Fantasy Football 2012 Mock Draft: A Look Ahead to Next Year's 1st Round
Whether you’re celebrating a fantasy football championship or mourning defeat, it’s never too early to look to next season. From carefully picking out the perfect keepers to putting together the flawless draft-day strategy, owners who are either striving for a dynasty or attempting to rebound are ultimately after the same goal.
2012 fantasy drafts will be more interesting than ever.
While past studs like Chris Johnson busted, up-and-comers like Cam Newton emerged. After finishing fifth among non-quarterbacks in fantasy points in PPR leagues, will owners be Gronking in the first round and roll the dice with a tight end in Rob Gronkowski? And then there’s the whole risk/reward with selecting Adrian Peterson after he tore his ACL and MCL.
After all of this year’s development, here’s a 2012 fantasy football mock draft.
1. Aaron Rodgers
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WE Cut the Cheese.
If your friend who’s a Green Bay Packers fan gets a hold of the first-overall pick, he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Mr. Discount-Double-Check.
Even if a Packers fan doesn’t get his or her hands on the No. 1 pick, Aaron Rodgers could still go off the board. Sure, it’s an unwritten rule in fantasy football to select a running back in the first round, but Rodgers is so good that he justifies the selection. The fantasy machine threw a whopping 45 touchdowns to just six interceptions this season while adding three more scores on the ground.
2. LeSean McCoy
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The Redeem Team.
The Philadelphia Eagles had a crushing campaign in 2011, but LeSean McCoy definitely isn’t part of the problem in the City of Fire-Reid-Already.
McCoy recorded 1,624 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns this season.
One of Philly’s biggest needs going into the offseason is their offensive line. If Shady can put up those types of numbers with a poor O-line, his numbers will improve even more next season…consistent quarterback play would do wonders as well.
3. Ray Rice
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Between Ray Rice, Arian Foster and Maurice Jones-Drew, this is a tough choice; but Foster shares carries with Ben Tate, and MJD is playing in the same offense as the erratic Blaine Gabbert.
If you’re in a PPR league, Rice is a must-have fantasy back. He recorded 1,869 yards from scrimmage this season and hulled in 64 receptions out of the backfield. If the Baltimore Ravens offense could get more consistent, Rice could easily warrant a first-overall pick.
4. Arian Foster
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Australian for Running Back.
Despite missing games with an injury and splitting carries with Ben Tate, Arian Foster still put up 1,841 yards from scrimmage this season. He made 12 visits to the end zone as well.
If Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson can stay healthy for an entire season, defenses wouldn’t be able to focus as much on Foster. At only 26 years old next season, expect him to continue to put up monster numbers.
5. Maurice Jones-Drew
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Human Bowling Balls.
Like the other top running backs, Maurice Jones-Drew is a solid receiver out of the backfield; he recorded a total of 1,807 yards from scrimmage this year.
What held MJD back was the inexperienced Blaine Gabbert. Opposing defenses keyed in on Jones-Drew without a second thought because they weren’t threatened by Gabbert’s ability to beat them with his arm.
The young passer is talented, though, and as he progresses in his second season, Jones-Drew’s numbers should rise.
6. Cam Newton
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
If Cam Newton can break the rookie passing record coming from a spread offense in college after a shortened offseason, just imagine what he could do with time to learn the Carolina Panthers system.
Newton threw for 3,893 yards and 20 touchdowns this season, which are mediocre numbers for a fantasy quarterback. What sets the No. 1 pick apart, though, is his ability as a dual-threat; he rushed for 674 yards and an insane 14 touchdowns on the ground.
You may have picked up Newton as an undrafted free agent last season, but he won’t slip out of the first round this year.
7. Calvin Johnson
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
You Got Megatron’d.
The only person that loves Calvin Johnson more than his fantasy owners is Matt Stafford. Megaton finally blew up this year, earning the label "the best wide receiver in football."
He caught 85 balls for 1,437 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season—15 fade routes and 15 jump balls. With Jahvid Best and Mikel LeShoure returning from injury next year, opposing defenses will have to put a little more effort into stopping the run, which will take some attention away from Johnson.
8. Matt Forte
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Built Like a Forte.
In just 12 games, Forte gained 1,487 yards from scrimmage. The difference between him and the top tier of backs are his touchdown totals of only four on the year. A large part of that, though, is his poor offensive line’s fault, and the Bears will look to improve that group this offseason.
9. Drew Brees
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Like a Brees.
Drew Brees just broke Dan Marino’s record for the most passing yards in a season on Monday night.
In the New Orleans Saints offense, Brees is an unstoppable force. The regular season isn’t over yet, and he's already thrown for 5,087 yards and 41 touchdowns this year with just 13 interceptions. No reason exists to expect a major drop-off.
10. Wes Welker/Marshawn Lynch
Winslow Townson/Getty Images
Wes da 5’9”/Taste the Rainbow.
In a PPR-league, this pick would be Wes Welker. The lightning-quick wideout definitely doesn’t mind playing without a true No. 1 target. He caught 116 balls for 1,518 yards and nine touchdowns on the year.
In a traditional or touchdown-heavy league, Marshawn Lynch should be the selection. "Beast Mode" is currently tied for second in the league in rushing touchdowns with 12. His 1,118 yards on the ground this season are a career-high and the first time he’s surpassed the 1,000-yard mark since his second year as a Buffalo Bill.
11. Tom Brady
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Gronking Over Tebowing.
The combination of a down year for running backs and a dominant year for quarterbacks will make next year’s fantasy draft much more QB-heavy than usual.
With 4,897 yards and one game left to go, Tom Brady could break the record Drew Brees just set if the Saints choose to rest their Pro-Bowl passer. Brady also has thrown 36 touchdowns on the season, 15 thanks to his new favorite red-zone target, Rob Gronkowski. After the failed Chad Ochocinco experiment, expect the New England Patriots to look for a new weapon on the outside, making Brady's arsenal even more dangerous.
12. Adrian Peterson
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Only Need One Knee.
In a snake draft, the owner on the clock has two selections. Why not make one Adrian Peterson?
Despite a lack of talent around him, "All Day" still averaged 4.7 yards a pop and scored 13 total touchdowns on the year.
AP is one of the hardest workers in the entire league. Miraculous recoveries to knee surgery have been pulled off before by the likes of Wes Welker and Terrell Owens; Peterson could be the next success story.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer. Follow him on Twitter.