The NFL's Top 75 Fantasy Football Players for 2012, Post-Memorial Day Edition
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Here is my second post-draft, off-the-cuff listing of the Top 75 overall players in standard-scoring leagues.
Obviously, a lot can change over the summer with injured players and certain stars currently embroiled in contract disputes.
But right now, this should serve as a fairly 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. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
7. QB Drew Brees, Saints
8. RB Chris Johnson, Titans
9. RB Matt Forte, Bears
10. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
11. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
12. TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
13. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
14. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
15. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
16. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
17. QB Cam Newton, Panthers
18. RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers
19. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
20. TE Jimmy Graham, Saints
21. RB Michael Turner, Falcons
22. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
23. WR Roddy White, Falcons
24. RB Steven Jackson, Rams
25. WR Mike Wallace, Steelers
- 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 15 percent chance of replicating that figure in 2012. Still, he's a good bet for 1,800 total yards and 17 TDs.
- You won't encounter many preseason fantasy rankings without Aaron Rodgers slotted in the top four; 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 40 TDs in his sleep. Hence, back-to-back 45s is feasible.
- 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 believe the 26-year-old speedster will rebound in a major way. Targets: 1,817 total yards and 11 touchdowns.
- I understand the trepidation of drafting either Fred Jackson (137.5 total yards per game in 2011) or Darren McFadden (110 total yards per game) low in Round 1/high in Round 2, but fantasy owners need to realize both backs have top-15 talent. Plus, they won't be felled by injuries every season. They're due for some positive karma from the fantasy gods.
26. RB Frank Gore, 49ers
27. WR Greg Jennings, Packers
28. WR Victor Cruz, Giants
29. QB Eli Manning, Giants
30. WR Jordy Nelson, Packers
31. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
32. QB Tony Romo, Cowboys
33. WR Wes Welker, Patriots
34. RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
35. QB Michael Vick, Eagles
36. WR A.J. Green, Bengals
37. RB Roy Helu, Redskins
38. TE Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
39. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
40. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
41. RB Beanie Wells, Cardinals
42. WR Steve Smith, Panthers
43. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
44. WR Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
45. QB Matt Ryan, Falcons
46. RB Trent Richardson, Browns
47. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
48. TE Jermichael Finley, Packers
49. WR Miles Austin, Cowboys
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 42 touchdowns this year, does it really matter if Jennings outperforms Nelson or Nelson trumps Jennings?
- The Gore vs. Jackson dynamic is difficult to characterize in late May. They're both high-end backs with a lot of questions surrounding their respective supporting casts, which ultimately could affect their per-game touches. For Jackson, I'm thinking 1,421 total yards and six to seven touchdowns.
- Adrian Peterson's ranking is a tad misleading, since I don't intend to draft 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 deemed better than Peterson (recovering from a torn ACL) at less than 100 percent.
- Ahmad Bradshaw's hold on the No. 39 ranking is tenuous. 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 hopefully have to fight for every carry, every reception, every first-team practice rep this summer.
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. RB Jahvid Best, Lions
57. WR Steve Johnson, Bills
58. QB Matt Schaub, Texans
59. RB Reggie Bush, Dolphins
60. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
61. TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
62. RB Darren Sproles, Saints
63. WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
64. WR Percy Harvin, Vikings
65. TE Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
66. WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys
67. RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
68. RB C.J. Spiller, Bills
69. RB Isaac Redman, Steelers
70. TE Antonio Gates, Chargers
71. RB Willis McGahee, Broncos
72. QB Carson Palmer, Raiders
73. RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
74. WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles
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 mollify any draft-day fears among owners. If concussions were never a problem, Best would be a top-35 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, Mendy or the underrated Jonathan Dwyer.
- Some Notable Omissions:
Mario Manningham, Jay Cutler, Jason Witten, Ben Roethlisberger, Mark Sanchez, 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, Evan Royster, 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 sublime 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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