If you are joining a brand-new fantasy football dynasty league next season, this is the column for you.
Dynasty leagues are a little different than your run-of-the-mill fantasy leagues because you will be keeping your players after the season ends rather than deleting your roster and starting from scratch in 2013, so more consideration has to be paid to age, injury history and upside.
Here is a look at how I project the first round of a 12-team dynasty league draft would go if it was held today:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (QB)
No Discount Double-Check here. Rodgers should come right off the board at the get-go. He is entering the prime of his career and just threw for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns.
The sick thing is Rodgers could very well improve on those numbers. You know what is better than Rodgers throwing for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns? How about him doing it every season for the next five years in a dynasty league?
2. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (RB)
There is nothing shady about Shady’s fantasy worth. When you average over 100 combined yards per game and lead the league in rushing touchdowns, that makes you one of the elite players to own. Add in the fact that he will only be 24-years-old when next season starts and that he has not suffered any major injuries and McCoy is the perfect player to build a dynasty team around.
3. Arian Foster, Houston Texans (RB)
Foster may have coined the term “anti-awesomeness,” but that term will never be mentioned in the same breath as his fantasy value. Foster is as awesome as they come. His 2011 totals—1,224 rushing yards, 617 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns—came in only 13 games. Foster will foster his fantasy people with 2,000-plus total yards and 15 scores if he dresses for all 16 contests in each of the coming years.
4. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (QB)
If a fantasy owner would like a quarterback with the potential to throw for 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns and a running back with the potential to rush for 800 yards and 15 touchdowns, he or she can get a two-for-one special with this super fantasy monster.
Newton is the only player who can fit the bill. He could be the No. 1 fantasy player as early as next season and has the ability to remain at the top for the next decade, thanks especially to his running talents. He has Tim Tebow’s nose for the end zone AND Michael Vick's scrambling skills.
5. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens (RB)
Now that Baltimore has proven that they trust Rice in the red zone, fantasy owners could not want more out of this running back. He will run for over 1,000 yards, mix in 500-600 receiving yards, score double-digit touchdowns and not miss any games. Dynasty league owners can draft Rutgers Ray and feel safe with him being their franchise player.
6. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (QB)
Brees is coming off setting the single-season record for passing yards and leading the league with 46 touchdown passes. Brees might be 33, but he remains one of the most durable quarterbacks around (only two games missed since 2004) and obviously one of the top three stats-wise. He has thrown for over 4,300 yards in six straight seasons and should be around the 5,000-yard mark again in 2012.
7. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars (RB)
Fantasy football’s favorite bowling ball should continue to be one of the best running backs to own for another couple years. He won the 2011 rushing title behind the 1,606 yards he gained on the ground, and he did it on a terrible team with a pathetic passing attack. You can make the argument that if Jacksonville’s offense improves under new head coach Mike Mularkey that MJD could even gain more yards and make more touchdown trips down the line.
8. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans (RB)
The only thing that should scare fantasy owners is Johnson’s size, or lack thereof. The lifespan of a running back is short, and Johnson may lose a step quicker than most because of his small frame. Johnson showed some signs of wear and tear during his disastrous 2011 season, but I would be surprised if he does not bounce back and have a couple 1,400-yard seasons over the next couple years.
9. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (QB)
Brady is as sure of a thing as Undertaker winning at Wrestlemania. He can throw for 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns no matter what his receiving corps looks like, and you would think New England would find some upgrades over Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco in the offseason anyway. His age precludes him from being ranked up with Rodgers and Newton, though.
10. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (QB)
Stafford’s health was always his biggest question mark, but he found the field for every Detroit game in 2011. The result was 5,038 passing yards, 41 touchdown tosses and millions of joyful fantasy owners. But can he actually go two straight seasons or more without separating a shoulder? If an owner believes Stafford can than he should probably be ranked ahead of Brady.
11. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (WR)
Megatron is the top receiver in fantasy football and the only pass catcher who should be considered in the first round of a draft like this. His 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011 were no fluke or joke.
Don’t get it twisted, though. Johnson needs Stafford to stay healthy or else Megatron goes from being a 1,600-yard guy to just another 1,000-yard dude. Plus, receivers are still not worth as much as quarterbacks and running backs, so that’s why Johnson should not be taken higher.
12. Eli Manning, New York Giants (QB)
Peyton’s little bro was never thought of a first-round fantasy pick before. His career-bests coming into the 2011 campaign were 4,021 yards and 31 touchdown passes, nice numbers but nothing that would make or break a fantasy squad.
Yet now Manning is the No. 1 Manning to own and is a quarterback capable of a 5,000-yard year and 30-plus touchdowns thanks to improving by leaps and bounds and also having Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz as his wide receivers.