Predicting the Top Fantasy Performer for All 32 NFL Teams
When taking a look at your draft board come selection day in fantasy football, it is important to take a look at the team each specific player is on and the logistics of their roster.
For example, it is hard to envision Frank Gore being a starting running back in standard fantasy football leagues. The additions of both LaMichael James and Brandon Jacobs means fewer attempts for Gore.
This story is repeated over and over again throughout the league. Will Roddy White and Julio Jones cancel one another out as possible No. 1 wide receivers?
Today's article is going to focus on the best fantasy football player from each NFL team and some of their primary competitors for that spot.
So, let's take a look.
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Larry Fitzgerald managed 80 catches, 1,411 yards and eight touchdowns last season sans an elite quarterback. This athletic freak of nature should put up similar or better numbers next season. The future Hall of Famer has accrued 73 touchdowns and 9,615 receiving yards in eight regular seasons.
The more I look at it, the more obvious it becomes that Fitzgerald is one of the select few fantasy players that you can pickup prior to the start of the season, implement into your starting lineup, and not worry about over the duration of the year.
The future Hall of Fame wide receiver is just consistently great. He is, by all accounts, the unquestioned No. 2 fantasy receiver in the entire league behind Calvin Johnson.
Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones, Wide Receiver
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
There are multiple options here for the Atlanta Falcons. Surprisingly enough, none of them are Michael Turner, who had been considered their No. 1 fantasy player for quite some time now.
Roddy White and Matt Ryan could easily be put here, and there wouldn't be much question about that. White ranked seventh among wide receivers in fantasy points last season, and Ryan appears to be on the upswing quite a bit.
That being said, I went with the upside of Julio Jones.
The second-year receiver recorded eight touchdowns and nearly 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie in 2011. He promises to get much more comfortable with the route-running and nuances of the National Football League in 2012.
There really isn't any reason to believe that Jones cannot surpass 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns in 2012.
Baltimore Ravens: Ray Rice, Running Back
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Ray Rice could easily be the top pick in every standard fantasy football league in the world, and there wouldn't be much of an issue with it.
Rice put up an astonishing five games with over 20 fantasy points in 2011. In the process, the Baltimore Ravens running back tore apart opposing fantasy defenses to the tune of 129.3 total yards per outing.
He is, by all accounts, one of the few truly elite fantasy players in the entire league.
Buffalo Bills: Fred Jackson, Running Back
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Fred Jackson was quite literally one of the best fantasy players in the entire NFL last season prior to succumbing to a season-ending injury in November.
In the nine full games that Jackson played, he averaged a whopping 145 yards, including six 100-yard performances.
In fact, Jackson was on pace for over 277 fantasy points, which would have put second among running backs behind LeSean McCoy.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, Quarterback
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
I have Cam Newton rated higher on my board than most people. There is one simple reason for this. The selection of the Carolina Panthers quarterback in the first round would enable you to actually avoid reaching for a RB1 in either the initial round or in the second round.
This is where fantasy football is trending: multiple-use quarterbacks that give you the best of both worlds.
While it is hard to imagine the Panthers allowing Newton to run the ball 150-plus times, he will still make an impact on the ground.
Chicago Bears: Matt Forte, Running Back
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
The yardage that Matt Forte accumulate through the air and on the ground makes him one of the most sought after fantasy running backs that hasn't quite hit elite status.
Forte has averaged over 110 total yards per outing over the course of the last two seasons, making him one of the most productive backs in that category.
The primary issue with Forte is his inability to get into the end zone. The Pro Bowl running back has scored a total of just 17 touchdowns since the start of the 2009 season.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, Wide Receiver
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
What A.J. Green did as a rookie was nothing short of extraordinary. Catching passes from a fellow rookie, Andy Dalton, the talented young receiver put up over 1,000 yards and scored seven touchdowns.
To put that into perspective, Calvin Johnson accumulated over 250 fewer yards and scored three fewer touchdowns for the Detroit Lions during his 2007 rookie campaign.
It is rare that a rookie receiver has that type of production. It is even more rare when he does it with another rookie throwing him the football.
In short, Green is going to be a force around fantasy circles for the next decade.
Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, Running Back
Jason Miller/Getty Images
It isn't too hard to find your way atop this list for the Cleveland Browns, even as a rookie. This is the situation that Trent Richardson finds himself in.
Some of it has to do with the Browns' complete ineptitude in terms of finding talented skill position players. Most of it has to do with the awesome ability of the former Alabama standout.
Rookie running backs tend to have an easier learning curve than other skill position players in the National Football League. In fact, it isn't unprecedented to find many of them have solid fantasy seasons.
Couple that with the freakish athletic ability of Richardson and you have someone that could easily top 1,300 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns.
Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo, Quarterback
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tony Romo is one of the most underrated fantasy players in the entire National Football League. What he has done in terms of increasing his value over the course of the last few seasons is simply amazing.
The enigmatic quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys has averaged over 270 passing yards per game since the start of the 2009 season. Moreover, he has recorded 42 more touchdowns than interceptions during his 38 starts in that span.
In terms of production, Romo can be counted on to be an elite fantasy quarterback. It really is that simple.
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning, Quarterback
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Peyton Manning had been one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the history of the game prior to missing the entire 2011 season due to a neck injury.
The 36 year old quarterback had accumulated nearly 22,000 passing yards and 155 touchdowns in the five-season span prior to last year.
If Manning can return to 2010 form, there is no reason to believe that he isn't worth a first-round pick. That being said, buyer must definitely beware in regards to the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver
Leon Halip/Getty Images
What Calvin Johnson did last season was nothing short of extraordinary. He put up Jerry Rice-like numbers and then some. We are talking about a wide receiver that absolutely destroyed every defensive back in his path.
You can look at Johnson's entire body of work, nearly 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011 alone, but that wouldn't be doing him justice.
Over the course of the Lions' final four games, including the postseason, Johnson racked up 36 receptions for 771 yards and six touchdowns. Just think about those numbers for a second people.
Let's have a little bit of fun with those numbers. Projected out over the course of an entire season, Johnson would have been on pace for 144 receptions for over 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
When any quarterback has the type of season that Aaron Rodgers had last year you have to take notice when selecting atop of the first round in your fantasy draft.
Rodgers nearly accumulated 400 fantasy points in 2011. Those are some ridiculous numbers and do force some people to think about selecting him No. 1 overall.
The former Super Bowl winning quarterback threw 39 more touchdowns than interceptions and amassed 300 passing yards in over half of his 15 starts last season.
Not much more to say here.
Houston Texans: Arian Foster, Running Back
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Arian Foster was considered the No. 1 overall fantasy player heading into the 2011 season. After missing three games due to injury, the talented young running back has seen his ranking slip just a tad.
Make no mistake about it, Foster is one of the few truly elite fantasy players heading into 2012.
Foster has amassed over 4,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns over the course of the last two seasons.
More importantly Foster has tallied 100 or more total yards in 16 of his last 20 games.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, Quarterback
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
A rookie quarterback making this list. Yes, you saw that right. Andrew Luck is the closest thing that the Indianapolis Colts have to a fantasy stud, even as a rookie.
While this isn't saying all too much about the Colts' skill position players, it does speak volumes in regards to Luck's ability to make plays in 2012.
You will see the future Pro Bowl quarterback make his fair share of inexperienced mistakes. He will throw some interceptions and cause you some negative points.
That being said, you are not going to be selecting Luck to be your starting quarterback. Instead, you have to look at schedules, matchups and who you select to be your QB1.
If all those factors work out, pick up the reigning No. 1 overall pick.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew, Running Back
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the best all-around fantasy 'backs in the National Football League. He has recorded at least 1,600 total yards in each of his last three seasons, including a league best 1,606 rushing yards in 2011.
The talented running back is in the midst of a contract stalemate, which is the reason he is so low on my overall fantasy rankings. A quick report date to camp and Jones-Drew immediately becomes a top three fantasy player.
You also have to take into account the weapons that the Jacksonville Jaguars have built in the passing game with the additions of Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans. Those three threats on the outside are going to help Jones-Drew out a great deal in the running game as he won't be facing nearly as many eight-men fronts.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Running Back
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Think about this one statistic for a second. Jamaal Charles tallied over 1,900 total yards on just 275 touches in 2010. This enables fantasy owners to take the electric running back early in the draft and expect him to make some pretty damn big plays.
As with most players coming off a serious injury, Charles is a major risk. When selecting a running back early in fantasy football, you have to rely on him to be a consistent performer throughout the duration of the season. Losing someone like that for a good chunk of the year could throw your entire fantasy season to the proverbial dogs.
Miami Dolphins: Reggie Bush, Running Back
Winslow Townson/Getty Images
Okay, that just isn't going to happen.
For one thing, both Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller will probably have something to say about that. The fact that Bush has never run the ball more than 216 times in a single season probably indicates that his words will be nothing more than hollow verbiage.
That being said, Bush can provide you with a great amount of production as a flex/RB2 player. The talented 'back amassed 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career and recorded a total of seven touchdowns.
Don't rely on Bush to be your No. 1 guy, but he will be a productive player.
Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson, Running Back
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
ESPN is reporting that Adrian Peterson will likely begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List but should be ready for Week 1. As noted in the report, the Minnesota Vikings plan to take it easy with the future Hall of Fame running back.
Either way, Peterson would be a reach in the first round. He is coming off a serious knee injury and doesn't appear to be 100 percent just a couple weeks before the start of the preseason. Those are dubious factors for individuals looking at production from Peterson throughout the early part of the season.
If you can get Peterson in between the second and third, you will be in a good place, especially if you're able to pick up a starter somewhere else in the draft.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady, Quarterback
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Tom Brady is one of two quarterbacks that I would seriously consider taking in the top five of my fantasy draft. What he does on a yearly basis can put your team in the thick of things towards the end of the season.
Brady tallied at least 20 fantasy points in nine of his 16 starts last season alone. While that statistic represents out bottom line as fantasy players, they are not the end all be all.
His consistency throughout his last six healthy seasons are larger indicators of fantasy success. During that span, Brady has averaged 270 yards and over two touchdowns per game.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, Quarterback
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees can finally start to focus on some football. The future Hall of Fame quarterback is back on board after agreeing to a long-term contract extension. Now the franchise is ready to put a disastrous offseason behind them.
Not like any of this would really matter to fantasy owners.
The numbers that Brees has put up over the course of the last six seasons are staggering. We are talking about someone that has thrown for over 28,000 yards and 201 touchdowns during that span.
In fact, Brees is a prime example of the trend towards passing in the National Football League. His 380 fantasy points would have wiped the board just five seasons ago, but they weren't even good enough to finish No. 1 in that category last season.
New York Giants: Victor Cruz, Wide Receiver
Win McNamee/Getty Images
I could have gone with Eli Manning here, but the Super Bowl-winning quarterback just isn't elite by fantasy standards.
Victor Cruz is.
The talented young wide receiver tallied nearly 200 fantasy points en-route to one of the most surprising seasons for a wide receiver in recent league history.
Moreover, Cruz hit the big play a great deal last season. He recorded a total of 25 receptions of at least 20 yards in 2011. That will help your fantasy team a great deal.
I don't expect Cruz to fall off much this season either. He is, by all accounts, the real deal and a WR1 in my books.
New York Jets: Shonn Greene, Running Back
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
I had a hard time going with anyone on the New York Jets' offense, but someone had to jump out at the end. Mark Sanchez wasn't going to get any play, and Santonio Holmes is far too inconsistent to be relied on in fantasy football.
So, where do I go? To the running back position.
Shonn Greene did have the best season of what has been a mediocre and inconsistent three-year NFL career in 2011. The former third-round pick from Iowa recorded his first 1,000-yard season and tallied six touchdowns.
This definitely makes him RB2 material.
Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden, Running Back
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
It's all about remaining healthy for Darren McFadden. When actually on the football field, he is one of the best fantasy players in the entire league.
McFadden did put up 100 fantasy points in six full games, which put him on pace to be the third best fantasy 'back in the league behind LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice.
That being said, the talented young running back has missed a total of 19 games in his first four NFL seasons. Definitely not the consistency that you look for in a starting running back.
For all intents and purposes, McFadden is a high-risk, higher-reward selection.
Philadelphia Eagles: LeSean McCoy, Running Back
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Speaking of the devil, LeSean McCoy is my No. 1 rated fantasy football player heading into the 2012 season. That happens when you put up 20 total touchdowns and tally about 110 yards per game.
What people don't realize is just how dynamic McCoy is. He has the ability to help you in both the passing and rushing department, while continuing on an upward trend towards fantasy domination.
Lost in all his success is the fact that McCoy is still only 24. So many bright years ahead for this talented running back.
Needless to say, I am happy to have him on my dynasty team.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace, Wide Receiver
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Let's be clear about one thing. Despite being an official holdout from Pittsburgh Steelers' training camp, Mike Wallace will return at some point prior to the first preseason game. He has absolutely nothing to gain from stretching this contract situation out much longer.
If and when Wallace returns, you can expect him to produce like a No. 1 wide receiver for your fantasy team.
It is important to realize that Wallace will be turning just 26 in August and is coming off of two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He has progressed each year in the National Football League and appears to be ready to take that next step towards elite status.
San Diego Chargers: Ryan Mathews, Running Back
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
While I am not a huge fan of Ryan Mathews in the first round, I do believe that he can have a breakout 2012 campaign.
The young running back did record nearly 1,100 rushing yards and won't have to fight Mike Tolbert for carries in goal-line situations in 2012. These are two big indicators that he is set for a breakout season.
I can easily envision a scenario where Mathews records over 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns.
Note: Thanks to multiple readers for pointing out the "Mike Tolbert factor" as it relates to Mathews' low touchdown numbers last season. That was totally lost on me.
San Francisco 49ers: Vernon Davis, Tight End
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
The Frank Gore days are over in regards to him being the San Francisco 49ers' No. 1 fantasy player. The additions of Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James coupled with the emergence of Kendall Hunter pretty much guaranteed this.
That being said, San Francisco does have a rather solid fantasy player in the form of Vernon Davis. The talented tight end did see his numbers drop in 2011 from the previous two seasons, but that really doesn't matter here.
Davis compiled 18 receptions for 410 yards and four touchdowns in the 49ers' final three games, including the postseason. Expect him to put up some huge numbers in his second season in San Francisco's new offensive scheme.
Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch, Running Back
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
It appears that Marshawn Lynch will not be facing a suspension for his recent DUI arrest. Ambiguity as it relates to NFL punishment may spare the talented running back.
We will get a better feeling for this the closer we get to the regular season in September.
Assuming that Lynch is cleared by the league to play out of the gate, he will be a strong candidate as a RB1 on your fantasy team.
The Cal product recorded over 1,400 total yards and 13 touchdowns in his first full season with the Seattle Seahawks last year.
What makes Lynch a promising first-round candidate is the fact that he either accumulated 100 yards or scored a touchdown in 10 of his final 11 games last season.
St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson, Running Back
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Steven Jackson is definitely on the back end of his career, but that didn't stop him from performing relatively well last season. While his touchdown numbers have remained low in each of his last three seasons, Jackson put up the necessary yards to be counted on in fantasy football.
The future Hall of Fame running back amassed nearly 1,500 total yards in a St. Louis Rams' offense that didn't have a consistent passing game and struggled a great deal in run-blocking.
Any sense of improvement from Sam Bradford and Co. will help Jackson and yourself in regards to his fantasy stock.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Doug Martin, Running Back
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Only one of three rookies on this list, Doug Martin is going to surprise fantasy owners a great deal this season. The 2012 first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has everything that you look for in a dynamic three-down running back.
He can pass-protect extremely well for such a young 'back. This enables the Buccaneers to keep Martin in on obvious passing situations. Couple that with the fact that the Boise State product has a great set of hands and you have someone that will be a consistent performer in fantasy football.
There is no reason to believe that Martin cannot gain 1,500 total yards and score double-digit touchdowns in 2012. Those are RB1 numbers right there.
Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson, Running Back
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Talk about regression. Chris Johnson has seen both his rushing numbers and touchdowns scored drop in each of the last two seasons. The former NFL rushing champion just seemed to struggle a great deal out of the gate after holding out of training camp.
However, that really isn't the issue here.
Johnson tallied over 1,000 fewer total yards in 2010 than he did the previous season and then saw those numbers drop last year.
These are not indications that Johnson is prepared to provide you with the production you are going to need in the first round.
Washington Redskins: Roy Helu, Running Back
Al Bello/Getty Images
Let me be clear about one thing. While Roy Helu might not start training camp as the Washington Redskins' starting running back, he will be in that role come September.
Helu fits perfectly into what Washington is attempting to build on the offensive side of the ball. He is also going to help Robert Griffin III out a great deal as a safety valve in the passing game.
The second-year running back from Nebraska caught nearly 50 passes as a rookie and added 1,000 total yards to his resume.
These numbers promise to jump this season.