The 2013 NFL season is just around the corner, making this the ideal time for prospective fantasy owners to buckle down and start figuring out some draft-day strategy.
It is always wise to know which players you are going to draft and which you are going to avoid, as making a costly mistake in the early portion of the event could haunt you for an entire season.
In order to help make those decisions easier, let’s take a look at a few players that should end up at the top of their class when all is said and done.
If you can somehow acquire two or more of these stars this season, you will be almost guaranteed championship glory come winter.
Quarterback: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
As usual, the New Orleans Saints offense and Drew Brees’ arm will work in tandem to put up eye-popping statistics.
Last year, he completed 422-of-670 passes for a ridiculous 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns but failed to reach his career numbers set during the 2011 campaign. Brees connected on 468-of-657 throws that year, racking up 5,476 yards and 46 touchdowns.
Completion percentage is a huge factor in that equation, as the Saints signal-caller dipped down to just a 63.0 percent rate last year, as opposed to his career average of 65.6 and his 2011 figure of 71.2—another career high.
With head coach Sean Payton back in the fold and the Saints expected to be Super Bowl contenders once again, expect to see the 34-year-old’s numbers back through the roof of the Superdome.
Running Back: Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns overhauled their coaching staff and offense this offseason, which should be nothing but good news for fans of the team and potential fantasy owners.
Will Richardson be a top back in 2013?
During his rookie year under head coach Pat Shurmur, Trent Richardson managed to record 267 rushing attempts for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 51 passes for another 367 yards and a score.
Those numbers should skyrocket under Rob Chudzinski, although the former Alabama Crimson Tide superstar will need to stay healthy in order to produce.
He dealt with a number of injuries last season, many which hindered his ability to absolutely dominate the opposition. Fortunately, Richardson displayed the toughness required to play through these and still help his team.
As long as he can avoid getting too banged up, the 22-year-old is in line for a massive amount of carries, a ton of targets in the passing game and a mind-blowing output of meaningful fantasy statistics.
Wide Receiver: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson hasn’t been able to be stopped for years now, but 2013 may be his best season yet.
The superstar wideout broke Jerry Rice’s longstanding receiving record last year, hauling in 122 catches for a single-season high of 1,964 yards and five touchdowns.
With the addition of Reggie Bush into the backfield and a number of new faces along the offensive line, Matt Stafford will have plenty of opportunities to look downfield for his favorite target.
Detroit will be throwing early and often in games, as both head coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan are back—for better or worse—and ready for another go this season.
While the coaching staff’s favored strategies may not lead the Lions to the Super Bowl, it guarantees big numbers for Megatron, and he should have no problems leading the league in many receiving categories.
Tight End: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints
The Saints big pass-catcher has been one of Brees’ favorite targets over the past two years and has been as consistent as they come at the position.
While his numbers took a slight hit with the Saints’ struggles last year—down to just 85 catches, 982 yards and nine touchdowns from 99 catches, 1,310 yards and 11 scores in 2011—Graham is clearly the No. 1 option in the New Orleans' receiving corps and is line to receive plenty of looks.
There simply aren’t too many players out there with his combination of 6’7”, 265-pound size, elite athleticism and great hands—plus a high-octane passing offense and a quarterback that can maximize his abilities.
In fact, there is only one player out there like that and it is Graham, so make sure you select him if you have a chance in 2013.