You'll never guess who the early choice for the No. 1 pick is.
The 2012 fantasy football season is in the books, so let’s waste no time shifting the focus to a 2013 mock draft.
Comebacks captured the limelight throughout the year, with Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning and Jamaal Charles all returning at full strength from significant injuries. All three secured a place in the early rounds of next year’s drafts.
How will draft day play out this time around? There are plenty of familiar faces, but an array of rising stars worked their way into prime consideration.
Entering the 2012 season, the running back position was riddled with uncertainty, prompting many to instead target stud quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Enough rushers emerged for drafters to revert back to targeting at least one in the opening two rounds.
These first two rounds of a mock draft are operating under the premise of a 12-team, head-to-head league with standard scoring. So some gamers in PPR formats will have to adjust to their particular league’s procedures.
What better way to welcome in the New Year than with a fantasy football mock draft? There is none, of course, so happy 2013!
Adrian Peterson should be the consensus No. 1 pick in 2013.
Unless your league is insanely tilted toward quarterbacks, Adrian Peterson is the obvious selection to fall off the board first.
Instead of missing any time this season, the running back returned from a torn ACL better than before, because that's totally something a normal human being does.
Carrying the Minnesota Vikings to an improbable postseason bid, Peterson amassed 6.0 yards per carry, falling a mere eight yards short of Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record with 2,097 yards.
In Peterson's worst game of the season, he managed 80 total yards from scrimmage. He surpassed 100 yards in nine of his last 10 games, topping 150 yards in seven instances.
Do us a favor: Don't use the entire allotted time to make the obvious choice.
Arian Foster lost his throne as fantasy football's top pick.
Despite a down year, Arian Foster only drops one spot.
Foster's yards per carry dipped for the second-straight season, this time decreasing from 4.4 to 4.1. Luckily for the 26-year-old, he received 351 carries, so his 1,424 rushing yards still ranked sixth in the NFL.
Foster also found the end zone 17 times, more than any other back. The last time he logged a full 16-game season, Foster notched 18 touchdowns.
On another team, Foster probably falls out of the first round, but the Houston Texans' stout offensive line and commitment to the run maintains his holding as a fantasy stud.
Ray Rice piled up 1,621 total yards this season.
Ray Rice is as stable as running backs come.
Annually one of the leaders in yards from scrimmage, the 5'8" running back hasn't missed a game since 2008.
Even in a lackluster season by his standards, Rice tallied 1,621 total yards along with 10 touchdowns.
For all the fury surrounding Rice's lack of touches, he received 257 carries and was targeted 83 times in the passing game. Those numbers also remained lower after the Baltimore Ravens rested him during Week 17.
Hopefully he'll approach 300 carries again under a new offensive coordinator's watch. If the downside to drafting Rice is that he may only end the season as ESPN's sixth highest scoring running back, he's still a phenomenal rusher to grab early in the first round.
Doug Martin was a tremendous find for drafters.
With Rice off the table, let's settle for a rookie who highly resembles the Ravens running back.
During his first year of NFL action, Doug Martin accumulated 1,454 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 319 rushes. He also sweetened the pot with 472 receiving yards to place him alongside Foster in a tie for the second-best fantasy back.
Not only did Martin average 4.6 yards per carry right out of the gate, he also emerged as one of just five rushers to earn more than 300 carries.
Let's see what Martin can do for an encore in his sophomore season. Hopefully he continues to follow the path of Rice, who picked up 2,041 total yards during his second year.
Marshawn Lynch turned on Beast Mode throughout the year.
Whoever is on the clock now will surely feel tempted to select a five-star quarterback or wide receiver.
As an owner who struggled to find a free-agent running back better than Vick Ballard this season, I'd advise you to go with the no-frills running back.
Marshawn Lynch is not necessarily the most enticing choice; he's not going to rush for 200 yards in a game or make much happen catching passes out of the backfield.
But he receives and capitalizes on many opportunities. Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards on 315 carries, amounting to 5.0 yards per attempt.
Russell Wilson's ascendance as a quarterback also aided Lynch, who closed out the final eight games of the season with 833 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
Top running backs still come at a higher premium than quarterbacks and wideouts, so take Beast Mode to round out the top five.
Calvin Johnson nearly earned 2,000 receiving yards in 2012.
Calvin Johnson broke the single-season receiving record with 1,964 yards, but something was still missing from his fantasy owners' perspective.
Despite his groundbreaking year, Johnson failed to produce a transcendent fantasy campaign because he only tallied five touchdowns. Can that really happen again?
It's not unprecedented; Johnson also managed just five scores in 2009. He then followed that up by earning 12 touchdowns the ensuing year.
Johnson is too big of a talent to keep out of the end zone for long. There's no reason why Megatron can't jump back up to 12, or even more scores, again in 2013.
Expect the receptions and yards to fall to more reasonable rates as Detroit likely won't trail virtually every game, but replacing the yards with more scores will even out Johnson's stat line and keep him on top of the wide receiver landscape.
Aaron Rodgers gets to keep the title belt for another year.
You could take a running back here, but no there's no true sure bet. There's also the possibility that you miss out on a massive quarterback run depraving you of the chance to land a premier signal-caller.
Separation between the elite quarterbacks is slimmer than ever. Aaron Rodgers comfortably held the title belt for the past couple years, but a case could now easily be made for Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
Due to significantly less passing attempts, Rodgers accumulated less passing yards than Brees and Brady. His 259 rushing yards, however, eliminates the gap.
Averaging just nine interceptions per season during his career, Rodgers is also the NFL's most efficient passer.
This is a guy who is so amazing that fans are disappointed that he only racked up 41 touchdowns.
Put the belt around Mr. Rodgers one more year, although it'll probably be far from the last time.
Barring another freak injury, Tom Brady is Mr. Reliable.
No need to cry over missing out on Rodgers. Brady can make you just as happy.
Much like Rodgers, nobody seems to care that Brady just amassed 4,837 passing yards and 38 touchdowns. Whatever, he does this every year.
Wipe away the 2008 season Brady missed due to a low hit from Bernard Pollard and Brady really does dominate every year. After that unfortunate injury, Brady has averaged 4,590 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and nine interceptions per season.
One of the greatest quarterbacks to ever step on the gridiron, the 35-year-old is playing the best football of his life. Armed with Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd as targets and Steven Ridley to keep defenses honest with a rushing attack, Brady leads the NFL's most ferocious offense.
Welker's free-agent status is something to monitor, though. Although the receiver stands a lot more to lose than Brady by leaving the New England Patriots, the loss of his safety valve could be just enough to slot Brady below Drew Brees.
Drew Brees exceeded 5,000 passing yards for the third time.
He's thrown for more than 5,000 passing yards and 40 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, so what's it going to take for Brees to finally snatch the spot as fantasy football's top quarterback?
The New Orleans Saints' leader managed just 5,177 passing yards and 43 touchdowns in 2012, which were both down from a record-shattering 2011 campaign.
Maybe I'm just angry at him for appearing in those gruesome Pepsi commercials with One Direction, but he stays behind Rodgers and Brady because the sheer volume of throws causes him to turn the ball over more.
Brees tossed 19 interceptions, which is not a one-time occurrence since he yielded 22 picks two years ago. He still slightly outscored Brady and Rodgers under ESPN's standard scoring, but the Saints should form some semblance of a defense that causes Brees to attempt less than 670 passes.
If your league does not penalize players for turnovers, forget I said anything.
Then again, those heightened amount of passes also allows Brees to post numbers that would look unrealistic in a Madden franchise. And that's what makes him beautiful as the No. 9 pick.
Jamaal Charles averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
In charge of a horrific Kansas City Chiefs offense, Jamaal Charles still showed why he's one of the NFL's greatest talents.
Peterson has received all the praise for his magnificent comeback, but Charles also returned from a torn ACL to earn 1,745 yards per scrimmage.
Perhaps most surprising about Charles' recovery is that the Chiefs afforded him a career-high 285 carries. Even before his injury, he never got more than 230 touches in an offense that tried to preserve its star speedster.
Not so surprising, unfortunately, was Charles' lack of touchdowns that blocked him from becoming the NFL's second-best fantasy rusher. The dynamic rusher only reached the end zone six times.
You might have to settle for a maximum of around eight scores, which he amounted in each of the last two years before tearing his ACL. If he improves back to that level, he's well worth this selection near the end of the first round.
C. J. Spiller made the most of limited work.
Can I get a written note from the Buffalo Bills promising to play C.J. Spiller more next season?
It's criminal that Buffalo only provided the third-year running back with 207 carries. He matched Peterson's ridiculous rate of 6.0 yards per carry and tossed in 459 receiving yards for fun.
If Spiller's increased role in 2013 was a certainty, he could rise up to No. 6 overall, if not a spot or two higher.
He could, however, also face the same touchdown conundrum as Charles if Buffalo employs Fred Jackson or someone else to vulture the smaller back's end-zone carries.
I don't want to gush too much over Spiller, but this is a man who piled up 1,703 yards per scrimmage while trapped in a timeshare for parts of the season.
A.J. Green is quickly developing into an elite wideout.
A.J. Green is for real.
In his second professional season, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns. Just think what the 24-year-old can accomplish in his third year, where wide receivers most often break out.
Another bonus for Green is the emergence of Mohamed Sanu to take some of the pressure off of the star wideout. Before going down with a stress fracture in his left foot, the Rutgers' alum scored four touchdowns in his last three games.
When comparing his numbers side-by-side with Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant, remember that Green sat out the majority of Week 17's game, losing the chance to increase his receptions total to 100, since the Cincinnati Bengals already had the No. 6 seed clinched.
Another added bonus is that he does not come with the same off-field baggage as Marshall and Bryant. I can't be the only one who felt guilty rooting for Marshall on Sunday's despite his alleged domestic violence disputes.
Green might soon challenge Johnson for the throne as the league's top receiver.
LeSean McCoy missed four games due to a concussion.
Anyone picking at the turn will definitely want to grab at least one running back.
While LeSean McCoy missed one-fourth of the season with a concussion and saw his yards per carry plummet to 4.2, he's still one of the game's most electric backs who can't be written off in 2013.
Like Rice, McCoy suffers from "just give him the ball" syndrome. There were games like Week 17 against the New York Giants, where they had no answer for McCoy's quickness but the Philadelphia Eagles trailed by too much to keep running.
Although McCoy will probably never duplicate his 17 rushing touchdowns from 2011, that at least showed the team's willingness to let him handle the goal-line carries. He should find a happy medium between those 17 and the measly two he notched this season.
The emergence of Bryce Brown could make things interesting in Philadelphia, but both runners should be able to live in harmony. If they can't, Brown might be the odd man out because of his fumbling issues and McCoy's past prestige.
Rob Gronkowski needed 11 games to score 11 touchdowns.
You like touchdowns, right?
Of course you do, so let me present you with a guy who has scored 28 touchdowns in his last 27 games. Oh, and did I mention he's a tight end?
Before breaking his left forearm, Gronkowski was replicating his monster numbers from 2011. In 11 games, Gronkowski caught 55 passes for 790 receiving yards and 11 scores.
Drafting Gronkowski also gives you a distinct advantage at tight end. Jimmy Graham is still great, but he took a step backwards in a crowded Saints receiving unit. Jason Witten is a receptions machine who often falls short with touchdowns and Tony Gonzalez might retire.
Wide receiver is deep enough that you can find value picks later in the draft. You can't always get so lucky with tight ends.
After a rough start, Dez Bryant caught fire.
So that's why the Dallas Cowboys put up with Bryant.
This is why Dallas tried so desperately to monitor its top investment to avoid a disastrous ending. At his best, Bryant is one of, if not the best wide receiver in football.
He scared everyone with a slow start, catching two touchdowns in his first eight games, but those who stuck with him were handsomely rewarded,
In the final half of the season, Bryant became Tony Romo's favorite target, accounting for 50 catches, 879 yards and 10 touchdowns.
That sky-high upside propels him to the second round, where it's hard not to water over the stats Bryant can put up if he plays that well through 16 games.
Just be warned that Bryant will generate a few gray hairs among his owners. There are dominant stretches where he leads you to glory, but he also no-shows more than the other elite wideouts.
RG III isn't the only top rookie in Washington.
The name of the game is opportunity, so any running back presented with 335 carries is worth a good look.
Alfred Morris fell to the sixth round in the NFL Draft, with scouts thinking he'd become a full back. Then Mike Shanahan got his hands on the rookie.
Forming an incredible tag team with fellow rookie Robert Griffin III, Morris helped transform the Washington Redskins' rushing game into the NFL's finest.
On 335 attempts, Morris compiled 1,613 yards along with 13 touchdowns. His absence as a pass-catcher causes his first-round seclusion, but Morris is putting up numbers reminiscent of old-school bruisers.
Fantasy owners are usually taught to run from the hills when Shanahan is dictating the rusher's touches, but there's no reason to expect him to turn away from Morris after mastering the system and averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
Trent Richardson needs to make more of ample carries next season.
I was right about Trent Richardson heading into his rookie season, but I was also pretty wrong.
Due to the Cleveland Browns' lack of a passing game, I steered away from Richardson, figuring he'd receive little room to run with every defense expecting him to get the ball.
And that showed in his putrid 3.6 yards per carry average.
Richardson, however, still produced a fine fantasy season, scoring 12 touchdowns along with 1,317 yards from scrimmage.
Most of Richardson's struggles came late in the season, when he played with broken ribs, according to ESPNCleveland.com's Tony Grossi.
If he returns healthy next season, Richardson can at least veer closer to 4.0 yards per carry and top 1,000 rushing yards along with double-digit scores.
Jones-Drew missed most of the season with a foot injury.
Feel like taking a risk? If Maurice Jones-Drew returns at full strength from foot surgery, you're getting a first-round player at a bargain.
Ask anyone who took Peterson a few months ago; it just might pay off. If Peterson can return stronger from a torn ACL, a puny little foot surgery should be no big deal for MJD, right?
Before going down to the injury, Jones-Drew averaged 4.8 yards per carry. He's remained healthy throughout his career, and the injury was a freak occurrence that should not be blamed on his prolonged holdout or heavy workload.
Jones-Drew's ranking will fluctuate throughout the offseason and preseason. He also could alter his draft stock by leaving the Jacksonville Jaguars, so don't put this projection in stone.
Superman returned during the latter portion of the season.
Not quite as good as his attention-grabbing rookie year, but we'll take it.
Cam Newton's numbers fell off a bit, but he still produced 3,869 passing yards, 741 rushing yards, 19 passing touchdowns and eight rushing scores.
Another number that dropped for the better is his interceptions, which faded from 17 to 12.
Near the end of the season, Newton found his cape and scored 15 touchdowns to just two interceptions through the final seven games.
Nobody should have projected Newton to score another 14 touchdowns on the ground, but it was encouraging to see him still earn eight despite vulture-back Mike Tolbert's arrival.
In leagues that award six points for touchdowns, take Peyton Manning instead. But if playing in a league with four points allotted for a passing score, it helps to have a quarterback that also can function as a goal-line running back.
Peyton Manning is back.
Sorry we ever doubted you.
Few drafters wanted to take the plunge on Peyton Manning as their starting quarterback last season. After all, who wants a 38-year-old returning from multiple neck surgeries?
Turns out we all should have. Often picked around the same time as his little brother and Philip Rivers, Manning registered 4,659 passing yards and 37 touchdowns to just 11 picks. So a bit better than those other guys.
Since Brady and Brees throw more while Newton and Rodgers run more, Manning finished tied for fifth among quarterbacks in standard ESPN leagues.
Can he repeat this performance at age 39 next season? I don't want to be the one betting against him again.
Robert Griffin III led all quarterbacks in rushing yards.
After watching Newton and Manning get snagged, it's only natural to jump for the last quarterback remaining in the second tier.
Griffin revitalized the Redskins and quickly inserted himself as one of the NFL's most popular players. Much of that love stems from his fantasy owners.
In his rookie year, Griffin completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing for 3,200 yards and 20 passing touchdowns to just five interceptions.
He made his money on the ground, though, recording 815 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Can Griffin stay healthy over the course of a full season? Can he keep his turnover rate so low? Will Washington unlatch the safety locks and allow Griffin to air it out deep more frequently?
All these concerns kept him available this long, but there's too much potential to pass up on Griffin near the end of the second round.
The other six teams with a vacancy at quarterback should now wait a little bit since the position is deep with no other superstars on the board.
Demaryius Thomas flourished with Manning feeding him the ball.
Manning is a lot better than that other guy who played for them in 2011. What was his name again? Oh well, doesn't matter.
The monumental upgrade at quarterback freed Demaryius Thomas from wideout purgatory and instead sent him to wide receiver paradise. Playing his first full season, Thomas reeled in 94 catches for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns.
So what happens now that the two have developed a comfortable rapport together? Thomas snagged six of his touchdowns in Denver's final seven contests.
As long as Manning is with him, Thomas should continue to assemble monster point totals for his fantasy owners.
Brandon Marshall scored a career-high 11 touchdowns this season.
Hopefully Marshall was part of your plan this season.
Back together with Jay Cutler, the two rekindled their strong bond, giving the receiver new career-highs with 118 receptions and 1,508 yards.
Finally putting to bed the silly notion that Marshall didn't score a multitude touchdowns because he wasn't good enough, the 28-year-old secured a career-best 11 touchdowns. Maybe the whole playing for the Miami Dolphins thing wasn't helping.
But can they maintain that success without another wide receiver capable of making a play?
Eventually the Chicago Bears must find another target to ease the pressure off Marshall. Teams now have a full season of game film at their disposal to use in order to conduct game plans devoted solely to containing him.
Julio Jones emerged as a big-play threat for Matt Ryan.
To close off the second round, keep the receiver run rolling by selecting a playmaker whose best has yet to come.
Julio Jones is only 23, and he already compiled 1,198 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Look for him to take another leap forward in his third season, especially if Gonzalez retires.
With Jones, there is a higher ceiling but lower floor than many of the other big names. You're going to get a few duds mixed in with incredible outings.
You still have one more pick to go. Pairing him with quarterback Matt Ryan is an option, but I'd take a running back (Matt Forte and Chris Johnson are still on the board) before they all vanish during the third and fourth rounds.