Memorial Day weekend remains one of the best weekends on the sports calendar. You’ve got the NBA Conference finals, Stanley Cup Playoffs, junior hockey’s Memorial Cup, the Indianapolis 500, the NASCAR 600, Monaco Formula One race, college baseball and college softball playoffs – the list goes on.
But it is never too early to do a quick fantasy football mock draft. The people who run a little television network in Bristol, Conn. figured out long ago that talking about the NFL is a big business on a 365/24/7 basis.
With that, here is my very early two-round mock draft for a standard 12-team fantasy football league. And that adage you heard from the NFL draft about the early-round running back being a dying breed? You won’t see that play out in the first round of fantasy football mocks this year.
1. Adrian Peterson (RB-Minnesota Vikings)
All of my picks last year were late first-round/early second-round, and I blew it on every single one. Most mocks were hedging their bets and had Purple Jesus going late in the second round. I wish I had just ignored the ADP charts and rolled the dice on Peterson just once.
If you’re going to have AP this year you best have the No. 1 overall pick, barring something unforeseen he will go first in almost every draft.
2. Arian Foster (RB-Houston Texans)
Has anyone noticed all the great running backs to come out of the San Diego area over the years? Marcus Allen, Ricky Williams, and now Arian Foster. And I have to give Foster credit for having more staying power than I thought he would. This is the third year he has been a top pick, and only falls to No. 2 this year thanks to Peterson.
In his past 45 games, Foster has averaged 120 total yards per game with 47 touchdowns. At age 27, he still has at least one good elite year left in him. As I have said in the past two years, you might still want to handcuff him with No. 2 back Ben Tate, just in case.
3. Doug Martin (RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Fantasy football has now been a staple since the late 1980s. In those 25-plus years, has their ever been a Tampa Bay player drafted this high?
Martin is a consensus third pick since he figures to do more heavy lifting than some of the other backs on the board. And those who suggested that Martin would fare better than fellow first-round pick Trent Richardson as a rookie ended up being right.
One concern I do have on Martin is that if you take away his ridiculous 251-yard, four touchdown game against the Raiders, his rookie numbers suddenly become more pedestrian.
4. Calvin Johnson (WR, Detroit Lions)
The debates will begin after the top three picks. Picking late-first in my drafts last year, I was unable to snag Megatron for any of my squads. I like Johnson this high based on the scarcity of elite players at his position. There may be more quality receivers than running backs in the mid-rounds, but Johnson is in a class by himself at his position. Once you get by Johnson, the rest of the wide receiver field (A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones, and others) should be available in Round 2.
After catching 122 passes and pushing 2,000 yards receiving last year, Megatron is currently at his peak. He only score five times last year, but after 28 scores in the previous two seasons I consider that an aberration.
5. Marshawn Lynch (RB-Seattle Seahawks)
Lynch was as consistent as anyone last year. Including the playoffs, The Beast rushed for over 100 yards in nine of his final 12 contests. Lynch has a punishing running style and I have mild concerns that he might be one year past his peak. Still, you should get a solid performance from him each week and not too many eight carry, 17-yard clunkers.
6. Ray Rice (RB-Baltimore Ravens)
In PPR formats, Rice remains an elite fantasy player, and you might even want to put him up another slot or two in the PPR game. Rice’s regular season workload went down slightly last year, but he is still only 26 so I would not worry about the odometer just yet.
7. Alfred Morris (RB-Washington Redskins)
I cannot argue against 335 carries, 1,600-plus yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie. But historically Shanahan running backs have a history of having very short shelf lives. Morris also gets shoved down a slot or two in PPR formats, since he is a Michael Turner-like non-factor in the pass game.
8. LeSean McCoy (RB-Philadelphia Eagles)
A top-three overall pick last year, McCoy’s stock will be down somewhat this year after missing some time and scoring only five times in 2012, after 20 touchdowns in 2011. Write off the Eagles awful season last year, at age 25 LeSean should bounce back.
9. Jamaal Charles (RB-Kansas City Chiefs)
Great back if you love the home run. He came back from a torn ACL to have a 1,500-plus yard season despite being on the worst team in the league. But if you’re league heavily rewards touchdowns knock Charles down into Round 2, despite rushing for nearly 3,000 yards in 2010 and 2012, he only scored 14 times in those seasons combined.
10. Aaron Rodgers (QB-Green Bay Packers)
You cannot argue about the raw statistics. Rodgers’ 84 touchdowns against only 14 interceptions over the last two years is nothing short of historic. The problem is you know Packers fan is going to be in the draft room, and will select Rodgers at No. 5 or No. 6. I have Rodgers slightly down this year only because there are other options at the position, and he is not head and shoulders above the field like recent seasons.
11. C.J. Spiller (RB-Buffalo Bills)
In the first two weeks of 2012, Spiller emerged as a top-tier running back but got hurt the following week in Cleveland. Spiller wound up averaging 6.0 yards per carry for the year, but is not a heavy-duty back yet. Still, I like him this high because of his game-breaking ability and the fact that he’s a factor in the passing game.
12. Trent Richardson (RB-Cleveland Browns)
It was somewhat of a checkered rookie campaign for T-Rich. The good: 267 carries, 51 receptions, and 12 scores. The bad: A pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry. The ugly: Richardson is already getting a bit of an injury rap and has missed some of the Browns OTAs this offseason. For the late first-round though he’s a solid pick. That makes it 10 running backs out of the first 12 selections.
13. Drew Brees (QB-New Orleans Saints)
The quarterback run starts in earnest right about here. Statistically, Brees even goes slightly higher than Rodgers over the past two years, throwing for over 5,000 yards twice with 89 touchdowns in the past two seasons. I have Rodgers slightly higher here only because Brees is slightly older.
If you are drafting 12th and 13th in your league you should do quite well this year.
14. A.J. Green (WR-Cincinnati Bengals)
The receiving run starts here as well. Going up from 65 catches and 1,000-plus yards and seven scores in Year One to 97 catches, 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, Green is on a path to reach Megatron-like status this year. If you value receivers, you might even want to go with him late Round 1, since there should still be a good back available at No. 14.
15. Julio Jones (WR-Atlanta Falcons)
Also in year three, Jones’ progression is just slightly behind that of Green, and then there was that first quarter of the NFC Championship game. If I could get Jones or Green early in Round 2 I would be very happy.
16. Dez Bryant (WR-Dallas Cowboys)
After fighting the dreaded underachiever tag during his first couple of seasons, Bryant broke out in the final eight games of 2012, catching 50 passes for 879 yards and 10 scores. Bryant is right in the argument with Green and Jones as the second-best receiver on the board.
17. Brandon Marshall (WR- Chicago Bears)
The fact that Marshall got his head on straight last year is the most encouraging news of all. Reunited with quarterback Jay Cutler, Marshall caught 118 passes with 11 touchdowns. There won’t be the upside of the three receivers going before him, but he is a solid mid-second round selection.
18. Tom Brady (QB-New England Patriots)
Looking at some early mocks, I see Brady going about a round later. If you’re able to get him in Round 3 that would be a tremendous bargain. With over 10,000 yards passing over the past two seasons with 73 touchdowns against 20 interceptions, Brady is just a half-tick behind Rodgers and Brees. Even as a 36-year-old, Brady should not fly under the radar.
19. David Wilson (RB-New York Giants)
I put 10 running backs in the first round of my mock because it’s a long drop-off into the second tier. I’m going with Wilson in this slot based on having the most potential to play like a first-round pick this year. Wilson rushed for nearly 250 yards in the final four games of his rookie season. My only concern is that projecting the top running back in Tom Coughlin’s food chain for the entire season can tend to get dicey.
20. Colin Kaepernick (QB-San Francisco 49ers)
One of Jerod Morris’s recent yoga classes was marred last week with news screaming across the bottom line announcing Michael Crabtree’s probable season-ending Achilles injury. The silver lining is that 49ers have three months to sort out their receiving situation before they play for real.
Kaepernick is probably going to be taken much higher in drafts than he should, as he did not really have any monster yardage games in the 2012 regular season. Of course if he can sprinkle a couple of paranormal stat-lines like he did during the Divisional Playoff game against Green Bay (181 yards rushing), then he could single-handedly carry a fantasy team.
21. Robert Griffin III (QB-Washington Redskins)
This year’s Adrian Peterson scenario. In a world where nothing happens to his knee at the end of last season, Griffin is a first-round pick and arguably the first QB off the board.
But Griffin is coming off a serious knee injury. All the propaganda suggest Griffin is far ahead of schedule and will be good to go Week 1. But the last time the Adidas hype machine pushed someone who sustained a serious knee injury in the playoffs, things didn’t work so well. Griffin could end up like Peterson and perform like nothing ever happen, or he could be like Derrick Rose and be out far longer than expected.
Obviously Griffin’s final fantasy draft position will hinge on his progress during training camp. By mid-August the picture should be much clearer.
22. Andre Johnson (WR-Houston Texans)
Johnson is going much lower than previous seasons thanks to the infusion of young talent at the position that has now overtaken him. That said, Johnson is coming off one of his best seasons, catching 112 passes for a career-high 1,598 yards. It is the lack of touchdowns that turn off fantasy owners, as he only scored only four times last year and has a pedestrian 56 touchdowns in his 10-year career.
23. Maurice Jones-Drew (RB-Jacksonville Jaguars)
Now for someone potentially on the rebound. Jones-Drew missed the second-half of the 2012 season with a dreaded Lisfranc fracture and just barely cracked the NFL’s Top 100 players for 2013. Just remember that Jones-Drew is only a year removed from a 1,600-yard rushing campaign. I would be a little higher on MJD if he wasn’t on an awful team, but he still has potential to be a first-round type player who should be available in Round 2.
24. Larry Fitzgerald (WR-Arizona Cardinals)
The quarterback carousel of the Cardinals finally caught up with Fitzgerald in 2012, as he wound up with one of the lowest yardage outputs and the lowest touchdown total of his career. I expect a mild rebound with Carson Palmer now in town. Fitzgerald should be a nice bargain this time around.