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  • By Nick Bakay Special to
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I guess all those Browns fans who mocked me for touting Derek Anderson as Arizona's starting QB six months ago just developed a nice dose of the pre-draft yips.

Relax, stick with me and I'll have you farting through silk… thanks to solid rankings garnished with the occasional strong contrarian play. Last year, I gave you every reason to grab great value with Cedric Benson and Miles Austin... this year we humbly hope to continue the trend.

That's right, I am more than just a pretty face -- I have helped my share of you win some leagues over the years. While I strive to bring some wit to the proceedings, I have always placed high in Pro Forecast Magazine's annual rankings contest, a fine fantasy publication that for some reason allows me to compare my pre-season lists against an all-star roster of experts from every major sports network as well as the top boutique fantasy advisories in the biz. I am extremely proud that in 2009, after a series of top 3 finishes, I placed first overall.

The lists presented here are only so deep, but the fine experts on this very Web site will be there for you when you find yourself scrambling for a 17th WR in round 900.

Explanations offered below when necessary, and I toss in some tiers to help you define how far you're willing to slow-roll each position.

And away we go!


There was a time when I was ahead of the curve on this whole renaissance of valuing elite QBs. For me, it always felt infinitely safer to have a Manning or a Brady or better yet a Brees over, say, Steven Jackson or Frank Gore -- great players you can almost guarantee will miss games. Bottom line: It is very hard for you to win your league with your No. 1 pick out of action. In today's game, QBs tend to stay healthy, and while their TD passes may or may not be discounted according to your scoring system, they toss 'em by the bushel. Don't leave your draft without one of the top 12, and be prepared to pull the trigger earlier than you thought, 'cuz they are flying off the shelf this season.

1. Drew Brees

2. Aaron Rodgers

These guys are a push. Go with you gut, you can't go wrong.

Drop off…

3. Peyton Manning. Buyer beware: Manning will get you to the playoffs, but if your championship game is played during week 16, Manning is playing the Raiders, and if last year is any indication, he won't even start, right?

4. Tom Brady. The offensive line is in turmoil here, but on the playoffs plus-side, Brady finishes at home against the Packers in week 15. Green Bay is good, but that's gonna be a shootout. Then, in Week 16 he is on the road at Buffalo -- he could really blow up.

5. Matt Schaub. Houston's offense is primed to go off; you just hope he is ready to string two injury-free seasons together. If you go this route, mind your No. 2 QB with care.

6. Tony Romo. Don't overreact to the Cowboy offense's lackluster preseason, this guy can get it done and he has a ton of weapons.

Drop off…

7. Brett Favre. The  Percy Harvin/Sidney Rice conundrum is what's hurting here, along with some worries about his connection with Bernard Berrian. On the plus side, I sense Favre is dropping deeper into value territory.

8. Value alert! Joe Flacco. He is ready to take the next step in his impressive young career, and he is armed with serious weapons. Looking great in preseason, to boot. In terms of fantasy playoffs, Week 15, Baltimore hosts the Saints (shootout) and Week 16 he is at Cleveland.

9. Philip Rivers. Still no left tackle, and worse, his stud WR is suspended and in an ugly contract limbo. Gotta downgrade.

10. Value alert! Eli Manning. Higher than many rank him, it's about the incredible young receiving corps here with another year under their collective belts. Eli tossed 27 TDs last year -- why not 30-plus in 2010?

11. Value alert! Carson Palmer. Available later than he should, looks like he's back, and tons of weapons.

12. Kevin Kolb. Benefit of the doubt here. The kid's got lots of weapons and, despite the sluggish preseason, I refuse to believe Andy Reid, who knows how to pass the frickin' football, trades Donovan McNabb within the division unless he knows he's got the future in house. You just need to let the Jell-o settle here.

Drop off…

13. Jay Cutler. This is your swing-for-the-fences pick. Mike Martz could spell huge numbers, but the spidey sense is tingling. On the other hand, the way the entire Bears offense burned fantasy owners last year, the entire unit now represents high risk/high reward value.

14. Matt Ryan. The question is simple: Do you truly believe he can help you win your league, or simply offer solid numbers?

15. Value alert! Matthew Stafford. Have you watched this offense lately? I smell big things. Plus their D blows, so say hello to shootout mode, week after week.

Drop off…

16. Donovan McNabb. Already questionable for Week 1, but this is more about a major downgrade in receivers. Santana Moss and Chris Cooley will thrive here, but I'm not sure McNabb's numbers will follow suit compared to other QBs with more weapons.

17. Chad Henne. Just got Brandon Marshall, who can make Dieter Brock look great, and in playoff terms for Weeks 15-16, Henne faces the Bills and the Lions, both at home. Here's a No. 2 QB you might end up starting in the playoffs - the perfect Peyton Manning insurance policy.

18. Vince Young. Somehow gets you solid numbers every week, and might just take the next step as a passer this year.

19. Ben Roethlisberger. After the suspension, he could be the perfect No. 2.

20. Jason Campbell. I think he has a nice season in Oakland, and he is drafted extremely late.

21. Derek Anderson. Had to do it. Worth a flyer as your backup.

I could rank more, but seriously, do want any of them?

Running backs

1. Chris Johnson. Beware 2K follow-up, but he's young and doesn't take the huge hits, so don't think yourself out of gold.

2. Adrian Peterson. Had 18 TDs last year, and now the passing game looks a little dinged? Oh yeah.

Drop off…

3. Maurice Jones-Drew. The singular workhorse, plus a PPR monster

4. Ray Rice. Viable at No. 3 as well.

5. Michael Turner. Poised for a bounce-back year on a good team, but you gotta worry a little about a guy who only has had one full-time campaign as the bell cow, and kinda phoned it in the next year.

Drop off…

6. Cedric Benson. Now they can't stack the box - look out.

7. Ryan Mathews. Everything is in place for a huge year, the only proviso is we haven't seen him do it in the NFL for a full campaign… yet.

8. Value alert! Ryan Grant. Nothing sexy, but he's the only guy in this backfield and you get strong numbers every year. He is there in Round 2 more often than not.

9. Frank Gore. He's the man here, and Mike Singletary will run it hard. I just worry about him missing games with his take-no-prisoners running style.

10. Value alert! DeAngelo Williams. Despite the committee, he is an awesome talent who I see slipping in my mocks.

11. Shonn Greene. Great line, and so explosive, plus the case is still out on Mark Sanchez as a passing machine.

12. Rashard Mendenhall. The lack of Big Ben for 4-6 weeks hurts, but a great young RB with fresh legs.

Drop off…

13. Value alert! Arian Foster. Love the upside here in a great offense with an injury-thinned RB corps. Tearing it up in preseason.

14. Steven Jackson. I am not a hater, just think all these years as the only weapon in a crap offense take their toll, then you add in two tough words for an RB: Slipped disc.

15. Jamaal Charles. Thomas Jones absolutely vultures carries here, but he's explosive, and it looks like the Chiefs are gonna be a run-first team again this year.

16. Value alert! Jahvid Best. When I see a young guy who looks like he has Chris Johnson speed and moves, I will roll the dice.

17. Value alert! Pierre Thomas. More TDs with Bell gone, could end up a top 10 RB when all is said and done.

18. LeSean McCoy. Should be the man here, but has yet to prove it all the way.

Drop off…

19. Jonathan Stewart. Easy to discount due to the committee, but Carolina is all about pounding the rock, and Stewart is a beast.

20. Joseph Addai. Bill Polian on the warpath about Colts running game and blocking - could be the year Donald Brown gets more alpha, but Addai is falling enough to earn the title "value-adjacent."

21. C.J. Spiller. See Jahvid Best. Tough division, line still a work in progress.

22. Beanie Wells. It all seems right, but until he proves he can do it in the NFL gavel to gavel, I smell one of this year's most over-projected RBs. Tim Hightower might be your value gem here, particularly in PPR.

23. Value alert! Ahmad Bradshaw. Should be the Jints' technical No. 1 and he is sitting there late in my mocks - love the value.

24. Value alert! Clinton Portis. Portis may skeeve you out, but Mike Shanahan knows how to run, they were great together in the past, and Portis is falling really deep in drafts for an unquestioned No. 1 back.

25. Matt Forte. I don't trust this one after last season and with the presence of Chester Taylor, who has all the makings of a superb Mike Martz all-purpose back, but he slips in some drafts and at some point you might as well take a shot.

26. Value alert! Ricky Williams. Always an afterthought, always gets it done.

Wide receivers

1. Andre Johnson. Worth a first round pick.

2. Randy Moss. Getting older, but two nice words you love to see with a guy who runs hot and cold: Contract year.

Drop off…

3. Miles Austin. All he does is win you trophies.

4. Reggie Wayne. What's not to love here, but Manning does have a lot of mouths to feed.

5. Calvin Johnson. I say he's back with a vengeance this year.

6. Larry Fitzgerald. Awesome talent, but the QB situation remains an issue.

7. Roddy White. I'll be honest, I never draft the guy, but I can't knock him, either.

Drop off…

8. Brandon Marshall. New system and team, but unstoppable when he's on his game.

9. DeSean Jackson. Kolb early on is the X-factor here.

10. Greg Jennings. He did not get the TDs last season; pray it was an anomaly.

11. Marques Colston. Saints WRs are always a crap shoot because you never know who will have the hot hand week-to-week, but I smell a big year here.

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Drop off…

12. Value alert! Malcom Floyd. Officially Rivers' No. 1 WR now. A.J. Smith may be stubborn but he isn't stupid -- is he playing hardball with Vincent Jackson because he knows what he has here?

13. Value alert! Steve Smith (CAR). I know this passing game is always one-dimensional, but he played huge when Matt Moore took over at QB last year.

14. Steve Smith (NYG). Believe it or not, the Giants really toss the ball, and if you miss Smith, don't miss out on Hakeem Nicks.

15. Chad Ochocinco. Poised for a big year now that the Bengals have other viable WRs.

16. Anquan Boldin. Love the player, but he misses games.

17. Johnny Knox. This is the guy who is blowing up with Cutler/Martz formula this year, trust it.

18. Value alert! Santana Moss. The only viable WR in Washington just got a big upgrade at QB and he is drafted late, my friends.

19. Michael Crabtree. We roll the dice on a huge talent who should be the No. 1 on the Bay.

Drop off…

20. Wes Welker

21. Hakeem Nicks

22. Mike Sims-Walker

23. Bernard Berrian

24. Hines Ward

25. Donald Driver

26. Jeremy Maclin

27. Terrell Owens

Tight ends

1. Antonio Gates. No Vincent Jackson ups his TDs.

2. Dallas Clark

Drop off…

3. Jermichael Finley

4. Vernon Davis

5. Tony Gonzalez

6. Brent Celek

7. Jason Witten

8. Visanthe Shiancoe

9. Owen Daniels

10. Kellen Winslow

Drop off…

11. Value alert! Chris Cooley

12. Zach Miller

13. Heath Miller

14. John Carlson

Drop off…

15. This could any number of guys -- Dustin Keller, Benjamin Watson, Jermaine Gresham, Kevin Boss, Greg Olsen.

As for defenses and kickers, just promise you won't draft before round 12 and everything will be okay.

And while we're at it, also promise me you won't drive your mom's '76 Chrysler Cordoba to the draft unless you promise to return it with a full tank of gas.

Good luck and good night.


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