by Jared Smola
The 2012 fantasy football season is in the books. We saw Adrian Peterson turn in a mind-boggling 2,000-yard season less than a year after completely shredding his knee. Calvin Johnson shattered the single-season receiving yards record. And rookie QBs Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson took the league by storm.
But that stuff is in the past now. It’s time to start looking ahead to the 2013 fantasy football season.
Here’s an early look at fantasy’s top 10 heading into the new campaign. These aren’t necessarily the guys who will make up our top 10 at DraftSharks.com — we’ll spend all offseason working on our rankings. Instead, this is a list of the 10 players likely to come off the board first in 2013 fantasy football drafts.
AP out-scored the next best RB by 45 fantasy points. His 1,677 rushing yards over his final 11 games were more than any other player accumulated in 16. Of course, Peterson’s 2,097 total rushing yards were just 8 shy of the all-time record. And he did it less than a year after tearing the ACL and MCL in his left knee. Here’s the scary part: AP could be even better in 2013 with that injury further in his rear-view mirror. It’ll be tough to argue against him as the #1 pick in fantasy drafts.
Foster’s 17 total TDs were tops among all RBs this past year. He also led the league and set a career high with 351 carries. And it’s a good thing — because his 4.0 yards per carry and 5.4 yards per catch averages were both the worst marks of his career. Is Foster wearing down? It’s definitely something to ponder this offseason. But as the clear-cut lead back on a run-first offense, Foster figures to get the benefit of the doubt in 2013 fantasy drafts.
Rice’s 318 total touches last year were his fewest since his 2008 rookie campaign. But he still managed to finish among the top 6 fantasy RBs for the 3rd time in the past 4 seasons. A do-it-all back who’s still only 26 years old, Rice is a relatively safe pick at the top of drafts. The biggest issue is just how much work Bernard Pierce will siphon away.
You could make the argument that this guy was the top rookie in fantasy football. Martin averaged a juicy 4.6 yards per carry and 9.6 yards per catch. He popped in 12 TDs and finished 2nd in the league with 1,926 total yards. Among RBs, only Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster finished with more fantasy points. Martin has fresh legs, is only 24 years old, and is playing in a run-first offense. He deserves to go in the top half of the first round in 2013 fantasy drafts.
Beast Mode built on his huge 2011 season to set a new career high with 1,590 rushing yards this past year. His 5.0 yards per carry average was also a personal best. Lynch can thank Russell Wilson, who opened up the offense with the read-option. The entire offense should be even better in 2013. And Lynch is still only 26 years old.
Johnson will certainly be the first non-RB off the board in fantasy drafts this summer. And he might go even higher than this. In the past 2 seasons, Megatron has scored 16 TDs and then set an NFL record with 1,964 receiving yards. Imagine if he puts those two together in 2013…
A consensus top 3 fantasy pick last summer, McCoy was a colossal bust. He missed 4 games with a concussion and finished just 11th among RBs in fantasy points per game. Shady’s TDs plummeted from 20 in 2011 to 5 this past year. And his 4.2 yards per carry average was his worst mark since his 2009 rookie campaign. That all figures to have McCoy coming at a discount in 2013. His upside remains sky-high, especially in new head coach Chip Kelly’s high-octane offense.
He was overshadowed by Adrian Peterson, but Charles’ return from last year’s torn ACL was mighty impressive in its own right. His 284 carries and 1,513 rushing yards were both career highs. Charles’ 5.3 yards per carry average was his worst mark since 2008, but that still ranked 3rd among RBs with at least 75 carries. Charles has finished as a top 8 fantasy RB in each of his last 2 healthy seasons. New HC Andy Reid should have tons of fun with the multi-talented back. Reid has made fantasy studs out of Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy.
Not much went right in this guy’s rookie season. Richardson underwent knee surgery in August, broke multiple ribs in October, and suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 16. Despite all that, he finished 9th among RBs in fantasy points. T-Rich was a workhorse, averaging over 21 touches per game. He should be busy again in 2013. And a healthy Richardson is a safe bet to average much better than the 3.6 yards per carry he did this past season.
Rodgers tossed for 4,303 yards, 39 TDs, and just 8 INTs in 2012. And that was considered a down year! A-Rodg has finished as a top 2 fantasy QB in 5 straight seasons. That type of reliability is extremely valuable. Rodgers is still in his prime at 29 years old. And with a tantalizing combination of arm talent, athleticism, and supporting cast, he’s a good bet to be the first QB off the board in 2013 fantasy drafts.