First Round Re-Draft: Foster, Rice, McCoy still best fantasy options
Ray Rice has more passing targets at running back than all but Darren Sproles
Robert Griffin III faces one of most difficult schedules during fantasy playoff time
Darren McFadden in for better days after getting past tough stretch of defenses
Step into your imagination for just a little bit. Close your eyes and -- no, wait! DON'T CLOSE YOUR EYES! You can't read if your eyes are closed!
OK, that was close.
Imagine you are stuck on a space station for the past month. A space station that didn't have enough guys on it to fill out a fantasy football league. This would force you to wait until the second week in October, when you finally returned to earth, to hold your first fantasy football draft of the season.
What would the first few rounds of a 2012 fantasy football draft look like if we drafted now -- after Week 4. I thought this would be a great exercise that would help fantasy owners understand the current value of some of their players -- or some players they might be considering trading for.
So I gathered 12 of the top fantasy football writers in the land, including Eric Mack of SI.com, locked them in the basement, and forced them to watch Season 4 of The Gilmore Girls. And then, I got them to do a four-round fantasy football redraft with analysis.
This mock draft was for a non-PPR league that scored four points for passing touchdowns. Below is my analysis of the picks from the first round.
1. Arian Foster, RB, Houston
Those who took Foster with the first overall pick have to be ecstatic he's still No. 1. He leads all running backs in non-PPR scoring, and the Texans plan to lean on him more than in recent seasons. If there has ever been a time to trade for Ben Tate, now is the time to do it.
2. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore
While Foster continues to outscore him, Rice remains a great pick -- and there's three-quarters of a season yet to play. His 22 receptions are 22 lost points in non-PPR leagues, but those are just added scoring opportunities on every pass. Only Darren Sproles (32) has more than Rice's 30 targets among running backs. His 103 carries tops the league so far.
3. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia
There you have it -- the top three picks remained the top three picks after four weeks. Your league's standings likely indicate that having a top-three pick this season is more important than in other recent years. The Eagles have not played consistently on offense, but McCoy got back on track in Week 4. While his scoring pace is way off, he's a better bet than anyone else left to score 10-plus touchdowns over the next 12 weeks.
4. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle
Now things get interesting. There aren't many other running backs left who are expected to rush for 100 yards and score at least once in each game going forward. "Beast Mode" leads the league in rushing and he's second in carries. It's doubtful he'd be the fourth pick in a PPR league, however. An offseason arrest hurt his draft status a bit this summer, but in early September, the league announced it would not suspend him until after his legal case concludes -- sometime in 2013.
5. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit
Add Johnson's owners to the group of bullet-dodgers after four weeks. Taking a wide receiver in the first round is a huge gamble, but so far, it has paid off. Despite being outscored by five other wide receivers, and getting into the end zone just once, Johnson is still the best bet to do aerial damage for the remainder of the year.
6. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
As expected, this was the most controversial of all the picks in this mock draft. RGIII has more fantasy points than any other player through four games, and even those who scoff at his selection here can't argue that he is worthy of a top-20 pick. He leads the league, along with fellow rookie teammate running back Alfred Morris, with four rushing touchdowns. He has a top-five fantasy schedule for quarterbacks from Weeks 6-10, but owners should know he has the third-toughest fantasy schedule for quarterbacks in the fantasy playoff weeks (14-16).
7. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City
After two weeks, Charles had 90 rushing yards total, and it looked like taking him in the first two or three rounds was a huge mistake. But he has 321 rushing yards and three scores in his past two games, and with Peyton Hillis (ankle) injured, Charles looks like a top-10 back again. It's possible that Charles would swap draft positions with Lynch if this were a PPR draft.
8. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota
Speaking of long-forgotten torn ACL injuries, A.P. has prompted more than a few readers to rip me since I recommended staying away from him in the first couple of rounds. From Week 1, Peterson has looked fantastic and he looks like he gets more confident in his running/cutting ability every week. Before you feed me to the lions, let's just wait to see if that knee holds up for the next 12 games. It's a looong season. (I now have him ranked as the No. 2 running back for Week 5 against Tennessee.)
9. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland
The rookie started his NFL career with a stinker (44 total yards), but he has since come through with four touchdowns and one 100-yard rushing game. (By the way, Walter Payton had eight carries for zero yards in his NFL debut.) Richardson is fun to watch, but the Browns need to develop some talent in other areas so that teams can't key on the Heisman winner exclusively. Richardson has put a chasm between himself and Doug Martin, the other highly-touted fantasy rookie running back in most drafts.
10. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville
Averaging 4.9 yards per carry is great to see -- but seeing that number next to 72 attempts makes his owners smile a little wider. The former holdout proved that he stayed in shape in the offseason, and he has -- so far -- avoided hamstring injuries and other issues that have plagued returning holdout running back holdouts in the past. Interestingly, he has played well enough for the Jaguars to not miss backup Rashad Jennings (knee), for a couple of games.
11. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland
Run DMC has looked a little more like Grandmaster Flash-in-the-Pan (that just happened). McFadden ranks 20th among running backs in fantasy scoring after four weeks, but two things should be noted, both of which have to do with the Raiders schedule. Oakland has faced the third-hardest schedule for running backs in the first five weeks of the season. But in Weeks 11-16, the Raiders face the Saints, Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Chiefs and Panthers. Those six teams currently rank, on average, 21st against the run.
12. Reggie Bush, RB, Miami
This might have been the second-most controversial pick in the first round. There's no question that he's playing well (5.5 yards per carry), but is he playing well enough to make a three- or four-round jump from his Average Draft Position in August? With that said, defenses are going to have to start backing out of the box, as rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has proven that he can sling the ball with confidence, and receiver Brian Hartline has emerged as a downfield threat. Also, the Chargers are the only team to have a better schedule for running backs than Miami from Weeks 6-10.
The 12 fantasy writers I got to take part in this mock draft all tweeted their own analysis of their picks in all four rounds.
Where would C.J. Spiller have been drafted had he not injured his collarbone? Even with the injury, the only running back to score more fantasy points than Spiller through four weeks is Foster.
When would the first Jets player be drafted -- Round 84?
How good would RGIII have been if wide receiver Pierre Garcon was healthy in the first quarter of the season? We're about to find out!
What's the average fantasy record of those teams that drafted a quarterback in the first round back in August? I'm guessing closer to 1-3 than 3-1.
Did you notice only one quarterback landed in the first round, compared to three this summer?
Rashard Mendenhall is about to return from his own torn ACL injury, and if Charles and Peterson are any indication, his owners shouldn't be too worried about his injury.
While Griffin's fantasy value took the largest leap among these mock first-rounders, his teammate, Alfred Morris, was the first pick of the second round, making him the largest leaper in the draft. He went from undrafted to top-13 pick.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy football leagues. He has drafted both Curt and Kurt Warner in his lifetime, and he owns a Trent Dilfer Bucs jersey (jealous, much?) He also dispenses fantasy advice on his own site, DavidGonos.com, along with various stories about life's lessons learned through fantasy sports. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.
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