Projecting the Top 5 Fantasy Football Studs at Every Offensive Position

Gordie GoldCorrespondent IAugust 23, 2012

Projecting the Top 5 Fantasy Football Studs at Every Offensive Position

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    Is Peyton Manning still a top-five fantasy quarterback despite the health concerns and the fact that he has already thrown three interceptions during the NFL preseason?

    You bet he is.

    With two weeks of the preseason in the books, fantasy football owners' draft boards will soon be finalized.

    If you still have some concerns over who to target earliest in your draft, here is a list of the top five fantasy football studs at each position for the 2012 NFL season.

Quarterbacks

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    1. Aaron Rodgers

    After his breakout performance last season with 45 touchdown passes, Rodgers will be leading the Green Bay Packers' dominant passing offense again in 2012. Rodgers should be off the draft board within the first five picks.

     

    2. Tom Brady

    Before, I had Drew Brees ahead of Brady, but the more I think about it, the more I like Brady. Brady has the best receiving corps to throw to in Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd.

    The New England Patriots also have one of the weakest schedules in the NFL, so Brady should dominate every week.

     

    3. Drew Brees

    Brees rounds out the top tier of fantasy quarterbacks heading into the 2012 season. After throwing for over 5,000 yards and 46 touchdown passes in 2011, Brees will be drafted by the end of the first round.

     

    4. Cam Newton

    No rookie has ever had as much of fantasy impact as Newton did last year. With Newton’s ability to score through the air or on the ground, he has the potential to become the best player in all of fantasy football.

     

    5. Peyton Manning

    Manning appears to be healthy, and as long as he stays that way, he will be the same player we have gotten to know for the past decade. He missed all of 2011, but before that there was no better fantasy quarterback. 

Running Backs

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    1. Arian Foster

    The Houston Texans' offense revolves around Foster, whether he is carrying the ball or catching it out of the backfield. Foster should be taken with the first or second pick in your fantasy football drafts.

     

    2. Ray Rice

    You really cannot go wrong with Rice or Foster, as Rice is similarly the Baltimore Ravens' entire offense. In 2011, Rice led all players with over 2,000 total yards from the line of scrimmage.

    Rice needs to be taken with either the first or second pick.

     

    3. LeSean McCoy

    McCoy led the entire NFL last season with 20 touchdowns, and he has solidified himself as the No. 3 in fantasy football drafts. You need to take McCoy with the third pick in your fantasy draft because after these three running backs, the rest of the crop has huge question marks heading into the season.

     

    4. Chris Johnson

    Johnson was a huge disappointment in 2011, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that he had an elongated contract holdout. With a full offseason under his belt, Johnson will be back to his old self and make fantasy owners forget about last year.

     

    5. Matt Forte

    Forte grabs the No. 5 spot for the running back position not because of his pass-catching abilities, but the fact that he is going to play a major role on the Chicago Bears offense. The Bears are one of the most improved teams in the NFL, and Forte will be their biggest playmaker.

Wide Receivers

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    1. Calvin Johnson

    There is no one other receiver who is even close to Johnson when it comes to fantasy football. He needs to be drafted with either the fourth or fifth pick in your league's fantasy draft.

     

    2. Wes Welker

    Welker grabs the No. 2 spot because of the amount of receptions he records every single season. In four out of his last five seasons, Welker has recorded at least 100 receptions and has been Tom Brady’s favorite receiving target.

    Welker should be even better in 2012.

    Some people think that the addition of Brandon Lloyd could steal targets from Welker, but that is only going to help him. There is no way opposing defenses can double him, because there are too many other weapons on the Patriots offense that need to be covered.

     

    3. Larry Fitzgerald

    If Fitzgerald had a legit quarterback, then he would be giving Calvin Johnson a battle for the top fantasy wide receiver spot. Fitzgerald has tremendous talent, but when you have a quarterback like John Skelton or Kevin Kolb throwing you the ball, it is hard for a fantasy owner to rely on him to put up big numbers every single week.

     

    4. Brandon Marshall

    Reunited with Jay Cutler and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates from his days with the Denver Broncos, Marshall will become a top-five fantasy receiver again in 2012. He is by far the best receiver on the Chicago Bears roster and will be Cutler’s go-to target.

     

    5. Mike Wallace

    Now that he has signed his franchise tender two weeks before the start of the regular season, Wallace will have time to knock off some of the rust. Wallace is one of the top vertical threats in the league, and Ben Roethlisberger will be throwing his way more than any other receiver.

Tight Ends

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    1. Rob Gronkowski

    After leading the NFL with 17 touchdown receptions, Gronkowski has revolutionized the tight end position in fantasy football.

    When the New England Patriots are in the red zone, everyone knows the ball is going to Gronkowski—and still no one can stop him. If you were to combine the wide receiver and tight end positions for fantasy football, Gronkowski would be in the top five.

    I would seriously consider drafting Gronkowski at the end of the first round if your fantasy league requires you to start a tight end each week. The tight end position has a major drop-off after Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, unlike the wide receiver position.

     

    2. Jimmy Graham

    Similar to Gronkowski, Graham was just as dominant at the tight end position. Graham led all New Orleans Saints in receiving yards, touchdowns and receptions. I would definitely consider drafting Graham towards the end of the first or beginning of the second round.

     

    3. Antonio Gates

    If Gates can stay healthy for an entire season, then he has a great chance of joining Gronkowski and Graham in that elite tier of tight ends. With Vincent Jackson gone, Gates is now going to be Philip Rivers' go-to target in the San Diego Chargers offense.

     

    4. Vernon Davis

    Even though the San Francisco 49ers added Mario Manningham and Randy Moss this offseason, Davis will still be a top-five fantasy tight end.

    Before the 49ers made these additions, Davis was the only legit receiving threat on the team. Defenses had no trouble covering him because no one was worried about receivers like Michael Crabtree or Ted Ginn. With Manningham and Moss there now, Davis is going to be open much more.

     

    5. Jacob Tamme

    Any starting tight end who has Peyton Manning throwing to them is automatically going to be a top-five tight end. Look what Manning did with Dallas Clark when he was in Indianapolis.

    When Clark went down with an injury, Tamme filled in for him and put up similar statistics, catching 67 of Manning's passes for 631 yards in only 10 games. He and Manning are together now in Denver, and that will make Tamme one of the top receiving targets.