The 2012 Pro Bowl rosters are set, as the AFC and NFC will face off in a tradition that started all the way back in 1970. Coincidentally, the coaches for that game were John Madden of the Oakland Raiders and Dick Nolan of the San Francisco 49ers. The game had two Most Valuable Players, Fred Carr of the Green Bay Packers and Mel Renfro of the Dallas Cowboys, and the NFC took home a 27-6 win. The contest, which was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, had a reward of $2,000 for each player of the winning team.
The winning players from the 2011 Pro Bowl were awarded $50,000.
Had fantasy football been prominent back in 1970, the fantasy Pro Bowl team would have included the likes of John Brodie, Fran Tarkenton, Ron A. Johnson, MacArthur Lane, Gene A. Washington and Dick Gordon. Brodie led the league with 2,941 passing yards that year - that would have ranked him just 24th among quarterbacks this past season. Johnson would have been a fantasy star, though, as his 1,027 rushing yards, 487 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns would have earned him a top-10 finish among all 2012 runners. Washington, who recorded 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns, was comparable to Julio Jones in the stats.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the best of the best - the 2012 fantasy Pro Bowl squad.
Starter: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - Despite the absence of coach Sean Payton for the entire season, Brees didn't skip a beat in the stat sheets. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000-plus yards with 40 or more touchdown passes in back-to-back seasons and finished first in fantasy points (345.58) among all players on NFL.com. Brees has now ranked in the top two in points at the quarterback position in four of the last five seasons. While he is worth a first-round pick based on stats alone, Brees could slide into the second round in 2013 drafts due to the re-emergence of running backs.
Starter: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings - ACL reconstruction? What ACL reconstruction? Peterson overcame the odds and had the best fantasy season of his career with an amazing 2,097 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns. The veteran rushed for 100-plus yards in nine of his final 10 games and scored double-digit fantasy points in all but two of his starts. Peterson was also the lone runner to finish in the top 10 in fantasy points among all players on NFL.com. While I still have Arian Foster ranked as the top running back in fantasy football, Peterson will no doubt be the No. 1 overall pick in many 2013 drafts.
Starters: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions; Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears - If you told me at the start of the season that Johnson would scored just five touchdowns in 2012, I would have predicted him to be the next victim of the Madden cover curse. And while he had a slow start to the season, Megatron transformed into a fantasy monster in the second half. In fact, he recorded 100-plus yards in each of the last eight weeks of the fantasy football season and finished with a position-best 220.40 points. I would never draft a wideout in the first round, but Johnson will be a first- or second-round pick in 2013. ... Marshall, who was re-united with Jay Cutler in the Windy City, posted his best statistical season at the pro level with 118 catches, 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those totals ranked him second behind Megatron based on fantasy points (216.60).
Starter: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints - Graham couldn't duplicate the monster totals he recorded in 2011, but the talented tight end still finished with 982 yards, nine touchdowns and a position-best 152.50 fantasy points. In what was a down season for tight ends as a whole, the Miami (FL) product scored seven or fewer fantasy points five times (15 games) and was held without a touchdown in each of his last five games during the fantasy season. Still, it's hard to argue that he wasn't one of the two best players at his position. I would expect Graham to be a third- or fourth-round draft selection next season.
Starter: Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings - Walsh made an enormous splash in fantasy land with a 92.1 percent field-goal conversion rate, an impressive 10 conversions from 50 or more yards and a league-high 161.00 fantasy points. Furthermore, he was the fourth-highest scoring rookie (non-quarterbacks) behind Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson based on points. Amazingly, the talented kicker was owned in fewer than 30 percent of NFL.com leagues at the end of the 2012 campaign. Though he might not be the first kicker drafted in 2013, Walsh should clearly be one of the first three taken at his position.
Starters: Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears; Morgan Burnett, Green Bay Packers - Rather than go with a defense, it's time to give the individual defensive players some attention. Tillman, the top-scoring defensive back on NFL.com, posted three interceptions, all of which went for touchdowns, recorded 10 forced fumbles and 16 passes defensed to finish with 143.00 fantasy points. The veteran out of Louisiana-Lafayette has now finished as the top-scoring defensive back in two straight seasons. He was also one of two non-linebackers to finish in the top 10 among defenders in 2012. He'll remain a top IDP option next season. ... A talented player out of Georgia Tech, Burnett recorded 124.50 fantasy points on the strength of his 123 total tackles, two sacks and two interceptions. He has now increased his IDP stats in each of his first three campaigns at the pro level.
Starters: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans; Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers - Watt was an absolute IDP superstar this past season, leading all defensive linemen with 146.00 fantasy points on NFL.com. Not only did he record an impressive 21.5 sacks, but he also defended 16 passes and recorded a total of 81 tackles. Watt would finish third in fantasy points among all defenders - the next-best defensive lineman (Aldon Smith) finished 53rd! That says it all in terms of his overall value at the position. Watt will be the single-most valuable non-linebacker in 2013 fantasy football drafts that utilize IDPs. ... Smith, who finished a respectable 17th in points among linemen as a rookie, bettered almost all of his first-year totals and ranked second behind Watt at their position. In his first two NFL seasons, the Missouri product has recorded a combined 33.5 sacks for the Niners.
Starters: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers; Daryl Washington, Arizona Cardinals - Kuechly came in and made an immediate impact both for the Panthers and fantasy leaguers alike, becoming the first rookie since Patrick Willis in 2007 to lead the league in tackles. The Boston College product also posted eight passes defensed (tied for sixth among linebackers), two interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Assuming he remains in the middle next season, this kid should continue to be a tackles machine in all IDP formats. He'll be one of the first defenders selected in 2013 IDP leagues. ... Washington was a close second among linebackers, scoring just four fewer fantasy points than Kuechly. The TCU product posted career-bests in combined tackles (134), sacks (9) and forced fumbles (2), while also recording four passes defensed. He's clearly an up-and-comer in IDP leagues.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!