Fantasy Football 2012: The Preseason Top 125 Players, Vol. I
Here is my first off-the-cuff listing of the Top 125 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.
One last thing: These rankings will remain capped at 125 for two reasons:
a) Any listings beyond 125 are patently irrelevant since every draft tells a different story in the latter rounds.
b) Reasonably short lists will hopefully force/inspire lazy fantasy GMs to conduct at least three mocks before the big day in August. The absolute worst thing you can do is show up on draft day with only the help of a few Top 200 cheat sheets. Good drafting is all about preparation (mock simulations)...and finding value with every pick.
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. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
13. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
14. TE Rob Gronkowski, 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 Steven Jackson, Rams
22. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
23. WR Roddy White, Falcons
24. RB Michael Turner, Falcons
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 1,730 total yards and 17 TDs.
- One quick note on Foster's behalf: The Texans draw the Colts and Vikings at home for Weeks 15 and 16. If that isn't a freebie gift from the fantasy odds, I don't know what it is.
- 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 that 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 (137.6 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. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
39. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
40. WR Steve Smith, Panthers
41. RB Trent Richardson, Browns
42. TE Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
43. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
44. WR Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
45. QB Matt Ryan, Falcons
46. WR Miles Austin, Cowboys
47. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
48. TE Jermichael Finley, Packers
49. WR Brandon Marshall, Bears
50. RB Beanie Wells, Cardinals
- 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, should it really matter if Jennings outperforms Nelson or Nelson trumps Jennings?
- The Gore vs. Steven Jackson dynamic is difficult to characterize right now. 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 1,461 total yards and eight 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 and every first-team practice rep during training camp.
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 Percy Harvin, Vikings
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 Steve Johnson, Bills
64. WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
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 represent well here; 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 Jonathan Dwyer.
76. QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
77. WR Kenny Britt, Titans
78. TE Jason Witten, Cowboys
79. QB Robert Griffin III, Redskins
80. WR Sidney Rice, Seahawks
81. RB Toby Gerhart, Vikings
82. RB Doug Martin, Buccaneers
83. RB Donald Brown, Colts
84. WR Antonio Brown, Steelers
85. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts
86. QB Andy Dalton, Bengals
87. RB Michael Bush, Raiders
88. WR Malcom Floyd, Chargers
89. RB Mark Ingram, Saints
90. RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots
91. QB Mark Sanchez, Jets
92. TE Dustin Keller, Jets
93. WR Laurent Robinson, Jaguars
94. RB Ben Tate, Texans
95. WR Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
96. WR Nate Washington, Titans
97. RB Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
98. QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
99. WR Brandon Lloyd, Patriots
100. WR Titus Young, Lions
- Brandon Lloyd drew 150 targets with the Broncos and Rams last year, fifth-best among NFL wide receivers. He also followed offensive guru Josh McDaniels from Denver to St. Louis to New England in the process. McDaniels and Lloyd have expressed a mutual admiration for one another's talents many times, leading fantasy experts to believe that Lloyd could be in a monster year. But for now, I'm going to take a conservative tone on this matter, even though Lloyd (77 catches, 1,448 yards, 11 TDs with Denver in 2010) is one of my all-time PPR favorites.
- Backup tailback Michael Bush (1,395 total yards, 8 TDs with Oakland last year) will rocket up the charts at the first sign of real trouble regarding Matt Forte's contract dispute with the Bears.
- The Buccaneers deserve major props for drafting a Ray Rice-esque runner like Boise State rookie Doug Martin (1,554 total yards, 16 TDs in 2011). In time, Martin may prove to be the perfect back for head coach Greg Schiano's power-rushing attack. For now, Martin will likely split carries with incumbent LeGarrette Blount, but one look at Martin's highlight reel tells us his day as Tampa Bay's feature back will come sooner than later. If he wants the ultimate real-world and fantasy respect, Martin must evolve into a 40-catch talent within the first two seasons.
101. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
102. WR Pierre Garcon, Redskins
103. TE Fred Davis, Redskins
104. QB Joe Flacco, Ravens
105. RB Peyton Hillis, Chiefs
106. WR Santonio Holmes, Jets
107. QB Andrew Luck, Colts
108. D/ST San Francisco 49ers
109. QB Alex Smith, 49ers
110. RB Mikel Leshoure, Lions
111. WR Torrey Smith, Ravens
112. RB Felix Jones, Cowboys
113. RB Brandon Jacobs, 49ers
114. WR Justin Blackmon, Jaguars
115. WR Eric Decker, Broncos
116. D/ST Chicago Bears
117. RB James Starks, Packers
118. WR Jerome Simpson, Vikings
119. WR Mike Williams, Buccaneers
120. D/ST Green Bay Packers
121. QB Matt Flynn, Seahawks
122. RB LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
123. TE Brent Celek, Eagles
124. D/ST Pittsburgh Steelers
125. RB Evan Royster, Redskins
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.
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