First Round Mock Fantasy Draft

For the first time since 2008, Adrian Peterson will not be drafted in the top 5 of the first round of fantasy football drafts. Questions surrounding Peterson’s recovery are going to dictate just how far he drops in drafts, whether it’s down to the 2nd round, 3rd round, or even further depending on his rehabilitation schedule. Although I believe that part of the outstanding quarterback production in 2011 was due to a shortened training camp, leading to sloppy tackling and broken long plays by receivers, the current trend in the NFL is still tipping towards the passers, leading to my prediction that four quarterbacks will be targeted as first round selections in 2012 fantasy football drafts.

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Rodgers completed 68.3% of his passes in 2011, attempting 502 passes in the pass happy Green Bay offense, gaining a fantastic 9.2 yards per pass attempted. Rodgers is worthy of the first pick in your fantasy draft because he is a can’t miss selection who has what seems to be an endless numbers of weapons to throw to, those weapons being Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Donald Driver. Rodgers threw 45 touchdowns in 2011 and was responsible for 77 explosive plays in the passing game, and don’t forget that Rodgers has the ability to tack on rushing yards to the 4,000+ yards passing that he usually tosses (4,643 in 2011). Keep in mind that Rodgers’ statistics reflect him sitting the bench for a game after the Packers locked up home field advantage for the playoffs.

2. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Foster was a little shaky to begin the 2011 NFL season, most likely due to not being in ideal football shape, that he would have been in had OTA’s taken place, but he rebounded nicely. Foster was given 21.4 carries per game in a run first Texans offense, to the tune of 4.4 yards per carry, totaling 1,224 rushing yards on the year. Foster only produced 9 explosive runs last year, but that can be chalked up to his ailing hamstring. Foster gained 94.2 yards per game and scored 10 touchdowns. The Texans only concern along the offensive line is whether or not they will be able to re-sign their center in free agency, other than that, Foster is the perfect fit running behind that athletic, zone blocking offensive line. Not to mention, Foster played last year without Andre Johnson taking the tops off defenses, often seeing stacked boxes because opposing defenses did not fear the Schaub-less and Johnson-less passing attack. All that being said, Foster should improve in 2012 from his 2011 campaign. I also like Foster because of his role in the passing game, and like him over other dual threat players like Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy because of the Texans commitment to him in the running game, giving him 3 more carries per game than every other running back in the NFL, other than Maurice Jones-Drew.

3. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
You know what you are getting with Ray Rice, a solid running back who will carry the ball about 20 times per game (18.2 APG in 2011), stay healthy and will get around 70 receptions in the passing game. In 2011 Rice was responsible for 1,364 yards of the Ravens rushing attack at 4.7 yards per attempt, with 14 explosive plays, scorning 12 touchdowns in the process. At times, offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron, seemed to forget about Rice, giving him limited carries as evidenced in Baltimore’s 2011 games against the Jaguars, Seahawks and Chargers, where Rice received only 5, 8 and 10 carries in those 3 respective games. In my mind, you are splitting hairs when choosing between Arian Foster and Ray Rice when deciding between the two, but Cam Cameron’s play calling is enough for me to select Foster over Rice.

4. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Brees broke a long standing NFL record in 2011, tossing 5,476 yards, putting the ball in the air 657 times, gaining an impressive 8.3 yards per attempt. Brees also completed 46 passes to receivers in the endzone, was responsible for 80 explosive plays, completing a fantastic 71.2% of his passes. Brees or Rodgers? Brees is in an equally pass happy offense as Aaron Rodgers, but I would select Rodgers over Brees because of his running ability and the fact that Rodgers gains almost a full yard more per attempt than Brees. Drew Brees is an elite fantasy football producer and has the potential to score your team 50+ fantasy points any given week. Even if Brees loses some of his weapons via free agency in 2012, he will make the receivers around him better, and will be successful no matter what.

5. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Why do the Detroit Lions even have running backs on their roster? Matthew Stafford was healthy for the entire NFL season for the first time in his career and Calvin Johnson benefited from his play, reeling in 96 balls, for 1,681 yards at 17.5 yards per catch, averaging 105.1 yards per game. Johnson had an amazing 42 explosive plays and 16 touchdowns and may have gained well over 2,000 yards receiving had defenses not scripted their game plans to stop him, often times locking him off in coverage with a safety over the top, freeing up other Lions playmakers in the process. The only reservation I have selecting Johnson, is the fact that you have to be prepared to accept a zero here and there throughout the season, because teams will take drastic measures to take him out of the game, make no mistake about it though, he will still produce at an elite level, and is still worthy of being the first receiver taken in the draft.

6. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
McCoy’s 2011 statistics were inflated because of his high touchdown total, rushing the ball into the endzone 17 times. McCoy is capable of putting up similar statistics in 2012, from the 18.2 attempts per game, 1,309 rushing yards, 4.8 yards per carry and 16 explosive plays that he had in 2011, however, expect 10 touchdowns, not 17. Touchdowns are the true wild card in fantasy football because they can be vultured by short yardage personnel, and often times, fantasy owners overdraft players expecting similar production and are disappointed when those players fall well short of their previous season touchdown total.

7. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Newton is rated ahead of other quarterbacks such as Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford because of his ability to run. Newton was the 26th leading rusher in the NFL last season, gaining 44.1 yards per game on the ground, and was responsible was 7 explosive runs, 14 rushing touchdowns, 35 total touchdowns and 706 yards on the ground. Newton had a solid rookie season, completing 60.0% of his passes, threw the ball 517 times at 7.8 yards per attempt, 74 explosive plays and 4,051 passing yards. Newton is a matchup nightmare for NFL teams, and his dual threat attack makes him an extremely dangerous fantasy quarterback, especially if he retains his role as Carolina’s goal line back.

8. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
Forte was a fantasy football machine up until his season was cut short due to a sprained MCL which healed fully without surgery. Before going down, Forte racked up 997 rushing yards, had 16 explosive plays, while averaging an impressive 4.9 yards per carry, which was better than McCoy, Foster, Jones-Drew and Rice. Forte only saw the ball an average of 16.9 times per game, but with the departure of Mike Martz as offensive coordinator Forte should see an increased role in the running game come 2012. Forte has been a threat in the passing game his entire career, and there is no reason to believe he won’t be again in 2012. Forte didn’t score many touchdowns in 2011, only 3, but it’s like I said earlier, touchdowns are the fantasy football wildcard, and the production is otherwise there.

9. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
MJD averaged 4.7 yards per attempt, had 12 explosive plays, was active in the passing game, toted the rock 21.4 times each game and totaled 1,606 rushing yards on the year. Even though MJD led the NFL in rushing last year, he won’t be drafted ahead of Foster, Forte, McCoy or Rice because he plays with Blaine Gabbert, on a Jacksonville team, featuring no playmakers absent MJD himself. Jones-Drew has been in the league since 2006 and has seen an enormous number of carries over the last 3 seasons, however, keep in mind that wear and tear on his body was limited early in his career while he split carries with Fred Taylor, and didn’t eclipse 200 carries until his 4th year in 2009.

10. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Brady threw the ball 611 times in 2011 in a pass happy New England attack which figures to maintain its passing ways after the reunion with Josh McDaniels who will serve as the team’s offensive coordinator. Brady had 85 explosive throws on his way to 5,235 yards passing, which was good for 8.6 yards per attempt, 39 touchdowns, while also completing 65.6% of his passes. Brady is as consistent as it gets, and will only get better if the Patriots add a deep threat weapon at the wide receiver position this offseason.

11. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
I was tempted to exclude Lynch from my first round projection because he isn’t the most explosive running back out there, only going for 6 explosive plays, but the bottom line is that he gets 19.0 rushing attempts per game and is the primary play maker for the Seahawks. Lynch ran the ball into the endzone 12 times in 2011 and he doesn’t have a vulture goal line running back to steal those carries away from him. The Seahawks have invested heavily in the offensive line over the past couple of seasons, drafting John Moffitt, James Carpenter, Russell Okung and Max Unger to open holes for whoever is running the ball in Seattle. Lynch saw career highs in rushing yards with 1,204 and yards per carry at 4.2, and people are quick to say that he only performed well because he was in a contract year, but don’t forget, he spent a little over 3 seasons in Buffalo, playing behind an oversized, un-athletic Bills offensive line who didn’t exactly get to the second level much while run blocking for Beast Mode.

12. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
If Peyton Manning ends up in Arizona, Fitzgerald’s stock will rise. Fitzgerald is as consistent as it gets at the wide receiver position, and will reel in 1,000+ yards no matter who is throwing him the ball. In 2011 Fitzgerald hauled in 80 catches for 1,411 yards which was good for 17.6 yards per catch, which was slightly higher than Calvin Johnson’s 17.5 yards per catch, even with the Kolb/Skelton show at quarterback. Fitzgerald is a sure thing, and at this position in the draft, you would be well suited to take this stud wide receiver over other options that have slight question marks surrounding them, such as Chris Johnson coming off his poor 2011 campaign and Ryan Matthews who showed up to training camp last year out of shape, or less explosive options such as Wes Welker.

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