With the start of the 2012 Fantasy Football season inching ever so closely, I thought I would give a quick glimpse of who I currently have as my Top 5 Fantasy Football Players at each position. This list has made some drastic changes in some areas compared to 2011. Especially at tight end, where Antonio Gates is slowly starting to lose his grasp as one of the top fantasy tight ends in the league. (Don’t worry Gates owners. He hasn’t slipped that far).
1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
It’s really no surprise to see Rodgers at the top spot at not only the quarterback position, but as a top fantasy prospect amongst all the other positions. Having thrown 45 touchdowns and eight 300-yard games in 2011, leagues that reward six points for passing touchdowns and bonuses for yardage will see Rodgers drafted within the first round, or at the top of the second. He went No. 3 overall in my Updated Fantasy Football Mock Draft. While some might think that is too high, there is no arguing that quarterbacks are starting to get more attention in the first round.
2. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
All that garbage about the Bounty Scandal and the fact that Sean Payton is banned from the team doesn’t bother me when it comes to selecting Brees. And he may be acting like a little bitch right now regarding his franchise tag, but I’d be utterly shocked if Brees isn’t under center by Week One’s game against the Redskins.
3. Tom Brady – New England Patriots
It’s pretty self explanatory. Brady continues to equal big fantasy points. And unless the Patriots turn around a horrendous secondary from a season ago, Brady and company will continue to have to put up big yardage and points.
4. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
One of the biggest, if not the biggest, wildcard at the quarterback position, Newton can either progress or fall flat on his face in his second year as the Panthers’ starter. If word comes out that Newton isn’t looking so hot or isn’t taking that next step in training camp, his value will slide. I wouldn’t be shocked if Peyton Manning winds up knocking Newton out of the top 5 completely once training camps start.
5. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions
The first pick in Round Two of my Fantasy Football Mock Draft, Stafford could be fantasy gold if he can put up back-to-back injury-free seasons. And with the team’s current running back situation looking suspect, Stafford may have to heave the ball just as much as last year. While I don’t see him matching 5038 passing yards, 4000-4500 shouldn’t be a problem.
1. Arian Foster – Houston Texans
Not much else to say about Foster that I haven’t already said to death. The only other point I have is to make sure if you draft Foster, you had better find room for Ben Tate as his handcuff. I currently have Tate ranked as my No. 1 handcuff to own in all leagues.
2. Ray Rice – Baltimore Ravens
My homerism for the Philadelphia Eagles could get me to put LeSean McCoy in as the No. 2 guy behind Foster in PPR leagues. But for now, Rice remains the best option past Foster at the running back position. Another player who isn’t happy with the franchise tag, I still expect to see Rice playing with the starters when the Ravens play the Bengals to kick off the first week of Monday Night Football.
3. LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia Eagles
Former Redskins front office executive Vinny Cerrato recently revealed that the Redskins were close to trading up with an unknown team for McCoy in the 2009 draft. As an Eagles fan, it’s scary to think that the Eagles would have been playing against McCoy the past three years. Although, would the Redskins have even used him properly? Luckily, we’ll never know.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville Jaguars
While I don’t see MJD matching the 1606 rushing yards he managed to muster up coming off a knee injury last year, a similar year like he had in 2009 (1391) or 2010 (1324) would still make this ranking worth it. Whether Blaine Gabbert and his new weapons can make a name for themselves is a whole other story.
5. Chris Johnson – Tennessee Titans
If I am drafting at the end of the first round and Johnson falls to me, I’d be ecstatic. While others think he will repeat last year’s inconsistent numbers, I think he will bounce back and put up numbers similar to 2010 (1609 total yards).
1. Calvin Johnson – Detroit Lions
Megatron is leading the pack in the evolution of receivers becoming more fantasy relevant as the years go on. After two-straight years of double-digit touchdowns, I foresee a third on the horizon in 2012. The icing on the cake would be his first career 100-catch season.
2. Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals
At the moment, Andre Roberts is penciled in as the starter across from Fitz, but that could change if the front office drafts a receiver high, which has been mentioned in several mocks. Fitzgerald had some great years playing alongside another talented receiver in Anquan Boldin.
3. Wes Welker – New England Patriots
With Welker and the Patriots nowhere close to a new long-term deal, the franchise player made it known that he is “probably not going to” attend the team’s mandatory June minicamp. But unlike other receivers who have acted like divas and held out as long as possible, I don’t see Welker as that type of player. Some expect him to play out 2012 on the franchise tag, but that has zero bearing on his fantasy status. Non-PPR owners might want to knock Welker down a couple spots.
4. Andre Johnson – Houston Texans
The only thing separating Johnson from being a possible No. 1 pick amongst fantasy receivers is health. In the last three out of five years when he did play a full schedule, Johnson put up 103, 115 and 101 receptions respectively. Owners might shy away from him completely after missing half the season last year, but I wouldn’t avoid him outright.
5. Roddy White – Atlanta Falcons
White may have led the league in drops (15) last year, but he still has at least two more strong years left fantasy-wise. It remains to be seen if Julio Jones can take the momentum from his rookie year into 2012. But even if he does, it appears that the Falcons will continue to go more pass heavy this year with Michael Turner’s career winding down. There should be plenty of balls to go around.
1. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
The new face atop the tight end rankings, Gronkowski has amassed a whopping 27 touchdowns in just two seasons. And this is a guy who many had outside of their top 10 in last year’s rankings. I don’t see him matching his touchdowns (17) from 2011, but he will still do enough to make him the No. 1 fantasy tight end and could be taken before several WR1 options.
2. Jimmy Graham – New Orleans Saints
After Gronkowski, it’s hard to find a better equal than Graham. And after putting up 99 catches for 1310 yards and eleven touchdowns, Graham could give Gronk a run for his money as the top-rated fantasy tight end once the 2012 season is over.
3. Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys
As much as I hate the Cowboys, I have no problems taking any of their fantasy stars, including Witten. Witten turns 30 in the next few days, but that won’t stop him from putting up strong fantasy stats. The fact that Laurent Robinson signed with the Jaguars helps Witten’s value behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. There’s no reason why he can’t flirt with 90 catches after putting up a mere 79 in 2011.
4. Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers
Gates may no longer reign supreme as the No. 1 fantasy tight end, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone better at this spot. Philip Rivers’ unknown injury didn’t help Gates’ numbers last year, but the fact that Vincent Jackson headed east to the Buccaneers puts Gates back on the map as the team’s No. 1 threat. Yes Robert Meachem is expected to be the No. 1 receiver, but I like Gates’ resume’ and talent a hell of a lot more.
5. Vernon Davis – San Francisco 49ers
Many can make the case for Jermichael Finley instead, but Davis gets the No. 5 spot after exploding in the playoffs with a total of 292 yards off just 10 receptions with four touchdowns in two games. Some might shy away from Davis because of the acquisition of Randy Moss. But with Alex Smith back in the fold for starting duties, Davis continues to show a lot of potential. The only way I knock Davis out of the top 5 is if either Josh Johnson or Colin Kaepernick takes Smith’s starting job.