Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, the NFL's reigning rushing king, could plunge in fantasy rankings soon, if his contract dispute/holdout goes past the third preseason weekend.
Here is my revised listing of the top 150 overall players in standard-scoring leagues, which now reflects the injury-related status drops of Cleveland's Trent Richardson (knee scope) and San Diego's Ryan Mathews (broken collarbone).
On the flip side, I've yet to penalize Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Wallace and/or Dwayne Bowe for their respective contract disputes/holdouts. But that could change as soon as Aug. 22.
Obviously, a lot can change between now and after the third full week of the NFL preseason. But right now, this should serve as a fairly accurate profile of my thinking heading into August.
These rankings will remain capped at 150 for two reasons:
a. Any listing beyond this figure is patently irrelevant, since every draft tells a different story in the late rounds.
b. Reasonably short lists will hopefully 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 for a draft, armed with a few top 150 or 200 cheat sheets and no strategy for attacking each round. 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. QB Cam Newton, Panthers
14. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
15. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
16. TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
17. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
18. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
19. WR Wes Welker, Patriots
20. RB Steven Jackson, Rams
21. TE Jimmy Graham, Saints
22. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
23. QB Eli Manning, Giants
24. WR Roddy White, Falcons
25. RB Frank Gore, 49ers
Breakdown of Nos. 1-25
** I reserve the right to change my mind between LeSean McCoy and Arian 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 that 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.
** The Frank 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.
** 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 or 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. WR Mike Wallace, Steelers
27. WR Victor Cruz, Giants
28. RB Michael Turner, Falcons
29. WR Julio Jones, Falcons
30. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
31. QB Tony Romo, Cowboys
32. WR Greg Jennings, Packers
33. RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
34. QB Michael Vick, Eagles
35. WR Jordy Nelson, Packers
36. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
37. WR Steve Smith, Panthers
38. RB Shonn Greene, Jets
39. WR A.J. Green, Bengals
40. RB Darren Sproles, Saints
41. WR Brandon Marshall, Bears
42. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
43. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
44. QB Matt Ryan, Falcons
45. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
46. WR Miles Austin, Cowboys
47. TE Jermichael Finley, Packers
48. QB Peyton Manning, Broncos
49. TE Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
50. WR Marques Colston, Saints
Breakdown of Nos. 26-50
** 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 Rodgers throws for 42 touchdowns this year, should it really matter if Jennings outperforms Nelson or vice-versa?
** 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.
** 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 4,500 yards and 28 TDs—basically Tom Brady's numbers from 2009 (first year back from injury).
** Ahmad Bradshaw's previous ranking (No. 39) was a little tenuous—at least before Mathews and Richardson required surgery for their respective injuries. Now, Bradshaw (2,475 total yards, 19 TDs in 2010-11) maintains a firm spot in the mid-30s.
51. WR Percy Harvin, Vikings
52. RB Roy Helu, Redskins
53. QB Philip Rivers, Chargers
54. RB Trent Richardson, Browns
55. QB Matt Schaub, Texans
56. RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers
57. WR Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
58. RB Reggie Bush, Dolphins
59. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
60. TE Antonio Gates, Chargers
61. RB Beanie Wells, Cardinals
62. RB Isaac Redman, Steelers
63. WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles
64. WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys
65. TE Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
66. WR Steve Johnson, Bills
67. RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
68. RB C.J. Spiller, Bills
69. RB Doug Martin, Buccaneers
70. TE Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
71. RB Willis McGahee, Broncos
72. QB Carson Palmer, Raiders
73. RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
74. WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles
75. QB Jay Cutler, Bears
Breakdown of Nos. 51-75
** 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.
** I have some 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 Mark Sanchez, Jets
80. WR Reggie Wayne, Colts
81. RB Toby Gerhart, Vikings
82. RB Jahvid Best, Lions
83. RB Donald Brown, Colts
84. WR Antonio Brown, Steelers
85. WR Nate Washington, Titans
86. QB Robert Griffin III, Redskins
87. RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots
88. WR Malcom Floyd, Chargers
89. RB Michael Bush, Bears
90. RB Mark Ingram, Saints
91. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
92. TE Dustin Keller, Jets
93. WR Laurent Robinson, Jaguars
94. RB Ben Tate, Texans
95. WR Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
96. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
97. RB Mikel Leshoure, Lions
98. QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
99. WR Titus Young, Lions
100. WR Santonio Holmes, Jets
Breakdown of Nos. 76-100
** If he ever gets cleared by the Lions and NFL 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 80-85 should mollify any draft-day fears among owners. If concussions were never a problem, Best would be a top-40 overall asset.
** Robert Griffin, the Redskins' Week 1 starter, is flush with seven stupendous playmaking options: receivers Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss, tight end Fred Davis and tailbacks Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Tim Hightower.
** From an Average Draft Position (ADP) perspective, Mock Draft Central currently has Griffin as the No. 12 quarterback (86th overall), and owners shooting that high are obviously thinking "starter," not "pricy backup." For now, I'll buy that logic.
** The first half of Titus Young's inaugural NFL season with Detroit was awash in inconsistent targets and minimal catches. But things took shape in the latter half, with Young drawing 57 targets and catching 33 balls for 365 yards and five touchdowns.
** Of equal importance, four of Young's six seasonal touchdowns were within 10 yards, demonstrating his effectiveness in the red zone. And yet, Young still has the breakaway speed and athleticism to score at least three times from beyond 40 yards. In other words, it wouldn't be a stretch to grab Young at the beginning for Round 9.
** 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 Pierre Garcon, Redskins
102. WR Michael Crabtree, 49ers
103. TE Fred Davis, Redskins
104. QB Andy Dalton, Bengals
105. RB Daniel Thomas, Dolphins
106. WR Brandon Lloyd, Patriots
107. QB Joe Flacco, Ravens
108. D/ST San Francisco 49ers
109. QB Andrew Luck, Colts
110. RB James Starks, Packers
111. WR Eric Decker, Broncos
112. RB Peyton Hillis, Chiefs
113. RB Felix Jones, Cowboys
114. WR Torrey Smith, Ravens
115. WR Sidney Rice, Seahawks
116. D/ST Chicago Bears
117. RB Ryan Williams, Cardinals
118. WR Greg Little, Browns
119. WR Mike Williams, Buccaneers
120. D/ST Green Bay Packers
121. QB Alex Smith, 49ers
122. WR Justin Blackmon, Jaguars
123. TE Brent Celek, Eagles
124. D/ST Pittsburgh Steelers
125. RB LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
Breakdown of Nos. 101-125
** 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 mutual admiration for one another's talents, leading fantasy experts to believe Lloyd could be in for 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.
**On the positive front, of the three times Pierre Garcon registered 100-plus receiving yards with Indy last year, he scored two TDs on each occasion. On the negative end, Garcon (six double-digit efforts in targets) was only one of two wideouts with at least 76 targets and still fall short of 1,000 receiving yards.
** Alex Smith posted career highs in passing yards and pass attempts (445) last season while almost breaking new ground in TD passes (17) and fewest interceptions (five). But does that make Smith a top-20 option in the fantasy realm? In 2011, he attempted 30 or more passes 10 times, in those outings Smith combined for 2,000 yards passing (200 per game) and 11 passing touchdowns (or 1.1 per game).
** By comparison, Joe Flacco had 11 games of 30-plus passes; he also had per-game averages of 258.3 yards passing and 1.18 TD passes.
** It's easy to look past Greg Little's rookie contribution with Cleveland, as he cobbled together just one 100-yard game and two touchdowns. But from Week 4-16 last year (spanning 12 games), Little was a perfect 12-for-12 in collecting six or more targets; and for Week 15, the Browns wideout crushed the Cardinals for five receptions, 131 yards and a touchdown. Fantasy owners should be thrilled to land Little anytime after Round 10 (12-team draft).
126. RB Evan Royster, Redskins
127. WR Denarius Moore, Raiders
128. RB Ronnie Brown, Chargers
129. TE Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
130. QB Matt Flynn, Seahawks
131. RB David Wilson, Giants
132. QB Christian Ponder, Vikings
133. WR Jon Baldwin, Chiefs
134. TE Jared Cook, Titans
135. RB Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
136. QB Jake Locker, Titans
137. D/ST Baltimore Ravens
138. TE Kellen Winslow Jr., Seahawks
139. WR Mario Manningham, 49ers
140. RB Isaiah Pead, Rams
141. D/ST Philadelphia Eagles
142. WR Jerome Simpson, Vikings
143. D/ST New York Jets
144. RB Robert Turbin, Seahawks
145. WR Robert Meachem, Chargers
146. K David Akers, 49ers
147. RB Brandon Jacobs, 49ers
148. K Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders
149. RB Montario Hardesty, Browns
150. TE Coby Fleener, Colts
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.