2012 Fantasy Draft: 10 Players Who Could Sneak into Your First Round

Daniel Stack@@stacdemonContributor IIJanuary 24, 2012

2012 Fantasy Draft: 10 Players Who Could Sneak into Your First Round

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    Even though the regular season is done, are the rest of you, like me, already assessing some sleepers and busts?

    Are you watching the playoffs studying breakouts for next year’s drafts? Are you sizing up how you might approach next year’s draft?

    Well, you are not alone. While your fantasy football draft may be about eight months away, we all want to know how the draft may play out now.

    Depending on the size and scoring system of your league, there will be a difference of opinion on the last few picks the first round. Naturally, studs like Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew, Calvin Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees should all be unanimous first-round picks. After that it gets dicey.

    In this slideshow I will analyze 10 payers who could slip into the first round and how you should approach them.

    So, let’s not wait eight months and break down the first round now.

Michael Turner: Atlanta Falcons

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    Steady and reliable.

    That describes Turner to the letter. While Turner has some wear and tear on his body, remember he was primarily a backup to LaDainian Tomlinson for years while he was in San Diego.

    So, while Turner will turn 30 this year, he’ll only be entering his fifth season as a lead running back.

Ryan Mathews: San Diego Chargers

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    Entering his third year in the league in 2012, expect Mathews to make the next step in his game while becoming one of the more complete backs in the league.

    Mathews turned the corner this year en route to rushing for 1,091 yards and scoring six touchdowns.

    Sure, Mike Tolbert may vulture some TDs, but Mathews has unlimited upside and will get the bulk of the rushing workload next season.

Andre Johnson: Houston Texans

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    Going into the 2011 season, Andre Johnson was the universally regarded as the No. 1 wide receiver in the league.

    While Calvin Johnson may lay claim to that title now, Andre Johnson will look to rebound next season and fight for that honor.

    After missing nine games during the regular season with hamstring issues, Johnson was solid in the postseason recording 13 catches for 201 yards and one touchdown in two games.

    Johnson should make for a great bounceback candidate.

Jamaal Charles: Kansas City Chiefs

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    While coming off a season-ending injury (torn ACL) is nothing to gloss over, at least Charles will have had a full year to recuperate.

    Just recall the marvelous 2010 campaign Charles had (1,467 yards rushing and five touchdowns; 468 yards receiving and three touchdowns) and have faith that he can recover and get back to an elite level.

Darren McFadden: Oakland Raiders

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    Nagging injuries curtailed yet another fine season McFadden was having in 2011. In seven games, McFadden rushed for 614 yards and four touchdowns, while recording 154 receiving yards and an additional score.

    McFadden is an explosive back who can carry his team when healthy. McFadden is a fringe first-rounder and could provide great bang for your buck.

Marshawn Lynch: Seattle Seahawks

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    With the season (1,204 rushing yards, 13 total touchdowns) he just had, it will hard passing up Lynch in the first round.

    Sure, you may have reservations about a duplication of what he pulled off this year. But if and when Lynch gets his new contract, he’ll likely try to prove doubters wrong that he is a one-year wonder.

Cam Newton: Carolina Panthers

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    Has there ever been a more impressive rookie quarterback than Newton (at least when it comes to fantasy production)?

    The answer is no. There is no telling how high the ceiling is for Newton.

    After passing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns while rushing for 706 yards and scoring a whopping 14 rushing TDs, there is little left for Newton to accomplish.

    The only thing Newton can do to improve his stock is cut down on his interceptions (17).

Matt Stafford: Detroit Lions

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    After playing in a full season for the first time in his career, Stafford made good on his promise and had a phenomenal season.

    Stafford, while playing in an explosive system, obliterated career highs across the board and will no doubt be a top five QB entering 2012 drafts.

Rob Gronkowski: New England Patriots

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    Although Gronkowski plays at a position where you shouldn’t reach that high, do consider the beastly numbers he put up, and he makes for an interesting pick.

    Gronkowski broke the record for touchdowns (20) by tight ends while amassing an eye-opening 105 receptions for 1,559 yards.

    While “Gronk” badly rolled his ankle in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, expect him to be fine and be a fringe first-rounder for next year.

Matt Forte: Chicago Bears

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    After suffering a sprained MCL in Week 13, Forte is all but healed now as he is headed to play in the Pro Bowl.

    With that said, he should almost be an absolute lock for first-round selection.

    Forte is one of the better dual-purpose backs in the league, and now that he is healthy, you should feel comfortable selecting him in latter part of Round 1.

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