Editor's Note: These are not our official 2012 fantasy football rankings. These are only the opinion of Tom.
Playing fantasy football is kind of like playing the stock market. Some people would rather go safe and pick a stock that you know will be steady and reliable, but probably won't make you rich. Other people like to go after those risky stocks, the ones that can either make or break you. Sometimes you have to put some faith in a risky player if you want to win a championship. With the amount of external variables that can put a kink in a player's health and performance, you would be silly to assume that that anyone is invincible. Some of these following players come with a history of letting people down, but in order to hit it big, you've got to have a little faith.
7) Tom Brady (QB) – Taking quarterbacks early is no longer first round follies. Over the past few seasons, quarterbacks have proven to be more consistent and valuable than running backs that are projected to give you top 10 value. You know what you're getting with Brady, quality and consistent weeks from your quarterback. Will he throw 5200 yards and have 42 total touchdowns again? The odds are that he probably won't. But Tom Brady is a competitor and you have got to expect him to come out a possessed man after losing to the Giants for the second time in the Superbowl. Rodgers, Brees and Brady are probably the safest picks in the draft; if you get the chance to snag any of them, be thankful and pull the trigger.
Projections: 4,500 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
8) Maurice Jones-Drew (RB) – MoJo is a great fantasy back. He tends not to miss games and he contributes rushing and receiving stats. Last year he quietly put up 11 total touchdowns and 1,980 total yards. For a long time he was the type of back that would have break out games but would also leave you with a couple duds, which can really be frustrating. This past year he finally became a consistent fantasy threat that you could really count on. MoJo only rushed under 80 yards once for all of last year. If the Jaguars can manage to keep their offensive line healthy, MoJo definitely stands to have another solid year with a possibility for more touchdowns.
Projection: 1,700 total yards and 13 touchdowns (PPR)
9) Calvin Johnson (WR) – Megatron didn't waste much time before rewarding his owners last season. For years everyone has know what he was capable of, but his problem has always been lingering injuries and never having a good quarterback. But in 2011 the stars aligned. Calvin Johnson avoided major injuries, as did as his quarterback Mathew Stafford. Has anyone ever started a season as hot as Calvin did? Through the first 8 games of the season, Megatron put up a staggering 11 touchdowns and 804 yards. It is pretty nice to have a wide receiver you can count on every week to have a good game. He and Stafford still need to prove they can stay healthy to shed their injury risk pasts, but if they both manage to stay on the field I would expect more of the same. Elite wide receivers of his size and power aren't easy to find.
Projection: 1,400 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
10) Darren McFadden (RB) – Generally I'm not a believer in picking players off pure potential. I would rather take someone with a lower ceiling, but you know what you're getting with them. The exception for me is Darren McFadden. Run DMC's potential is off the charts. If he could stay healthy as the number one back for Oakland all year, a 2,200 total yard season isn't out of the question. Over the last two seasons, McFadden is averaging over five yards a carry as well as being a threat to break an 80 yard touchdown on any given day. I think he has just had a few unlucky seasons and that he could end up posting top 5 numbers. I've got faith in Run DMC.
Projection: 1,900 total yards and 13 touchdowns (PPR STUD & INJURY RISK)
11) Rob Gronkoski (TE) – I know taking a tight end in the first round in years past would have been a laughable offense, but how can you argue with his numbers, his size, his quickness and his quarterback? Last season he was by far Tom Brady's favorite target in the redzone and on third downs. If he hadn't gotten that high ankle sprain at the end of last season, the Patriots very well may have won the Superbowl. Gronk has only been in the league for two years and he put up over 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns at a position that tends to be deep, but not with many studs. Antonio Gates can never stay healthy, Jason Witten is solid but never puts up double digit touchdowns, you never know what you're getting with Vernon Davis, and Jermichael Finley continues to disappoint the owners who take him. The only player who is even close at the tight end position is Jimmy Graham . After everything is said and done, it comes down to this: he is Tom Brady's favorite target. Even if his numbers drop off slightly, he should still post first round value.
Projection: 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns
12) Jamaal Charles (RB) – Last year Jamaal Charles was widely being considered a top 5 fantasy pick. We never really got to see how that would have panned out. All I know is that Charles still has ridiculous upside. Snagging him late first / early second round could be risky, but it could also win you a championship. Jamaal Charles has displayed unheard of speed… like 2009 Chris Johnson speed. I know he is returning from a torn ACL, and so maybe the speed he once had won't quite be there anymore, but he still has enough upside to warrant a late first round pick. For his entire career, Charles is averaging over six yards per carry. He is a rushing yard hound and a ppr nightmare. If he were to get even the slightest bump in goal line attempts, Charles could be putting up MVP type numbers. I know the knee injury is scary, but if I get the chance to take him late I'm going for it.
Projection: 1,700 total yards and 11 touchdowns (INJURY RISK)