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What Next Year’s First Round Might Look Like

With the fantasy football regular season over, most owners’ seasons have come to a close. Or, in other words, their hearts have been ripped out. The main purpose of their life for the last six months has been cruelly taken from them, thrown into a deep well and left there to rot until next August, when the 2011 draft comes and hope springs eternal again.

This article is for those owners who have been forced to start looking forward to next August, which is only millions of years away. For these owners, next year’s draft can’t come too soon. Here’s a look at what the first round of next year’s draft might look like.

First Pick: Adrian Peterson

There will be no debate next year on who should be the No. 1 overall pick. Chris Johnson has proven this year that while he may be a first-round pick, he’s certainly not worthy of being the No. 1 pick. Unlike Johnson, Peterson has still thrived even when there’s been inconsistency from the quarterback position. Peterson has had another exceptional season, rushing for his fourth straight year of more than 1,000 yards and more than 10 touchdowns. He’s been as reliable and as predictable as it gets this year and that’s exactly what owners want in a first-round pick.

Second Pick: Maurice Jones-Drew

Jones-Drew got off to a slow start but he’s been terrific since Week 7, an amazing six-game streak of fantastic performances. Jones-Drew looks to continue his dominance with a soft playoff schedule. Currently, he’s ranked second in the NFL behind Arian Foster with close to 1,200 yards rushing and six total touchdowns. Once the fantasy playoffs are finished, Jones-Drew will have dramatically increased those totals, helping many owners to championships and cementing his place as the second overall pick.

Third Pick: Arian Foster

Foster has had the best year of any running back in fantasy football. He is also the MVP of the season with 1,700 total yards and 15 touchdowns. There are still a lot of questions with Foster though as we look forward to the future. After the Texans miss the playoffs, coach Gary Kubiak will be canned in all likelihood and a new coach might help or hinder Foster, depending on his coaching philosophy.

Maybe the biggest question when it comes to Foster is what happens when Ben Tate returns next season? Will he take carries away from Foster and hurt his value? There’s no question that Foster was this year’s Ray Rice when it comes to drafting a running back in the mid-rounds and getting first-round value out of him. But will Foster continue the Rice comparisons and deliver a post-breakout season that is disappointing? It is these lingering doubts that leave the 2010 fantasy football MVP behind Peterson and Jones-Drew.

Fourth Pick: Chris Johnson

Johnson proved Thursday night against the Indianapolis Colts that he’s still got it and when the Titans make him the focus of their game plan, he can still be one of the most dynamic players in fantasy football. Much of his up and down year can be attributed to instability at the quarterback position. Vince Young has been benched, then hurt, then out for the season. Kerry Collins has been mostly mediocre and has also dealt with injuries. Don’t get me started on the nightmare that was the short-lived Rusty Smith era.

In the offseason, there could be a shakeup in Tennessee with either coach Jeff Fisher or Young leaving. This leaves the quarterback position, which has been Johnson’s Achilles Heel this season, still unsettled. Johnson has proved this season that unlike Jones-Drew and Peterson, he is not immune to poor play from his quarterback, rushing for less than 60 yards his last two games before his Thursday night blowup against the Colts.

Make no mistake about it, Johnson is still having a good year, as he’s tied for third with Jamaal Charles in rushing yards and he has 10 touchdowns. The problem has been inconsistency as Johnson has had five games this year where he’s been nearly invisible. He’s become the biggest risk-reward player in fantasy football, something he wasn’t last season. Owners will be watching closely in the offseason to see who ends up the quarterback for the Titans in 2010. The answer will go a long way in determining how high Johnson is drafted next year.

Fifth Pick: Jamaal Charles

Despite coach Todd Haley’s efforts to derail Charles’ season by giving too many carries to “Old Man”  Thomas Jones, Charles has still had a sensational season. He’s been the master of the big play, with 8 runs going for more than 20 yards. He’s only had four touchdowns but he’s made up for it, especially in points per receptions leagues, with close to 400 receiving yards. He’s accounted for more than 1,500 total yards from scrimmage this year. Also, the Chiefs seem to be a team on the rise so his outlook looks promising for the future. Charles looks to be one of the safer picks in the middle of the first round where things usually start to get a little shaky and unpredictable.

Sixth Pick: Aaron Rodgers

The first quarterback to go in next year’s draft will be Rodgers.  Peyton Manning is a close second but Manning has been a little off at times this year and until the Colts get a reliable running game, Manning will constantly be faced against defenses loaded up against the pass. On the other hand, Rodgers should get a healthy Ryan Grant back next year, not to mention his favorite receiver in tight end Jermichael Finley.

Besides being an elite passer, Rodgers is always a threat in the ground game, accounting for four rushing touchdowns this year. He doesn’t have the constant injury risk that someone like Michael Vick has, so you know that Rodgers is going to stay healthy and continue producing. Rodgers is in the prime of his career right now and can look only to improve next season.

That’ll wrap things up for this week. Next week we’ll discuss the second half of the first round, picks 7-12. We’ll find out who the first receiver off the board is and marvel at the fact that next year’s first round will actually have a Cleveland Brown in it, which has to be the first time that’s ever happened.

Good Hunting!

Ed Bonfanti

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