Not having learned my draft slot in any of the leagues I belong to, I am free to mock as I please. When faced with this decision, I am time and time again drawn to the fifth draft position – the spot in which the draft really gets interesting and the spot I find most intriguing this year. This is the point in which many owners will be dealt their first gut check of the draft. From the mocking I have done, as well as most of the rankings I have seen, Positions 1-4, in no specific order are Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles. Expect that to most likely be the case when you draft, barring any unforeseen injuries or potential holdouts, as in the case of Johnson.
You probably have already heard this a thousand times but it bears repeating – your first-round pick should be counted on to be the cornerstone of your entire team – a consistent performer that can be placed in the lineup and forgotten about. So what do you do? There are many ways to attack the fifth spot. Let’s look at the culprits and their average draft positions (ADP) according to our friends over at Fantasy Football Calculator. Each player’s ADP is in parenthesis. Keep in mind, these ADP’s reflect a standard scoring format. Obviously, the league rules by which you play will dictate the values of each player on draft day. Nonetheless, here they are:
Ray Rice (5.8)
Rice got off to a slow start last year, causing many owners to abandon ship early on. As a Top 5 pick, that is hard to come back from. He did, however, end up with almost 1,800 yards and six touchdowns. Still, the fact remains that he needed 308 carries to amass 1,223 yards on the ground; a disappointing 3.9 yards per carry. Having Willis McGahee around didn’t help his cause either. The perennial touchdown vulture stole five touchdowns from Rice, mostly at the goal line, leaving Rice with just five rushing touchdowns of his own.
arly word out of Baltimore is that McGahee will take his talents elsewhere this season and if true it may spell out some more goal line looks for Rice and hopefully a few more trips to pay dirt. In a league that awards points for receptions, his value gets a huge boost, as it is impossible to ignore Rice’s prowess in the passing game. Last year, Rice converted his 82 targets into 63 receptions, a conversion rate of almost 77 percent. He also added one receiving touchdown.
Having said all that, Rice’s true value is tied to his touchdown production and six total scores from your No. 1 running back is not going to cut it in this business. If Rice can get more work at the goal line, his name can be thrown around as a Top 5 pick. Until we see that happen, he is a risk to be picked this early.
LeSean McCoy (7.6)
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Michael Vick’s presence in the Philadelphia offense has been good for McCoy. The third-year former Pittsburgh Panther’s production grew by leaps and bounds in his first season as an every down back. Much of this can be attributed to his improved play in pass protection. “Brian Westbrook 2.0” will look to build on a 2010 performance that saw him rush for more than 1,000 yards while hauling in 78 balls for almost 600 yards. His 90 targets were only six behind wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s 96. And maybe the best part – only 1 fumble lost.
I would like to see McCoy get some more opportunities at the goal line, but Vick is undoubtedly the Eagles’ best weapon inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. But that may not necessarily matter all that much since McCoy can score from anywhere on the field, as only two of his seven touchdowns on the ground came from inside the 5-yard-line. He is that kind of a player.
The thing that hurts him most is the inevitable 2-3 games without Vick under center. Kevin Kolb, if still an Eagle, and Mike Kafka don’t command the same kind of attention as Vick does. When Vick misses time, McCoy’s production might take a dip. If you can live with that, he’s a good value at No. 5.
Andre Johnson (7.9)
Johnson came into the 2010 season as the proud owner of two straight 1,500-yard seasons and as the reigning consensus No. 1 wide receiver on the board. He did not go out that way. A high ankle sprain nagged him most of the season and he fell from his lofty perch atop the fantasy football receiving ranks. But that didn’t stop him from grabbing 86 balls for more than 1,200 yards and eight scores, in only 13 games. His 93.5 receiving yards per game was tops among all wideouts. And unlike his namesake in Detroit, his quarterback (Matt Schaub) has proven he can play a full season after dealing with injuries early in his career.
The emergence of Arian Foster in the run and pass game will force defenses to stay honest when defending Houston. It’s hard to find things not to like about Johnson. The only detractor is the lack of a quality No. 2 wide receiver opposite him. Owen Daniels, injured most of last year, becomes the default second option, although Foster has proven to be a valuable asset in the passing game as well. The real nuts and bolts is this though – Schaub went to Virginia; he’s a smart guy. He knows who butters his bread (is that weird). Johnson will get his 150 targets, approach 90-100 catches, and give you 1,200-plus receiving yards. On the other hand, and this is pretty unbelievable, he has yet to produce double-digit touchdowns in a season. I don’t know about you but I need touchdowns at the No. 5 spot.