The usual suspects came off the board in the first three picks of this ten-team redraft mock draft, as hosted on Fantasy Football Calculator. With depth like never before at wide receiver and especially tight end and quarterback, it’s important to focus on nabbing one of the elite factor backs if you have a chance.
1. Arian Foster - Outside of another hamstring situation in training camp, Arian Foster should be the top pick selected in all scoring formats. Sure, Ben Tate is behind him and he lost a couple of veterans on the offensive line, but he plays in a great system and gives you everything you look for in an elite running back for fantasy leagues.
2. Ray Rice - Not expected to miss time in camp, it remains to be seen whether the Ravens will get a new contract done before the middle of July. At that time, Rice would have to play under his franchise tag, but either way we shouldn’t expect a long holdout at this point.
3. LeSean McCoy - Despite talk about LeSean McCoy seeing a reduction in touches, fantasy owners shouldn’t let that stop them from acquiring one of the elite three at the running back position. Furthermore, I’m not sold the Eagles will reduce his touches—as it sounds like a nice thing to say during the offseason—but when you’re trying to win football games, you want your best players on the field.
4. Chris Johnson - Those that follow my website know I take issue with Chris Johnson going this high in the draft. At the same time, seeing Johnson back in the middle of the first round shouldn’t be surprising, as many will chalk up his campaign from a year ago to a poor offensive line and lack of conditioning.
For two years now, Johnson has been an inconsistent player without Vince Young on the field, and as we saw in film breakdowns a year ago, there were effort issues involved in Johnson’s lack of production.
Some are predicting a return to the top five for Johnson, and at this price he better, because you're drafting him at that value. Go ahead and buy into the talk of how Johnson is in shape at camp, and how the coaching staff couldn’t pinpoint Johnson’s struggles last year (yeah right)...I’m staying away.
5. Calvin Johnson - If the “Madden Curse” is going to be in full effect for Calvin Johnson, it will come by the way of personal injury. Johnson has proven twice during his career he can play at a WR1 level without Matthew Stafford.
The first time was in his second year in the pros, when he was arguably the most valuable receiver in the league and his team failed to win a game. The other time was two years ago, with Shaun Hill at quarterback.
Expect another dominant year from Johnson, but unless you feel you have to have him early, it’s best to wait at receiver as we have a deep class this year.
6. Ryan Mathews - Norv Turner has a long history of workhorse backs and it’s time to view Ryan Mathews as the next in line. I’ve tried to find reasons why Mathews isn’t a top five running back, but when measured up to the rest of the pack, this third-year tailback makes the grade.
Mathews has been knocked for health issues, but perhaps we’ve given him an unfair label. Last year talented stars like Miles Austin attributed his injury-filled seasons to poor conditioning. If even star veterans had trouble with the lockout, how can I be down on Mathews?
Just recently, Matt Williamson of ESPN questioned if Mathews has the mental makeup to be a feature back. I respect Williamson’s opinion and this is an interesting arguing point as to why Mathews won’t be a top five fantasy back. Still, I’m willing to go with him because he will have his first full offseason, and Tolbert is out of the equation.
7. Aaron Rodgers - It’s a little surprising that Aaron Rodgers fell to the seventh pick in this mock draft, but the value of the quarterback is diminished in average-sized leagues because of the depth at this position. With only ten teams in this mock draft, everyone knows they will walk away with a solid starting quarterback, by the mid rounds.
8. Drew Brees - My first selection in this mock draft, as I’m banking that Drew Brees won’t be in a long holdout. It’s not as big a deal for a quarterback to have a holdout into training camp, but with Sean Payton lost for the year, his value will drop if things aren’t resolved by August.
9. Tom Brady - Passing on Tom Brady wasn’t an easy thing to do now that he has Brandon Lloyd on the outside. While Josh McDaniels isn’t worth a darn outside of New England, he’s proven to be an effective coordinator for this team, and will have play calls designed to stretch the field.
Some may think Brady is going to throw for under 4,500 yards, but don’t be surprised if he goes over 5,000 again. While Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen will get their time on the ground, this offense still goes through Brady and he’s set for another MVP season.
10. Darren McFadden - As the season passed, we finally learned that Darren McFadden did in fact have a Lisfranc injury to his foot. As of the spring, McFadden was back for OTAs and looked like his old self.
While this is encouraging, fantasy owners must consider that McFadden has missed at least four games in all four years of his career. A troubling stat, but McFadden’s upside is too high to pass on him as a top ten running back, even if the team is switching the blocking scheme.