No matter where you are picking in the first round of your fantasy football draft, you should come away with a high-impact player. Of course, some stars are more productive than others.
One key in the opening round is to look at safe options. There is plenty of time late in the draft for high-risk, high-reward players, but you want to get a relatively safe player early to feel confident going into the year.
This saves you from spending an entire offseason cursing about Ryan Mathews and Darren McFadden, something that has been done plenty of times in the past few seasons.
Instead, look at these top players early in your fantasy draft.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
There should be no hesitation in taking Adrian Peterson with the first overall pick in any draft. If you do, he might come after you himself.
The running back rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season while he was still recovering from damage to multiple ligaments in his knee. With a full offseason to recover, there is a chance that he could be even better.
Although it is tough to expect another year like he just had, the odds of him putting up more huge numbers are still extremely high.
2. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
While there are a few players worthy of the second pick in the draft, Marshawn Lynch might be the safest option available. He has been one of the top running backs in football over the past two seasons, and there is no reason to expect him to slow down.
Even though backups Christine Michael and Robert Turbin have looked good in the preseason, Lynch is still the man in Seattle and is guaranteed to get plenty of carries.
The threat of Russell Wilson will also allow for more space than he had early last season, which could lead to more big numbers from Beast Mode.
3. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year, fantasy owners were uncertain about Doug Martin's role heading into the season. There are no such questions this year, as the second-year pro looks to get the ball early and often.
As someone who can get plenty of yards on the ground or through the air, he is unlikely to have too many down weeks. Of course, he still has the ability to put up a monster performance like he did against the Oakland Raiders last year, when he finished with 251 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Which player will have the best fantasy season?
There is little reason to doubt Martin's ability, and the former Boise State product will carry fantasy teams this year.
4. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Although Arian Foster will go off the board as early as No. 2 in some leagues, there is plenty of reason to be hesitant.
He is just returning to the practice field now after suffering through injuries in all of training camp, and this could cause a change in strategy. Chris Wesseling of NFL.com notes that the Texans have "promised to utilize backup Ben Tate more this season to keep Foster fresh."
Giving a smaller role to a player who had a decreased average yards per carry last season, as well as much fewer receiving yards, is enough reason to drop Foster a couple of spots.
5. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
On one hand, Ray Rice did see his numbers decline from 2011 to 2012, and the emergence of Bernard Pierce could cut into his carries this year. However, he is still a top running back in the NFL.
One place where Rice will excel this season is in the passing game. The Ravens will be without two of their most consistent targets from last year—Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta—and Joe Flacco will need the running back as a check-down option more than ever.
Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley could have filled in for the departed players...five years ago. Instead, Rice will get those receptions and have a big year through the air.
6. C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
There was a scary moment Saturday as Bills fans and everyone who already drafted C.J. Spiller held their breath when the running back went down with a knee injury in the team's preseason game. Fortunately, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that he is just fine:
Bills RB CJ Spiller took a spike on his knee. He has a cut. Nothing major. He's good to go.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 24, 2013
The former first-round pick had a breakout year last season and is likely to get a lot more touches this time around. However, he has little experience being a primary running back even dating back to his college days, and the extra workload could be a tough adjustment.
Still, Spiller has the ability to put up some huge numbers.
7. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
It is impossible to doubt Jamaal Charles' ability on the football field. With his speed, he is certain to rush for plenty of yards to help out a fantasy team.
However, the question in Kansas City is whether the team has the ability to get near the end zone on a regular basis. When the squad does get close, does Charles get the goal-line carries?
In five seasons, the slender running back only has 17 career touchdowns. With bigger running backs on the roster, this number might stay low throughout the year, hurting his fantasy value.
8. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
There seems to be some doubt as to whether LeSean McCoy can have a bounce-back season after going from 17 rushing touchdowns to only two last year.
The answer to that question should be a resounding yes. He has a new coach in Chip Kelly who loves to run the football, as well as an improved offensive line that will provide him with big holes.
As long as he stays healthy, the upside is there for McCoy to become one of the top running backs in fantasy football.
9. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
This is where there is a divide between fantasy football and the NFL. If I were a head coach, there are few players at the position I would rather have than Trent Richardson.
The tough running back has every skill you look for: strength, speed and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He's also only 22 years old.
Though Cleveland should be an improved team this year, the Browns may struggle to put up enough points on a consistent basis. That said, Richardson will still get his touches.
10. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
After a long run of running backs, we finally deviate from the strategy by selecting the top receiver on the board.
This is certainly a risky move, as there are few top-level running backs available. However, a standard snake format draft will allow the fantasy owner to grab another one a few short picks later.
In the meantime, you can get Calvin Johnson, who is by far the best player available at his position. The difference in points on a weekly basis will be worth weakening your running back corps, especially with such low bust potential.
11. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
Alfred Morris came out of nowhere to become one of the top running backs in fantasy football last season. However, a lot of his production will be based on the play of Robert Griffin III at quarterback.
Defenses were forced to focus on RGIII last year due to his ability to beat teams with his arm or his legs. This gave Morris some extra space on the ground to get some big gains.
If the quarterback is less than 100 percent, Morris will instead get the attention. Without elite speed, this could cause some issues with the second-year back.
Would you draft a quarterback in the first round?
12. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Some may question the thought process of drafting a quarterback in the first round. The idea is that there are plenty of quality quarterbacks and a shortage of top running backs.
On the other hand, there are few players of Aaron Rodgers' ability. He is virtually guaranteed to have a huge year and help your team win on a weekly basis. You can plug him in at quarterback and not have to worry about the position for the rest of the season, except in his bye week.
Additionally, if you have the No. 12 pick, you have one more selection and then will not be drafting again until pick No. 36. The selection there will be worse, so grab the top player and worry about the rest of your team later.
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