2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Newton & QBs Who Warrant 1st-Round Selection

Ian Hanford@Ian_HanfordFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2012

2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Newton & QBs Who Warrant 1st-Round Selection

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    The first round of most fantasy football drafts isn't going to be normal. Running backs are normally the consistent trend for Round 1 selections, but this year's crop isn't deep.

    Outside of Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice, there are no "safe" options in the backfield. Ball-carriers will still come off the board, but that will only be due to someone's risky decision making.

    That leaves quarterbacks and receivers to plug the holes. A handful of signal-callers are legitimate first-round producers, and a few receivers pull their weight as well.

    Four quarterbacks will come off the board before the No. 13 pick comes up this year. The NFL is a pass-happy league, and their are several elite arms who will put up huge numbers this season.

    Let's take a look at how the first 12 picks will shake out in fantasy football this year.

1. Arian Foster

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    This one is actually pretty easy in my eyes. Some may argue for Ray Rice or LeSean McCoy, but Foster is the lowest risk in this year's fantasy ranks.

    Running backs are never "safe" per say. Injuries are always one cut away, but that can't scare you in this case. Foster repeated his dynamic 2010 performance with another lights-out campaign in 2011.

    Expect more of the same in 2012.

    Foster's a threat to run for 1,500 yards, score 10-plus touchdowns and catch 50 passes. No other back, outside of Rice, will match production like that.

    Houston lost Eric Winston on the right side of their line, but Foster won't be impacted that much. Andre Johnson's presence will open up the passing attack, and that will take focus off of Foster.

    He will take advantage of any lapse in focus. He's a can't-miss pick.

2. Ray Rice

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    Ray Rice is an excellent No. 2 pick now that his contract situation is concrete. He's the best all-around back in football other than Foster, and his numbers will be on par this season.

    The loss of Ben Grubbs on the interior line could impact Rice's production, but not enough that you should avoid him. Like Foster, he's a 1,000 yard runner with 50-catch potential.

    Rice's versatility makes him a hot commodity in any league. The lack of running back depth this year makes him even more so.

    He's going to get upwards of 300 carries this season and somewhere around 375 touches overall. Rice can stay on the field in any situation, and he should always be in your lineup.

3. LeSean McCoy

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    LeSean McCoy has the quickest feet in football, and he absolutely erupted last season for the Eagles.

    He rushed for just over 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He also caught three touchdown passes on 38 catches. Durability could be a concern, but there's no doubting "Shady's" incredible ability.

    Philadelphia's dynamic offense could negate some of McCoy's production, but he will be a focal point of their attack. He's not as versatile as the other two top backs, but he's the most pure rusher in the NFL this season.

    McCoy doesn't have a longstanding resume, but last year's explosion was staggering. That hype alone earns him a top-three selection.

4. Tom Brady

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    Tom Brady is still Tom Brady, and the Patriots offense is still elite because of that. Brady should be the No. 1 quarterback off the board this season.

    Not only does his supporting cast return, but New England added Brandon Lloyd in the offseason. He can blow the top off of a defense and immediately provides a capable deep threat.

    By now we know New England's tight ends, and we know Brady's chemistry there. His connections with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski will run thick again this season.

    Predicting 4,500 yards and 45 touchdowns for Brady at this point is easy. He's "money" as an NFL quarterback, and he will be looking to prove something after last year's Super Bowl loss.

5. Aaron Rodgers

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    Aaron Rodgers could easily go ahead of Brady, but Brady's Super Bowl loss actually gives him an odd edge in my book.

    Either way though, you can't go wrong. Rodgers has scary physical gifts and the weapons to utilize them. His offensive line keeps him upright, and he has the legs to escape the pocket.

    Green Bay doesn't run the football, and fantasy owners will love that. Rodgers is a lock for 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns. He's also going to rush in a handful of scores (last year he had three).

    Wins will still come easy to this Packer team this season, and Rodgers is the reason for that. Don't expect his production to take a step backward, even slightly.

6. Chris Johnson

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    If you pick Johnson your friends may throw things at you while they laugh. He's a major risk, and you've been warned, but this year's running back arrangement makes Johnson a worthy opening round selection.

    He barely cleared 1,000 yards last season, and he only had four touchdowns, but that's not a testament to his true talent. He's a former player of the year winner for a reason, and I expect him to show that this season.

    Johnson's ego will combine with his talent to lead a comeback campaign of sorts this season. Don't be surprised if he's knocking on the door for 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Take him in the first round. Running backs are thin, and Johnson's worth the risk more than most.

7. Calvin Johnson

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    How can't you draft someone nicknamed "Megatron" in the first round? That moniker happens to describe the most gifted physical specimen in the NFL today.

    Johnson caught 96 balls last season for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. It's hard to predict a repeat performance of that caliber, but he isn't going to take a major step back.

    Detroit's run game is in shambles, and Matthew Stafford's arm is their best asset. Johnson is on the receiving end of the majority of those passes, and that won't change this season.

    The Lions' offensive line is still shaky, but Johnson can't be stopped. He's unguardable, and he's a lock to be the NFL's best receiver again this season.

8. Drew Brees

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    The Saints have been through a lot this offseason, and so has Brees before he was awarded a record contract.

    Expect Brees to use his contract controversy in his favor. The Saints carry very murky expectations into this season, and it's up to Brees to lead the way (as usual).

    Sean Payton won't be calling plays this season, and Carl Nicks is no longer with the franchise, but that won't impact Brees' deadly passing precision.

    Last year he hurled 5,476 yards worth of passes. He picked up 46 touchdowns along the way.

    This year Brees will take a tiny step back, but he's still a first-round lock. New Orleans' offense runs like clockwork, and Brees is what makes it tick.

    Many things have changed with the Saints, but Brees' arm isn't one of them.

9. Ryan Mathews

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    It's nothing against Mathews, but this is how you know running back is thin this year.

    Last year he barely cleared 1,000 yards and had six touchdowns. He did catch 50 passes, but his hands are not consistent. With Mike Tolbert now in Carolina his role could increase in the passing game.

    I see Mathews using Ronnie Brown's presence to his advantage. He may get fewer touches, but he will be more rested when he does touch the ball.

    He will be closer to 1,500 yards this year than 1,000. Expect his touchdown numbers to jump a bit as well.

    This could have been Maurice Jones-Drew, but I'm not including anyone in mid-holdout. Mathews is still going to be a sleeper to some, but he will make someone very happy as a No. 1 back.

10. Larry Fitzgerald

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    Fitzgerald would last until the second round if there were more elite running backs up for grabs, but he is a worthy first-round selection nonetheless.

    The only concern with him doesn't even include his talent. It's his quarterbacks, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Both are projects at best, and Fitz's numbers will suffer accordingly.

    Don't expect the Cardinals' wideout to catch more than 10 touchdown passes this season, but he is still a 1,000-yard performer. He will haul in 90-plus catches, and that makes him a worthy first-round receiving target.

    Some may call for Andre Johnson here, but his knee injury scares me more than Kolb or Skelton. I'll take Fitzgerald as he benefits from Michael Floyd's rookie presence on the opposite side of the field.

11. Matt Forte

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    This is a major risk, but it's one worth taking. Running back has very little depth this year, and someone will, as they should, take a risk on Forte.

    He missed the end of last season with a knee injury, but he is back. You have to assume he's healed, and take your chances on one of the game's best two-way running backs. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield gives him a chance to stay on the field for all three downs.

    Forte wants to prove that he's worth the new contract Chicago gave him, and he's got the talent to do so.

    Matthew Stafford will be a tempting pick here, but running backs are at a major premium this season. Forte is a risk, but his upside is considerable.

12. Cam Newton

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    This pick is going to draw the ire of fantasy football "draftniks" across the globe, but it shouldn't. We've been over the fact that this year's draft is going to be weird. In a year full of question marks, it's the perfect time to roll the dice on the NFL's most tantalizing quarterback.

    Newton's rookie season had its blemishes. He chucked 21 touchdowns, but he also threw 17 interceptions. He went through normal rookie growing pains, and one year of experience will help to exorcise some of those issues.

    What separates Newton is his rushing ability. He ran for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. He's fast enough to separate himself, and his body is big enough to take the abuse.

    Sophomore slumps are a common theme with quarterbacks, but we've never seen a talent with Newton's blend of size, speed and throwing ability. He proved his ability to perform as a rookie, and he's worth taking a chance on with this pick.

    The Panthers added Louis Murphy and Mike Tolbert to their offensive fold this season. Neither will be a major help, but the depth will be an added benefit to Newton's cause.

    He's a rare talent, capable of changing a game by himself. Newton's rushing numbers may take a step back this season, but expect his passing numbers to be even better this time around.