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Take Your Pick: Fourth Overall

Who should you draft fourth in upcoming fantasy football drafts?

The Case For Ray Rice

It’s no secret that the Baltimore Ravens are trying to build their passing attack for the future. Baltimore will need to rely on 37-year-old Derrick Mason and oft-injured Anquan Boldin for at least another season as rookie Torrey Smith develops. This means that we’ll see a lot of the traditional Baltimore offense with Rice leading the attack on the ground and in the air. Remember that Willis McGahee (and his 17 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons) is an impending free agent, and if he does not return to Baltimore then Rice could see his rushing touchdown total increase from five to double digits.

However, there is some obvious downside to selecting Rice fourth overall. Firstly, he dealt with a nagging knee injury for the majority of last season. Reports suggest that Rice is completely healed, but past knee injuries are always worrisome for running backs. Despite playing through the pain and starting 14 of 16 games, Rice watched his yards per carry fall from 5.3 to 4.0 in 2010. Add in the fact that his offensive line is an overall poor run blocking unit and he has never scored more than eight total touchdowns in a single season, there are definite drawbacks to making Rice your fourth overall selection.

The Case For Jamaal Charles

Explosive and dynamic are just two of the adjectives that come to mind when describing the fourth-year running back from Texas. Few expected Charles to even come remotely close to his 5.9 yards per carry from 2009. Even with 40 more carries, Charles surpassed that figure, averaging a whopping 6.4 yards per carry in 2010. Charles compiled 1,935 total yards (1,467 on the ground) as he finished second with 91.7 rushing yards per game. Add in the fact that backfield mate, Thomas Jones, will turn 33 years old in August and the opportunities should be even more plentiful for Charles in 2011. Don’t forget that Charles will get four games against two of the four worst rushing defenses in the league (Oakland and Denver).

Like Rice, touchdown output is a definite concern. Charles has never scored more than eight total touchdowns in a single season nor has he surpassed 230 carries. It’s not reasonable to expect Charles to average 6.4 yards per carry again this season nor is it reasonable to expect Jones to tote the rock 245 times again. Will an increased workload stymie Charles’ big-play ability? Can the 200-pound running back handle 300 carries in a single season? These questions will make you think twice about making Charles your fourth overall selection.

The Case For Andre Johnson

Johnson is in a league of his own. Over the past three seasons, Johnson has averaged 100 catches, 1,450 yards and eight touchdowns. Johnson led the league with 93.5 receiving yards per game, a stat that he has laid claim to in three of the last four seasons. Some owners may look at Johnson’s 2010 statline (86 catches, 1,216 yards) and consider it a down season. However, Johnson posted these totals in only 13 games. Despite turning 30 years old in July, Johnson is the top option in one of the league’s most explosive offenses.

Even though Johnson is the NFL’s top receiver, there are some definite concerns. Johnson missed Week 16 and 17 last season, leaving owners who used first-round picks on him empty handed as they entered their league championships. Despite not missing a start over the last two seasons, quarterback Matt Schaub is still considered injury prone, having missed 10 total games in four years as a starter. Johnson’s value is essentially tied to the right arm of Schaub, so keeping him upright is a priority. These scenarios will make you think about making Johnson your fourth overall selection.

The Verdict

With the fourth overall selection in the 2011 Fantasy Football Draft, Matt selects:

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City

There you have it. When evaluating these players, I wanted a player who has the upside to be fantasy’s top player. Charles has the home-run type of playmaking ability that Chris Johnson possesses and the strong rushing output that Arian Foster posted. Despite taking 96 fewer carries, Charles only finished 149 rushing yards behind Foster for the league rushing title. Head coach Todd Haley has already indicated that Charles will see an increased workload with Jones being worked into the mix. Charles had only three plays of 40-plus yards last season, indicating that all of his yards were not tied up in single, long runs. Charles plays on a team that’s committed to the run, and more importantly, feeding him the ball. Two thousand total yards and double-digit touchdowns are definitely within his grasp. If I land the fourth overall pick on draft day, I will hurry up to the podium to announce my selection of Jamaal Charles. Hopefully, you will too.

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