The 2012 NFL draft is in the past, and as free agency winds down over the next few weeks and we move into training camp, another fantasy football season will begin as leagues across the land get together to conduct their 2012 drafts.
Being prepared for your fantasy draft can be the difference between being a doormat and dominant, so this will continue a series of articles that will take an in-depth, pick-by-pick look at an entire fantasy draft, from the first running back taken to the very last kicker off the board.
For this mock draft, we'll assume a standard 12-team league with 16 roster spots in which you start one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker and one team defense. This league has no flex position but does award one point per reception and six points for all touchdowns, be they passing, rushing or receiving. The draft is serpentine, meaning that the draft order is reversed in even-numbered rounds.
Other scoring is "standard," meaning 10 rushing/receiving yards per point, 25 passing yards per point, three points for all field goals (with a two-point bonus for field goals of over 50 yards) and defensive scoring that awards points for turnovers, sacks and yardage and points allowed. Lost fumbles and interceptions thrown are a two-point deduction.
Now that the rules have been laid out, Team One is on the clock!
St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson has been the model of consistency for some very bad teams over the past several years, as the 28-year-old back has topped 1,000 rushing yards in seven straight campaigns while finishing in the top 15 in his position in fantasy points every year over that stretch.
The Rams appear to looking toward a future without Jackson, who has amassed more than 2,100 career carries, but although youngster Isaiah Pead may eat into Jackson's touches a bit this season, the eighth-year pro should still have one more season of at least high-end fantasy RB2 production in him.
First Pick: Ray Rice, RB, BAL
Second Pick: A.J. Green, WR, CIN
Team Two (3.02): DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
When starter Felix Jones went down with an injury last October, the Dallas Cowboys were forced to hand the reins to rookie DeMarco Murray, who responded by gashing the Rams for 253 yards on 27 carries in a Week 7 win over the Rams.
Murray went on to rush for nearly 900 yards and two scores before an ankle injury ended his season, and although durability and his low touchdown total are causes for concern, Murray enters the 2012 season as the lead back on an offense that should score its fair share of points.
First Pick: Arian Foster, RB, HOU
Second Pick: Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG
Team Three (3.03): Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Team Three has adopted the relatively conservative strategy of selecting running backs with each of their first two picks, and the continuation of such a strategy would generally dictate taking a wideout with the third choice, albeit one with some upside to offset waiting on the position.
Victor Cruz exploded into NFL and fantasy prominence after reeling in more than 80 catches, topping 1,500 yards and finishing as fantasy's third-ranked wide receiver a year ago. There's little reason to think that the third-year pro won't again be among the top producers at his position this season.
First Pick: LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI
Second Pick: Trent Richardson, RB, CLE
Team Four (3.04): Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Selecting wide receivers with your first two picks all but necessitates taking a running back in the third round, and not only was Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks one of the best ball-carriers in the NFL over the second half of last season, but the sixth-year veteran should also see the vast majority of touches in the Seattle backfield.
Lynch set career highs across the board in gaining more than 1,200 yards on the ground and scoring a dozen touchdowns in 2011.
There are concerns about Lynch's big season being a contract-year aberration, but teams that waited to draft a RB1 could do much worse than last year's sixth-place finisher at the position.
First Pick: Calvin Johnson, WR, DET
Second Pick: Greg Jennings, WR, GB
The Miami Dolphins had their fair share of struggles under center last year, but even with spotty quarterback play in South Beach, wide receiver Brandon Marshall still managed to post his fifth straight 1,000-yard season in 2011, making 81 catches for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns.
Marshall has been reunited with quarterback Jay Cutler in Chicago, and given that Marshall enjoyed the two best seasons of his six-year career while the pair were teammates in Denver, Marshall should be in for a big fantasy season in his first year with the Bears.
First Pick: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAX
Second Pick: Drew Brees, QB, NO
Team Six (3.06): Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
Team Six took a substantial risk by taking the unusual route of selecting a quarterback and a tight end with their first two picks. Now it's time to buckle down and hope that the moves don't backfire by hitting the backs and receivers.
With Brandon Jacobs now in San Francisco, New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is set for an increased workload, and although Bradshaw's chronic foot problems are always a worry, the team has already stated that they expect big things from their "lead dog" in 2012.
First Pick: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
Second Pick: Jimmy Graham, TE, NO
Team Seven (3.07): Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
After the so-called "big three" quarterbacks (Rodgers, Brees, Brady) are off the board, there's a pretty significant drop-off, but in a fantasy league that awards six points for passing touchdowns, you can rest assured that someone is going to reach at the quarterback position early.
Cam Newton had one of the best rookie seasons of any quarterback in NFL history for the Carolina Panthers last year, but his league-record 14 rushing touchdowns are going to be awfully hard to duplicate, raising the very real possibility that Newton could disappoint this season relative to his fantasy draft position.
First Pick: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, AZ
Second Pick: Ryan Mathews, RB, SD
Team Eight (3.08): Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson nearly matched the statistical production of his first three seasons combined last year, as the 26-year-old hauled in 68 catches for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns, finishing fourth in fantasy points at the position.
Fifteen scores isn't really a sustainable number, so it's very possible that Nelson could backslide a bit this season, but as last year's top option in arguably the NFL's most prolific offense, Jordy Nelson should still see plenty of opportunities to be a fantasy factor in 2012.
First Pick: Chris Johnson, RB, TEN
Second Pick: Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE
San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore has been a solid fantasy producer for the past several seasons, and for the fifth time in six years Gore topped 1,000 rushing yards last season, finishing among the top 20 fantasy running backs every year during that stretch.
The eighth-year pro has battled injuries the past few years and has some fairly extensive wear on his tires, and the presence of Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James in San Francisco may eat into Gore's touches this season.
However, the 28-year-old hasn't fallen off a cliff yet, and it's reasonable to predict one more year of fantasy RB2 production from Gore.
First Pick: Andre Johnson, WR, HOU
Second Pick: Jamaal Charles, RB, KC
Team 10 (2.10): Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
If nothing else, you have to credit Team 10's guts, as once again this team decides to take a bit of an early draft gamble by drafting a player in Dwayne Bowe who could be an excellent value here—assuming he's on the field.
The sixth-year pro, who had more than 80 catches and 1,100 yards last year, saw his touchdown total drop from 15 in 2010 to five a season ago. Add in the fact that Bowe has yet to sign his franchise tender, and it's possible that rather than a top-10 fantasy receiver, Dwayne Bowe may present his fantasy owners with an Excedrin headache.
First Pick: Matt Forte, RB, CHI
Second Pick: Darren McFadden, RB, OAK
Team 11 (3.11): Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
The restricted free agency of Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace was a hot topic this offseason, but whether due to the large contract he'd command or the first-round pick that acquiring his services would also require, there were no takers for the fourth-year pro, leaving Wallace to play out the final year of his rookie deal in the Steel City.
The 25-year-old speedster has topped 1,100 receiving yards each of the last two years, scoring 18 touchdowns and posting two top-10 fantasy finishes over that span, and while Wallace's future past 2012 may be cloudy, the present looks plenty bright.
First Pick: Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN
Second Pick: Tom Brady, QB, NE
Team 12 (3.12): Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills
Drafting two straight wide receivers from the 12 hole is undoubtedly going to leave a team scrambling a bit to fill in the backfield, and with the last pick of the third round, Team 12 is hopeful that Fred Jackson can continue the torrid pace he was on last year before an injury ended his season after 10 games.
The seventh-year veteran averaged well over 130 total yards per game last year and was fourth among running backs in fantasy points per game. It may be risky for a team to count on a 31-year-old back to maintain that kind of fantasy production, but it's a risk worth taking for team looking for RB1 numbers.
First Pick: Wes Welker, WR, NE
Second Pick: Roddy White, WR, ATL