Fantasy Football Rankings 2011: Top 50 Player Breakdowns and Auction Values 2.0

Max Minsker@@MaxMinskerCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2011

Fantasy Football Rankings 2011: Top 50 Player Breakdowns and Auction Values 2.0

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    Fantasy football drafts are coming up soon. With the season starting in less than a month, people are starting to get serious about their drafts. 

    My original version, which came out just over a week ago, has been significantly changed around, and this time I have added auction values. Auction drafts are becoming more and more popular, and I think it's important to estimate value in those drafts as well.

    It's also important to know that any time I reference where a certain player might fit on a team, it's based on a 10-team, non-PPR league with a $200 draft budget that starts one QB, two RBs, two WRs, one TE and one flex.

50. Mario Manningham, WR (New York Giants)

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    In my last edition I had BenJarvus Green-Ellis here, but I have since soured on the Law Firm. There are just too many bodies in that backfield.

    I think Mario Manningham is in for a huge year. Manningham put up at least seven points in 10 games last season, including eight games in double-digits. I expect him to improve significantly this season, especially on his consistency. Super Mario had almost 1,000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in 2010.

    I have no problem with Manningham as a No. 2 receiver. He plays in a great offense as the second receiving option. He also saw a huge bump in his stats at the end of the season, getting at least 100 yards and a touchdown in his last three games. 

    If Hakeem Nicks can't stay healthy, Manningham becomes even more attractive, and I believe he's worth a late fifth-round pick. I think he'll be a top 20 receiver this year, if not a top 15 guy.

    In an auction draft, I believe Manningham's value is about $14. I think you could probably get him for less, but I would go as high as $17 if necessary.

49. Jermichael Finley, TE (Green Bay Packers)

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    This may seem high for Jermichael Finley, but I believe he has huge potential this season. Finley only played in four games last season, but when he played, he was effective. 

    Everything I've read about Finley so far is positive, and in that offense, I think he could be really dangerous. If Donald Driver isn't on the roster this season like some have speculated, Finley could step into a huge role for that offense. 

    On a team with a limited running game, a 6'5" Finley could become a favorite red zone option for the Packers this season. 

    Factoring in Antonio Gates' injury history, I wouldn't be surprised if Finley was this year's top tight end in a pass-heavy offense.

    As a tight end, I'm not sure he's quite as valuable as Manningham, a top 20 receiver. I think Finley is worth maybe $13-$14, potentially a little more depending on how high you are on him.

48. Shonn Greene, RB (New York Jets)

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    This might be a bigger reach than Finley, but I'm really high on Shonn Greene this year, and here's why.

    LaDainian Tomlinson was very good last season, but he's getting older. LT is obviously still going to be a factor, but if LT gets hurt or he just isn't as good, Greene could take over a huge workload on a run-first team.

    Greene is high-risk, high-reward, but I think he's worth a late fifth-round pick.

    The thing about Greene is that he'll get better as the season goes along. He's known as an extremely durable player, and on the flip side, LT is not. As the season goes on, LT will wear down more and more, and by the time the fantasy playoffs roll around, I believe Greene will be highly productive.

    I believe Shonn Greene is going to be a decent No. 2 running back if need be. I like him more as your flex.

    In auction leagues, I would buy Greene for $16 or somewhere around there. I'm really high on Greene this year, so I might spend a little more if a have to.

47. Tony Romo, QB (Dallas Cowboys)

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    Tony Romo is pretty self-explanatory. You know what you're going to get.

    If he stays healthy, that offense is going to be good, but he's going to be in a few too many third-and-nine situations. I'm worried about the running game in Dallas, but if Romo stays upright, he should be good either way.

    With Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Felix Jones going out for passes, how could you be bad?

    In auction leagues, I'm low on Romo. I don't think he's elite. I would probably either go for an elite QB or wait for a QB later and do it by committee. I probably wouldn't pay more than $13 for the Cowboys' gunslinger. 

46. DeAngelo Williams, RB (Carolina Panthers)

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    Williams is usually ranked higher than this, but there are quite a few reasons not to like him this year.

    First, he shares carries with Jonathan Stewart. Stewart is another excellent running back, and he will eat up a good share of Williams' carries.

    Secondly, Williams can't stay healthy. He's nearing the end, and I have a hard time imagining him playing in more than 13 games. If nothing else, he'll have nagging injuries that keep him from performing at a high level.

    Third, he plays on a really bad team.

    His quarterback, whether it's Newton or Clausen, isn't going to be able to extend possessions long enough; there are going to be plenty of three-and-outs. Williams also doesn't get the benefit of running the clock out in games they're ahead in, because they won't actually be ahead in any games. The Panthers are going to be doing a lot of throwing in fourth quarters.

    If these reasons aren't enough, he just signed a huge deal.

    After all this, I have a really hard time seeing DeAngelo Williams having a great season. He's talented, but it's too big of a risk. I won't be taking him in any leagues this season.

    As far as his auction value goes, I'm not buying him, but if you can get him for $15, he's probably worth the risk. You won't be able to get him for that, though.

45. Dallas Clark, TE (Indianapolis Colts)

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    In my opinion, Dallas Clark is just a safe bet. He did get hurt last season, but I believe he'll be ready to go this time around. Playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the game will definitely keep his stock up.

    I put him in front of Jermichael Finley because of his consistency. I don't think Clark has the potential Finley does, but he's a better bet to produce regularly—especially considering how many weapons that offense has.

    I would pay about $15 for Clark. I probably wouldn't target him, but I might pay $15 for him if I had the chance.

44. Brandon Lloyd, WR (Denver Broncos)

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    Brandon Lloyd had a breakout season last year, but with a questionable attitude and the uncertainty at quarterback, Lloyd drops to 43 this season. Some have him even lower. 

    At this point it sounds like Kyle Orton will be the starter in Denver, which bodes well for Lloyd. I have a hard time seeing him repeating his performance from last season, but I think he's a respectable No. 2 receiver this season.

    With a new, run-first coach coming in and Josh McDaniels going out, it's hard to get all that excited about Lloyd.

    In an auction league, I believe $16 is adequate for Lloyd.

43. Marques Colston, WR (New Orleans Saints)

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    I like Marques Colston because he's a safe bet to have a good season. He'll more than likely hover right around 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. Drew Brees likes to spread the ball around, but Colston always gets his.

    Although he may not have huge upside, I would feel very comfortable with Colston as my No. 2 receiver, or even my No. 1 if I picked two elite running backs and a QB. All in all, picking Colston in the fourth round is solid.

    I had him ranked significantly higher in the last edition of my rankings, but after more research, I decided to drop him. I am a little bit concerned about Ingram taking red zone opportunities from the 6'4" Colston.

    I think he's about as valuable as Brandon Lloyd, so in an auction league, I would probably put him right around $16.

42. Jahvid Best, RB (Detroit Lions)

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    Jahvid Best is a risky pick.

    Last season, he had some really good weeks and some really bad ones. Best is an electrifying player who could be extremely effective in both the running game and the passing game. 

    If Matthew Stafford can stay healthy and get the offense moving, Best could be a big part of it. I'm not sure he can be a feature back, but I expect him to improve significantly on a per-possession basis this season.

    The injury to Mikel LeShoure made me move Best up the list a little bit, but not too much. I still don't think he's a feature back, but he should get a few more touches.

    I believe Best's auction value sits right around $18.

41. Jeremy Maclin, WR (Philadelphia Eagles)

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    Jeremy Maclin is an extremely talented wide receiver who plays on one of the best offensive teams in the league, if not the best.

    There are plenty of touches to go around, and barring injury, I see Maclin as an extremely safe pick. He'll have some down weeks if Vick is hurt, but at least you know in advance which weeks he may struggle in.

    Maclin probably isn't going to win your league for you, but he probably won't lose it for you either. If you get him as your No. 2 receiver, you're doing pretty well. 

    I'm not all that high on Maclin this year, but in an auction league, I think his value is similar to Best's—about $18.

40. Mike Williams, WR (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

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    I'm not really sure what to think about Mike Williams. He was very good last year, but touchdowns are less reliable than yards, and a guy who scores 11 touchdowns in his rookie year might be a risky pick in the fifth round.

    Either way he's Freeman's main target, so he can't be that bad.

    Tampa Bay has quite a few good young players on the roster. It will be interesting to see how their offense works this year. 

    Mike Williams isn't an especially exciting pick, and I'm not sure you win your league with that pick, but he should be just fine.

    I think Williams' value is similar to Best's and Maclin's, right around $18. 

39. Santonio Holmes, WR (New York Jets)

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    Holmes didn't play in the first four games of last season, but after he returned he was effective. With Braylon Edwards gone, Holmes is clearly the No. 1 option on that team. Plaxico Burress may provide some relief as a No. 2 receiver, but at this point, I don't even know what to expect from him.

    The ball will be going to Holmes a lot, and he's very explosive. I think he has a considerable amount of upside this season. Holmes has been good in the past, but I wouldn't be surprised if he steps up and has a career year this season.

    I clearly love Holmes, as I have him ranked almost a full round above where he's usually being taken. As far as his auction value goes, I think he's worth about $19, although I might go as high as $22 if I have to. 

38. Knowshon Moreno, RB (Denver Broncos)

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    It's looking more and more like Kyle Orton will be the starter in Denver.

    Not only is that good for Brandon Lloyd, but Moreno will benefit as well. There's no doubt Tebow would cut into Moreno's touchdowns if he started, so from a fantasy perspective, Moreno looks much better with Orton. 

    Moreno was plagued with injuries last season, but this season, I expect him to be healthier. It's no secret John Fox likes to run the football, so hopefully Moreno will receive more carries. I'm not too worried about Fox trying to recreate the running back mess he just left by giving the ball to Correll Buckhalter.

    I expect Moreno to get more touches and do more with those touches since he will hopefully be healthy. Add in the extra touchdowns, and I think Moreno could have a nice year.

    His auction value sits right around $19.

37. LeGarrette Blount, RB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

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    Last season, LeGarrette Blount essentially had 1,000 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games. He played in 13 games, but in his two appearances before Week 7, he had a combined 10 carries.

    One-thousand yards in 11 games is extremely impressive, but questions remain about Blount.

    First of all, he might be crazy. If he turns out to be a headcase and gets in trouble, it could ruin his entire season. 

    Another issue is that we don't know how he's going to bounce back after his first NFL season. He basically got a year to work out and do mostly non-impact drills when he was suspended his final year at Oregon, so he was rested. It will be interesting to see how his body reacts to another full season of work.

    I like Blount, but don't take him as your first running back. He could be great, but I'm not completely convinced he's great just yet.

    In auction leagues, I would pay about $19 for Blount. I think that's about right. I'm not crazy about him, but I would take him for the right price.

36. Peyton Manning, QB (Indianapolis Colts)

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    What? Peyton Manning at No. 36?

    I know what you're thinking, and yes, I know Peyton Manning at No. 36 seems crazy—but to be honest, I'm not high on quarterbacks this year. In my opinion, Manning is the No. 6 quarterback.

    Drafting the No. 6 quarterback in the third round isn't going to win you your league. It's not that I really hate Manning; it's just that I like the receivers and running backs ahead of him more. 

    The fact that Manning is coming off major surgery is another factor. He's 35 years old, and his durability isn't what it used to be. Manning is still a high-quality fantasy player, but I wouldn't take him until the fourth round.

    In an auction, I think Manning should go for around $19, maybe $20—more if you put a premium on quarterbacks.

35. Dwayne Bowe, WR (Kansas City Chiefs)

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    Dwayne Bowe proved himself last season as a legitimate No. 1 fantasy receiver in the second half of the season. He was inconsistent the first few weeks, but once he got going, there was no stopping him. 

    Bowe had quite a few big weeks last season, but I'm not confident he'll improve on his consistency this year. The passing game in Kansas City is still limited, and I wouldn't feel comfortable with Bowe as my No. 1 receiver. He's a solid second option, but you have to be ready for some inconsistency. 

    I think Bowe is worth about $19.

34. Ryan Mathews, RB (San Diego Chargers)

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    Mathews was a disappointment, to say the least, last season. He was drafted in the top 15 in most drafts, but he battled injuries most of the season and didn't live up to expectations. 

    I expect this year to be much different. Many running backs struggle to adjust to the NFL during their rookie years and have their coming-out party their sophomore year. I believe Mathews will be in that category.

    Mathews has all the physical tools to be a successful running back in the NFL, and with a year of experience under his belt, I believe he can put it all together. He is playing in a great situation that should provide him with the opportunities he needs to succeed.

    I dropped Mathews from my previous rankings because he came to camp a bit out of shape, and the word out of San Diego is that Mike Tolbert is going to get much more work than people think.

    With that said, I think Mathews has a chance to be a yardage monster. He's a very good runner, and if he stays healthy, he could have a great year as a No. 2 fantasy running back.

    In auction leagues, I think Mathews' value varies. I think it's around $19, but if you think he's in for a breakout year, I can understand the thought process behind spending more for him.

33. Peyton Hillis, RB (Cleveland Browns)

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    Most analysts have Hillis rated higher than this, but I feel there are just too many red flags. He is an extremely powerful runner, and he was an effective back last season, but I don't see him repeating his performance. 

    Hillis has been extremely injury-prone his entire career, and being the focal point of the offense doesn't help. He takes way too many hits, and he's bound to be injured at some point. If you decide to draft Hillis, don't expect more than 13 games from him, and be ready to deal with him being questionable every game.

    With virtually no passing game, and considering the fact that Cleveland is going to have to throw at the end of most games, I don't like Hillis to repeat his performance. He's still worth an early fourth-round pick, but I don't think his baggage is worth taking on with one of your first three picks.

    He's still a good rusher, and I believe he's in that $19-$20 range.

32. Dez Bryant, WR (Dallas Cowboys)

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    Dez Bryant has all the potential in the world. He is an elite athlete who can do anything on the field, but there are two reasons why I left Dez Bryant out of my top 30. 

    First, the injuries—not only to him, but also his quarterback. If Bryant misses a few games, and Romo gets hurt as well, his season could really become a mess. 

    Second, Miles Austin is going to cut into his production. Bryant will likely be covered by the No. 1 corner because of his physical skills, and he'll be sharing targets. That could be a really bad situation for him.

    Dez Bryant has an unlimited ceiling, and he's here because of his potential to be great, but you have to realize taking him is a calculated risk.

    In auction leagues, I think he's worth a $20 bid. After that, proceed with caution.

31. Vincent Jackson, WR (San Diego Chargers)

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    While Vincent Jackson didn't play much last season, he's still a dominant force on the field. He has the benefit of playing in a pass-heavy offense as the clear No. 1 receiver. Antonio Gates is obviously there, but Jackson will get his targets either way.

    Jackson doesn't have much competition for his spot, and he should return to where he was before he sat out last season.

    Jackson has really high upside this season. I think he's worth $20 in auction leagues.

30. Reggie Wayne, WR (Indianapolis Colts)

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    Reggie Wayne is the No. 1 wide receiver on a pass-first team led by one of the best quarterbacks in the game.

    The reason I'm a little concerned about Wayne this year is his age. He's now 32 years old, and I'm not sure how much longer he's going to last.

    How well he performs this year just depends on how his body is going to hold up. If he starts to suffer from nagging injuries or loses a little bit off his first step, he could drop significantly in the rankings.

    I believe Wayne has at least one, maybe two more elite years left in him. I guess we'll find out come September. I dropped Wayne in this edition because his age makes me nervous when there are younger, better options out there.

    I am worried about Wayne this season, so I probably wouldn't pay more than $20 for him.

29. Antonio Gates, TE (San Diego Chargers)

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    I wrote an article yesterday about why I love Gates this year, which you can find here.

    I moved Gates up my rankings significantly this time around because I have become a Gates believer. He was on track for more than 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns after eight weeks before he got hurt. Those are outrageous numbers and put him way ahead of the curve when considering the value of other players at his position.

    You may not think Gates is worth a late third-round pick, but you could probably get him in the beginning of the fourth. Getting Gates on my team this year is going to be a big part of my strategy. I think he's a much better bet than a lot of the players around him.

    It's no secret Antonio Gates is the best tight end in the game. The only question is whether or not he can stay healthy.

    Gates missed six games last season and has struggled with injuries his entire career. If I knew Gates was going to be healthy for the majority of the season, I would put him higher, but for now I believe spending a late fourth-rounder on him is adequate.

    With Vincent Jackson back in town and the running game hopefully improving, Gates may not get as many targets as he did last season, but I still expect him to put up huge numbers.

    Because his position gives him so much value I would probably pay as much as $25 for him, maybe more if I needed to.

28. Philip Rivers, QB (San Diego Chargers)

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    Philip Rivers has been on the fence between the elite QBs and the next tier. I believe Rivers breaks through and joins the elite for good this year—as you can see, I have him ranked above Peyton Manning.

    I'm concerned with Manning's health, as well as the lack of support he gets from his running game. I believe Tolbert and Mathews will be much more productive this season for Rivers. 

    With Vincent Jackson back and Antonio Gates healthy in a pass-first offense, I like Rivers' chances to outperform Manning. Although I believe Rivers is going to have a great year, I believe he is a borderline third-round pick. If he's available in the fourth round, he provides good value.

    I would probably pay $22-$23 for Rivers.

27. Miles Austin, WR (Dallas Cowboys)

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    I think I already talked about this situation in the Dez Bryant section, but I believe Austin will be matched up with No. 2 corners, and he will be the favorite target of Romo. Austin is also more durable.

    I think Austin is a safe pick this season, if there is such a thing. He probably doesn't have the upside of some of these other guys, but he's a better bet to perform his rank.

    I like Austin for about $22.

26. DeSean Jackson, WR (Philadelphia Eagles)

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    DeSean Jackson is one of the most explosive players in the game, if not the most. His unbelievable speed sets him apart from most wide receivers.

    Playing in an offense with Michael Vick really opens things up for Jackson. Vick's arm strength allows him to run deep routes down the field and come up with big plays quite often. 

    I'm convinced that Jackson's physical skills set him apart from the majority of NFL players, and I believe he will have a huge year because of it.

    The thing I'm worried about most is actually Vick's injury history. If Vick goes down, Jackson isn't going to be nearly as valuable. If Vick plays in most games though, Jackson has a chance to have a special year.

    As far as his auction value goes, I would probably pay $23 for Jackson.

25. Tom Brady, QB (New England Patriots)

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    Tom Brady is one of the most consistent fantasy players in the game. Year after year, he puts up huge numbers; I suspect this year will be no different. Throughout his career, Brady has continued to put up huge numbers without the benefit of having star players in most cases.

    I have Brady as the No. 4 fantasy quarterback this season. It's hard to tell if the emergence of BenJarvus Green-Ellis will open things up or detract from his attempts and hog touchdowns. I expect Brady to have another huge year regardless.

    I probably won't be taking Brady this year because QB No. 4 probably isn't worth an early third-rounder, but I think that's probably how valuable he is if you want an elite quarterback.

    I think Brady is worth $24.

24. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (New York Giants)

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    Ahmad Bradshaw enjoyed a breakout season of sorts last year; he finally broke through and had a monster year.

    This season, it seems as if fantasy analysts are questioning his ability to repeat. Most people have him pegged as an early-to-mid fourth-rounder, but I believe he's much better than that. 

    Brandon Jacobs is nearing the end, and while he didn't do all that much last year, I expect his production to decrease this year. At 25, Bradshaw is just reaching his prime. Bradshaw hasn't been a workhorse in the past and doesn't have that many miles on him.

    His feet have been questionable, and he played through injury a little bit last year, but I believe he can stay healthy. If he plays in all 16, I'd be very surprised if he didn't finish as a top 15 running back. 

    I think Bradshaw is worth around $24.

23. Matt Forte, RB (Chicago Bears)

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    Matt Forte is a guy who's valuable not only for his ability to run the ball, but also for his receiving skills. He's played in every game of his three-year career and is a solid bet to repeat his numbers from last season. The Bears' offensive line is still below average, but Forte figures to get his numbers either way.

    I'm a little bit worried about Marion Barber taking some of his touchdowns, but he didn't run for that many in the first place—I don't think it'll be a big problem. 

    Forte is such a big part of that offense that he is a good bet to put up numbers. When Cutler needs an out, Forte is usually there. 

    I would probably pay $25-$26 for Forte.

22. Frank Gore, RB (San Francisco 49ers)

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    If I'm drafting 22th and Gore is still on the board, I'm probably not going to take him.

    I hate Frank Gore this year. I know most other sites have him ranked at the beginning of the second round, but I really don't think Gore is going to have a year worthy of a second-round pick. 

    Gore plays in a terrible offense. Alex Smith was a bust, and they just don't have anyone better. Now they have Braylon Edwards, but he doesn't have great hands, and he's not good enough to make a difference playing with a bad quarterback—especially now that he's hurt.

    Michael Crabtree isn't a difference-maker yet, and I'm not sure how much he's going to be able to play anyway. Vernon Davis is good, but a lot of times he vultures touchdowns in the red zone, which actually hurts Gore's value. 

    Gore has played in 16 games only once in his six NFL seasons. He is extremely injury-prone, and even if he does play, he's always struggling with injury history. Gore isn't a young buck anymore; he's 28 years old. He's nearing the end of his prime, if he isn't there already. 

    Frank Gore is a good runner. He's a solid back who has the potential to have a good year. In my mind though, there's just too much risk involved in taking him where he's normally being drafted.

    I think Gore is worth about $27.

21. Greg Jennings, WR (Green Bay Packers)

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    I don't think Greg Jennings is as talented as either of the two wide receivers before him, but unlike those players, Jennings plays with one of the best passers in the game. Unlike other teams with elite QBs like the Saints or Patriots, the Packers have a legitimate No. 1 target on offense. 

    Jermichael Finley is an emerging star, but other than that, the Packers' running game is weak, Driver is getting old quickly, and Jordy Nelson and James Jones aren't ready to start cutting into Jennings' value quite yet.

    Jennings fell into the perfect situation in Green Bay, and his fantasy value reflects that.

    The problem I have with his value this year is that Finley is back, and he gives Rodgers another big red zone target.

    Jennings is probably worth about $29. He marks the first of the elite tier of players.

20. Darren McFadden, RB (Oakland Raiders)

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    Darren McFadden had a breakout season last year to say the least. He had more than 1,600 total yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Those are solid stats; the thing about them is he did it in only 13 games last season.

    McFadden has always had trouble staying healthy, but when he played last season, he dominated. If you're going to pick him, you have to be prepared to see that dreaded "Q" next to his name at least a few times (if not more), but when he plays he has the potential to dominate the game, even in a poor offense.

    As long as McFadden can stay moderately healthy, he should have another big year. At only 23 years old, he still has young legs and probably hasn't reached his potential as a runner.

    I think McFadden is worth $30. 

19. Mike Wallace, WR (Pittsburgh Steelers)

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    In his second NFL season, Wallace improved substantially as an overall receiver.

    His rookie year he pretty much just went deep; now, the Steelers are finding new ways to try to get Wallace the ball in addition to him running deep routes. 

    With Hines Ward getting older with the passing of each season, Wallace figures to see his targets increasing. He also has the benefit of playing with Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback. Big Ben may not be the best quarterback around, but he has one of the strongest arms; there are only a few guys who can throw the deep ball like him.

    Even with safeties consistently helping over the top this season, I fully expect Wallace to have a huge year. The Steelers still have other weapons and a great running game to open things up. I have no problem drafting Wallace early in the third round or maybe even the second round depending on who is still on the board.

    Wallace is worth about $30, similar to McFadden.

18. Drew Brees, QB (New Orleans Saints)

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    I have Drew Brees ranked ahead of Tom Brady, but not by much. I wouldn't be surprised if Brady finished ahead of Brees, but I like Brees because I don't trust the Saints' ground game—not that I trust New England's all that much either, but the Law Firm can get it into the end zone.  

    Mark Ingram is a talented player. Predicting how a rookie will fare is difficult, but I think he will succeed this year. The Saints picked him in the first round for a reason.

    The Saints are going to throw a lot of passes this year either way, and Brees has many different weapons at his disposal. I think he's worth $30, but I probably wouldn't pay that much for him. 

17. Larry Fitzgerald, WR (Arizona Cardinals)

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    Arizona shuffled through quarterbacks pretty routinely last season. Larry Fitzgerald played with poor field generals the entire year, as the Cardinals finished second-to-last in passing yards.

    This year will more than likely be different.

    The Cardinals don't have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but Kevin Kolb is surely a significant improvement to what they put on the field last year. With the departure of Steve Breaston, there isn't anyone else for Kolb to throw to, so Fitzgerald will likely be triple-covered at all times, but it won't be worse than last year. He'll probably see similar targets; it's just that more of those balls will be catchable.

    Even though I believe Ryan Williams is probably going to do better than Tim Hightower did last season, the Cards still don't have a reliable ground game. For that reason, I think they will try to go to Fitzgerald in the red zone more than they did last year. Fitzgerald's value plunged last season because of the touchdowns. 

    While I don't think Fitzgerald's numbers will look like they did in 2008, I think they will be relatively close. With an average quarterback on the roster, I have to boost Fitzgerald, who is arguably the NFL's best receiver. I know most people have him going around the mid-third round, but I think Fitzgerald is too talented to leave out of the top 20 with Kolb on board.

    I think Fitzgerald is probably worth about $32. 

16. Steven Jackson, RB (St. Louis Rams)

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    I just wrote an article about my love for Steven Jackson a few days ago, which you can find here.

    Steven Jackson is one of the best rushers in the game when healthy; the question is whether or not he can actually play a full season. Jackson has always struggled with nagging injuries, but after playing in all 16 games last season, he may finally be ready to step up and be a pretty reliable fantasy back. 

    I like to think of Jackson as a superior version of Matt Forte. Forte may be a better pass-catcher, but Jackson is a better combo back. He's a power runner who will score his share of touchdowns while doubling as the team's workhorse. Jackson's also an excellent pass-catcher, so he stays in the game on third downs.

    He's good in every aspect of the game, and that improves his fantasy value. With the emergence of Sam Bradford as a solid starting quarterback, the Rams' offense will be more productive and produce more points, making Jackson a more attractive option.

    Overall, some people may think No. 15 may be high for Jackson, but I believe he's a great option as a borderline No. 1 running back.

    If Jackson is available at the end of the second round, I think an Arian Foster-Steven Jackson combo could certainly win fantasy leagues. Don't hesitate to take him in the mid-to-late second round if he's available.

    I would probably pay $33 for Steven Jackson.

15. Hakeem Nicks, WR (New York Giants)

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    Hakeem Nicks had a solid year last season, topping 1,000 yards and recording 11 touchdowns.

    Those numbers would definitely get you a spot in a starting lineup in a 10-man league, and those numbers were similar to Stevie Johnson, who had a monster season. Nicks finished 13th in yards and tied for fourth in touchdowns.

    The thing is, Nicks only played in 13 games. He missed three games toward the end of the season and still managed to put up possibly No. 1 receiver type stats.

    Eli Manning is a solid quarterback, and he always looks for Nicks. The Giants also have Mario Manningham and Steve Smith, as well as a better than average running game, so they have a solid offense around him.

    I suspect Nicks will be healthy this season, and I think his production will be similar to what he did last year while he was on the field.

    Hakeem Nicks is worth $33 in auction drafts.

14. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB (Jacksonville Jaguars)

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    I realize this is way too low for MJD by most standards, but hear me out. 

    MJD plays for the Jaguars. This is a team with very limited amount of offensive weapons that relies almost completely on the 5'7" running back to move the offense. They have no other real threats, and everyone is going to be scheming against him.

    If the Jags are looking bad the first half of the season, they might end up starting rookie Blaine Gabbert, which would likely makes matters worse for the Jags offensively. If Gabbert starts, the entire offense is going to struggle, including Jones-Drew.

    MJD has taken a beating over the past few years as one of the premier featured backs in the game. He struggled with injuries last season, and I wouldn't be surprised if he struggled even more this year.

    I'm not only concerned about his overall play; I'm also worried about how much his body is going to be able to handle. I'm definitely not a Maurice Jones-Drew advocate this year. I've even moved him down from my last rankings.

    Either way, I still think MJD is worth about $35. 

13. Rashard Mendenhall, RB (Pittsburgh Steelers)

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    Rashard Mendenhall isn't all that flashy, and he probably isn't going to win you your league, but he's going to get a lot of touches, and he's going to score a lot of touchdowns.

    The Steelers' offense is run-heavy, and Mendenhall is going to get all those carries. He's only 24, so he's still young, and he's played in all 16 games two years in a row now.

    Mendenhall is a one-dimensional back in the sense that he isn't a great pass-catcher, which limits his value, but he's still a great rusher on a great team. He's going to have the benefit of pounding it through that line to clinch every victory, making him even better.

    I would put Mendenhall's value right where MJD's is; $35 sounds right.

12. Michael Turner, RB (Atlanta Falcons)

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    I just wrote about how much I like Turner in a recent article here.

    To me, Michael Turner is basically just a better version of Rashard Mendenhall. He's not that much better, but he is a little bit of an upgrade. 

    Many argue that Turner is getting old. This is important, considering the short shelf life of most NFL running backs. Although Michael Turner is now 29, I believe he's a "young 29" because of the fact that he sat behind LT all those years in San Diego.

    In the first four years of Turner's career combined, he missed just five games, but only got 228 carries—significantly less than the amount of carries he got in Atlanta that first year. While Turner is 29, he doesn't have nearly as much mileage on his legs as most 29-year-old starters do.

    Turner is a pretty reliable running back who played in all 16 games last season, although he did hurt his leg in the early part of the season. A lot of people are shying away from Turner this year, but I have no problem with Turner as an early second-round pick.

    I believe he should go for about $37-$38.

11. Calvin Johnson, WR (Detroit Lions)

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    There's no doubting Calvin Johnson's talent. At 6'5", he can win any jump ball and make some of the most spectacular catches week after week.

    The only problem is, his quarterback can't stay healthy.

    If Matthew Stafford could play all 16 games, Megatron would be a fantasy monster. Not that he isn't right now, but his numbers would surely see a boost if Stafford was on the field all the time. Even playing with below-average QBs for most of his career, Johnson has emerged as a top talent and dominant force on the field. 

    Right now, Johnson is the first option in that passing game by far. He's going to be lining up against double- and even triple-teams every single week, but I'm still not worried about his catches. With Jahvid Best hopefully emerging as one of the league's most electrifying backs, Johnson should have more around him this year.

    If the Lions' offense can put it all together offensively this year, I can easily see Johnson improving on his performance last season, and that's scary.

    I moved Megatron up significantly from my last rankings, mostly because I can't deny his talent. I think he's the No. 3 receiver in fantasy. As far as his auction value goes, I would pay $37 for the Lions' star wideout.

10. LeSean McCoy, RB (Philadelphia Eagles)

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    LeSean McCoy is the classic example of a right-place, right-time kind of guy. He is the perfect guy for the Eagles offense. McCoy's probably not a workhorse back, but he's an explosive rusher who can get you five yards at a time when used correctly, and he doubles as one of the best receiving running backs, if not the best.

    The Eagles' offense is full of speed and is very dynamic; McCoy is the perfect fit in the system. He may not lead the league in rushing yards, but between his rushing and receiving, McCoy should be one of the top guys this season as far as yardage is concerned. If he can improve on his goal-line skills and score a few more touchdowns, he'll be a dominant fantasy player.

    McCoy is kind of like Greg Jennings in a sense that a lot of the players right behind him are better than he is, but in that offense, McCoy should have another great statistical year. I think LeSean McCoy is the perfect guy to round out the first round.

    I would probably pay $40 for the Eagles' star rusher.

9. Aaron Rodgers, QB (Green Bay Packers)

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    It seems like most people had Rodgers ranked No. 1 among quarterbacks at first, but now it seems as if a lot of people are starting to back off that prediction and put Rodgers second.

    While Rodgers is an excellent passer and adds even more with his legs, I believe he is still an injury risk. He is still a little too vulnerable as far as running the ball goes, especially when considering his concussion history. I wouldn't be surprised if he missed a game here or there.

    Rodgers is undoubtedly an elite QB. I am warming up to taking a QB in the first round, and if Rodgers is there at No. 9 overall, I think I might have to take him. In an auction, I would probably bid to $41.

8. Andre Johnson, WR (Houston Texans)

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    After two monster seasons in a row, Andre Johnson recorded what some might call a down year last season. He still put up great numbers, but he struggled with injuries all year and only played in 13 games. I expect him to bounce back this year, but I'm not sure he returns to the level he was at in 2009. 

    At 30, Andre Johnson isn't getting any better physically and doesn't have the crazy potential he once had when Arian Foster wasn't eating up all his yards. I still like Johnson for what he can do on the field, and I respect his first-round status, but I don't think he's the No. 1 receiver in fantasy anymore.

    If the running back you wanted is off the board at No. 8, Johnson is probably worth a look. He's big, strong and is poised for yet another high-quality year. 

    In an auction, I would probably pay $41 for Johnson. 

7. Roddy White, WR (Atlanta Falcons)

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    I just feel safe picking Roddy White, OK?!

    I realize almost everyone has Andre Johnson as the No. 1 wide receiver this year, but I believe that title should belong to White. 

    Let's go over some facts. 

    White has never missed an NFL game. He has played 16 games in all six of his NFL seasons—that's durability.

    White has recorded at least 1,100 yards in four straight seasons and has scored double-digit touchdowns in the last two. He caught 115 balls last year and will remain the best receiving option in that offense by far. Gonzo is getting old, Turner isn't a threat and Julio Jones probably isn't going to be ready by the start of the season.

    Matt Ryan is going to look for White early and often—it's just a fact.

    Although White may not be a sexy pick on the surface, he's a great player on a great team, and I think he's going to have a great year. The difference between he and Andre Johnson isn't all that much, but I think White is better. I would assume White is going to be taken in the second round of most drafts, but I believe he has first-round value. 

    Roddy White's auction value probably sits right around $43.

6. Mike Vick, QB (Philadelphia Eagles)

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    Michael Vick is far and away the most polarizing figure in fantasy football this season. Some wouldn't dare take him in the first round, while others are contemplating taking him first overall to ensure he isn't stolen away.

    I stand in the middle.

    There's a fantasy football saying that reads, "You can't win your league in the first round; you can only lose it."

    Well, Vick is the exception to that saying. I believe if Vick repeats the success he had last season over 16 games, he can actually win you the championship, and he's the only guy we know of whom you can say that about—but he comes at a price.

    It's no secret everyone is betting against Vick when it comes to the amount of games he's going to play. Selecting him is a calculated risk, but I believe that if you have a chance to grab one of the elite running backs yet to come on this list, you have to do it.

    But if you can't, taking Vick is probably worth the risk.

    Most people were reluctant to accept Vick at first, but it's looking more and more like people are starting to acknowledge that he is worth a first-round pick. I definitely wouldn't take him first, but I believe depending on who is left, selecting him in the mid-to-late first round is a risk worth taking. 

    I'm not sure how to peg his auction value. I guess it's just up to each individual owner and where you think he falls. Some wouldn't touch him while others will end up paying top dollar for him. It just depends on how you feel.

5. Chris Johnson, RB (Tennessee Titans)

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    After his monster year in 2009, CJ2K disappointed fantasy owners after many took him No. 1 overall last year.

    The biggest problem was his consistency. One week he'd put up 30, and the next he would get just three points. 

    Johnson's totals dropped drastically last season. He ran for significantly less yardage and gained fewer than half as many yards through the air. This was in large part due to mediocre offensive line play, as well as bad performance at quarterback.

    Johnson really was stuck on a bad team. With Matt Hasselbeck it should be a little better, but not much. 

    Johnson is an elite running back who, given a better situation (maybe one like Arian Foster has), could be the No. 1 overall player, but given the one he has, I can't justify putting him at No. 1 or No. 2. He has been there before, and he has the potential to get there again, but I don't think he gets back to that level this year.

    He is a valuable player, but I don't think Johnson's a top four player this year. I would pay maybe $51 for Johnson. 

4. Ray Rice, RB (Baltimore Ravens)

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    There are a couple reasons why I really, really like Rice this year.

    First, the Ravens cut Willis McGahee. McGahee is a decent running back, but over the last few years in Baltimore, he has developed into nothing more than a touchdown vulture. He was never good enough to own in 10-team leagues, but he always stole goal-line carries from Rice.

    Now, McGahee is out of the way, and Rice is likely to get a chance to get those goal-line touches.

    While the signing of Ricky Williams may cut into his touches and yards a little bit, I don't think it will be a huge issue. Rice wasn't built to carry the ball 350 times anyway.

    The important things to know are that Williams probably won't take all that many goal-line carries from Rice, and Rice is a far better third-down back. Williams may get a couple plays here and there, but I think essentially trading McGahee for Williams helps Rice's value.

    Next, the Ravens signed Vonta Leach. Leach is probably the best blocking fullback in the league. Last year he blocked for none other than Arian Foster, the league's leading rusher.

    I'm not saying Leach is going to come in and allow Rice to rush for 2,000 yards, but obtaining a great blocking fullback can't be a bad thing. With Leach leading the way, maybe Rice can get into the end zone in those goal-line situations a little bit easier.

    Finally, Rice is entering his contract year. It's no secret that the contract year provides some extra motivation. This year, he's going to be fighting for his first big pay day. Enough said. 

    Rice is considered by most to be a top-six player; where he fits in that top six varies. I'm not sure I'd take him at No. 4, but I think I would probably rank him there with what I know now.

    In an auction, I would probably pay around $53 for Rice.

3. Jamaal Charles, RB (Kansas City Chiefs)

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    Jamaal Charles is crazy fast. He can burn just about anyone, and he showed last season that he is just as explosive as anyone in the league.

    The problem is, I just don't think Charles is going to get any better. I think he probably reached his ceiling last season. 

    I know that Thomas Jones is going to be less of a factor this year, but I don't think Charles is going to be able to handle that many extra touches. If they do give him the ball more this year, I don't think there is any way he maintains his ridiculous 6.4 yards per carry.

    Either way, Charles is a special talent. He is a very good runner, and he's also a great asset in the passing game. I think he has the potential for more touchdowns this year, but I'd expect his yardage totals to be about the same, if not less.

    Even if they do drop off a little, he's still worth a top-five pick—no question.

    In an auction, I think he's worth $55.

2. Arian Foster, RB (Houston Texans)

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    Arian Foster was by far the biggest fantasy surprise last season. No one saw it coming, but Foster ran all over NFL defenses all season long.

    This year, he's looking to repeat.

    Although I think Foster is going to have another great year, I'm a little worried about the return of Ben Tate.

    Not only that, but it's hard to repeat after a season like that. Foster was a great dual-threat last year. He can run and catch, which makes him even more valuable (as if being the NFL's leading rusher wasn't enough).

    Foster runs behind a solid offensive line and has solid players around him at the skill positions; Andre Johnson is one of the best in the game, and Schaub and Daniels are solid as well. When the Texans need to run down the clock at the end of victories, Foster is the guy to do it. When they need to throw to get back in the game, Foster is there for that too. 

    Overall, I think Foster will have another great year. He probably won't do what he did last year, but he doesn't need to to justify a top-three pick.

    In an auction I'm not sure I'd be willing to pay big money for him, but someone will. I think he's probably worth somewhere around $57-$58.

1. Adrian Peterson, RB (Minnesota Vikings)

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    Adrian Peterson is the No. 1 player in fantasy football, and I can explain why in one word: consistency.

    Over his four-year career, he has essentially rushed for 1,300 yards all four times and always gets into double-digits for touchdowns. He's also emerging as a threat in the passing game.

    AP has proven time and time again that no matter who you put on the field alongside him, he is going to get the job done. I expect this year to be no different. At 26, Peterson is in his prime, and while I don't think this year will be his best to date, I think it will be good enough for him to be a legitimate No. 1 pick.

    When you're drafting No. 1 overall you know that the pick is probably a make-or-break type deal. You don't get to pick again for quite a while, and you have to make the most of it.

    Peterson may not be the No. 1 player in fantasy this year, but I think he's probably the safest bet out of everyone to succeed. You can't go wrong with Peterson.

    Because of the fact that I trust him so much, I have no problem paying $60 for the Vikings' stud rusher.

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