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Fantasy Fix: All The Pieces Are In Place

This is a little bit later in the summer than I usually take a crack at my fantasy football preseason top 20, and I think I've spent more time mentally preparing for this year's unveiling than in any previous season. I don't say this because I'm that proud of my effort, but because with so many questions surrounding some of the top players, it's been that much harder to figure out where to place everyone.

We have at least three top running backs who are potential injury concerns, another who as of this writing was still a contract holdout, and still another who held out for part of the season last year and never quite regained form.

Meanwhile, there's a second-year quarterback I'd really like to rank higher, and now fewer than two tight ends in my top 20, which I think must be a first.

One other note: Matt Forte has made many preseason fantasy top 20 lists, but backup Michael Bush has great sleeper potential, and Jay Cutler will pass deep early and often.

See if you can figure out who's who:

1. Ray Rice, RB, BAL: Going against the crowd wisdom, which has Foster going No. 1 overall, but all of Rice's metrics trended upward from 2010 to 2011, and most importantly, he's durable.

2. LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI: His 17 rushing TDs to Rice's 12 make a good argument for him to be No. 1, but Rice's dominance as a receiver gives him the edge.

3. Arian Foster, RB, HOU: The consensus No. 1, and still very effective, but most of his stats were down last year; an injury limited his snaps; and he appeared to have a brief case of the fumbles.

4. Calvin Johnson, WR, DET: The most consistent player in one of the most potent offensive attacks is still getting better; scary for a guy who averaged 105 receiving yards per games in 2011.

5. Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB: Not among the passing yardage leaders, but a lot of his stats came in just the first half of his blowout games. His league-leading 122.5 QB rating and 45 TDs with just six INTs tell the real story.

6. Ryan Mathews, RB, SD: Heavily hyped for the third season in a row, and while he rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year, he still was slowed by injuries for the second consecutive year.

7. Tom Brady, QB, NE: Great 2011 performance included 5,235 passing yards and 39 TDs with only 12 INTs. Very likely to surpass 5,000 yards again.

8. Drew Brees, QB, NO: The perfect combo of Brady's yardage and Rodgers' scoring, but wondering how the Saints' scandal and his own contract fight will affect his output.

9. Chris Johnson, RB, TEN: Showed flashes after his contract holdout ended last year, but didn't completely regain form. One of several RBs who could play well above his draft position.

10. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI: Still gets yardage like a top WR, but didn't score like one last year. He'll need QB Kevin Kolb to rebound.

11. Darren McFadden, RB, OAK: Possible gamble here on a hugely talented but injury-haunted runner. He could lead the league in rushing and become the top pick in 2013 if he manages to stay healthy.

12. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, JAC: Contract holdout leaves a very consistent player as a big question mark. If he signs in the next few weeks, you can push him up into the top 10.

13. Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE: Led the league in TD receptions, and with a few more yards this year could challenge Calvin Johnson as the top receiver overall.

14. Jimmy Graham, TE, NO: If not for Gronkowski, Graham would be a revelation at his position. As it is, he looks like Antonio Gates in his prime, and he's still learning on the job.

15. Cam Newton, QB, CAR: Higher ranking than some may have him, and sophomore slump could be due, but 707 yards rushing as a QB and a gunslinger mentality make him a great fantasy play.

16. Trent Richardson, RB, CLE: A rookie manages to squeeze in. He's already way overhyped, and while I'm not entirely buying it, he could be Cleveland's workhorse and best offensive option.

17. Wes Welker, WR, NE: Most receptions, second-most receiving yards, and if defenses load up against Gronkowski, he'll easily surpass his nine TDs of a year ago.

18. Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN: A bad injury and legal hassles have dropped him from the elite ranks, but don't be surprised if he reels off a string of great performances late in the season.

19. Matthew Stafford, QB, DET: Having the top WR as a target helps, but Stafford heads an offense with blowout potential, and should be more consistent week to week this season.

20. Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA: He had an incredibly productive second half of 2011, after many fantasy owners had already dropped him. Unlike many RBs these days, he has no real challenger for carries.

Expert Wire
* Rant Sports charts the top 50 RBs, taking McCoy over Rice at No. 1.

* Yahoo! Sports lays out the debate of the year: Gronkowski vs. Graham.

* Bleacher Report thinks Stafford might be a draft steal.


Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.

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