It’s that time of year again–fantasy football draft season. Here are my picks for who I see finishing as the top five players in all of fantasy come the end of the season. I’m out on a limb. But winners rarely play it safe.
1. Tom Brady, QB
I’ve hated Tom Brady ever since the Tuck Rule screwed the Raiders in 2001. I’ve taken great joy in watching the Patriots lose Super Bowls, tear ACLs, and film other teams and/or “audition tapes.” As much as I despise New England, I’m not stupid. Fantasy is about playing with your head, not your heart. (Robert Kraft knows what I’m talking about). The addition of Brandon Lloyd and Josh McDaniels could mean 2007 déjà vu. Brady has the weapons to throw for 50 touchdowns and over 5,400 yards. Whatever he puts up, it’s going to be better than what Aaron Rodgers did last year. Belichick and Brady need to make fans forget about Manning to Manningham and will do so by crushing their 2012 opponents with offensive malice. The Patriots have the easiest schedule in the league (again!?!) and will run up the score frequently. The departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis opens some opportunity in the back field for Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, but what would you rather do at the five-yard line, hand off to STEVAN RIDLEY or have The Golden Boy throw a quick out to Gronk (or Welker or Hernandez or Lloyd)? Bill Simmons should book his trip to New Orleans now.
2. Ray Rice, RB
Anthony Allen. That’s who is currently second on the Raven’s depth chart at RB. Of all the top rushers out there, Ray Rice has the least competition and the most potential. Rice’s 15 all-purpose touchdowns and 76 receptions in 2011 put him at the elite level everyone knew he was capable of. He played every game last season and only scored in single digits twice, one of those games being against San Francisco’s league-leading run defense. Rice is consistent and safe, two words you rarely associate with the city of Baltimore.
3. Darren McFadden, RB
I’m all in on McFadden this year. I’m not scared of his injuries and I believe that he will play all sixteen games and deliver the best year of his career, making him a top-three fantasy running back. At 5.3 YPC and potential to be integrated more into the pass game, Greg Knapp will call anythi—WAIT, breaking news from Raiders camp…Adam Schefter reports Darren McFadden out 4-6 weeks with a sprained ankle after tripping over Matt Leinart’s bong. NOOOO!
4. Julio Jones, WR
If the pre-season has been any indication, it’s going to be a huge year for Julio Jones. Wide receiver is crazy deep this year (DRINK!) and he’s the only player at the position I’d consider drafting before the fourth round. Size, speed, athleticism—Jones has got it all and it feels like Matt Ryan has locked in on him. With ten of the Falcon’s sixteen games scheduled in domes this season, expect Julio to continue to be the big play threat that led the league in YAC during his rookie campaign. Also, I like his new haircut.
5. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB
Things don’t look good for potential MJD owners, but have faith. Last year’s leading rusher will play this season and he will be a beast. Henry Hill will narrate his every carry and each touchdown will be celebrated by a death stare/middle finger to Shahid Khan sitting in the owner’s box, followed by an accomplice in the end zone stands presenting him with balloons and a Publisher’s Clearing House-sized check. Joe Buck will call the display “disgusting” then silently fist pump and taunt Troy Aikman because MoJo fell to him in the second round.
The man with three first names, Alshon Jeffery. Dude is 6-3, 216 with hands as soft as Jay Culter’s new baby’s ass. Word from camp is that he’s impressing coaches and picking up the offense quickly. The Devin Hester experiment has failed. Earl Bennett is serviceable. Brandon Marshall could be off his meds and stabbed by his wife again any day now. It would not surprise me if Jeffrey becomes the breakout receiver of 2012. Alshon’s rookie ceiling is probably 50 catches, 800 yards and six touchdowns. For someone with an ADP of around 145, I’d much rather take a gamble on a prospect with stud potential than a known commodity who you know you’ll just end up dropping for whoever pops on the waiver wire.