For the majority of leagues, the 2011 fantasy football season is over. But because fantasy sports are as addicting as some sort of mystical combination of sex and cocaine, many of you are surely already thinking about what to do in the first round of next year’s draft.
So let’s talk first overall picks.
Early this century, it was Marshall Faulk. Then it was Priest Holmes, followed by Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson. The last few years, it’s been either Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson.
Since fantasy football became a sports juggernaut in the early in the 21st century, there has almost always been a consensus top fantasy pick.
But 2012 might be the first year in which there’s nothing close to a clear-cut No. 1 overall pick. While Peterson and Johnson have jockeyed for the honor in recent seasons, they’re probably both out of the running this upcoming summer.
Peterson had a decent 2011 campaign, but injuries got the best of him and now his status for the start of 2012 is in jeopardy after he suffered a major knee injury Saturday.
Johnson has simply been a terrible disappointment. Despite starting in all 15 games this year, the 26-year-old is still shy of the 1,000-yard plateau. He doesn’t have the same burst that made him a 2,000-yard rusher in 2009 and a surefire top fantasy pick in 2010.
Neither Johnson nor Peterson should be considered top picks anymore, and no one has emerged this season to take their spots.
Several other players that merited first-round consideration this past summer have also lost momentum this season. Jamaal Charles and Darren McFadden have dealt with season-destroying injuries, while Arian Foster and Michael Turner have seen their numbers drop off.
Still, expect more than a few bold and/or bewildered fantasy owners to roll the dice on either Charles or McFadden or Foster or even Johnson or Peterson to kick off their fantasy drafts come August.
Those more qualified and/or less audacious fantasy participants will probably go with either Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy or Matt Forte. McCoy, who’s been a touchdown machine, trails only Jones-Drew in rushing yards. He’s been the top fantasy performer at the running back position in all formats this season. But Forte wasn’t far behind him before suffering a season-ending injury early in Week 13. Ray Rice, who leads all backs with nearly 700 yards receiving and, like Jones-Drew, has been a consistent threat for several years now, might also get some consideration.
Like Peterson and Johnson, Jones-Drew will be 27 when the 2012 season begins. In running back terms, that’s not young. Forte will be 26 and Rice will be 25.
But McCoy will only be 24, which should further help his case to become the league’s most dangerous fantasy weapon in 2012.
If we had to guess right now, we’d predict that McCoy will emerge as the top pick, but it’ll be further than ever from a consensus next year. Here’s our very early first-round mock draft:
1. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
2. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
3. Matt Forte, Bears
4. Ray Rice, Ravens
5. Arian Foster, Texans
6. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
7. Cam Newton, Panthers
8. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
9. Darren McFadden, Raiders
10. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
11. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
12. Frank Gore, 49ers