The NFL’s free agent frenzy this month has not only changed the landscape of professional football, it has changed the landscape of fantasy football.
The free agent frenzy does not change one ultimate fantasy football fact, though. Running backs and quarterbacks are still the most important positions to fill and have superstars at.
But some runners and passers have seen their fantasy values slightly altered due to the teammates around them changing thanks to free agency and trades. And a lot of wide receivers have seen their fantasy stocks rise or fall thanks to the new teams they signed up with.
So here is what the first five rounds of a 2013 fantasy football mock draft would look like in a 10-team league at this point:
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (RB)
Fantasy owners have seen firsthand that not having Percy Harvin around does not hurt Peterson’s fantasy value one iota. Heck, it may even help it! Greg Jennings signing with the Vikings should not really matter one way or another when it comes to A.P.’s numbers. They will still be phenomenal.
2. Arian Foster, Houston Texans (RB)
All Houston’s franchise player has done is average 1,900 combined yards and 16 touchdowns per season over the past three years. This slasher might be coming off a campaign where he rushed for a career-low 4.1 yards per carry and had 400 fewer receiving yards than the previous season, but he remains one of fantasy football’s top picks.
3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (QB)
Rodgers may have lost Jennings to Minnesota, but he only had Jennings around for half the games last season and still threw for 4,295 yards and 39 touchdowns. James Jones and Randall Cobb have proven they can step up and form a terrific trio with Jordy Nelson, so Rodgers should be the best QB in fantasy.
4. C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills (RB)
Buffalo’s new coaching regime should hopefully realize that Fred Jackson needs be given five touches per game tops and the rest of the rushes should go to Spiller, arguably the most dangerous gamebreaker in the NFL right now.
Spiller averaged 6.0 yards per carry, 10.7 per reception and racked up 1,703 combined yards despite not averaging 16 touches per contest. Look for Spiller’s touches, yards and touchdowns to all go up in 2013.
5. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (RB)
No sophomore slump is expected for Martin, although hopefully he gets a new nickname because “Muscle Hamster” is universally despised. Martin would have won Rookie of the Year in 2012 if the greatest crop of rookie quarterbacks were not in his way. 2,000 total yards and 14 TDs is very possible for this powerful pipsqueak.
6. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (RB)
Kansas City has undergone more changes than any other team in the NFL. Charles will have a new quarterback in Alex Smith, a new receiver in Donnie Avery and a new head coach in Andy Reid. Look for Charles, who regained his sprinter speed after ACL surgery, to explode just like LeSean McCoy did in Reid’s West Coast offense.
7. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (RB)
Skittles’ favorite endorser no longer has to carry Seattle’s offense on his back with quarterback Russell Wilson now that Percy Harvin is in Starbucksville. Seattle’s offense will still probably stay on the conservative side, though, so Lynch has a chance of coming close to the 1,590 rushing yards he rumbled for last season.
8. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (QB)
With head coach Sean Payton returning after his one-year suspension, Brees and the Saints’ offense should be more in sync than they were in 2012, which is scary since Brees led all quarterbacks with 5,177 passing yards and 43 touchdown tosses.
9. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (RB)
With former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly bringing his 700-plays-per-quarter offense to Philadelphia, this could lead to amazing things for McCoy as long as “Shady” does not get concussed again.
Kelly’s college offenses did wonders for padding the rushing stats of its running backs, so McCoy should be in for a bounce-back year as long as backup Bryce Brown and his fumble fingers do not steal too many carries.
10. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (RB)
Richardson is the one sure thing right now in Cleveland’s offense. He had 950 rushing yards, 367 receiving yards and a dozen touchdowns in his rookie campaign, and he did while playing hurt most of the time. Imagine what he could do in 2013 if he stays healthy?
11. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (QB)
No Wes Welker, no Brandon Lloyd, no Danny Woodhead ... no problem? That remains to be seen. We know Brady will still have the most terrific tight end twosome in the NFL, but Danny Amendola has to prove to be as durable and dependable as Welker was or Brady’s numbers will suffer.
12. Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens (RB)
Baltimore is in for a down season thanks to the free agent exodus the team has experienced, but does that mean Rice will be in for a down season as well? Most of Baltimore’s roster hits came on the defensive side, so the only reason Rice could slump is if super sophomore Bernard Pierce is given more carries at Rice’s expense.
13. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins (RB)
Washington’s battering ram with legs barreled for 1,613 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns during his shocking rookie season. Morris does not have to worry about sharing carries with anybody else on the roster. He does have to worry that defenses could load the box against him if Robert Griffin III does not return in time for the start of the season, though.
14. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (QB)
A year removed from his neck surgeries and with another weapon in his arsenal thanks to Welker’s surprise signing, Manning might muster 4,800 passing yards and 40 touchdowns. Let’s just hope Denver has a warm winter, though, because Manning throws like Mark Sanchez in wintry conditions.
15. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (WR)
“Megatron” is easily the first receiver that should be taken after blowing away the pass-catching competition with his record-breaking 2012 season. If Detroit finally finds a running game and/or complementary receiver to stop defenses from double-teaming him, Johnson could crack the 2,000-yard barrier.
16. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots (RB)
Ridley had a breakout 2012 season with 1,262 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, proving that New England can indeed run the ball if need be. The guy does not bring it in the passing game, however. Just nine receptions over two years.
17. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (WR)
Tell Dallas owner Jerry Jones to double the salaries of the babysitters that kept Bryant out of trouble last year. Keeping Bryant on the field and out of the strip joints helped him pile up 879 yards and 10 touchdowns over his final eight contests when fantasy owners needed him most.
18. Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans (RB)
Before you write off Johnson as someone slipping into fantasy mediocrity, remember that he galloped for over 2,000 yards in 2009 when LenDale White, a very Shonn Greene-like runner, was there to give him a break once and a while.
19. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (QB)
Newton played as spectacularly during the second half of the 2012 season as he did during all of 2011, so fantasy owners can breathe easier that he has not turned into another Akili Smith. It is unfortunate that Carolina did not sign one of the premier receivers that was available in free agency, though.
20. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (WR)
Green has to contend with an average quarterback and an average all-around offensive cast, yet his fantasy worth benefits because of it because he is force-fed the ball just like Johnson is in Detroit. 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns would be a logical next step for his stats.
21. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (RB)
22. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars (RB)
23. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (QB)
24. DeMaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (WR)
25. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (TE)
26. Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons (RB)
27. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (RB)
28. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (RB)
29. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (QB)
30. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (WR)
Notes: Running backs obviously get more love since most fantasy league lineups use two-to-three running backs and only one quarterback. Jones-Drew is one to watch considering he won the rushing title in 2011 and is only down this low because of his foot injury last year. Griffin’s fantasy ranking will skyrocket or plummet once reports on his knee become more concrete closer to the season. Jackson’s value was buoyed once he signed with Atlanta.
31. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears (WR)
32. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (QB)
33. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (TE)
34. Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (RB)
35. Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (WR)
36. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (QB)
37. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (QB)
38. Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (RB)
39. Eli Manning, New York Giants (QB)
40. Victor Cruz, New York Giants (WR)
Notes: McFadden and Mathews are injury-prone fantasy poisons who are only rated this high because they are starting running backs on teams where the No. 2 backs are no threat to their jobs. Stafford has thrown for 10,000 yards over the past two seasons, but somehow Sam Bradford and Carson Palmer threw more touchdown passes in 2012. Manning and Cruz's numbers and value will go up if Hakeem Nicks dresses for 14-16 games.
41. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (QB)
42. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos (WR)
43. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (QB)
44. David Wilson, New York Giants (RB)
45. Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (WR)
46. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (QB)
47. Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks (WR)
48. Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts (RB)
49. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (TE)
50. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions (RB)
Notes: This round has a little bit of everything. You have read-option quarterbacks who could be fantasy demigods or be foiled by a league full of defensive coordinators ganging up against that system. You have Welker, who may have a hard time topping the 110-catch mark for the sixth time in seven seasons now that he is in Denver. And you have Harvin, who can score points like Carmelo Anthony in PPR leagues if his attitude and migraine headaches do not get in the way. The one thing the round does not have—kickers.
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