Well, it’s all been building up to this. We started slow with some kickers, picked up steam with some diva receivers, but now we’re here: the guys who will win or lose your fantasy league. You could have had the top tight end, top receiver, yes – even the top kicker (sarcasm is a hobby of mine), but if you whiffed on these two positions, you didn’t win your league last year (right Matt Forte owners?).
As I laid out here: http://addins.wqow.com/blogs/sportsgeek/2010/08/fantasy-football-2010-draft-strategy, last season was dominated by the quarterbacks, with eight signal callers ranking in the top ten in scoring. That being said, running back remains the top valued position. In this ‘blast from the past’ breakdown (or the blog cited above), you can see that the biggest disparity between best and 10th best is in the backfield.
|#1 Scorer||Aaron Rodgers : 327||Chris Johnson: 329||Andre Johnson: 205|
|#10 Scorer||Donovan McNabb: 223||Steven Jackson: 180||Sidney Rice: 169|
But it’d be lazy for me to show a table that I already made. So let’s delve into another idea when drafting. It’s called the tier system, where you not only rank who you want to draft, but assign value to them. Here’s a look at the tiers for backs last season.
|Rank (Tier)||Player||2009 Points||Difference|
|#1 Scorer (1)||Chris Johnson||329||-|
|#10 Scorer (2)||Steven Jackson||180||-149|
|#20 Scorer (3)||LaDainian Tomlinson||146||-183|
|#30 Scorer (4)||Laurence Maroney||123||-206|
|#40 Scorer (5)||Mike Bell||86||
Yes, you can argue Chris Johnson had one of those special seasons last year, but you can also see there is a dramatic drop-off when you get below tier 3 (LT), let alone tier 2 (Steven Jackson). Drafting a running back high might not make you feel creative and risky, but it does make sense. Sorry Sebastian Janikowski, you’ll have to wait another year to be a first round pick.
For the signal callers, there might be more parity within the top 10 scorers, but you definitely don’t want to wait too long before picking your guy.
|Rank (Tier)||Player||2009 Points||Difference|
|#1 Scorer (1)||Aaron Rodgers||327||-|
|#5 Scorer (1)||Matt Schaub||269||-58|
|#10 Scorer (2)||Donovan McNabb||223||-104|
|#15 Scorer (3)||David Garrard||203||-124|
|#20 Scorer (4)||Matt Hasselbeck||149||-178|
There’s not a huge difference between Rodgers and Schaub, but after that the number starts to balloon. The difference between Rodgers and Hasselbeck over a fantasy season is just over eleven points a week (which if you didn’t know, is a lot). In summation, don’t wait to draft a quarterback. If the top six signal callers are off the board, you should be getting worried.
2010 Quarterback Rankings
1. Aaron Rodgers, GB (Bye: 10): Rodgers has exceeded all expectations, topping 4,000 yards passing in each of his two seasons as starter, and there is no reason to believe that this year will be any different. The Packers return all of their top offensive players from last year’s explosive offense. Green Bay’s offensive line should be improved, meaning less pressure for ARodge. Scary thought.
2. Drew Brees, NO (Bye: 10): It’s no secret what the Saints want to do on offense – throw the ball all over the field. Brees is a master of the offense, and the unquestioned leader on the team. With a bevy of weapons, there’s not much not to like about Brees this season.
3. Tom Brady, NE (Bye: 5): Call this a minor hunch, but something tells me the Pats offense will look more like the 2007 version than the 2009 version. The difference? A completely healthy Brady. Even though he played in all 16 games last season, Brady was still rusty after missing all of the ’08 season. With Welker healthy, Randy Moss still flying past people, and some good veteran additions (like Tory Holt, who has the 11th most receptions in NFL history), it could be an explosive year in Bean Town.
4. Peyton Manning, IND (Bye: 7): Consistent, talented, with an encyclopedia’s knowledge of football, there’s a lot to like about Manning. Probably the most complete quarterback in NFL history.
5. Tony Romo, DAL (Bye: 4): He’s just got so many weapons; he could unintentionally throw for 4,000 yards. Seriously, it’s like watching ‘Ocean’s 11.’ There’s a star everywhere you look. Still not sure if that makes him Brad Pitt or George Clooney – either way, it should be a big season in Big D.
6. Matt Schaub, HOU (Bye: 7): The envy of many quarterbacks because he gets to throw to Andre Johnson. Last season, Schaub targeted Johnson a league high 171 times, and the QB-WR combo is among the best in the league. Remember, Schaub was traded to Houston because Atlanta was set at QB with Michael Vick. Betcha they wish they could have that one back.
7. Philip Rivers, SD (Bye: 10): Speaking of Vick, the Chargers traded the #1 pick (Vick) for the #5 pick (LT) and what amounted to Drew Brees. Hey Atlanta, want a do-over now? While LT and Brees are both no longer wearing the lightning bolt, San Diego is in good hands with Rivers. He’s quietly become an elite signal caller, and should continue to excel this season. His top wideout is out for the first three games, but that shouldn’t have a big impact. The Chargers face three of the worst pass defenses those weeks (KC, Jac, Sea).
8. Brett Favre, MIN (Bye: 4): He’s coming back. He’s got weapons. That’s all the attention I’m willing to give him.
9. Jay Cutler, CHI (Bye: 8): Mike Martz might be a mad-genius, difficult to work with, and an egomaniac, but he is a genius. He made Jon Kitna a good fantasy option when he was with Detroit for pete’s sake.
10. Joe Flacco, BAL (Bye: 8): I might not be wacko for Flacco, but he does represent the beginning of the end for top level fantasy options. With Anquan Boldin now in the purple and black, Flacco’s numbers will be his best yet in year three.
11. Donovan McNabb, WAS (Bye: 9): Mike Shannahan will give McNabb every opportunity to succeed. After giving his all to Philly, he’ll have some incentive to show that he’s over the hill.
12. Kevin Kolb, PHI (Bye: 8): In the two games he started last season, Kolb threw for 718 yards and four touchdowns. Impressive numbers to say the least. But he also threw three picks in those two games, and faced the 22nd and 26th ranked pass defenses. How will he do against an elite D? That’s the thing, no one knows.
13. Matt Ryan, ATL (Bye: 8): Many think Matty Light is ready to take his game to the next level. I don’t know about that, but he does have the luxury of throwing to Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, and that’s good for something, right?
14. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (Bye: 5): Makes bad decisions off the field, but good ones on it. He’ll pay for the first, you’ll benefit from the second (that is, once he’s served his suspension). If Big Ben is your choice, you’d better have a backup plan set early.
15. Eli Manning, NYG (Bye: 8): He’s not Peyton, but he’s pretty good in his own right. Manning really took a step forward last year; it’ll be interesting to see if he can build on that season. With Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and Kevin Boss to throw to, he’s got the weapons to excel.
16. Carson Palmer, CIN (Bye: 6): Once an elite fantasy option, but injuries have taken a number of his prime years. Still, he’s healthy now and is surrounded by some very good weapons. If he can manage the egos on his team and stay on the field, he could skyrocket up these rankings. A very good sleeper pick.
17. Chad Henne, MIA (Bye: 5): Started picking up steam late in the season, plus he has a shiny new toy to play with in Brandon Marshall. He has the chance to have a nice season in South Beach.
18. Vince Young, TEN (Bye: 9): I hate to ruin you preconceived notions, but Vince Young is actually a viable fantasy quarterback. Despite playing in just eight games, VJ had a six game streak with at least one touchdown pass, and he’s always an option to score with his feet. He shouldn’t be your starter, but he’s a solid backup.
19. Matt Moore, CAR (Bye: 6): Speaking of guys who played well down the stretch, Moore came out of nowhere to add stability to Carolina’s offense. In the last four games, he threw for eight touchdowns and two picks. Might have been a fluke, but at this point, certainly worth the risk.
20. Jason Campbell, OAK (Bye: 10): Has been an unheralded player for a number of years now. Now he’s finally on a team that appreciates him. His completion percentage will be high, but there are simply not enough weapons for him to be a top option.
21. David Garrard, JAC (Bye: 9): Solid, not spectacular. Might be fighting for his job this season.
22. Matthew Stafford, DET (Bye: 7): He’s got a cannon for an arm, and actually has a decent set of pass catchers to work with. His interceptions will keep his totals down, but he’s certainly a guy to keep an eye on.
23. Matt Cassel, KC (Bye: 4): You have to figure Charlie Weis will improve the offense. The question is which Cassel is the right one, the 2008 or 2009 version? This season will go a long way to answering that question.
24. Matt Leinart, ARI (Bye: 6): He’s got weapons, a solid offensive line and plays in a pass-happy offense. The only thing keeping Leinart from succeeding is Leinart.
25. Kyle Orton, DEN (Bye: 9): A solid quarterback with subpar receiving options.
Deep Sleepers: Mark Sanchez (NYJ), Tavaris Jackson (MIN), Josh Freeman (TB), Jake Delhomme (CLE), Sam Bradford (STL)
2010 Running Back Rankings
1. Adrian Peterson, MIN (Bye: 4): I know everyone else will put Chris Johnson here, but no one has been as consistently good as AP. In his first three seasons, Peterson has never rushed for less than 1300 yards and has scored 10 TDs or more each season (including a career high 18 last year). Even better for owners, he’s started becoming more of a threat in the pass game.
2. Chris Johnson, TEN (Bye: 9): CJ2K is predicting a 2500 yard season this year. The problem is, the team last year’s 0-6 start was the reason CJ got so many carries late in the season. Of the other 2000 yard rushers, only Barry Sanders has even come close to repeating the numbers they put up the season before. The last two (Terrell Davis and Jamal Lewis) were injured the next season. Just saying.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC (Bye: 9): I love MJD as a fantasy back. After splitting time with Fred Taylor for much of his career, Jones-Drew showed that a 5-8 rusher could succeed in the NFL. His 15 rushing TDs were second in the league, and he’s the #1 option for the Jaguars offense.
4. Ray Rice, BAL (Bye: 8): Speaking of short backs who burst onto the scene last season, Ray Rice turned what was expected to be a three-back rotation into the Ray Rice show. My only concern is Willis McGahee’s 12 TDs dwarfed Rice’s 7. Think if he didn’t have to compete with that goal line poacher…
5. Frank Gore, SF (Bye: 9): When healthy, Gore is one of the scariest backs in all of football. He’s a great combination of size, speed and quickness. But injuries continue to be a concern. He’s a guy you need to handcuff.
6. Steven Jackson, STL (Bye: 9): Steven Jackson’s best years have been completely wasted in St. Louis. I’m sorry, but it’s true. If he was even on a moderately good team, he’d regularly be in MVP talks. Darn you St. Louis, darn you! Still, your fantasy team is better than the Rams, and he will definitely be the star of your team.
7. Michael Turner, ATL (Bye: 8): He’ll be better than he was last year. Buy low, win high.
8. Ryan Grant, GB (Bye: 10): The unquestioned, #1 option in the Packers run game. In today’s game, it’s rare to see a single back system. Grant accounted for 65% of Green Bay’s carries last season. Expect at least 1200 yards and 10 TDs.
9. Cedric Benson, CIN (Bye: 6): Speaking of one-back systems, Benson has been Cincy’s workhorse since joining the Bengals. The team will throw the ball more in 2010, but the run is still the top choice in the bruising AFC North.
10. Rashard Mendenhall, PIT (Bye: 5): Hopefully you are picking up that I like single-back systems. Mendenhall, like the men above him, is the top option. He’ll be even better than his 09 campaign.
11. DeAngelo Williams, CAR (Bye: 6): An absolutely explosive back. Despite splitting carries with Jonathon Stewart, D-Will still had 1100 yards and seven scores.
12. Ryan Mathews, SD (Bye: 10): Has the size and speed to excel at this level. After trading up to #12 to select Mathews, the Bolts will give him every opportunity to succeed.
13. Jonathon Stewart, CAR (Bye: 6): It might surprise you, but the Daily Show actually had a better season last year than DeAngelo Williams. It’s crazy to think how good these guys could be if they didn’t split carries.
14. LeSean McCoy, PHI (Bye: 8): An all-around back in an explosive offense? What’s not to love?
15. Shonn Greene, NYJ (Bye: 7): For those who don’t know, I’m a huge Iowa Hawkeyes fan, so I love Greene. But even I want to preach caution with Greene. He’s been injury-prone in college and his first year, and will have some carries taken away by LT. Still, there might be greatness in Greene.
16. Matt Forte, CHI (Bye: 8): Yes, he hurt you last year. I get it. But in fantasy football, you need to have a short memory. Forte has looked outstanding in camp, and is a great receiving threat in Mike Martz’s new offense. This could be a big year for Forte.
17. Beanie Wells, ARI (Bye: 6): When Kurt Warner walked out the door, Wells’ value shot up. The Cards offense will still pass first, but with Leinart under center, expect much more of a run game.
18. Knowshon Moreno, DEN (Bye: 9): There are big expectations for the second year back.
19. Ronnie Brown, MIA (Bye: 5): He’s injury-prone, but he’s also very good. The Wildcat will not go away with Marshall in town. The Dolphins are still a pass-first team.
20. Brandon Jacobs, NYG (Bye: 8): Call it a hunch, but I think he bounces back with a solid season. And more importantly, you can probably get him for cheap.
21. Jamaal Charles, KC (Bye: 4): I’ve struggled with how high to put Charles. On one hand, I’m extremely impressed with the numbers he put up last season. On the other hand, Thomas Jones is listed as the top running back on the first depth chart. Keep an eye on that battle and choose accordingly.
22. Joseph Addai, IND (Bye: 7): Still atop the Colts’ depth chart. The team will put more of an onus on running the ball this year.
23. Pierre Thomas, NO (Bye: 10): See ‘Joseph Addai’ and put Saints’ where Colts’ is.
24. Ricky Williams, MIA (Bye: 5): Excelled with Ronnie Brown out, but his numbers weren’t nearly as good when splitting carries. You never want to hope someone gets injured, but…
25. Jerome Harrison, CLE (Bye: 8): Rushed for over 550 yards the last three games of the season. Just saying (again).
26. Felix Jones, DAL (Bye: 4): Not the Cowpokes top option, but he is the best one. His 5.9 yards per carry was among the best in the league.
27. Jahvid Best, DET (Bye: 7): If he remains healthy, he’ll put up some ridiculous numbers. But that’s a big if.
28. Justin Forsett, SEA (Bye: 5): He’ll get the first crack at being Seattle’s starter.
29. Clinton Portis, WAS (Bye: 9): See ‘Justin Forsett’ and replace Seattle’s with Washington’s.
30. Fred Jackson, BUF (Bye: 6): Will get the bulk of the Bills’ carries.
31. C.J. Spiller, BUF (Bye: 6): Might get the bulk of the Bills’ touchdowns.
32. Thomas Jones, KC (Bye: 4): The roles of Jones and Charles are still muddled. Until a definitive starter is named, it’s tough to peg these two. You can’t overlook the season Jones had last year: 1400 yards and 14 scores.
33. Marion Barber, DAL (Bye: 4): Still atop the Cowpokes depth chart despite the three back carousel. He’s not a starter, but he’ll get around 1000 yards and six scores.
34. Reggie Bush, NO (Bye: 10): He’s got an enormous amount of talent, is this the year he puts it all together?
35. Michael Bush, OAK (Bye: 10): Not the sexiest of picks, but he’s the most consistent Raiders back.
36: Darren McFadden, OAK (Bye: 10): The sexy pick, but he hasn’t been the most consistent Raiders back.
37. Donald Brown, IND (Bye: 7): One of my favorite sleepers for the season. He’s had a full offseason, and could take the starting spot away from Addai.
38. LaDainain Tomlinson, NYJ (Bye: 7): He will remains an elite back around the goal line.
39. Laurence Maroney, NE (Bye: 5): Will get the bulk of the carries, although Bill Parcells will spread the ball around. He’s got the talent to be a top back, as long as he doesn’t fumble the ball. Big if by the way.
40. Cadillac Williams, TB (Bye: 4): He’s the starter in Tampa, for now. Remember, health is always in issue here.
41. Darren Sproles, SD (Bye: 10): Mathews is a rookie, and will eventually falter. Sproles will be there to pick up the carries. Plus, he’ll get plenty of work in the return game.
42. Arian Foster, HOU (Bye: 7): One of three running backs could capture this job (Foster, Ben Tate, Steve Slaton). Slaton is recovering from a neurological injury, and word out of camp is that Tate has been inconsistent. Foster rushed for 216 yards and three scores as the featured back in the last two weeks. The big question is whether Foster can remain healthy.
43. Chester Taylor, CHI (Bye: 8): The Bears have 12.5 million reasons to get Taylor involved in the offense.
44. Kevin Smith, DET (Bye: 7): Jahvid Best has a long history of injuries, and Smith will leap at a chance to reclaim his starting job.
45. Willis McGahee, BAL (Bye: 8): See ‘Ray Rice.’
46. Ahmad Bradshaw, NYG (Bye: 8): The best Giants rusher last season. The New York brass won’t hesitate to insert Bradshaw if Jacobs falters.
47. Montario Hardesty, CLE (Bye: 8): Despite Jerome Harrison’s impressive end of the season, no one knows if he can do it for a full 16 games. Hardesty is a big, powerful, one-cut back who fits in well with the Browns’ new system.
48. Tim Hightower, ARI (Bye: 6): Hightower came down with an unfortunate case of fumblitis the last few seasons. Still an elite pass catcher out of the backfield.
49. Correll Buckhalter, DEN (Bye: 9): Outplayed first round pick Moreno last season. The Broncos want to feature Knowshon this season, but Buckhalter is still a reliable back.
50. Leon Washington, SEA (Bye: 5): Keep an eye out for Washington, who’s arguably the most talented back on the Seahawks. He has added value as a kick returner as well.
Deep Sleepers: Derrick Ward (TB), Ben Tate & Steve Slaton (HOU), Tashard Choice (DAL), Marshawn Lynch (BUF), Anthony Dixon (SF), Toby Gerhart (MIN), Joe McKnight (NYJ)
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This post was written by Stephen on August 11, 2010