Fantasy football has long been dominated by the running back position. Most leagues award points most easily accessible by running backs, such as a point for 10 yards rushing or receiving and six points for a score.
But the same position that can put a team over the top is the same position that can destroy a fantasy roster.
Heading into the 2012 NFL season, the only "safe" running backs to be considered for the top five picks are Ray Rice, Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy. Marshawn Lynch may be suspended and doesn't warrant early-round consideration. Darren Sproles plays in a crowded backfield, Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out, Ryan Mathews is hurt and Chris Johnson disappointed last season.
Outside of Rice, Foster and McCoy, and abundance of running backs are simply question marks. How will Matt Forte, Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson and Fred Jackson play coming off of injuries? Other than the three obvious, clear-cut running backs, an underwhelming group remains.
But while Rice, Foster and McCoy are all high-risk, high-reward picks, fantasy owners love players who will give them big points week-in and week-out. The probability for injuries is far greater for a running back than for a quarterback.
And when there isn't a significant risk factor in the middle-of-the-pack running backs, a fantasy owner should do what's best and what's safe.
The safest pick in the draft who cannot be taken early enough is Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers is coming off of an MVP season in which the Packers went 15-1. He threw for 4,643 yards with 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He even ran for three scores. He is not only the safest player in the draft, he will be the best.
With Pro Bowler Greg Jennings and rising star Jordy Nelson starting, Rodgers will hit some deep passes. Jennings caught nine touchdowns in 13 games and Nelson caught 15 in a full season.
Randall Cobb has been working in the slot. He is as versatile and explosive as they come in the league. Any short pass has potential to be exploded into a score when the ball is in Cobb's hands.
At tight end, Jermichael Finley will make plays if he stays healthy. When on the field, Finley stretches the field and is a matchup nightmare. He can make a catch in traffic and end up in the end zone very often.
James Jones, who can start at the NFL level, makes plays whenever his number is called. He had 635 yards and seven touchdowns last year in a crowded depth chart.
And at potentially the fifth wideout spot is the legendary Donald Driver. Driver is a four-time Pro Bowler who leads the Pack in career receptions and is 42 yards shy of being their all-time leading receiver.
Rodgers obviously has one of the best set of pass-catchers in the NFL. There will never be a shortage of options in this offense. There will never be match up problems with the defensive backs because there isn't a team with six players who can shut down the passing game.
And what really helps Rodgers is the lack of a running game.
James Starks and Alex Green haven't exactly proved that they can handle the load. Cedric Benson remains a question mark at this point. The ground game will keep defenses off-balance, but when push comes to shove, everybody knows it's not a legitimate threat.
Rodgers won the Super Bowl only two seasons ago. He is a mere season off of near perfection and an MVP award. He has an elite supporting cast which helps him light up the scoreboard and the stat sheet.
He is a safe bet to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. With his group of receivers, and lack of ground game, he will air it out often.
So when it comes to fantasy, Rodgers has to be considered for the No. 1 spot. He is as sure of a pick as there is in the league. Nothing makes Rice, Foster or McCoy guaranteed to avoid the running back injury bug. If Peterson went from a top-three back to out of the first round due to injury, what makes these three running backs any safer than Peterson?
At the end of the day, the three top running backs all have to deal with a owner's willingness to risk a lot for a great reward. But in a league where new "elite" running backs emerge at a far greater rate than elite quarterbacks, is it worth passing on a sure thing?
And in the 2012 draft, there is no safer pick than the defending MVP, Aaron Rodgers.
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