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As Week 15 draws to a close and the vast majority of owners are forced to begin looking towards next year, here is Part 2 of my look ahead at what the first round will look like in 2011. There's a full offseason of research yet to do in order to determine who will be next season's Arian Foster or Peyton Hillis, so in the mean time, come with me as we start preparations to hoist the championship trophy in 2011.
Last week, we talked about the first half of the first round. We’ll start with a quick recap and then get going on the second half.
3) Arian Foster
Now for picks 7-12:
No. 7: Tom Brady
Brady has been inhuman in the second half of the season, helping owners when they needed it the most. Here’s some jaw-dropping stats to consider. He’s thrown 10 touchdowns in his last three games, throwing for more than 300 yards in each of those contests. He’s obliterated the best defenses in the league like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears. He hasn’t thrown an interception since mid-October … and Christmas is this week!
Brady seems to have actually improved once Randy Moss left and now he has tons of weapons to choose from in Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead and a solid running back in "The Law Firm" BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Brady’s playing like he did the year he broke Peyton Manning’s record and threw 200 touchdowns. If he keeps this up, he’ll move up draft boards and easily be the first quarterback drafted.
No. 8: Roddy White
The only wide receiver I have in the first round is White, star of my beloved Atlanta Falcons. White’s had a career year with five 100-yard games and seven touchdowns. He’s been a model of consistency this year and has finally passed the likes of Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne, two receivers who have had issues with consistency this season. White’s tapered off a little in the second half of the season but looks to have a strong finish against the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers in upcoming weeks.
No. 9: Peyton Hillis
A Cleveland Brown in the first round of fantasy drafts? Am I dreaming? Is this real? Can anyone remember in the history of fantasy football if there’s ever been a Brown drafted in the first round? I’ve been playing fantasy football for close to a decade and I can’t remember a Brown being drafted in the first round.
Nevertheless, here we are … and Hillis has been the biggest "Waiver Wire Wonder" of the season. We’re talking about a running back who hasn’t had a bad game the entire season, which is unheard of in fantasy football. No one’s been more consistent than Hillis. He’s rushed for close to 1,100 rushing yards and has 13 total touchdowns. Most impressively, he’s done it all in a division that has two of the toughest run defenses - the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens - and he’s still flourished.
Hillis is about as safe a pick as you can go with and he’s been enormously consistent. These are the traits owners look for when they’re drafting in the first round. Hillis has more than earned his lofty draft position in next year’s draft.
No. 10: LeSean McCoy
McCoy has had a fantastic year and probably should be drafted higher than 10th in points-per-reception leagues. He has more than 1,500 total yards and seven touchdowns, and he is sure to add to that total before the season ends. He’s been Michael Vick’s most reliable weapon in arguably the NFL’s most explosive offense. The concerns with McCoy focus mainly on his health and the health of his quarterback.
No. 11: Peyton Manning
Believe it or not, Manning actually has the potential to be under-drafted next season. The perception on Manning this year is that he’s having a “down” year. Certainly, his multi-interception performances in recent high profile games against the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers have helped build that perception. But that’s reality. We’re not talking about reality here. We’re talking about fantasy football.
As far as fantasy football goes, Manning’s still having a stellar year. He’s still ranked first among fantasy quarterbacks in most scoring formats, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. His remaining schedule is against the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans, so look for him to significantly add to those totals by year’s end. It’s true he had a three-game period where he threw 11 interceptions, but if you look deeper you’ll see that he also threw eight touchdowns in those games and had passing yard totals of 396, 285 and 319 in those games. Even when he’s “bad” he still finds a way to produce for owners.
No. 12: Drew Brees
Brees had a slow start to his season but has quickly made up for it with an excellent second half, similar to Brady but not as awesome. Brees has thrown his share of interceptions this year but still has close to 4,000 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. He deserves a spot in the first round because of his consistency over the years and the comforting thought that the New Orleans Saints are going to continue to be contenders for years to come.
That’s it for this week. Next week we’ll talk about the rest of the draft and why Michael Vick should not be drafted in the first round and why Greg Jennings might be the most overrated player in next year’s draft.
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