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The Top of the Fantasy Draft

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It’s summer time, meaning fantasy football magazines will be hitting the stands soon. Around this time, the yearly debate starts surrounding who the top pick in fantasy will be. Around this time, we read the daily updates on who is holding out, which rookies have signed and who has tweaked a hamstring. By now some of us have begun participating in online mock drafts and checking out the rankings of the Top 10 at each position.

But this year is different. The summer is upon us and we have yet to have an organized team activity. We have yet to hear about a mini-camp and have not seen one free agent signing. The season is on hold. It’s been locked out for 80 days so far, and there has not been a resolution to the situation. So we wait. Wait to see how long the two sides will stand their ground. Wait to see who will flinch first or if it will all go down the toilet along with the 2011 season. So as the pools open and the kids are free for the summer, the fantasy owners are in the same situation as the players. We get up each day and turn on the news hoping that the lockout has ended. When we see that nothing has changed, we go about our lives as normal.

I’ve got the itch, and the itch is starting to get to me. Call it withdrawal. Call it cabin fever. Whatever it is, I’m starting to get the jitters. The thought of not having football or fantasy football leagues leaves me agitated. The fantasy community tries to continue its business as usual. I keep up with the so called “player news” and “rumors” that are out there, but in reality there isn’t much to base the 2011 season on as there is still too many unknowns that will effect the draft stock of fantasy players.

Early rankings are being posted, and I was surprised to see the top of the draft has changed. Here is the Top 10 draft picks for 2011 and what I think of each player:

1 - RB Jamaal Charles - Kansas City

Charles is your home run type of player. He can score for you with rushing and receiving. He finished seventh among running backs in Shark Leagues. However, for a guy who scored just five touchdowns rushing and three receiving touchdown, I can’t justify taking him first overall or even in the Top 5. You can’t say he’s the most dominant fantasy player for 2011. I’d take Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson ahead of him. He’s around the same as Ray Rice for me.

2 - RB Arian Foster - Houston

Foster was an owner’s dream last year. His draft stock kept going up during the summer but he still ended up as a value pick in drafts. Foster finished as the top running back in Shark Leagues and is a duel threat as well. He had 16 touchdowns on the ground and two on receptions. The potential is there to repeat his performance, so he might go anywhere in the Top 4. Don’t be surprised to see him drafted first, but is he the best fantasy player? If you’re drafting around this spot, you really can’t lose with any of these guys. I would keep him second or third. Right now his quarterback situation is better than the other guys.

3 - RB Adrian Peterson - Minnesota

Peterson had his worst season as a professional. He still finished fifth among running backs despite the Vikings’ awful offense last year. The big question heading into this season is the quarterback situation and what they will have to work with on offense. For now, you could take him second.

4 - RB Chris Johnson - Tennessee

The top running back selected in drafts did not finish first, but still finished fourth among running backs. The big drop of in yardage hurt his stats. We hope that he won’t post stats like he did in Week 12 where he ran for five yards on seven carries. This season’s success depends on the development of his rookie quarterback. He could go anywhere from second to fourth.

5 - RB LeSean McCoy - Philadelphia

I’m skeptical about McCoy being an early first-round selection. He hasn’t been a dominant running back in fantasy, but yet this year he’s ranked pretty high despite finishing 2010 as the 16th running back in Shark Leagues. The end of the season was mediocre as he ran for more than 100 yards in a game just once from Weeks 12-17 and had just two rushing touchdowns from Weeks 6-17. Reports that he got fat during the lockout doesn’t boost my confidence in him as my No. 1. I’d take the next three guys ahead of McCoy.

6 - RB Ray Rice - Baltimore

Rice burned me last year in two leagues. I had the No. 3 pick in both those leagues and I took Rice. I was pretty high on him last summer but the lack of touchdowns (five) killed me. He reached the endzone in just two games the first 14 weeks of the season. Every week you were thinking to yourself, “Should I bench him?” but you didn’t. Every week he would play just good enough to get you points but not the big payday you wanted. As good as a receiving running back that Rice is, it is surprising that he has scored just one touchdown receiving in each of the past two seasons. I believe he will bounce back this season and should go around fifth.

7 - RB Maurice Jones-Drew - Jacksonville

Jones-Drew finished last year as the 14th running back in Shark Leagues, and even though his rushing and receiving yards were on par from 2009, his touchdowns dropped off dramatically from 15 to just five. One of the factors for his lack of scoring was due to his knee injury which he admitted during his talk show last week that it did hurt his production. He says he’s 100 percent now and should be ready to go. If the pass offense can keep teams from stacking the box on him, he’ll find big plays and reward owners like he did in 2009. If he drops this far in the draft, consider it a steal.

8 - WR Andre Johnson - Houston

Johnson fell out of the Top 5 last year and it was due to his ankle injury suffered early in the season. He still posted 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns while being listed as probable each week. He missed three games, including the final two. There is no denying that Johnson is one of the best receivers in the game. Even though Brandon Lloyd finished first among wide receivers, you’re still going to take Johnson ahead of him every time. So when your picking later in the first round and those coveted running backs have been taken, do you take Johnson over Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner or Steven Jackson? I’ve always drafted with the mindset of taking a running back with my first pick, but if you expect Foster to have a better year, then where does that leave Johnson? Something’s got to give, and one of these guys in Houston will take a hit in the touchdown department.

9 - QB Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay

Super Bowl Champion Rodgers finished second in fantasy leagues last year, but do you take a quarterback in the first round when you can get Drew Brees, Peyton Manning or Phillip Rivers with your second pick? Michael Vick finished as the top scoring fantasy quarterback but he will be overhyped this year?  And, I would rather have five quarterbacks ahead of him. My research has shown that those who draft a quarterback with their first pick rarely win a championship. I’m going running back here. The ninth pick is too high to grab a quarterback in my opinion.

10 - RB Rashard Mendenhall - Pittsburgh

Mendenhall was inconsistent last year but still managed to put up 13 touchdowns. He came through for his owners during the fantasy playoffs by scoring four touchdowns in the final three weeks. He finished 11th among running backs last year with the potential to put up the same amount of stats. I can see him finishing as high as sixth and as low as ninth, which means the 10th spot in the first round is a good spot for him.

It will be interesting to see what the latest meetings bring about for the current NFL situation. At least they are making the effort to meet because for awhile, there wasn’t any communication going on, which isn’t good. I’m hoping that this gets resolved over the next few weeks so I can concentrate on getting my draft ready and plan to go see a game.

Enjoy your summer!

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