With the current state of the CBA, it might be a bit difficult to focus on anything related to fantasy football. Well, at least for the novice fan. But there are still countless hardcore owners who are already looking ahead to the 2011 season. I'm definitely one of them. While player movement is at a halt for the time being, I'm still in the process of projecting player values -- that includes putting together the first of what will be several one-man, five-round mock drafts.
While we can use the past to help us attempt to predict the future, there's no clear-cut method to prognosticating what has become a far more unpredictable NFL. Did you know that since 2006, a mere 35 percent of running backs and 32.5 percent of wide receivers to finish in the top 10 at their position also reached that mark again the following year? Clearly, it's inevitable that many of the studs of last season are going to experience a statistical decrease in 2011 -- some of them major. That means in some cases, you have to think outside the box and take chances in an attempt to remain ahead of the competition. So without further ado, here's a look at how a fantasy draft would look right now.
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. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: Peterson finished second in fantasy points among running backs behind Arian Foster in 2010, but he's still the safest back to draft. He's been a consistent option for owners during his career, and new coach Leslie Frazier will no doubt use Peterson as his bell cow. The schedule is also favorable for A.D. to succeed.
2. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: If you ask some fantasy owners, Johnson had a bad season in 2010 - he finished with only the fifth-most points among running backs. But if I can get better than 1,300 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns, it's hard to complain. He should improve on his latest totals if the Titans improve their pass attack.
3. Arian Foster, RB, Texans: Foster is coming off a breakout season, posting 2,028 scrimmage yards and 16 total touchdowns as the Texans featured back. Can he do it again in 2011? Probably not, especially with Ben Tate back in the mix. But there's still no reason Foster can't post terrific numbers in what will remain a great offensive attack.
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars: Pocket Hercules was inactive for the final two games of the season with a bum knee, but he still totaled better than 1,600 scrimmage yards for the Jaguars. He did undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair meniscus damage in the knee, but Jones-Drew is expected to be fine for the start of the 2011 campaign.
5. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens: Rice wasn't worth the top-five pick he cost many owners in 2010 drafts, but he still finished in the top 10 in fantasy points among backs. In the event that the Ravens release or trade Willis McGahee, which appears to be likely, Rice would rocket up rank lists. In fact, I can see him being as a high as No. 4 overall in drafts.
6. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs: Charles is coming off another terrific season, finishing third in fantasy points among backs despite losing touches to Thomas Jones. The one factor that concerns me about Charles is his schedule - he'll face the Chargers (2), Steelers, Jets, Bears, Packers and Vikings in 2011. That's a brutal slate of games.
7. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: There's no way I'm taking a quarterback in the first round because of the overall depth at the position -- but Rodgers is worth such a prominent selection. He was third in fantasy points among all players on NFL.com in 2010, throwing for 3,922 yards and scoring 32 total touchdowns despite missing time with a concussion.
8. Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: Gore was on pace to finish with 67 receptions and close to 1,900 scrimmage yards before an injured hip landed him on the sidelines. While his talent is unquestioned, his proneness to injuries is a concern -- Gore hasn't played more than 15 games since 2007. Still, he'll be hard to pass on at the end of the first round.
9. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers: Mendenhall wasn't the most consistent fantasy back in the world in 2010, but he did finish eighth in points at his position on NFL.com. He's also one of the few featured backs in the league, which just adds to his value. Look for Mendenhall to come off the board in the middle to late first round in drafts.
10. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles: As I mentioned earlier, I will not take a quarterback in the first round. However, Vick is a lock to be taken there based on his 2010 totals. He's the ultimate weapon on the field, but keep in mind that his playing style does make him more likely to be injured. Also, Vick has little chance to replicate last year's numbers.
11. Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: Despite the fact that he missed three games due to injuries, McFadden still finished sixth in fantasy points among running backs on NFL.com. If not for his well-documented lack of durability and the potential return of Michael Bush, I'd have listed him in Round 1. McFadden is the epitome of a risk-reward pick.
12. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans: A total of seven wide receivers (including Brandon Lloyd) scored more fantasy points than Johnson in 2010, but remember that he was dealing with a bad ankle and was forced to miss the last two weeks. Sure, he has had his share of injuries at the NFL level, but Johnson is still the most talented player at his position.
13. LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles: McCoy hasn't reached the same level as Brian Westbrook in his salad days, but he's getting close. The versatile runner was seventh in fantasy points at his position in 2010, posting better than 1,600 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns. He's certainly earned the right to be No. 1 fantasy back, especially in PPR formats.
14. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons: Turner would have added value if he were more versatile, but his skills as a runner make him a solid early-round pick. He's rushed for better than 1,300 yards in two of his first three season with the Falcons and has scored a combined 39 touchdowns in that time. Turner also has a favorable schedule in 2011.
15. Roddy White, WR, Falcons: White posted career bests in catches (115) and yards (1,389) in 2010 -- he also scored double-digit touchdowns for the second straight season. With Matt Ryan continuing his rise to elite status among NFL quarterbacks, White will no doubt continue to post huge fantasy totals. He's a lock second rounder on draft day.
16. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Can you see my strategy here? I'm going with a runner in the first round and an elite wide receiver in the second (in most cases). With that said, taking Megatron was a simple choice. With Matthew Stafford back under center, Johnson is a lock to duplicate (or surpass) his 2010 yardage and touchdowns totals.
17. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants: Nicks finished in the top seven in fantasy points among wide receivers last season, and that was in just 13 games. The fact that he has missed a combined five games in his first two NFL seasons due to injuries is worrisome, but Nicks is clearly talented. I wouldn't be shocked if he was the top fantasy wideout of 2011.
18. Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: Jennings rebounded from a disappointing 2009 campaign with better than 1,250 yards and an impressive 12 touchdowns, making him once again an elite wideout in fantasy leagues. With Rodgers at the helm in what promises to remain an explosive Packers offense, Jennings should continue to fill up the stat sheets.
19. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: Brady, who threw for 36 touchdowns with a mere four interceptions and finished fourth in fantasy points overall, will be taken earlier than No. 19 overall in countless drafts. But considering quarterback depth, he comes off the board late in Round 2 in this mock. Brady is basically a guaranteed fantasy point producer.
20. Matt Forte, RB, Bears: Despite the fact that he had some inconsistent statistical weeks, Forte still finished 10th in fantasy points among running backs in 2010. The featured player in the offense of coordinator Mike Martz, he should remain a productive option for the Bears and fantasy owners alike. Forte will have added value in PPR leagues.
21. Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers: One of the most talented young wideouts in the league, Wallace broke out last season with 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those totals were good enough to finish fifth in fantasy points at his position. With Ben Roethlisberger under center for a full 16 games in 2011, Wallace could post even better numbers moving forward.
22. Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts: Over the last five years, Wayne has finished no worse than 12th in fantasy points at his position. He's the lone wideout who can boast about that accomplishment. While he is getting a little long in the tooth, it's hard to pass on a reliable player who also has the advantage of catching passes from the great Peyton Manning.
23. Drew Brees, QB, Saints: One of only two quarterbacks (Manning) to finish in the top six in fantasy points at the position over the last five years, Brees will be no less than a second- or third-round selection in drafts. With an entire offseason for his injured knee to heal, Brees will be back at 100 percent and should improve on his 2010 totals.
24. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos: One of the most talented young running backs in the league, Moreno posted career bests in receptions and scrimmage yards in 2010. His one downfall, though, is that he's dealt with nagging injuries that have kept him from reaching his statistical potential. Consider Moreno worth the risk at this point in drafts.
25. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: What can you say about Manning that hasn't already been said? He's productive, consistent, durable and one of the best quarterbacks to ever grace the gridiron. A virtual lock to throw for 4,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns year in and year out, Manning has shown no signs of slowing down in his mid-30s.
26. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams: A first-round pick in most 2010 drafts, Jackson finished 13th in fantasy points among running backs while playing in a full 16 games for the first time since 2006. The fact that the Rams offense is improving is a definite positive, but Jackson's recent numbers make him worth no more than a second or third rounder.
27. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: It's a testament to Fitzgerald's skills that he was able to catch 90 passes and record 1,137 yards in 2010 with the likes of Derek Anderson and John Skelton at quarterback. If the Cardinals upgrade the position, the Pittsburgh product would move up several spots among the top wideouts in fantasy land.
28. Kenny Britt, WR, Titans: Ranking Britt this highly might be seen as a bit bold considering the team's current quarterback situation, but I love what I saw from him in 2010. Entering his third NFL season, Britt is ready to break out and have his best statistical season at the NFL level. In fact, I see him as a top-10 wideout, barring injuries.
29. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers: Time will tell if Blount endures a sophomore slump like his teammate, Cadillac Williams, but the arrow is pointing upward on his 2011 value. The bruising yet athletic runner scored the 11th-most fantasy points at his position over the final nine weeks of his rookie campaign, so his talent is evident.
30. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: Bowe finally had the breakout season that many fantasy enthusiasts had predicted, recording 1,162 yards with 15 touchdowns. While it's hard (or impossible) to envision a scenario where he'll duplicate that number of end-zone visits, Bowe should remain productive in a Chiefs offense with a lot of statistical potential.
34. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants: Despite the fact that he shared part of the workload with Brandon Jacobs, Bradshaw still recorded better than 1,500 scrimmage yards and scored eight touchdowns last season. He's a solid No. 2 option.