With Round 1 of the 2012 NFL Draft in the books, here's an off-the-cuff listing of the Top 75 overall players in standard-scoring leagues.
Obviously, a lot can change between now and the draft's conclusion on Sunday; and the post-draft process will surely involve a flurry of free-agent signings (Dallas Clark comes to mind) and unexpected cuts next week, further diluting some rosters, while creating significant openings on others.
But right now, this should represent an accurate profile of my thinking heading into the July training camps.
1. RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles
2. RB Arian Foster, Texans
3. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers
4. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
5. RB Ray Rice, Ravens
6. QB Drew Brees, Saints
7. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
8. RB Chris Johnson, Titans
9. RB Matt Forte, Bears
10. TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
11. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
12. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
13. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
14. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
15. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
16. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
17. RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers
18. QB Cam Newton, Panthers
19. TE Jimmy Graham, Saints
20. RB Michael Turner, Falcons
21. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
22. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
23. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
24. RB Beanie Wells, Cardinals
25. WR Roddy White, Falcons
- I reserve the right to change my mind between McCoy and Foster (1,871 total yards, 12 TDs in 2011) through August, but it's hard to deny the 20-touchdown wunderkind (McCoy) from a year ago—even if he only has a five-percent chance of replicating that number in 2012. Still, he's a solid bet for 1,800 total yards and 17 TDs.
- You won't encounter many preseason fantasy rankings without Green Bay's Rodgers slotted somewhere from No. 1–4; and that represents major progress for an industry that once frowned upon attaching Round 1 value to quarterbacks. It used to be that QBs who threw for 45 touchdowns one year had no chance of duplicating the feat the next; but the unflappable Rodgers (4,643 yards passing) could probably tally 38 TDs in his sleep.
- Chris Johnson (1,465 total yards) posted seven games of 100 total yards or more last year; he also recorded season highs in targets (79) and receptions (57). Put it all together, and it's enough to make one believe the 26-year-old speedster will rebound in a major way. Targets: 1,817 total yards and 11 touchdowns.
- I understand the trepidation toward drafting either Fred Jackson (137.5 total yards per game in 2011) or Darren McFadden (110 total yards per game) high in Round 2, but fantasy owners need to realize both running backs have top-15 talent. Plus, they won't be felled by injuries every season. In fact, they're due for some good positive karma from the fantasy gods.
26. RB Frank Gore, 49ers
27. RB Steven Jackson, Rams
28. WR Mike Wallace, Steelers
29. WR Greg Jennings, Packers
30. WR Jordy Nelson, Packers
31. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
32. QB Eli Manning, Giants
33. QB Tony Romo, Cowboys
34. WR Victor Cruz, Giants
35. WR Wes Welker, Patriots
36. RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
37. WR A.J. Green, Bengals
38. RB Roy Helu, Redskins
39. TE Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
40. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
41. WR Steve Smith, Panthers
42. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
43. WR Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
44. TE Jermichael Finley, Packers
45. QB Michael Vick, Eagles
46. QB Matt Ryan, Falcons
47. WR Miles Austin, Cowboys
48. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
49. RB Trent Richardson, Browns
50. WR Brandon Marshall, Bears
- I'm a little worried Packers wideouts Jennings and Nelson might cancel each other out, in terms of garnering an elite ranking. Then again, if Aaron Rodgers throws for 40-plus touchdowns this year, does it really matter if Jennings outperforms Nelson or Nelson trumps Jennings?
- The Gore vs. Jackson dynamic is very difficult to break down in late April. If the Rams fail to upgrade their playmakers in the draft—particularly at receiver—that may require Jackson to carry the St. Louis offense for yet another season. And while I'm sure he appreciates the reps, Jackson also knows the Rams will never win without any semblance of roster balance. For Jackson, I'm thinking 1,411 total yards and seven touchdowns; for Gore, more total yards but one less touchdown.
- Adrian Peterson's ranking is a tad misleading, since I have no intention of taking him in the first five rounds of 12-team drafts. (For a full explanation, click here.) However, it does acknowledge that only 30 healthy players are better than Peterson (recovering from a torn ACL) at less than 100 percent.
- Ahmad Bradshaw's hold on the No. 40 ranking is tenuous, at best. For starters, I'm still mad at him for going in the tank against Dallas last year (Week 14 partial suspension); and with the arrival of rookie running back David Wilson, Bradshaw will have to fight for every carry, every reception, every first-team practice rep this summer. Wilson's quite a talent, and that's something the rest of America will soon realize.
51. WR Julio Jones, Falcons
52. RB Shonn Greene, Jets
53. QB Philip Rivers, Chargers
54. WR Marques Colston, Saints
55. QB Peyton Manning, Broncos
56. TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
57. RB Jahvid Best, Lions
58. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
59. WR Steve Johnson, Bills
60. RB Reggie Bush, Dolphins
61. RB Darren Sproles, Saints
62. WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
63. WR Percy Harvin, Vikings
64. TE Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
65. WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys
66. RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
67. RB Isaac Redman, Steelers
68. QB Matt Schaub, Texans
69. TE Antonio Gates, Chargers
70. QB Carson Palmer, Raiders
71. RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
72. WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles
73. TE Jason Witten, Cowboys
74. QB Mark Sanchez, Jets
75. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
- I'm confident Peyton Manning will play well out of the chute for Denver, and I doubt his neck injury will be a significant hindrance this season. But given his age (36) and the lost opportunity of 2011, it seems unreasonable to expect 4,500 yards and 34 touchdowns in his Broncos debut. Instead, I'll shoot for 4,300 yards and 28 TDs—basically Tom Brady's numbers from 2009 (first year back from injury).
- The Bengals might have fostered the best non-quarterback signing of the offseason, luring BenJarvus Green-Ellis away from New England. Cincinnati's offensive line is very underrated, and Green-Ellis (24 TDs from 2010-11) has the tools to be a rock-solid fantasy back—between the 20s and in the red zone.
- Jahvid Best (677 total yards, three TDs in six games last year) is a healthy lock for 90 total yards every time he takes the field. Few defenders can match his top-end speed in the open field; as a result, Best (85 career catches) could be a top-five running back in Points Per Reception leagues by season's end. The obvious bugaboo lies with Best's susceptibility to concussions; but a draft range of 55-65 should lessen any draft-day fears among owners. If concussions were never a problem, Best would be a top-25 overall asset.
- I have reservations about Isaac Redman (142 total yards vs. Denver in the wild card round) being a full-time feature back with the Steelers in September and October, while Rashard Mendenhall rehabs and recovers from a serious knee injury (last January). But a Pittsburgh runner needs to be represented in this countdown; the franchise has earned the benefit of the doubt in that realm. Someone will take charge in this role, whether it's Redman, Jonathan Dwyer or a yet-to-be-drafted college stud.
- Some Notable Omissions
Mario Manningham, Jay Cutler, C.J. Spiller, Ben Roethlisberger, Willis McGahee, LeGarrette Blount, Antonio Brown, Torrey Smith, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, Nate Washington, Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson, Kenny Britt, Steve Breaston, Malcom Floyd, Mark Ingram, Jonathan Baldwin, Michael Crabtree, Kellen Winslow, Devin Hester, Josh Freeman, Doug Martin, Stevan Ridley, Brandon Lloyd, Greg Little, Montario Hardesty, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, Michael Bush, Mike Tolbert, Peyton Hillis, Brandon Jacobs, Sidney Rice, Nate Burleson, Mikel Leshoure, Matt Flynn and Santonio Holmes, among others.
But hey, that's why fantasy football is a billion-dollar enterprise, played by millions every year: The NFL has awesome playmaking depth. Not everyone can make the list.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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