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Fantasy Fix: Pigskin Primer

I was starting to wonder what I was going to write about when fantasy baseball had played itself out. With football and basketball both in lockout mode, I was facing the distinct possibility that I'd have to learn how fantasy NASCAR works. No one wants that.

So I was as glad as anyone that the NFL lockout ended, and we will have fantasy football after all (as well as the real thing, of course). You may find yourself with a little less time to plan your draft this year, so let's get to it:

Top 20

1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota: The top pick could go to any of the first three, but even with the Donovan McNabb signing at QB, Peterson will live up to his nickname, getting the ball "All Day." Fumbling used to be his only weakness, but just one last season shows he really is the best back.

2. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee: A great double-threat with more than 2,000 rushing yards and more than 500 receiving yards in 2009 saw both numbers dip last year. A likely rookie QB (Jake Locker) won't help matters with the latter, but because of that, his rushing totals are headed for a rebound.

3. Arian Foster, RB, Houston: His numbers from 2010 - more than 2,200 total yards, 18 TDs - say he should be No. 1, but I think those numbers will deflate a bit. Plus, he revealed he played through a knee injury all last year, which makes him a tough guy, but makes me wonder about his health entering this season.

4. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City: I wouldn't be surprised to see him work his way into the top three in some drafts. He came on strong in the second half of 2010, with two monster 170-yards-plus outputs getting everyone excited for this year.

5. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore: This up-and-coming double-threat actually took a step back last year from a stellar 2009, but at 24 he's still capable of improving on 2009's 1,339 rushing yards and ridiculous 702 receiving yards.

6. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh: He's more one-dimensional than everyone ahead of him, but 13 rushing TDs was second only to Foster.

7. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia: With Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson, he completes Philly's triangle of insane athletic ability. Last season, he proved to be the perfect complement to Vick, and I like him to run more and score more this year.

8. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta: He had a rebound year last season after a 2009 injury when many were expecting a decline. 85.7 rush yards per game made him a consistent threat, though like Mendenhall, he will not catch many passes. Also, at 29, he could be ready to slow down.

9. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay: Hard for a Bears fan to admit, but Green Bay will have another long stretch with the NFL's greatest QB talent. Early season problems last year mostly were due to offensive line mistakes and receiver injuries. Just missed 4,000 passing yards and 30 TDs last year. He'll get both this year, plus maybe 400 rushing yards if his pattern holds up.

10. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston: Andre the Giant is again the top-ranked receiver, and let's hope he doesn't miss any games this season after just eight TDs in 13 games last year. Houston's offense was messy last year, and needs to be better for him to score.

11. Larry Fitzgerald, WR. Arizona: The Kevin Kolb signing is great news. I may have him ranked a bit higher than most, but relatively low numbers last year - 1,137 yards and six TDs - were due to Arizona's QB shortcomings.

12. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland: I may be undervaluing him. With six games of more than 100 yards rushing and with more than 500 yards receiving total last year, he could easily get the nod ahead of Turner.

13. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit: A slight disappointment last year despite 12 TDs because his weekly receiving yards outputs were either feast or famine. A healthy QB and a resurgent offense could get him close to Andre Johnson and Fitzgerald.

14. Maurice Jones Drew, RB, Jacksonville: How does he drop from top 3 in 2010 to No. 14? He's coming back from knee surgery, and was a slight letdown last year with only five rushing TDs. His 94.6 rushing yards per game makes up for that, but with the surgery issue, I wouldn't risk taking him in the first round.

15. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco: Poor Frank. He saw every stat plummet in an injury-shortened season playing for a terrible team, but check out his average yards after catch: 10.4. The double-threat aspect makes him a great No. 2 RB, particularly if you get a grinder like Mendenhall or Turner in Round 1.

16. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia: A lot of people will argue he belongs at the end of the first round or earlier in the second, but all six of his INTs came in the last six weeks of the season, and defenses started to figure him out during that period. He should still be ridiculously productive in terms of passing and rushing TDs, but I see lower yardage games and more INTs in his future.

17. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis: The mighty are falling, at least a little. He can't match Vick's or Rodger's running games, but proved the last two years he can throw TDs to a body-less pair of hands if necessary.

18. Roddy White, WR, Atlanta: He caught more than 100 passes last season for the first time and 1,389 receiving yards were a career best. TE Tony Gonzalez may have stolen a few scores from him, which is why he's at this end of Round 2.

19. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans: Fumbles (nine last year) and INTs are his big problem, but I'm kind of buying that the Saints are back with a loaded offense, which could mean another 5,000 yards passing like he had in 2008.

20. Matt Forte, RB, Bears: is it Jay Cutler's redemption year or another season in which Forte will have to rescue a poorly stacked offense? His contract status and his willingness to show up for training camp anyway may indicate his best season is ahead. Prediction: 1,350 rushing yards, 600 receiving yards, 15 TDs.


Next week, a trip to the fantasy football expert wire, and a fantasy baseball trading deadline post-mortem.


Dan O'Shea's Fantasy Fix appears in this space every Wednesday. He welcomes your comments. You can also read his about his split sports fan personality at his Beachwood blog SwingsBothWays.

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Posted on Nov 26, 2021