The 2012 NFL draft is now squarely in the rear-view mirror, and as free agency winds down over the next few weeks and we approach the beginning of training camp, another fantasy football season will get rolling as leagues across the land gather in person or online to conduct their 2012 fantasy drafts.
Preparing for your draft can mean the difference between a first-place juggernaut and a last-place doormat, 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 selected 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 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 12 is on the clock.
Team 12 (6.01): Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
The deeper into the draft we get the more strategy comes into play, and much like Team One at the last turn Team 12 must decide now whether to address the quarterback position or risk much less favorable choices at the end of the seventh round.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers struggled in 2011, throwing a career-high 20 interceptions. However, Rivers has finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback four years running with two top-five finishes over that stretch, all without missing a single game during that span.
First Pick: Wes Welker, WR, NE
Second Pick: Roddy White, WR, ATL
Third Pick: Fred Jackson, RB, BUF
Fourth Pick: Marques Colston: WR, NO
Fifth Pick: Shonn Greene, RB, NYJ
Team 11 (6.02): Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis had some early struggles acclimating to Jim Harbaugh's offense in 2011. The six-year veteran did manage an eighth-place fantasy finish at his position before absolutely exploding in the postseason, racking up nearly 300 receiving yards and four touchdowns in two games.
Expecting that success to carry over into 2012 is a gamble, especially given the retooled San Francisco wide receivers. On the other hand, Davis and Alex Smith seemed to click late last year, and Davis' top-five fantasy upside makes him worth the risk for a team that has already taken a few.
First Pick: Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN
Second Pick: Tom Brady, QB, NE
Third Pick: Mike Wallace, WR, PIT
Fourth Pick: Julio Jones, WR, ATL
Fifth Pick: Chris Wells, RB, ARI
Team 10 (6.03): Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
I'll confess that I have no idea why he did it, but for whatever reason wide receiver Reggie Wayne decided to remain in Indianapolis for the start of the rebuilding effort, signing a three-year deal in March to remain with the Colts.
Wayne is 33 and obviously not the top-10 fantasy option he once was. Even in the catastrophe that was the 2011 Colts Wayne still managed a top-25 finish among fantasy wide receivers, and he should see a ton of targets from rookie quarterback Andrew Luck in 2012.
First Pick: Matt Forte, RB, CHI
Second Pick: Darren McFadden, RB, OAK
Third Pick: Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC
Fourth Pick: Matthew Stafford, QB, DET
Fifth Pick: Jason Witten, TE, DAL
Team Nine (6.04): Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers
It may strike some as odd to see a team draft a third back this early in a fantasy league where you can only start two, but with a solid group of wide receivers and two backs with question marks it's far from a bad idea to hedge the backfield bet a bit.
Even though he shared time with DeAngelo Williams in the Carolina backfield, running back Jonathan Stewart still topped 1,100 total yards last year, and his ability as a receiver adds significantly to his value in leagues that award points for receptions.
First Pick: Andre Johnson, WR, HOU
Second Pick: Jamaal Charles, RB, KC
Third Pick: Frank Gore, RB, SF
Fourth Pick: Steve Smith, WR, CAR
Fifth Pick: Antonio Brown, WR, PIT
Team Eight (6.05): Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
It didn't take very long for Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith to make an impact in the National Football League, as his first three NFL receptions went for scores en route to a top-30 finish among fantasy wide receivers.
The speedy wide receiver oozes upside and appears to be the clear No. 1 wide receiver for the Ravens, and while a sophomore slump is always a possibility, Team Eight has assembled a trio of wide receivers that possesses substantial upside.
First Pick: Chris Johnson, RB, TEN
Second Pick: Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE
Third Pick: Jordy Nelson, WR, GB
Fourth Pick: Darren Sproles, RB, NO
Fifth Pick: Percy Harvin, WR, MIN
Team Seven (6.06): Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos
Second-year wide receiver Eric Decker very quietly had a solid second season in the NFL a year ago, hauling in 44 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns even in a Denver Broncos passing game that was...erratic.
The arrival of Peyton Manning in the Mile High City should solidify that Denver passing game quite a bit. Demaryius Thomas may be a more explosive option, but Decker could develop into a very dependable underneath receiver and PPR league fantasy option.
First Pick: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, AZ
Second Pick: Ryan Mathews, RB, SD
Third Pick: Cam Newton, QB, CAR
Fourth Pick: Aaron Hernandez, TE, NE
Fifth Pick: Reggie Bush, RB, MIA
Team Six (6.07): Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England Patriots
Apparently Team Six plans to load up on lower-level running backs later in the draft. Even with only one ball-carrier in the fold through five rounds, the team made the somewhat puzzling decision to round out the starting wideouts rather than address the offensive backfield.
For the third time in less than two years, Brandon Lloyd will suit up for a different team this season when he dons the blue and silver of the New England Patriots, and while there are a lot of mouths to feed in Boston there's also a ton of fantasy tastiness to go around.
First Pick: Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
Second Pick: Jimmy Graham, TE, NO
Third Pick: Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, NYG
Fourth Pick: Dez Bryant, WR, DAL
Fifth Pick: Vincent Jackson, WR, TB
Team Five (6.08): Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
2011 was an up-and-down season for Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley. He struggled with drops much of the year, but still managed to tie his career high in receptions, set bests in yardage and touchdowns, and finish among the top 10 fantasy tight ends.
The wide receiver options aren't especially appealing at this juncture at the draft, and Finley presents Team Five with a player capable of finishing as an elite producer at his position, making his upside much too tempting to pass up.
First Pick: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAX
Second Pick: Drew Brees, QB, NO
Third Pick: Brandon Marshall, WR, CHI
Fourth Pick: Miles Austin, WR, DAL
Fifth Pick: Doug Martin, RB, TB
Team Four (6.09): Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
I don't know if you've heard, but Peyton Manning has taken his talents to the Mile High City (without the awful TV special), as the four-time NFL MVP will take over under center in 2012 as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.
After missing the entire 2011 season due to multiple neck surgeries, the 15-year veteran obviously carries with him substantial injury and age risks. However, there's also no denying the possibility of big numbers, as Manning's worst fantasy finish since 2000 before last year was sixth amongst signal-callers.
First Pick: Calvin Johnson, WR, DET
Second Pick: Greg Jennings, WR, GB
Third Pick: Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA
Fourth Pick: Michael Turner, RB, ATL
Fifth Pick: Stevie Johnson, WR, BUF
Team Three (6.10): Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
There's no point in Team Three drafting a quarterback here, since both teams ahead of them in this round have already chosen one, making it highly unlikely that any more will be selected between now and the 7.03 pick.
San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is no longer the no-brainer top selection at his position that he was in his heyday, but the departure of wide receiver Vincent Jackson should mean additional targets if the 10-year veteran can keep his chronically troublesome foot in check.
First Pick: LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI
Second Pick: Trent Richardson, RB, CLE
Third Pick: Victor Cruz, WR, NYG
Fourth Pick: Kenny Britt, WR, TEN
Fifth Pick: DeSean Jackson, WR, PHI
Team Two (6.11): Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
A large part of the dissension and discord that wracked the New York Jets last year was the doing of wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who groused and griped his way to the lowest yardage total of his six-year career.
On the other hand, Holmes is one of the few remaining available receivers who is the No. 1 option on his team, and as bad as last season was Holmes still managed to post WR3 fantasy numbers. That could actually make Holmes a relative value here, especially should the 28-year-old bounce back in 2012.
First Pick: Arian Foster, RB, HOU
Second Pick: Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG
Third Pick: DeMarco Murray, RB, DAL
Fourth Pick: Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN
Fifth Pick: Michael Vick, QB, PHI
Team One (6.12): Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Detroit Lions
Team One has taken a fairly balanced approach in the draft to this point. After addressing the quarterback position on the last trip through the turn, it makes sense to look at the tight end position now, provided that a suitable option is available.
Fourth-year tight end Brandon Pettigrew set career highs across the board in 2011 on his way to finishing as fantasy's sixth-ranked player at the position, and given the show of offensive fireworks the Lions put on last year there's no reason to think Pettigrew can't post similar stats in 2012.
First Pick: Ray Rice, RB, BAL
Second Pick: A.J. Green, WR, CIN
Third Pick: Steven Jackson, RB, STL
Fourth Pick: Jeremy Maclin, WR, PHI
Fifth Pick: Tony Romo, QB, DAL