardest pick or the easiest. Either way, it’s a pick you don’t
want to mess up. As in most years, there are less-than-conventional
options for the first pick, including names like Michael
Charles, or Aaron
Rodgers. These players are certainly fantasy studs, but all
fail to make my list of the top four legitimate players you should
consider as the first overall pick in standard scoring redraft leagues.
RB Arian Foster, HOU
He Did it Last Year
Last year at this time you would never have thought to take Foster
in the first round, much less with the first pick overall. Fast-forward
to a year later and Foster has shown he is very capable of being
fantasy’s top performer. By finishing 2010 as the top running
back, Foster has history, momentum, and confidence in his favor.
Good System in Place
With a well-balanced offense made up of an excellent run-blocking
offensive line, a near-elite quarterback, and an all-world wide
receiver, Foster is in a great position to succeed again, especially
as a second-year starter in the same system. With mostly the same
personnel surrounding him, continuity is a good thing for last year’s
No. 1 RB.
Passes the Eye Test
Foster is not as chiseled as Adrian Peterson (who is?) or as quick
and agile as someone like LeSean
McCoy, but as you watch him play, you really get a sense that
he is a guy built to last in the league. He is relatively thick
(making him good at the goal line) but also has above-average speed
and burst and a great pair of hands (66 rec. in 2010). He also spots
the hole quickly and is very decisive when he sees it.
Although Vonta Leach rarely appeared in the stat book, it could
be argued that he was as much a factor as Foster himself in the
success of Houston’s extremely effective run game last year.
As blocking fullbacks go, Leach is considered elite, and thus it’s
hard to imagine that his departure will have no effect on Foster’s
performance. Lawrence Vickers was recently signed to replace Leach,
but he is not on the same level, so expect at least a small drop-off
When Houston drafted Ben
Tate in the second round last year, many people (including the
Texans) figured he was the RB of the future—until he got hurt and
missed his entire rookie season. He’s back this year and it’s hard
to imagine that the Texans won’t at least kick the tires to see
what they have in the former Auburn back. This is not to say that
Foster has any chance of losing the starting job, but if Tate can
overcome his early camp hamstring woes and is successful in the
limited carries he gets, Foster may lose a significant amount of
touches, limiting his chances of repeating as the No. 1 RB.
My Hammy Hurts
Although it’s early in the season, hamstring “tweaks,”
even minor ones, always seem to linger if not fully healed. Foster
played through his injury last year, but we don’t have enough
history on him to state outright that he is not an injury risk.
Watch and see how his hamstring issue progresses through camp before
you spend the first pick on him.
Verdict: I certainly don’t
think Foster is a one-year wonder, but with the No. 1 overall pick
you want more of a sure thing. While Foster should certainly be
a safe top-ten choice—if not top-five—in all formats, there are
a number of guys who are safer picks.
RB Chris Johnson, TEN
He’s Not Slow
A 50-yd TD run waiting to happen.
As one of the fastest players in the league, Johnson is capable
of breaking off a huge run at any point in any game. This not only
means that he can have huge scoring games, but he can turn a subpar
fantasy day into a respectable showing with one run.
Unless Johnson gets hurt or is too winded after a huge run, he is
staying in the game, every down, every situation, every week. Unlike
the other three guys in this list, Johnson doesn’t have a
high draft pick or well-established veteran behind him ready to
steal his carries. Don’t believe me? Quick, name the next
two guys behind Johnson on the depth chart. Didn’t think so.
Javon Ringer and Jamie Harper are not going to affect Johnson’s
Hass Is Here
Anyone who followed the Titans last year knows that the quarterback
situation was, to say the least, unstable. While Matt Hasselbeck
is far from elite, he has an accurate arm and should do just enough
to keep defenses from focusing all eleven guys on Johnson. Since
the offense runs through Johnson, an improvement at the quarterback
position should be seen as an improvement for Johnson as well.
Inconsistency Be Thy Name
While Johnson has certainly put up some of the more memorable games
in recent fantasy history, he has also had his share of less-than-stellar
performances. Last year he had six games where he was held to single-digit
fantasy totals, including a seven-yard performance (rushing and
receiving combined) against the Texans in Week 12. If defenses decide,
as they often did last year, to let any Titan but Johnson beat them,
CJ may again have several weeks of below-average results.
Johnson is not a happy man right now when it comes to his contract.
Chances are he will end his holdout eventually, but what toll will
it take? Will he play well with contract issues on his mind? Will
the missed time mean more chance of injury? While this issue may
not be a major one, fantasy owners certainly need to consider it,
especially if they are drafting before Johnson ends his holdout.
Verdict: I can clearly see the argument for taking Johnson number
one overall simply based on his explosiveness and potential for
huge games. For those that need that excitement level in their first
pick, he is a worthy contender. But I believe there are still two
safer and better choices.
RB Ray Rice, BAL
Backfield in Motion
Big changes in the Ravens backfield this year should actually favor
Rice. Gone are Willis “touchdown stealer” McGahee and
Le’Ron “gimmie the rock but doesn’t block”
McClain; in are Ricky “geriatric” Williams and Vonta
“clear the way” Leach. What this means in a nutshell
is that Rice should not only find more holes up front with an elite
blocking fullback, he’ll also get more opportunity around
the goal line where McGahee and McClain used to vulture touchdowns.
Defend well, Run well
Of the four guys in this list, Rice has the best defense on his
sideline. This not only means close games where the Ravens will
likely be running for all four quarters, but it means better field
position for the offense and more scoring opportunities for Rice.
I Do It All
With 174 receptions his first three years in the league, Rice is
a true all-purpose back in the mold of a Marshall Faulk. Whether
it’s a first-and-ten run outside or a third-and-long screen
pass, Rice is always involved in the game plan. Much like Johnson
in Tennessee, Rice is usually not done accumulating fantasy points
till the final whistle sounds.
Anyone who has watched a few Ravens games knows, they are not exactly
the Greatest Show on Turf, Part II. With a fairly conservative offense
and mediocre weapons around him, Rice is often the focus of the
defense’s full attention. If one of the new Ravens receivers
does not take some pressure off the run game, or if Flacco does
not take the next step up in his game, we may be looking at a lot
of three-and-out drives this year.
The “It” Factor
While much plays into Rice’s favor this year, there still
seems to be something lacking in his game. He’s not very elusive
or quick compared to the other three backs here, and he’s
not a real pile-mover either. While he’s had his share of
big games, he’s put up a few duds as well—not something
that exudes a lot of confidence from fantasy owners. It may be hard
to invest a lot in a guy that isn’t a real physical “freak.”
Verdict: Personally, I’m very high on Rice this year and feel
like this is his “now or never” year to be fantasy’s
top back. That being said, I’d feel more comfortable taking
him number two overall, right behind this guy...
1 RB Adrian Peterson, MIN
Tale of the Tape
I know, I know, I’m really going out on a limb picking AP
number one. What’s next, picking the Patriots to not finish
in last place? Well, it may not be the sexy pick, but how can you
argue with a guy who is perhaps the most physically talented back
in the league, going into the prime of his career, after four straight
seasons of being a top-five back? Sometimes we as fantasy managers
try to get cute with our drafting strategies. Sometimes it’s
as easy as taking the best guy available.
Progress is Grand
You know what’s scary good about Peterson? It’s very
possible that he has not even reached his peak. Everybody knows
about his fumbling problems his first three years in the league,
but guess what? He worked on it and had only one fumble through
all of last year! On top of that, Peterson averaged just over one
reception per game through his first two seasons, but in his last
two, he has more than doubled that average. Peterson himself has
said that the passing game is an area where he is trying to improve
and hopes to be even more involved in it this year. If that comes
to be, we may all witness a record-breaking fantasy season.
For those who watched Minnesota play last year, especially late
in the year, it was always interesting to see what they were going
to do at quarterback. By interesting I mean of course scary, yet
often funny. I’m pretty sure the coaches picked names out
of a hat. Anytime a pro team starts a QB who only has WR eligibility
in your fantasy league, you know it’s bad. They didn’t
exactly go get Joe Montana this year, but with savvy veteran Donovan
McNabb and pro-ready first-round pick Christian Ponder, the Vikings
should have enough to keep defenses from laughing—and concentrating
solely on Peterson.
Give and Take
There is little doubt than any other back in the league hands out
punishment to opposing defenders the way Peterson does. While this
makes for better runs and great highlights, it also means that Peterson
takes quite a beating. This kind of running style is bound to catch
up with him sooner or later, and most likely sooner compared to
other backs in the league who prefer to run out of bounds or avoid
hits. While the “when” part of Peterson breaking down
is impossible to predict, there is a chance we will start to see
it as soon as this year…as would be, around fantasy playoff
Pass Game Blues
While Peterson hopes to be more involved in the pass game this season,
he is the least skilled of these top four guys at catching the ball.
That may not be a major concern, but every touch counts, and if
Peterson is catching 20-30 less balls than similar-caliber backs,
it certainly comes into play. Another minor thing to look for is
perhaps a few less red zone touchdowns, as Mcnabb should have the
chance to throw—or even run—a couple more in, compared
to last year’s gang of no-name quarterbacks.
Verdict: You know him, you love him, he’s a beast and he’s
still the safest and most consistent back across the fantasy spectrum.
Every player is going to have positives and negatives, but Peterson
offers the best combination of safety and upside.
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