Here is an early top ten for the upcoming (we all hope) 2011 fantasy football season. Please note as the season gets closer we reserve the right to change these rankings but, this is how we see it shaking out at this moment in time. In this top ten you will see backs that get all the carries, a back that technically did not even start, two wideouts, a superbowl MVP, and the comeback player of the year. So let’s get started…
1. Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson has been a fantasy stud from when he first entered the league and is still one of the safest, most reliable, players to draft. Some might think with the absence of Brett Favre at the helm, Peterson might have a rough year since he will see 8 in the box on almost every possession. This really does not matter, every season in his career he has had over 1500 total yards and 10 touchdowns, no matter the quarterback. Over the past two seasons Peterson has made it a point to work on his catching abilities and we would not be surprised if he catches close to 40 balls this year with the new offense.
Projection: 1650 rushing yards, 39 catches, 380 receiving yards, 16 total touchdowns
2. Arian Foster
Talk about your breakout season. Foster started the year with a 231 yard, 3 touchdown, performance against the Colts and did not look back for the rest of the season. He was certainly the biggest surprise of the year (we did tell you about him over and over again in the pre-season but we could not have predicted that he would have played this well) So, 2200 total yards and 18 touchdowns later Foster is sitting at number two on our early overall board. We did debate about putting him number one but there are a few tiny things against him. He has only done this one year, Ben Tate (second round pick from a season ago) might take carries, and there is now all kinds of tape on him so defenses will be keying in on Foster.
On the flip side, he is perfect for the zone blocking running scheme, he does it all (all down back, goal lines, catching the ball out of the backfield), and he has a great cast around me so defenses have to worry about more than just him. We would not think you were crazy if you took Foster first overall and there is a chance when our final rankings come out before the season starts he will be our number one player.
Projection: 1500 rushing yards, 65 catches, 550 receiving yards, 13 total touchdowns
3. Chris Johnson
It’s not often that 1600 total yards and 12 touchdowns is considered a disappointment but after his 2500 yard campaign in 2009 this was certainly a step back. With that said, you cannot hate too much on his past season and we had to rank him in our top three for this season. Johnson has the potential to take it to the house on every play and we believe he will take a few more to house and improve on his yards per carry. A new winkle in the system for Johnson will be the fact that it looks as if rookie Jake Locker will be the starting QB for the Titans. We believe this is an upgrade for Johnson as we expect the Titans to use Locker’s big arm to take shots down the field to try and open things up. We believe his numbers lie somewhere between last year and his 09 season making him a great selection at the top of your draft.
Projection: 1450 rushing yards, 45 catches, 450 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns
4. Michael Vick
Vick is the epitome of a high risk/high reward player. Last season Vick played his absolute best football of his career and it was not completely because of his legs (sure 9 rushing touchdowns are nice) it was because of his accuracy. Vick fit the West Coast system of Eagles wonderfully and had his highest completion of his career (62.2%) by over 5 percentage points. All of this paired with throwing over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns made Vick the number one rated QB from a season ago in terms of fantasy on a per game basis. The reason why it was on a per game basis is the fact he missed three games with an injury. This is the same reason why Vick is not our number one overall player, the injury risk. Sure all football players have the chance to be injured at any time but the way Vick runs and plays it seems that his chances are always greater. If we could be guaranteed a full 16 games we would have ranked him one but there are no guarantees with that one.
Projection: 13 games, 3200 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, 10 picks, 660 rushing yards, 7 rushing touchdowns
5. Jamaal Charles
If you told us heading into the 2010 season that Thomas Jones would have 260 total touches we would have told you there is no way Charles would be a top fantasy back. Well Jones did but, Charles still exceeded and proved that he is a great fantasy option. By taking less carries a game the smaller Charles seemed to be always fresh and always had a chance to take it to the house. Charles averaged almost eight yards every time he touched the ball and found the end zone 8 times. Heading into the 2011 season we believe the Chiefs will use Charles even more and don’t be surprised if he catches over 50 balls this year making him even more important in ppr leagues.
Projection: 1400 rushing yards, 52 catches, 515 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns
6. LeSean McCoy
McCoy might not be a flashing name in terms of fantasy but in a league where there are a ton of backs splitting the load; McCoy is flourishing as an every down back. In the West Coast offensive he does it all, getting the carries between the tackles, sneaking out of the back field for catches in the flat, and he gets the goal lines. In his second season he proved he is a great player averaging over 5 yards a carries and catching an incredible 78 balls. If you are in a point per reception league bump McCoy over Charles and enjoy the consistency of one of the league’s best backs.
Projection: 1175 rushing yards, 75 catches, 585 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns
7. Andre Johnson
It seems as if Andre played the entire season hurt and still ended the year with over 1200 yards and 8 touchdowns in just 13 games. Prior to this season Andre had put together back to back 1500+ yards receiving while catching over 100+ balls. With the emergence of Foster the Texans have one of the best and balanced attacks in football and we fully expect a healthy Andre Johnson to take back his top spot as the best fantasy receiver in the game.
Projection: 1600 receiving yards, 109 catches, 12 touchdowns
8. Aaron Rodgers
Superbowl MVP Aaron Rodgers had one hell of year. Almost 4000 yards passing, 28 passing touchdowns, 356 rushing yards, and threw in four rushing touchdowns as well. The amazing thing about this is the fact he could improve on all of these numbers this season. Rodgers has so many weapons and is a playing with a ton of confidence. He is the odds on favorite to win MVP so one would think the numbers are going to be pretty solid as well. Vick has the most upside due to his legs but Rodgers is the safest and most dependable quarterback you can draft.
Projection: 4250 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, 360 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns
9. Roddy White
First and foremost in 6 seasons White has never missed a game so you have to like that but the fact he caught 115 balls a season ago is the reason why he made our top ten. The bump in catches was somewhat out of nowhere considering he never broke 90 in any of his season prior however, we do not think it was a fluke. Matt Ryan is turning into a great quarterback and Roddy should continue to reap the benefits of that. Draft Roddy with confidence this season and in a ppr league we do not think the fact the Falcons moved up to take Jones in the draft will affect Roddy too much. He might go down in catches slightly but should have less double coverage opening him up for some long balls.
Projection: 1375 receiving yards, 102 catches, 11 touchdowns
10. Maurice Jones-Drew
Mojo ended the 2010 season with his career best 94.6 rushing yards a game. He missed two games and seemed a little banged up the entire year. Jones-Drew should be entering the 2011 healthy and ready to go. The fact you can get him at the end of the first round or even in the second round just shows how deep this year is. Do not worry too much about his back-up, Jennings, that played well in his absence. Jones-Drew is the man out in Jacksonville and will continue to get the majority of touches. One concern we have about Jones-Drew is the fact he does not have the best line and might start to have Steven Jackson type numbers which means, a ton of yards and not too many touchdowns.
Projection: 1425 rushing yards, 41 catches, 385 yards, 8 total touchdowns
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