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Lessons learned from Round 1

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Think back to the first round of your draft last season. Chances are there were a number of quarterbacks picked, a change from previous seasons when running backs dominated. Last year's class of rushers didn't include a lot of elite choices, leaving owners with the conundrum of taking a chance on a back with some downside or going with a quarterback considered by most to be "safe."

As it turned out, going with the quarterback over the running back was a wise move. The consensus Top 3 quarterbacks finished as the three best Fantasy passers in 2012 and set up as the top gunslingers in 2013. But a change in the quality of running backs around the NFL should bring that position back into focus in Round 1 this summer, pushing down the pressure to pick a passer in Round 1.

Take a look at the Top 12 players picked overall in 2012 drafts, and expect most of them to not repeat as first-rounders in 2013 drafts.

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Arian Foster, RB, Texans
2012 ADP: 1.86 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 1,355 rush yards, 10 rush TDs; 431 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs
Actual 2012 Statistics: 1,424 rush yards, 15 rush TDs; 217 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs
There was little concern Foster wouldn't deliver quality production in 2012, making him worthy of the top pick in drafts. But there might be some concern heading into 2013 after he had 351 regular-season carries and another 32 in the Texans' win in the first round of the postseason. Through 17, games Foster has totaled 383 totes and 48 catches (431 touches), and with 17 handoffs against the Patriots, Foster will have eclipsed 400 carries over the course of 18 games and five months. That's a mighty large workload -- even with Foster entering next season at just 27 years old, there could be a chance he breaks down. Expectations remain high for Foster but now more than ever drafting Ben Tate with a seventh- or eighth-round pick is a must for those who spend a very early pick on Foster. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 1-5 overall

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
2012 ADP: 2.31 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 5,146 passing yards, 38 TDs, 11 INTs; 261 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs
Actual 2012 Statistics: 4,295 passing yards, 39 TDs, 8 INTs; 259 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs
Did Rodgers deliver on expectations as a first-round pick? Definitely -- he finished as the second-highest point getter in all of Fantasy Football, despite having seven games with 19 or fewer Fantasy points in standard leagues (most among the Top 5 quarterbacks). But that doesn't necessarily make him worthy of a first-round pick again in 2013. Rodgers' position is the deepest in Fantasy for owners in leagues with 12 or fewer teams and the feeling is that everyone will have at least a good Fantasy starter. That pushes down the demand to get a quarterback, even a stud like Rodgers. He'll still be among the best at his position thanks to the Packers' pass heavy offense and quality receiving corps, but it won't take such an early pick to get him (unless you really, really want him) this summer. There are simply too many very promising running back options to go with instead. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 10-15 overall

Ray Rice, RB, Ravens
2012 ADP: 3.51 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 1,280 rush yards, 8 rush TDs; 525 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs
Actual 2012 Statistics: 1,143 rush yards, 9 rush TDs; 478 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Considered a Top 3 pick before the season, Rice met expectations with another season with 1,500 total yards and double-digit touchdowns, but he didn't dazzle like he did the previous season. In 2011, he had over 2,000 total yards and 15 total touchdowns and Fantasy owners were hoping for a repeat in 2012. Nonetheless he finished as a Top 10 rusher, justifying his draft position. He'll remain a first-round pick but isn't a cinch for the second- or third-overall choice in 2013. Bernard Pierce could creep into a role next season that could keep Rice to about the same amount of work he just had and the offense is sure to continue to tinker with its pass attack. Still, Rice remains the constant and should fall into at least 300-plus touches for the fourth year in a row. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 3-10 overall

LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles
2012 ADP: 4.59 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 1,251 rush yards, 11 rush TDs; 349 receiving yards, 4 receiving TDs
Actual 2012 Statistics: 840 rush yards, 2 rush TDs; 373 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD
My expectations for McCoy were huge in 2012, frankly because I believed the Eagles would be a Super Bowl contender. So I'm an idiot for thinking the Eagles could contend for a title, but the lofty McCoy projections were harpooned by injuries to the Eagles offensive line and to McCoy himself. Yet he still found a way to total over 1,200 yards in 12 games, posting 10-plus Fantasy points in 10 of those games. That's pretty good consistency. As of this writing we don't know who will coach up the Philly offense but whoever it is will see McCoy as a must-use option. Someone like Bryce Brown could get in the mix to help out the ground game, but McCoy isn't expected to lose his grasp on the running back job there. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 6-12 overall

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
2012 ADP: 5.00 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 5,155 passing yards, 43 TDs, 17 INTs; 77 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
Actual 2012 Statistics: 4,827 passing yards, 34 TDs, 8 INTs; 32 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs
Brady continued to do what he has always done: put up numbers. But the numbers didn't come close to what we saw in his amazing 2011 season. A slight dip in his completion percentage and yards per attempt could be attributed to a number of factors, but the biggest bummer that hurt Brady was the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski from Weeks 12-16. Sure, Brady had a three-score game and a four-score game while Gronk was out, but he also had a pair of one-TD games. By comparison, he had three games with one passing touchdown in the 10 games he had before Gronk was hurt this year and two games all last year with Gronkowski. There's no question Brady will remain a sure-fire Fantasy stud but with the position deep and everyone in every league figuring to land a great quarterback, he'll be a bargain for Round 2. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 14-20 overall

Drew Brees, QB, Saints
2012 ADP: 6.13 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 5,250 passing yards, 41 TDs, 17 INTs; 40 rushing yards
Actual 2012 Statistics: 5,177 passing yards, 43 TDs, 19 INTs; 5 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD
Brees was awesome. He scored 20-plus Fantasy points in 12 of 16 games and 30-plus Fantasy points in six contests, including the last three to end the season. He's finished as a Top 2 Fantasy quarterback four of the last five years (he was sixth in 2010) -- that's the kind of consistency a Fantasy owner can dig into. And here's the kicker: Brees managed over 5,000 yards and 43 touchdowns while taking a huge dip in completion percentage (down to 63.0 pct. from 71.2 pct.) and yards per attempt (down to 7.73 from 8.33). With his favorite targets still on the roster along with a couple of up-and-coming players in Joe Morgan and Nick Toon joining into the mix, there's a very good chance Brees will once again be dominant in Fantasy. We won't recommend taking a quarterback with a first-round pick in standard leagues with 12 teams or less, but if you must take one, Brees is it. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 10-15 overall

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
2012 ADP: 7.71 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 90 catches, 1,425 yards, 15 TDs
Actual 2012 Statistics: 122 catches, 1,964 yards, 5 TDs
Madden curse my foot! Johnson battled through a knee injury to set the NFL single-season record for receiving yards. His touchdown output was obviously disappointing but he had a number of receptions end just short of the goal line and many more opportunities to score limited by tight coverage. That's a trend that might continue, but so will the number of targets he'll get from Matthew Stafford. He had 204 in 2012 and at least 130 targets each of his last four seasons. No one doubts Johnson as the top receiver in Fantasy but in order for him to be worth a first-round pick in drafts owners must believe he'll continue to produce like a running back. To that end, he did by finishing tied for sixth among all non-quarterbacks in 2012 (standard scoring leagues) after winding up third in 2011. If you happen to like the depth at running backs toward the top of drafts you might find yourself considering Megatron with a first-round pick only to take a running back in Rounds 2 and 3. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 11-16 overall

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans
2012 ADP: 8.24 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 1,237 rush yards, 7 rush TDs; 336 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD
Actual 2012 Statistics: 1,243 rush yards, 6 rush TDs; 232 receiving yards
Inconsistent as he might have appeared, Johnson did have 100 total yards and at least one touchdown in four games and double-digit Fantasy points in another four games. But those other eight games were disappointing and it made him the quintessential boom-or-bust running back, posting under 10 Fantasy points in eight matchups. If there's good news it's that the Titans leaned on Johnson a bit more in 2012 than in '11, giving him 20 or more touches in nine games compared to six last year. And in those 15 combined games with 20 or more touches, Johnson posted 10-plus Fantasy points in 12 of them. So the thinking is that so long as Johnson can keep getting a healthy workload in Tennessee he'll be productive. Thing is there's no guarantee of that, so long as Jake Locker is under center: In 10 games where Locker played much or all of a game, Johnson had three games with double-digit Fantasy points and five games with 20-plus touches. Johnson's potential is obvious and the Titans' promise of paying him a guaranteed $10 million roster bonus this offseason suggests they're still committed to him, but until Locker improves the going could remain unstable for CJ1k. That will make him tough to trust with a top pick. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 15-20 overall

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders
2012 ADP: 9.74 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 1,138 rush yards, 7 rush TDs; 367 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs
Actual 2012 Statistics: 707 rush yards, 2 rush TDs; 258 receiving yards, receiving TD
McFadden was a nightmare in 2012. Injuries cost him four games and part of another, but the real problem he had involved working in the Raiders' new rushing scheme behind an offensive line that had a hard time opening holes for him. Between McFadden's inability to adjust and the line not helping out, his whole season was a mess, save for a few games where he either broke free for a long run or was force-fed carries and grinded his way to 100 total yards (a mark he hit just four times). McFadden had 10-plus Fantasy points in half of his 12 games but wasn't even a Top 24 rusher when the season was over; Danny Woodhead out-produced him through 17 weeks by one point. McFadden enters a contract year in 2013 but the Raiders can't honestly look at him as a franchise back any longer. Expect him to split reps this coming season and not have the enormous potential for big numbers that he once had. It will make him no better than a No. 2 running back in drafts. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 35-40 overall

Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
2012 ADP: 11.93 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 4,522 passing yards, 39 TDs, 16 INTs; 68 rushing yards
Actual 2012 Statistics: 4,967 passing yards, 20 TDs, 17 INTs; 126 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs
Stafford set an NFL record with 727 pass attempts in 2012, but it came with disappointing results. He completed just 59.8 percent of those attempts for 6.83 yards per throw, numbers that were down precipitously from 2011. Of course, all of his numbers were down from 2011 thanks to a lack of end-zone connections with Calvin Johnson along with a revolving door of supporting receivers. Last season Johnson accounted for 16 touchdowns, the other Lions receivers scored nine times, the tight ends kicked in 11 touchdowns and the running backs caught five scores. This season, Johnson led the Lions with five touchdowns and his fellow wideouts picked up a bit of the slack with a combined 11 TDs while tight ends slowed down to register five and running backs scored once. It's clear the Lions don't mind having Stafford throw again and again, and having a weapon like Johnson will only help his numbers. Bank on the Lions solving their supporting cast issues this offseason along with another upgrade along the offensive line to help Stafford's numbers bounce back in 2013. He's still viewed as a No. 1 quarterback, just not one worth a Top 25 pick. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 50-55 overall

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys
2012 ADP: 13.93 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 1,113 rush yards, 7 rush TDs; 367 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs
Actual 2012 Statistics: 663 rush yards, 4 rush TDs; 251 receiving yards
It shouldn't have surprised anyone to see Murray hurt his foot against the Ravens in Week 6 and miss six games. Murray has been injury prone going back to his days in college. But in the 10 games he did play, Murray delivered at least 10 Fantasy points in five of them and at least 70 total yards in all but one of them. It goes without saying he's an effective rusher so long as he's on the field, but in two seasons he's missed nine games and questions about his durability won't go away anytime soon. But a big positive is that when he has been healthy, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has had no issues about leaning on him as he had at least 18 touches in seven games. He's really been the only running back under Garrett who has earned such a workload and that should continue on in 2013, so long as he stays healthy. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 17-22 overall

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
2012 ADP: 11.93 overall
Dave's 2012 Projection: 4,024 passing yards, 23 TDs, 16 INTs; 509 rushing yards, 8 rushing TDs
Actual 2012 Statistics: 3,869 passing yards, 19 TDs, 12 INTs; 741 rushing yards, 8 rushing TDs
Newton's first seven games made him the poster boy for the sophomore slump. He topped 20 Fantasy points in just two of those seven while struggling with accuracy and finding scoring chances (just two games with multiple touchdowns). The light went on soon thereafter and he finished his season with incredible numbers, totaling at least two touchdowns in every game from Weeks 12 to 16 with plenty of combined yardage in all but one of those games. According to Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, Newton and the rest of the offense improved on their fundamentals while cutting back on turnovers and other mistakes. It's the kind of improvement that sets the table for a big third season. Expected 2013 ADP: Picks 25-30 overall

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