Fantasy Football: Arian Foster, Roddy White, Michael Vick & Who to Pick in 2011

Joel SzymanskiContributor IJanuary 7, 2011

Fantasy Football: Arian Foster, Roddy White, Michael Vick & Who to Pick in 2011

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    Michael Vick emerged this year as one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the game.
    Michael Vick emerged this year as one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the game.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    It's hard to believe it, but it's true: The fantasy football season is already over.

    If you are anything like me, you're already going through withdrawal. What are you supposed to do at 10 o'clock on a weeknight if you can't search the waiver wire for next week's hidden gems? How do you enjoy these playoff games without deciding who to start in each of them?

    Well, luckily for us, speculation about next season's fantasy draft has already started. It's never too early to start fantasizing about your dream team, and I'm here to give you the leg up on who you're going to want to take.

    I will outline the top five choices for each offensive position and give you a little bit of reasoning for each. I won't be looking at the potential draft picks for next year because it's still unclear who will even declare, but don't worry—I'll update this list later.

    I will also not be picking kickers or defenses now because they can change a lot in the offseason. Plus I'm one of those guys who streams defenses depending on their matchups each week.

    For now, enjoy...

Running Backs

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    Arian Foster tops the list of 2011's best running back.
    Arian Foster tops the list of 2011's best running back.Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Most experts agree that a fantasy team will live and die with its running backs. Therefore, this is the position we will start with and the one you should give the most attention to.

    Here are my top five running backs for 2011.

    1. Arian Foster (HOU)

    This Texans running back exploded onto the scene and was the most productive back in 2010. Foster was probably not taken in the early rounds of your draft, but whoever decided to grab him now looks like a genius.

    Foster is the most complete back in the NFL. He was the leader in both rushing yards and touchdowns this season and had more yards receiving than any other running back. Foster was a huge part of Houston's game plan, and even when the Texans fell behind they did everything they could to get the ball in his hands.

    Don't overthink it. He's the obvious No. 1 choice, and he deserves to be—there's no reason to think he will be any less productive next year.

    2. Jamaal Charles (KC)

    Charles put up almost 1,500 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving—and that was while splitting carries with Thomas Jones. Kansas City will likely focus more on Charles next year as Jones gets older, and that includes more carries at the goal line. Charles could even challenge Foster for the top spot.

    3. Chris Johnson (TEN)

    Johnson was last year's No. 1 choice in most fantasy drafts. Despite a few games where he didn't receive many touches once the Titans fell behind, Johnson continued to be productive when he had the ball in his hands.

    With all of the changes going on in the Tennessee organization, CJ2K will be the one constant, and I expect the Titans to lean on him. Chris Johnson will return to form next year and be one of the best backs in the league.

    4. Adrian Peterson (MIN)

    Peterson was another back picked at the top of last year's drafts. Like the Titans, the Vikings are a team experiencing a lot of changes. Again like the Titans, Minnesota knows that Peterson is the most productive player and will continue to feed him the ball.

    5. LeSean McCoy (PHI)

    I struggled with the choice of whether to put McCoy or Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis in the fifth spot. Hillis, though, wore down towards the end of last season, and I'm just not sure if I can trust him yet. Meanwhile, McCoy is a huge part of the Eagles offense in both the running and passing games. He's not only consistent but also has the potential to have big games every week.  

Wide Receivers

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 27:  Roddy White #84 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates a first half touchdown during the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on December 27, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Wide receivers are a fickle bunch. One week they can singlehandedly lead you to victory; the next they will be held without a catch.

    Nevertheless, picking a solid receiving corps is vital to fantasy football success. Here are the guys to look for in 2011.

    1. Roddy White

    Before the arrival of Matt Ryan, Roddy White really struggled. Luckily for him, he now has a quarterback who loves to get him the ball. White had the best year of his career in 2010 and is in his prime. Not a whole lot will change for the Falcons next year, which is good news for Roddy. White is as consistent as he is explosive, and he's can't miss at wide receiver.

    2. Calvin Johnson

    Like White, Johnson is coming off the best season of his career. But unlike the Falcon receiver, Calvin was catching balls from his second and third string quarterbacks for most of the year. If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy, Johnson's numbers will only get better. Calvin is a freak, and he'll be one of the best again in 2011.

    3. Andre Johnson

    Andre Johnson had a bit of an off year, not really living up to expectations because of a nagging ankle injury that stayed with him throughout the season. Johnson will come back next year fully healthy, though, and should be among the NFL elite.

    4. Brandon Lloyd

    Lloyd finished his magical year as the best fantasy receiver of the season. Lloyd had more yards than any other receiver in 2010 and was the one bright spot in Denver's otherwise forgettable year. The reason he is only No. 4 on this list has more to do with the state of the Broncos organization than with Lloyd himself. With a head coaching change and a possible quarterback controversy, it's hard to predict whether or not Lloyd will give an encore next season.

    5. Dwayne Bowe

    Dwayne Bowe had one of the best seasons of any receiver last year. When he was on, he put up huge numbers. The problem is when he was off, he was way off. However, he is still worth a top five pick for his big play ability and potential to get you a lot of points. Just don't be surprised if he follows a 30-point game with a three-point one.


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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers delivers a pass against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 33-28.  (Photo by Doug Pensing
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The quarterback is a crucial part of an NFL team's offense, and it's an important cog in your weekly fantasy football lineup. A quarterback is expected to put up a certain number of points each week, and when he doesn't, it can lead to disaster.

    Here are five players who will be consistent every week and have the high ceiling that can put you over the top any given Sunday.

    1. Michael Vick (PHI)

    It's almost unfair to have this guy as your quarterback. He has returned to the NFL a changed man, and it's frightening for opposing defenses. Vick has tons of weapons to throw to in Philly, including Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy. Not only that, but the dude can run, and every single play he has the chance to score. As long as he can stay healthy, he's my No. 1 QB in 2011.

    2. Aaron Rodgers (GB)

    No longer in the shadow of Brett Favre, Rodgers has quickly become one of the most accurate passers in the league. He is the leader of the Packers offense, and with the lack of a running game this year, he has carried the load on his shoulders. You can expect Rodgers to throw quite a bit every game, making his scoring potential rather high.

    3. Tom Brady (NE)

    The NFL's 2010 likely MVP, Brady once again found a way to keep the Patriots offense dangerous even with the loss of Randy Moss. You can always count on Brady to get the job done, no matter who he has lining up on the outside. If New England can get another elite receiver, Brady could move up to No. 1 here.

    4. Peyton Manning (IND)

    Peyton, like Brady, is one of those guys who can make anyone he plays with look good. Peyton struggled in the middle of the season, and as a result, so did the Colts. If he can get all of his weapons back health next year, the elder Manning will be one of the best quarterbacks you could hope for.

    5. Philip Rivers (SD)

    Rivers is a great young quarterback capable of all the big throws. Even though San Diego struggled, Rivers never stopped producing. A healthy Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd will make him even better in 2011.

Tight Ends

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    SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 05:  Tight end Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium on December 5, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Raiders defeated the Chargers 28
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The tight end position has an under-appreciated role in the fantasy football game.

    Most of the time, you don't expect too much from your tight end, especially if he is not one of the top five in the game. However, these five guys will give you the edge on your opponents all season long.

    1. Antonio Gates (SD)

    Gates is probably one of the greatest pass-catching tight ends in the NFL. It's hard not be when you have Philip Rivers throwing you the ball. Gates put up a solid stat line this year despite playing through several injuries. Expect him to be even more impressive next season as Rivers' go-to guy.

    2. Jason Witten (DAL)

    Witten is up there in terms of being a great pass-catching tight end, the only difference being that Witten does not quite have the same explosive, big play ability as Gates. That being said, Witten is a reliable player who can be expected to get several looks a game, especially in the red zone.

    3. Brandon Pettigrew (DET)

    In his second year as a pro, Pettigrew certainly looked worthy of his first-round draft pick. Although he was plagued by a case of the "dropsies" early in his career, he looks as though he has put that behind him now. With Calvin Johnson getting double coverage, Pettigrew will be looking to pick up all the underneath and down the middle space opposing defenses will give up.

    4. Vernon Davis (SF)

    Although his production dropped off a bit from 2009, Davis still had solid numbers in 2010. Davis was able to remain productive even through constant quarterback changes in San Francisco and should be able to do it again in 2011 with whoever is behind center.

    5. Marcedes Lewis (JAC)

    Lewis had a great year in 2010, putting up 10 touchdowns and 700 yards. He looks to be a go-to guy in the red zone now for the Jags, and that should carry over into next season.

Sleeper Picks

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    SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams looks to pass against the Seattle Seahawks during their game at Qwest Field on January 2, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Every year, there are a couple players at each position who come out of nowhere to become legitimate starters by the end of the season. Here are my sleeper picks for 2011.

    QB: Sam Bradford (STL)

    This rookie quarterback was solid last year, but nothing too special fantasy-wise. Expect him to start lighting it up next year when the Rams get Bradford a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

    RB: Jahvid Best (DET)

    Best began his first year on fire, but turf toes on both feet quickly slowed him down. Best will be the Lions' lead back in 2011 both running the ball and catching the ball out of the backfield.

    WR: Randy Moss (FA)

    Yes, you read that right. At the beginning of the 2010 season, no one would consider Moss a sleeper, but that was before he disappeared for half a season. I think he still has a lot left in the tank and will put together a nice season for whoever gives him a chance.

    TE: Anthony Fasano (MIA)

    Fasano had a few nice games last season but struggled because of the inconsistent play of quarterback Chad Henne. A new QB will likely be brought in for 2011, and he will lean on Fasano in the passing game.