With many of the big-name players signed and the 2012 NFL Draft is just a few short weeks away, we are very close to getting a better grasp of true fantasy player values for next season. In putting together the second one-man mock draft of the year, one thing became very apparent. The old philosophy of focusing on running backs throughout Round 1 is dead, due in large part to numerous injuries and the increase in backfield committees. It's the quarterbacks and wide receivers that now rule the NFL roost. Heck, even a few tight ends snuck into the first three rounds - that almost never happens. One thing is for sure - we are seeing a new age in the world of fantasy football.
This mock is based on NFL.com's standard 10-team leagues with a basic (non-PPR) scoring system that rewards four points for touchdown passes and six points for all other touchdowns. Each numbered position represents a team, so no more than one quarterback, three running backs, three wide receivers or one tight end will be selected per roster.
1. Arian Foster, RB, Texans: Foster averaged more fantasy points per game than any running back last season, so there's no longer a question about whether his 2010 season was a fluke. The closest thing the current NFL has to Marshall Faulk, Foster is the top fantasy player on my board.
2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: Unless you have the top pick, say good-bye to your strategy of targeting running backs only in the first round. Rodgers has finished in the top two in fantasy points at his position in each of the last four years, and that trend is likely to continue in 2012.
3. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: McCoy has become one of the elite runners in fantasy land, and his 20-touchdown campaign in 2011 proved it. One of the few featured backs left in the league, the Pittsburgh product will no doubt continue to rack up the yards, touchdowns and fantasy points.
4. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens: The leading point scorer among running backs last season, Rice recorded career bests in rushing yards, scrimmage yards and total touchdowns as the top option in the Ravens offense. At 25 and in the prime of his NFL tenure, he'll be a top-five pick in all drafts.
5. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: Once considered a good (but not great) fantasy quarterback, Brady is now cemented into the elite players at his position. One of three signal-callers to throw for 5,000-plus yards last season, he has averaged 40 total touchdowns in his last three full seasons.
6. Drew Brees, QB, Saints: Brees has finished in the top two in fantasy points among quarterbacks in three of the last four years - the one season he missed it was when he was on the Madden cover. Despite the loss of coach Sean Payton, Brees is still a lock first-rounder in all drafts.
7. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: Despite having no help on offense, Jones-Drew still rolled up a career-best 1,606 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns last season. Whether he can duplicate that level of yardage remains to be seen, but Jones-Drew remains a solid No. 1 fantasy back.
8. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: In his first full season with Matthew Stafford under center, Megatron transformed into an even bigger statistical monster than he was in the past. In fact, he recorded career bests in receptions, yards, touchdowns and yards per catch. That's an impressive feat.
9. Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: Stafford stayed out of the trainer's room and thrived for the Lions and fantasy owners alike, throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2011. As long as he remains free of those worrisome injuries, there's no reason Stafford won't continue to roar in 2012.
10. Cam Newton, QB, Panthers: Newton is coming off the best rookie season ever for a fantasy quarterback, so the bar has been set high for his sophomore campaign. While I doubt he'll be able to record 13 rushing touchdowns again, Newton's versatile skill set and potential are unquestionable.
11. Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers: Mathews has a real shot at having a breakout season in 2012, but he'll need to avoid the nagging injuries he's dealt with in the past to reach his full potential. He has first-round statistical upside without Mike Tolbert, which makes him valuable in fantasy land.
12. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: Johnson is coming off the worst fantasy season of his career, but I can't see a player with his previous resume dropping any further than this in drafts. Yes, there is some risk with CJ2K. But he'll have a full offseason, training camp and preseason to prepare.
13. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: This is the highest I have ever had a tight end ranked, and I fear that Gronkowski will never duplicate his 2011 numbers in a second straight year. But it's hard to argue with his production - Gronk outscored every wideout but Megatron last season.
14. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans: You can argue that Johnson is still the best wide receiver in the NFL, but his proneness to injuries over the last two years has put a dent into his overall draft value. I still see him as an elite fantasy wideout, however. Consider him a risk-reward selection.
15. Wes Welker, WR, Patriots: Welker was a beast in the stat sheets in 2011, posting career bests in yards, touchdowns and yards per catch. His stock could fall a bit now that the Patriots have added a deep threat in Brandon Lloyd, but he'll remain a true No. 1 fantasy wideout regardless.
16. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: Though he finished with his lowest reception total since 2006, Fitzgerald still ranked fifth in fantasy points among wide receivers last season. The team's quarterback position has questions, but Fitzgerald has proven that he's good enough to overcome.
17. Roddy White, WR, Falcons: White posted 100 receptions, finished in the top seven in fantasy points and led all wideouts in targets for the second straight season, so the presence of Julio Jones didn't have a huge effect on his value or production. He remains a top-end No. 1 receiver.
18. Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: Jennings was on pace to record 183.2 fantasy points last season before a knee injury knocked him out for the final three games. That total would have ranked him seventh among wide receivers. Jordy Nelson was better in 2011 - but I still like Jennings.
19. Matt Forte, RB, Bears: Barring a contractual holdout, which would hurt his draft value, Forte is well worth a second rounder. New OC Mike Tice is going to lean on the run, and Forte is one of the league's most versatile featured backs. The presence of Michael Bush does ding his value a bit.
20. Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: If value were based on potential and talent alone, McFadden would be a first-round pick. But the fact that he just can't stay healthy makes him one of the true risk-reward runners in fantasy land. I like him in Round 2 with Bush now out of the mix.
21. Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints: Graham would have finished fifth in fantasy points among wideouts last season, posting statistical career bests across the board. In an offense that features a pass-laden system and an elite quarterback like Brees, Graham is a good bet to succeed again.
22. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants: Anyone who saw Nicks in the postseason knows exactly why I have him ranked ahead of his teammate, Victor Cruz. The fourth-year veteran does tend to deal with some bumps and bruises, but he's too talented to be considered anything but a No. 1 fantasy wideout.
23. Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers: Wallace produced a career best 72 receptions last season, but he did still experienced a small declined in yardage and touchdowns compared to 2010. Regardless, he's a playmaker with the tools to remain a No. 1 fantasy option in new OC Todd Haley's system.
24. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys: Despite missing one-plus games, Romo finished seventh in fantasy points among quarterbacks and 10th overall with 4,184 passing yards and 32 total touchdowns last season. With a glut of offensive talent at his disposal, Romo is well worth a third-round pick.
25. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks: After a slow start, Lynch went into permanent beast mode with a ridiculous streak of scoring at least one touchdown in 11 straight games. I do have major concerns about taking Lynch any higher than this after posting one good season since 2008, however.
26. DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys: Murray showed flashes of brilliance as a rookie, but his season was cut short due to a broken ankle. If he can remain free of injuries, which has always been a problem for him, I can see Murray finishing in the top 10 in fantasy points among running backs.
27. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: Of the three big-name running backs to suffer ACL tears last season, Charles has the best chance to rebound in 2012. He injured himself in Week 2, so he has had plenty of recovery time. However, the presence of Peyton Hillis does hurt his appeal in 2012.
28. Michael Turner, Falcons: I'm on the fence about Turner, so don't be shocked if he drops out of the top three rounds in future mock drafts. Yes, he's been fantastic with the Falcons. But Turner will be 30 next season, and he's carried the ball 300-plus times in three of the last four years.
29. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos: Did you know that no more than four wideouts to finish in the top 10 in fantasy points at the position since 2007 have reached that level again the next year? That means new blood will be among the elite in 2012. I think Thomas is primed to join that group.
30. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: Green might not have the most attractive schedule in the world, but his statistical upside is enormous. With a full year of NFL experience under his belt, not to mention a great rapport with Andy Dalton, I can see Green finishing among fantasy's 10 best wideouts.
31. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
32. Brandon Marshall, WR, Bears
33. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
34. Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos
35. Steve Smith, WR, Panthers
36. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
37. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants
38. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers
39. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams
40. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles
41. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers
42. Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings
43. Eli Manning, QB, Giants
44. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants
45. Fred Jackson, RB, Bills
46. Kenny Britt, WR, Titans
47. Marques Colston, WR, Saints
48. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs
49. Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
50. Darren Sproles, RB, Saints