Adrian Peterson is a lock as the No. 1 overall pick in every Fantasy league next year. He has earned that selection and has no challengers to the throne in 2009.
But picking second is going to be tough. The same goes for third, fourth, fifth and nearly every pick throughout the first round in a standard-scoring, 12-team league.
|There is no doubt who the top pick in 2009 Fantasy drafts will be. (US Presswire)|
Last year, there was a consensus Top 3 with LaDainian Tomlinson, Peterson and Brian Westbrook. Tom Brady was part of the discussion, but the three running backs were the first three players selected in the majority of leagues, according to their average draft position on CBSSports.com.
There's no telling what will happen in 2009. The selections here go Michael Turner second, Maurice Jones-Drew third, DeAngelo Williams fourth and Matt Forte fifth, but it wouldn't be a surprise if Tomlinson, Westbrook, Frank Gore and Marion Barber went ahead of all those players.
You won't see any quarterbacks or wide receivers in my first round. I'd settle for Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or Tony Romo in the second round because the running backs have better value in my opinion. If I miss on those quarterbacks, I can always take Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan later, among others.
And at wide receiver, I love Andre Johnson as the No. 1 player at his position, but there's also enough value in other players like Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Reggie Wayne, Terrell Owens, Brandon Marshall, Steve Smith and Roddy White to wait. You can still get one or two stud receivers in Round 2 or later.
Lynch would be a top pick in the second round because I don't know how much better he will get than what he already is. With Portis, the mess in Washington with Jim Zorn is a concern, and I'm worried about Portis' wear and tear even though he's only 27. And Addai has proven he is a second-round pick and not worth taking any higher going into 2009.
Obviously, a lot will change between now and next summer when we start drafting for the 2009 season. But based on what has happened this year and what could happen next season, this is how a potential first round might look.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota
Fantasy Fact: Peterson leads the NFL in rushing despite no 200-yard games and four games with less than 100 yards in 2008.
Analysis: It's obvious that Peterson is going to be the No. 1 player taken in every Fantasy league in 2009. He was even a potential No. 1 overall selection in 2008 and has lived up to the billing by leading the NFL in rushing yards coming into Week 16 and closing in on double digits in touchdowns. Peterson is an explosive player in an offense catered to his skills with a solid offensive line. If the quarterback play improves in Minnesota next year, Peterson would only get better with less focus from opposing defenses. Peterson will be a candidate for 2,000 total yards every season.
2. Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta
Fantasy Fact: Turner has almost as many multiple-touchdown games (four) as he does receptions (six) for the season.
Analysis: Entering Week 16, Turner is the No. 1 Fantasy running back in a standard-scoring league. It would be nice to see him catch the ball more, but Turner has proven he can run for 200 yards in a game and score multiple touchdowns. The offense in Atlanta is only going to improve as Matt Ryan continues to develop, and Turner will be a candidate for 1,500 rushing yards and double digits in touchdowns every season. He has made a smooth transition from LaDainian Tomlinson's backup to the Falcons' starter and should be even better in 2009.
3. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville
Fantasy Fact: Jones-Drew has scored a touchdown (38 total) in eight out of every 10 games (46) he's played in his career.
Analysis: Jones-Drew has been a solid Fantasy option since his rookie year in 2006, but he was never given the majority of carries the past three seasons with Fred Taylor still in the mix. But now it appears like Taylor will not return to the Jaguars next season, which should open the door for Jones-Drew to become a star. He is an accomplished receiver and has proven he can find the end zone. If the rushing yards follow as expected, Jones-Drew could be the best running back in Fantasy Football. He will enter 2009 with the chance to reach 2,000 total yards for the season.
4. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina
Fantasy Fact: Williams' start percentage on CBSSports.com went from 11 percent in Week 3 to 96 percent in Week 15.
Analysis: The concern for Williams and owners who draft him in 2009 is rookie Jonathan Stewart, but Williams proved he can exist with Stewart and still shine. Williams is knocking on the door of leading all running backs in Fantasy production in 2008, but that was with Stewart fighting toe and heel injuries all season. Still, Williams will remain the starter next season and get the majority of touches. With Carolina's offensive line among the best in the league, Williams will continue to produce outstanding results, and he should rush for about 1,500 yards and reach double digits in touchdowns.
5. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago
Fantasy Fact: Forte is the only running back to lead his team in rushing yards and receptions this season.
Analysis: In leagues where receptions count, Forte is the best running back in Fantasy Football. He has proven to be a dual threat and has no one to challenge him for carries in 2009. The Bears offensive line should remain stout next year, and if the quarterback play gets better, Forte will continue to benefit. The one area Forte needs to improve is scoring in the red zone, but he should remain in double digits in touchdowns for most of his career because of his receiving ability. In a loaded rookie class, Forte has quietly had the best year.
6. Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia
Fantasy Fact: Westbrook leads all running backs entering Week 16 with five receiving touchdowns.
Analysis: Westbrook will turn 30 next season, which will scare some owners off, but he remains a 2,000-total yard candidate and scored a career-high 14 touchdowns already this year heading into Week 16. The Eagles might have some turnover this offseason with coach Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, which could alter Westbrook's Fantasy value, but he has at least one more good season left before you should be scared off. In leagues where receptions count, Westbrook could remain a Top 5 Fantasy option, but in all formats he should finish in the Top 10 once again.
7. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
Fantasy Fact: Gore needs eight more catches in his final two games to reach his third-straight year with at least 50 grabs.
Analysis: Gore is a safe Fantasy option because he will give you over 1,000 yards rushing, over 400 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in a down season. In a good year, as Gore proved in 2006, he can reach 2,000 total yards and come close to 10 touchdowns. The 49ers appear headed in the right direction with Mike Singletary as coach and Shaun Hill at quarterback, and Gore will benefit with more playmakers on offense. It also helps that he plays in a weak NFC West division with Arizona, St. Louis and Seattle, three teams that struggle to stop the run.
8. Marion Barber, RB, Dallas
Fantasy Fact: Barber needs one more touchdown to reach three-straight years with at least 10 scores.
Analysis: The positives for Barber are he is a good source of touchdowns and has proven he can be a solid receiver out of the backfield. He will remain the starter in 2009 and should get the majority of touches. The negatives for Barber are the emergence of Felix Jones early in the season and Tashard Choice in recent weeks. Both running backs will cut into Barber's production next season. Barber also struggled in his first season as the starter, but he remains too good of a Fantasy option not to take in the Top 10. You know he will score at least 10 touchdowns and reach at least 1,200 total yards.
9. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis
Fantasy Fact: Jackson needs 226 yards in his final two games for his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season.
Analysis: If Jackson can stay healthy he would be a Top 5 Fantasy draft pick in all leagues. He missed four games this season while battling injuries and four games in 2007. But he remains a candidate for 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns when healthy. The Rams need a complete overhaul, but Jackson will remain the focal point on offense. You might be afraid to draft him in the Top 10, but he could reward you with a big season if he plays 16 games. And, like Frank Gore, he plays in the NFC West, where the three other teams struggle to defend the run.
10. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego
Fantasy Fact: Tomlinson needs one more touchdown and 76 more rushing yards for his eighth-straight season with at least 10 scores and 1,000 yards.
Analysis: Age, injuries and poor blocking have contributed to Tomlinson having the worst season of his career, but he's not through yet. The Chargers will have an easier schedule next year, and Tomlinson's offensive line should get better. You still have to worry about wear and tear since he'll be 30 in 2009, but he should still reach 1,200 total yards and 10 touchdowns. You also have to figure he'll be motivated following this disappointing season. Tomlinson could be a steal toward the end of the first round. It's not like the Chargers are giving up on him, and you shouldn't either. Not yet at least.
11. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee
Fantasy Fact: Johnson was drafted as the No. 37 running back in 2008, according to his average draft position on CBSSports.com.
Analysis: Johnson has a chance to be the next Brian Westbrook because of his speed and ability to catch the ball. He's only going to improve in 2009 and should be a definite first-round draft pick. The only downside for Johnson is every time the Titans get near the goal line LenDale White will continue to steal touchdowns. It will also be interesting to see how Johnson does in a full season with Vince Young at quarterback, since he's expected to return next year. Still, Johnson is the best player in Tennessee and should remain the focal point of the offense.
12. Steve Slaton, RB, Houston
Fantasy Fact: Slaton's start percentage on CBSSports.com went from 1 percent in Week 1 to 94 percent in Week 8.
Analysis: No player has improved his value more throughout the course of the season than Slaton, which is why he gets the nod here over Marshawn Lynch and Clinton Portis. The Texans offense is only going to improve in 2009, but Slaton has already shown he can run on some of the top defenses in the NFL. He's also a good receiver out of the backfield, and the AFC South is pretty porous against the run, especially Indianapolis and Jacksonville. Slaton will finish this season with 1,500 total yards and 10 touchdowns in limited work and should reach those totals next year as well.
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