The NFL lockout came to an end and all football fans rejoiced...however there was a much more fanatical section of those fans that were also breathing a huge sigh of relief.
Fantasy football isn't a game, it is a lifestyle and for millions across the world it is a life full of exhilaration, wonder and disappointment. Hopefully I will be able to aid in removing some of the wonder with this article.
Here are my Top 100 players for fantasy football 2011.
Jahvid Best was electrifying in his rookie season...however he wasn't consistent enough.
The Lions offensive line is not going to create holes for him on a consistent basis and Best will likely be as valuable to a fantasy team as an above average third-down back.
Mike Sims-Walker was a very underrated addition to the St. Louis Rams' offense.
Sims-Walker should be a starter across from Donnie Avery with Danny Amendola in the slot. This is a huge difference from his last job in Jacksonville where he was essentially working the receiving corp on his own with an average quarterback. Mike Thomas is solid and so is David Garrard but Sam Bradford and the other weapons on the Rams will allow Sims-Walker to have a big fantasy impact.
DeMarco Murray is taking over the Marion Barber role in the Dallas Cowboys' offense.
Murray will likely get a lot of short-yardage touchdowns but I don't see him putting up any relevant numbers as far as yards go. With Felix Jones and Tashard Choice already involved and the Cowboys in general not being a good running team, this is the highest the rookie can go.
The Chicago Bears brought in Roy Williams to be their first choice receiver but Johnny Knox remains the best option at the position.
Knox' speed and agility in Mike Martz's offense will allow him to put up good numbers. A second season in that offense is going to make a big difference for most of the team's fantasy players.
Maybe this is cheating to some of you but I believe whoever starts in Washington will put up respectable fantasy numbers.
Kyle Shanahan's offense is well designed and he has brought in two excellent route-running receivers that will get open in Jabarr Gaffney and Santana Moss. With Donte Stallworth and Anthony Armstrong also there to go along with Chris Cooley and Tim Hightower catching the ball out of the backfield, the Redskins quarterback will have every chance to make plays. The offensive line is reliable also for pass protection.
Thomas Jones carries will decrease this year but his abrasive running should still produce some rewards.
Jones will be losing carries to LeRon McClain while Jamaal Charles will be the feature back for the most part. His role will still allow him the chance to put up respectable running back numbers however as he should see somewhere between 140-170 touches in my mind.
His ability to stretch the field is exactly what Joe Flacco needed to show off his cannon arm. As the second starter in Baltimore, Evans won't receive a huge amount of attention but the loss of Todd Heap and Derrick Mason means Flacco needs some new targets to strike an accord with.
Jimmy Graham is a big and athletic target for Drew Brees.
Graham should be a big target in the red zone which will allow him to haul in some touchdowns, but he can also put up a lot of yardage with his athleticism.
I fully expect Newton to be the Day 1 starter in Carolina.
The Panthers have built a rookie-friendly offense around Newton which should limit his turnovers. Newton has two big tight end targets in the red zone while Steve Smith is always going to be valuable for big plays down the field. Newton will also be able to make some plays with his feet that should add to his overall value.
Emmanuel Sanders is set for a breakout season in his second NFL season.
Sanders was a huge part of the Steelers' game plan in the Super Bowl and they never recovered in time from his injury early on. Sanders is a matchup nightmare as he possesses great speed and athleticism with a wide wing span. His soft hands will allow him to put up big numbers. Sanders is injured but won't miss time in the regular season.
Manning's offense has taken a few hits during the offseason that will lower his production.
The loss of Steve Smith will hurt but Domenik Hixon is a solid replacement. Kevin Boss however, hasn't been replaced while the offensive line is at best a work in progress.
Jerome Harrison should win the starting job in Detroit before long.
Harrison was harshly let go from Cleveland and never got an opportunity in Philadelphia. Harrison has talent and can carry the load. He is a tough runner while still possessing enough explosion to hit home runs. What will hold him back however is the Lions' offensive line.
Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are two of the best teammates playing the same position in the league.
While I expect Hernandez to put up more yards, Gronkowski's nose for the end zone is what puts him on this list ahead of his teammate.
Colt McCoy is an excellent fit in the Cleveland Browns' new offense.
McCoy has fantastic accuracy and while his receivers aren't elite, they could allow him to put up respectable numbers each week of the season. Despite playing in what is considered a tough division defensively, the Ravens and Steelers could both struggle to deal with the west coast offense of Pat Shurmur because of their secondaries.
Austin Collie was a stud slot receiver for the Colts before landing on IR last year.
How Collie reacts to his concussions physically shouldn't be in question. However what will be in question is his bravery to repeatedly go over the middle for the coming season. Should he be 100 percent healthy, Collie will do a lot of good for fantasy fans this year.
Nate Burleson's fantasy value only goes so far as Matthew Stafford's health.
With Stafford in the lineup, Burleson could be a huge sleeper. He is a very good receiver and more than adequate to take advantage of the opportunities that come his way playing across from Calvin Johnson. However with Shaun Hill at quarterback, he would not be as effective.
Owen Daniels' return from a second serious injury makes this position on the list a risk.
However if Daniels is fully healthy he could be a star in Houston. His receiving ability is a huge part of the Texans' offense because he brings a size to the team that they do not have outside of Andre Johnson. As Matt Schaub's safety valve, Owen Daniels fantasy value could be huge.
On talent alone with the pieces around him, Matt Stafford should be close to the Top 20 fantasy options this year.
The problem is he cannot be relied upon to stay healthy. I, for one, don't see how anyone could be convinced of Stafford putting up big numbers this season. His health status is a major question mark, one that can't be ignored.
Steve Breaston vastly improved his fantasy stock by signing with Kansas City.
He will once again be the second choice receiver but is part of a much more stable offense than the one in Arizona. Breaston will have the opportunity to make a lot of plays next season and should seize his chance on a winning team.
The season-ending injury to Ryan Williams means the starting job in Arizona is now Chris Wells.
Wells was a standout at Ohio State but so far has failed to make an impact in the NFL. His career has been plagued by injury and the prospect of him being a bell cow for any team isn't appealing. He will likely make an impression but lasting 16 games is out of the question.
Mathews is not a favorite of mine and I don't expect a breakout season from him any time soon.
However he will definitely be given any chance he can to make it in San Diego. His huge amount of exposure will give him a value in fantasy football but his worth is only relevant to the round you take him in.
With Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin, Steve Breaston and Tony Moeaki catching his passes and a strong offensive line in front of him, Cassel could put up big numbers next year. Jamaal Charles also means that short passes can turn into home runs for Cassel on a consistent basis.
The Bills trade of Lee Evans ushers in the new era of Steve Johnson being the go-to guy in Buffalo.
Johnson won't suffer from being double teamed because the Bills have a slew of receivers just waiting to make plays. What does hurt his value however is the pass protection that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be working behind.
Donnie Avery is a former second-round pick who missed last season with a torn ACL.
Avery is a burner and has the potential to put up huge numbers this year with Sam Bradford at quarterback. The likelihood is the Rams will spread the ball around a lot however but Avery will finish the year with the biggest fantasy impact.
Green-Ellis value dropped significantly after this year's NFL draft.
The Patriots took two backs in Shane Vereen and Stephen Ridley. This gives the Patriots four viable running backs and Ridley—who is most similar to Green-Ellis—has impressed in preseason. Green-Ellis should still see opportunities in short yardage to get a lot of touchdowns but he won't repeat what he managed last year.
Santana Moss didn't let the Redskins' poor offense hold him back last season and won't this year.
The Redskins may have a worse quarterback situation but their offense as a whole looks to have improved. Moss should benefit from having a group of receivers behind him that can draw coverage away from him.
Green is expected to be an elite receiver in this league one day. However that doesn't look like likely in his rookie season.
The Bengals offense looks like being dysfunctional this season so Green will find himself in a similar situation to the one Calvin Johnson has been over the last few seasons. This will obviously limit his fantasy value but he could still put up some big numbers.
When you are a running team and you feature two backs with one being Reggie Bush, the second is likely to see a lot of work.
Daniel Thomas is a big body that can explode through the tackles. He will likely be used in goal-line situations as well as to wear down the defense early in the game. Thomas and Jones will work like Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles did last season.
Percy Harvin has two major issues working against him that will prevent him from putting up big numbers.
Harvin is moving from the third-choice receiver to the only real threat on the outside. Harvin will likely be double teamed on ever play. The Vikings' passing offense is going to be horrible and not because of Donovan McNabb. With Charlie Johnson and Phil Loadholt at the tackle positions there is little hope for any fantasy player in Minnesota outside of Adrian Peterson.
Ingram may be part of a trio of running backs looking to carry the load in New Orleans, and while Darren Sproles becomes the fourth option in the third-down role, he could become the feature runner for the Saints.
Ingram is more explosive and punishing than Pierre Thomas and possesses greater elusiveness than Chris Ivory. Ingram should also be a short-yardage star which could help his touchdown number vastly.
Miles Austin may be the third-choice receiver in Dallas when you include Jason Witten but he still has a lot of fantasy value.
The Cowboys' running game last season was terrible and DeMarco Murray will not buck that trend. With Tony Romo returning and Jason Garrettt calling the plays there will be plenty of chances to spread the ball around. Austin should take advantage of many of those opportunities.
Sidney Rice may not have the greatest track record as far as season to season but his talent is undoubted.
Rice is in a tough situation in Seattle with an uncertain quarterback situation but he doesn't need much to get in the end zone. His jump ball ability will make it very difficult for defenders to cover him. Rice could rack up the touchdowns next season.
Josh Freeman is a great young quarterback. He has the aura of a guy that will always find a way to win.
However that isn't the type of player that wins in fantasy football. Freeman should have a good year as he offers a rushing threat to pile up the yardage and touchdowns, but he plays in a tough division and the offense around him isn't designed for him to put up huge numbers.
Chad Ochocinco is not an elite receiver but he is an upgrade over what the Patriots had last year.
Ochocinco wont put up huge yardage but he should use his big frame and expert route running to get a lot of touchdowns from Tom Brady. He is no longer the deep threat he once was but the fit with the Patriots will allow him to flourish.
Jonathan Stewart is incredibly talented but just can't stay healthy.
In Carolina, he will get plenty of opportunities on the field despite the emergence of Mike Goodson last year and the re-signing of DeAngelo Williams. With a rookie quarterback the team will run the ball repeatedly so Stewart will be a feature in the offense.
Julio Jones may have been the Falcons' big addition and has been wowing people early on in Atlanta.
However once the regular season begins, there is no doubting that Matt Ryan will once again favor Roddy White. White won't reach his total number of receptions last year but I doubt that the Falcons will abandon the running game, so Jones' opportunities to put up huge numbers won't be coming that often.
Lewis is the Jaguars' best receiver. That would be okay except for the fact that Jason Hill and Mike Thomas aren't going to take advantage of the coverage he draws.
This means teams will double and even triple team Lewis at times next season. When you throw in the fact that Blaine Gabbert could potentially be the team's starter then Lewis is in for a tough season statistically.
Boldin may be a first-choice receiver in Baltimore but the Ravens' passing game is not looking good right now.
The offensive line is in a lot of trouble as Oniel Cousins and Jah Reid have struggled early on. Couple that with Michael Oher's struggles at left tackle last year and Matt Birk's injuries and Joe Flacco may not even be able to get his passes off, never mind give Boldin a chance to put up big numbers.
Maclin's only problem is that there is only one football in Philadelphia.
He is an outstanding receiver who will never receive the credit—or more importantly the points—that he deserves when playing as part of the Eagles offense. Eagles fans know his worth however and he could easily pip DeSean Jackson this year in production. Likelihood is he won't however, as Jackson's average on receptions will make him much more valuable.
Jay Cutler may be playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in football but he looks like a relevant fantasy option this year.
The Bears improved in Mike Martz' offense dramatically from the start of last season to the end. A second year in the system could make Cutler one of the best—outside of the elite—quarterbacks available.
Had Britt stayed out of trouble in the offseason he'd be much higher on this list.
As of now it remains to be seen whether he can stay on the field—or in other words out of trouble—for the whole season. With Matt Hasselbeck under center in Tennessee, Britt still has some value as he is incredibly talented. He could put up huge numbers in the future with Jake Locker but resides here for now.
While I'm not a huge believer in Cam Newton, I believe he will be the starter in Carolina and be a good rookie.
Steve Smith may be old but he can still get deep. The Panthers will run repeatedly which will open up the deep option in the play action for Smith. The addition of Greg Olsen doesn't make him relevant as a fantasy option but he and Jeremy Shockey aid Smith's value.
Sam Bradford should have a huge second year. The Rams spent the whole of the offseason putting weapons around him.
With Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator, Bradford should improve a lot over last season. The starting trio of Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola and Mike Sims-Walker will be a viable threat to any opposing secondary. Bradford also has an outstanding offensive line which is significant with a promising rookie at tight end in Lance Kendricks.
Bush's move from New Orleans to Miami actually raises his value for fantasy owners.
He will get more opportunities in the offense and will be running behind a good offensive line. With Jake Long, Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito and Marc Colombo blowing open holes, Bush could finally be a relevant fantasy football player.
Brandon Lloyd's numbers were stellar last season but in my mind he benefited from a system that is no longer there.
With John Fox at the helm, expect the Broncos to look to run the ball a lot more than they did under Josh McDaniels. This will hurt Lloyd's fantasy value this year but he remains the team's No. 1 receiver.
Vernon Davis is the type of talent that will put up numbers no matter the offensive issues in San Fran next year.
If Alex Smith struggles he will look to his tight end rather than trying to make plays down the field to Braylon Edwards or Michael Crabtree. Davis is already the team's best receiver and is a touchdown machine, his stock should only rise this year.
John Fox could get the best out of Knowshon Moreno's talent but there are a few question marks.
Moreno's work rate isn't top notch and his offensive line isn't built to consistently maul the opposition. What really hurts Moreno however is the fact that the Broncos added the touchdown vulture from Baltimore in the form of Willis McGahee.
Brandon Marshall could be Jerry Rice for all he likes, with Chad Henne at quarterback he does not control his own fantasy fate.
Marshall is a very good receiver though and was the highest paid receiver in the league until recently for good reason. His huge wingspan and athletic ability combined with his soft hands will allow him to put up more than respectable numbers this season provided that Henne can even be an average quarterback.
Matt Ryan has two legitimate threats at receiver on the outside now as well as a strong running game.
I still have question marks about the overall speed of the offense but Ryan should definitely be a worthwhile investment for fantasy owners this season.
Colston has been dealing with an injury in the preseason but shouldn't be affected come the start of the season.
Of the Saints' receivers Colston stands out because of his ability to get deep and his threat in the red zone. Colston will benefit from a stronger running game in New Orleans as the team will have a strong play action game centering around him and Devery Henderson.
The Buffalo Bills don't have much to be proud of these days.
The tough running of Fred Jackson is definitely something to shout about however. Jackson should still receive the bulk of the team's carries as CJ Spiller has yet to displace him. With Lee Evans' release Spiller could see more time split out wide despite the team having many other youngsters at the position.
The Seattle Seahawks figure to be a very strong running team for the coming year.
Tarvaris Jackson may be a bum quarterback to most, but his athletic ability will force defenders to respect the bootleg. Just ask Maurice Jones-Drew how valuable that has been with David Garrard in Jacksonville. Lynch broke a crazy amount of tackles last season and likely won't need to to put up big numbers this year with two quality tight ends and a revamped offensive line in front of him.
Tim Hightower looks to have landed the starting job in Washington already.
Hightower has been impressive in the Redskins' first two preseason games and could be a major sleeper for fantasy owners for the coming year. His hard nose running style and big body will allow him to be the feature back for that offense.
He can put up huge numbers when given the opportunity, but has yet to be in the best situation for that in his career. Holmes will need Derrick Mason and Plaxico Burress to fight father time or he will be easily shut down by opposing defenses.
Dallas Clark's return from injury will give the Colts a huge boost.
Clark will essentially be a receiver for Peyton Manning as he has been throughout his career and should put up good numbers. The Colts are returning a few pieces but Manning's favorite target will remain a healthy Clark.
Shonn Greene should become the feature back in New York next year as Ladanian Tomlinson's tires have added another year of wear to them.
As a third-year player Greene is primed to break out and become a stellar fantasy performer. The Jets passing attack is unproven as a group so expect the Jets to give Greene plenty of carries this year.
Schaub has been a stellar performer for fantasy owners over the years. His stock takes a slight hit with the trio of strong runners in Houston.
However with Andre Johnson in the mix as always and Owen Daniels recovered from injury, Schaub should have another great year.
There are a few elite tight ends in the league right now and Jason Witten probably outperformed the lot last year.
This year there may be one or two fantasy studs ahead of him at his position but he's still a top tier tight end for owners.
Returning from an ACL tear is never easy but Finley's youth will work in his favor as the body heals faster at his age.
Finley will likely be Aaron Rodgers' favorite target for the coming season as his pure athleticism and size is almost impossible to match up to. He is an elite level tight end that will make one of the best offenses in the league even better next year.
After an impressive rookie season without his starting quarterback, Dez Bryant should excel this coming year.
The Cowboys' offense has all the pieces to be an explosive group and the return of Tony Romo should only help Bryant. Bryant should be the team's No. 1 wide receiver as both he and Miles Austin work alongside tight end Jason Witten.
Peyton Hillis may not be receiving as many carries as he did last season in Pat Shurmur's west coast offense but he still has the potential to put up big gains.
Playing in the west coast offense could greatly aid him by reducing his fumbles and giving him a chance to run over more defensive backs as the Browns face more nickel sets.
*disclaimer: the Madden curse was not factored into this ranking.
Tony Romo's return in Dallas will be huge for Cowboys' fans and fantasy owners alike. With a more experienced Doug Free and a talented Tyron Smith protecting the edges there is no reason Romo can't put up big numbers this year.
With Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant on the outside and Felix Jones coming out of the backfield, he will have plenty of talents.
There is no doubt that Bradshaw is a good runner and home run hitter. However his fumbles could be really costly for fantasy owners.
The state of the Giants offensive line could really hurt Bradshaw also. While David Bass is talented he is no Shaun O'Hara—who's loss was felt last year—and David Diehl's move to the inside to facilitate William Beatty as a starter could be disastrous for the Giants offense as a whole.
Vincent Jackson looks like a forgotten fantasy figure and had he played last season he may be much higher on this list.
Jackson is undoubtedly one of the better receivers in the league and when paired with an elite quarterback across from a future Hall of Fame tight end, he will have every chance to put up huge numbers next year. Defenses may key in on Gates and leave Jackson to cause havoc on the stat sheets next year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hoping to head towards the playoffs for the coming year.
If they do manage that they will be relying on what is one of the best combinations in the league with Josh Freeman and Mike Williams. Williams was outstanding as a rookie and shouldn't suffer any sophomore season as he showed last year he could carry the team.
Williams is a brilliant back who has only two knocks against him.
While he is the starter in Carolina, the team figures to feature three backs next year. All three of those backs are incredibly talented so will all be sharing the starting role. Williams is coming off a season where he couldn't stay healthy. The physical toll on his body may be starting to tell.
Mike Wallace is the best receiver on the Steelers' roster right now but he is not Ben Roethlisberger's go-to-guy in the red zone.
Wallace is hoping to put up 2,000 yards but the reality is the team will be spreading the ball around too much for him to get close to that. The Steelers run a balanced offense, have a good tight end and can go five deep at receiver. Wallace is hurt by the talent around him
Blount had a great rookie season and figures to get a HUGE workload for the coming year.
Blount's value is hurt by his ineffectiveness as a receiver but his tough running and ability to beat defenders—or even jump over them—should see him in the end zone on a regular basis next year.
Wayne is the epitome of consistency. Last season he had to be huge week in and week out for the Colts' offense after Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez went out.
If Manning can stay upright, Wayne should benefit vastly from the return of Collie, Dallas Clark and Gonzalez.
Dwayne Bowe is unlikely to repeat what he did in 2010 but he should have another good season. The Chiefs' running game figures to be the best in the league which will give him plenty of opportunities in the play action game.
He should also benefit from the addition of Steve Breaston and growth of Tony Moeaki to draw coverage away from him.
Roethlisberger has arguably the best receiving corp in the NFL for the coming season.
He looks to be in the best shape of his career and is entering what should be the prime of it. Roethlisberger's offensive line has never been the best at pass blocking, but it hasn't gotten any worse since last season and actually looks better with Willie Colon back.
Larry Fitzgerald's talent is unquestionable, his situation however is full of question marks.
Ryan Williams is done for the year while there are very few threats past him on the depth chart at receiver. Todd Heap is proven but past his prime while nobody really knows what to expect from Kevin Kolb.
Gates may be listed as a tight end but everyone knows that he's essentially a receiver.
Gates will benefit hugely from the return of Vincent Jackson as teams will now be more reluctant to double team him. He should be the best fantasy tight end in the league this year.
Jackson remains the best deep threat in the league. The improved offensive line in front of Michael Vick should give him more time in the pocket and allow Jackson more time to use his speed on the outside.
The additional weapons added to the offense shouldn't affect Jackson's status as Vick's go-to-guy.
There is some level of uncertainty on the left side of the Oakland Raiders line. While Daniel Loper and Jared Veldheer are talented they are by no means proven.
McFadden will be the focus of opposing teams' defensive game plans next year until some of their receivers step up for Jason Campbell to make the offense balanced.
Nicks is all set to breakout into potentially the third best receiver in the league—behind Fitzgerald and Johnson.
He possesses all the talented and athleticism that will allow him to succeed irrelevant of the question marks over Eli Manning and the Giants' offensive line.
Gore's flirtation with an offseason holdout could be a signal that he hasn't fully returned from last season's injury.
Either way Gore figures to have a drop off in production as he is past his prime and Jim Harbaugh may look to change the 49ers offense to diversify it. Harbaugh may be considered a quarterback guru but he does like to run the ball and run a balanced offense.
Tom Brady being 21st on any NFL list just doesn't feel right. Brady has a better receiving corps than he had last season but he also looks to have a better running back group.
The Patriots offense will be very balanced and Brady will be incredibly efficient but I don't see that offense being as explosive as the Saints or Eagles.
Whether Manning misses the first game of the season or not I do not know. However judging by his track record, he will be under center on September 11th.
With a lot of returning pieces to the offense and an offensive line that can only get better from last year, Manning should return to being an elite fantasy quarterback next year.
Greg Jennings wasn't ranked in the Top 10 receivers by his fellow players in the NFL Network rankings but that doesn't mean he's not a Top 10 receiver.
Jennings is looking like the third best receiver for fantasy owners this year.
Stephen Jackson won't be an elite running back in terms of fantasy this year. The Rams figure to put more of the offense on Sam Bradford's shoulders and Josh McDaniels system will feature a lot of shotgun sets that don't suit Jackson.
With Carnell Williams looking like being the third-down back, Jackson's chances to put up big numbers could be lost. Which is a shocking statement considering just two years ago he was their offense.
Matt Forte is not the best runner, however his value in the passing game in Mike Martz's offense makes him a Top 20 fantasy option.
Unlike Chris Johnson, Forte's contract situation doesn't figure to cause him to miss any games.
Drew Brees is the director of what should be one of the best offenses in the league once again this year.
The improvement in the running game may slightly take away from his number of attempts but the improved play action should allow for more big gains down the field to Marques Colston and Devery Henderson.
You know what to expect with Turner. The Falcons have lost Harvey Dahl in front of him but should cope while Matt Ryan has a few new toys to work with.
At the end of the day the Falcons will still lean on their abrasive back to carry their offense. Jason Snelling's re-signing definitely doesn't help him but Turner should still see most of the carries.
Philip Rivers turned trash into treasure last season. This year he should have his No. 1 wide receiver back—Vincent Jackson—to pair with his No. 1 receiver—Antonio Gates.
I'm not expecting a big year from Ryan Mathews like many are but I see Rivers benefiting from that as the team will take advantage of its outstanding quarterback.
Roddy White will continue to put up big numbers into next season. The addition of Julio Jones may give Matt Ryan other options but it should also allow White to take advantage of greater freedom.
White won't have the same number of receptions but should perform to a similar level, if not even eclipse his yardage and touchdown total from last season.
With a healthy Matthew Stafford and better weapons around him, Calvin Johnson will have a huge fantasy year.
The loss of Mikel Leshoure will make them look to Johnson more in the red zone rather than try to batter it in with Jahvid Best. Johnson has been carrying this offense for a long time, this year he will be able to flourish in it.
Am I mad? No, there is good reason why the reigning fantasy MVP will falter this year.
The re-signing of Derrick Ward and return of Ben Tate coupled with the lingering effects of a huge season last year on his slender build should cause him to lose carries. The loss of Vonta Leach was softened by the arrival of Lawrence Vickers, but that is a key piece to his success last season that has been downgraded upon.
The offensive line remains stellar and he is a threat in the receiving game as well as being a runner, so that keeps him this high.
Mendenhall's fantasy impact was hindered by two problems last season that have since been solved.
The first quarter of the season Mendenhall had to completely carry the Steelers' offense which meant defenses didn't have to worry at all about the passing game. The Steelers' offensive line was an okay but unspectacular running group last year. The return of a healthy Willie Colon and the potential development of Tony Hills would place four maulers on their line in front of him.
I'm a huge LeSean McCoy fan and he's one of the best two-way backs in the league. However McCoy's fantasy stock is hurt by the Eagles' offensive additions.
Ronnie Brown won't take that many carries away from him but will feature, while Andy Reid loves to let the ball fly and will have no reason not to now that Chad Hall and Riley Cooper are emerging and Steve Smith will eventually return from injury.
Throw in Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Desean Jackson and McCoy looks like getting lost in the offense.
Vick isn't likely to repeat his numbers from last season despite the Eagles' offense as a whole looking to be the most explosive and dynamic in the league.
There will be an element of second-season syndrome to Vick as defensive coordinators will have better game plans against him in his second year. With the constant threat of injury around Vick and the potential for him to sit late in the season if the Eagles lock up a playoff spot early, he cant be any higher than eighth.
Rice will be getting the ball a lot next season in Baltimore. The Ravens may have added Lee Evans to show off Joe Flacco's arm strength but until they sort out their offensive line woes in pass protection, they will remain a run-first team.
The addition of Vonta Leach will have a huge impact on his play also as it did for Arian Foster last season.
Andre Johnson is the best wide receiver in the NFL today. There is no reason heading into this year that he shouldn't continue that trend.
Johnson is repeatedly one of the safest draft picks in any type of fantasy draft.
Despite the injury struggles of Eben Britton in camp and the fact that David Garrard's bootlegs won't be holding the defenders on the edge in all likelihood this year, Maurice Jones-Drew will put up big numbers once again.
Jones Drew has been recovering from injury ahead of the season, but I don't expect that to slow him down while he has one of the best run-blocking lines in the league ahead of him.
Aaron Rodgers gets the edge over Michael Vick as the best quarterback in the league. Rodgers will have better pieces around him than he did last year and with Derreck Sherrod likely improving the protection in front of him at guard, there is no reason he can't put up huge numbers this season.
He and Jermichael Finley should renew one of the best connections in the league while Randall Cobb makes a deep receiving corp even deeper. With more options and potentially better protection, Rodgers' Super Bowl hangover will just be a fantasy.
Peterson would have been my top choice overall, but the Vikings' offensive line is a bit in shambles, while the receiving threat isn't as good as it once was to take the eighth man out of the box.
Still, Peterson is the most talented back in the league and with Charlie Johnson and Phil Loadholt at tackle, the Vikings won't be doing that much passing this year.
He may be getting hit in the backfield more often than any other runner but Peterson's violent running style and inhuman strength will see him at the top of fantasy leagues across the nation. The big worry for him is if he returns to his fumbling ways.
Should that happen, he would drop from the elite backs in the league because no matter how good a runner you are, if you fumble, are not much of a receiver and have a poor offensive line, you won't be a viable fantasy performer.
Chris Johnson may be embroiled in a holdout that will likely cost him a regular season game or two.
However once he returns to the Titans he should see a huge amount of work in an offense that still has a decent offensive line in front of him. Johnson could be under risk of losing some carries to third year player Javon Ringer, but you can expect the same levels of production he's had over the past few seasons just without a game or two at the beginning in 2011.
Matt Hasselbeck will likely be the team's starting quarterback and he should provide enough balance for the offense to prevent teams from zoning in on Johnson too much. He will still face eight men in the box on most plays but that could work to his advantage if teams don't play him properly.
If Jake Locker can be an effective rookie and claim the starting spot, Johnson's fantasy stock will be on the rise. Locker's big arm will force defenses to respect the deep passing game with guys like Kenny Britt and Nate Washington going deep.
Johnson has gone over 300 carries the last two years. Ringer may spell him and he might miss a game or two, but that should raise his average per carry.
Maybe a big shock but Charles has many reasons to be the best fantasy player in 2011. The addition of LeRon McClain should take carries away from Thomas Jones rather than Charles while improving his blocking.
The Chiefs have a better passing game to take pressure off the rushing game and keep the eighth man out of the box. Jared Gaither is also a potentially elite tackle to block for him.
Charles is 24 and entering the prime of his career. He should put up huge numbers in both receiving and rushing as far as running backs go. Health could be a concern but he has less than 500 carries in his career to this point so his body is fresh.
Last season he went over 2,000 total yards from scrimmage and had eight touchdowns. He may lose some short yardage opportunities to McClain and Jones but his ability to hit home runs should allow his touchdown numbers to stay high.
Charles isn't exactly coming out of the wilderness like Arian Foster did last year, but he is in the best situation of any of the elite running backs in the league.
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