It is never too early to start thinking about draft day. I tend to not get too wrapped up in draft positions until the season is only a few weeks away. You never really know how it will pan out because of injuries, trades, draft picks and salary negotiations, but it is never too early to just start thinking about it. So come August, this is what my top 12 picks and predictions for the first round would be… part 1 of 2:
1) Arian Foster (RB) - For me, this is a no brainer. The guy is an absolute fantasy monster and he is as consistent as can be at a position that tends to have players that lack consistency. You can bet that Foster will be ringing up about 120 total yards and a touchdown or two almost every game. Foster put up over 1,800 yards and 12 total tds in essentially 12 games last season. If he doesn't get injured in the off-season, his numbers could be closer to 2,300 and 17 tds. I'll gladly take him over Peterson, McCoy and Rice next year. Foster is a PPR god and a fantasy opponents worst nightmare.
Prediction: 2,150 total yards and 17 touchdowns (PPR STUD)
2) LeSean McCoy (RB) - The argument could be made for a number one pick with McCoy. Again I have no real worries here, if I don't have the number one pick and McCoy is on the board when it comes to me, he's mine. This dude is like lightning in a bottle. If you blink, you might miss it; and all that's left is a football field full of players wondering what just happened. In the first 15 weeks of the year, McCoy topped 100 rushing yards 6 times, topped 100 total yards 9 times and scored at least 1 touchdown in every game but one. McCoy ended up with over 1600 yards and a staggering 20 tds. I don't know if you can expect the same touchdown total from him, but more than 1600 total yards and a td per game is a definite possibility for 2012.
Prediction: 1,750 total yards and 16 touchdowns (PPR STUD)
3) Aaron Rodgers (QB) - The 2011 MVP had a huge year and carried many teams that were lucky enough or smart enough to grab him. Rodgers put up 4,600 passing yards, 45 passing tds, over 250 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. If the Packers hadn't clinched home field, Rodgers probably would have played in the last game of the season and eclipsed 50 total touchdowns on the season and could have been the fourth quarterback in 2011 to reach 5,000 passing yards. Through the whole season, Rodgers never had a game with less than two touchdowns… whoa. He also threw only 6 interceptions all year and had zero fumbles lost. That's as elite as can you could be for a QB and I wouldn't be too surprised to see some people taking him first overall this summer. The Packers took a tough loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, so I expect Rodgers to be on a mission.
Prediction: 4,400 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. 300 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns
4) Ray Rice (RB) - His consistent production and ability to stay on the field two years in a row have put him in conversation of safe/eliete running backs to take in the first round. The only problem I have with Rice is that when he has a bad week, it is a pretty bad week. He had 4 weeks last season that I would consider a bad week for a number one RB, where he didn't reach the 100 yard mark or get a touchdown. But for the weeks he did show up, he showed up big. The addition of Vonta Leach really helped Ray Rice put up solid fantasy numbers, which rewarded the fantasy owners who took him ahead of Chris Johnson and Jamaal Charles. He ended up with over 2000 total yards and landed 15 touchdowns last season, while avoiding any type of major injury. I expect more of the same for next season.
Prediction: 2,000 total yards and 14 touchdowns (PPR STUD)
5) Drew Brees (QB) - What a year Drew Brees had this past season. He broke Dan Marino's single-season passing record and ended up with 5,476 yards on the season. If it weren't for Rodgers' low interception total, Brees probably would have been a shoe-in for MVP. He threw for 46 touchdowns and added 1 by rush. Brees, like Rodgers, kept many teams afloat this season. He threw 4 or more touchdowns in 5 games this season. It is tough to overcome an opponent who puts up 4 tds and 350 yards on you. I don't know if these numbers can be matched, but with the NFL transforming into a more pass happy league, I wouldn't be surprised to see him putting up similar numbers and being worthy of a top 5 pick.
Prediction: 4,500 passing yards, 40 touchdowns and 15 interceptions
6) Adrian Peterson (RB) - It was unfortunate to see AP get injured after his season got off to such a good start. Fantasy owners who took him first overall were in good shape going into week 11 this past season. In the 9 games he played in before he got injured, he had totaled up about 850 rushing yards, over 100 receiving yards and 11 total tds. I know you can't play the "what if" game, but if Peterson hadn't gotten injured he could have ended up with 18 or 19 total tds and close to 1,800 total yards. Injuries are a part of the game, especially at the running back position, so taking AP has a little more risk now than it used to. He still has a great upside and grabbing him outside the top 5 could end up being a great pick.
Prediction: 1,600 total yards and 15 total touchdowns (INJURY RISK)
CHECK BACK FOR PART 2...