Evan Silva

Goal Line Stand

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Fantasy Football Top Tens

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The wheels are officially spinning on Rotoworld's 2012 Fantasy Football Guide after Chris Wesseling, Mike Clay, Pat Daugherty, and myself each submitted player-position rankings to spreadsheet wizard Adam Levitan on Tuesday. Levitan will combine our preliminary rankings to formulate a final product. All summer, Wesseling and I will tweak them as we see fit.

Unlike in past years, our individual rankings will be made available for your viewing and comparing pleasure this season. You'll be able to compare and contrast Wesseling's against mine, Clay's against Wesseling's, Clay's against Daugherty's, and so forth.

We know you've been pining for fantasy content, though, so here are my early top tens at each position of significance:


1. Cam Newton, Panthers -- Newton's 14 rushing TDs probably aren't repeatable, but the Panthers will feel comfortable opening up their offense after his first full offseason in the system. OC Rob Chudzinski is a pass-first mind with strong vertical leanings. Legedu Naanee to Brandon LaFell is a major upgrade, and improvements can also be expected in Newton's TD-to-INT ratio (21:17) and completion rate (60.0). This might be the most physically talented player in football.

2. Tom Brady, Patriots -- Brady has been a top-three fantasy QB in three of his past four full seasons, including two No. 1 finishes. He ranked third in 2011. The Pats won't stop winging it, and Brandon Lloyd will open things up underneath. Brady is a lock for another 35+ TD campaign.

3. Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- Like Brady, Rodgers is entrenched as an elite fantasy QB with four straight top-three finishes, including two No. 1 rankings. It will be business as usual in Green Bay this season with internal improvement likely from Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley.

4. Michael Vick, Eagles -- Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford might be safer picks in the four hole behind Cam, Brady, and Rodgers, but Vick possesses the highest ceiling and is a lock to offer the most draft-day value. Despite Jeremy Maclin's weakened state, DeSean Jackson's eyes more focused on dollar signs than incoming footballs, and his own hard-luck injuries, a resilient Vick managed to rank sixth in per-game QB scoring and third in rushing at his position last season. Philly's passing offense will be a goldmine for value picks this year, and Vick tops the list.

5. Matthew Stafford, Lions -- Detroit runs the NFL's pass-happiest offense and fields the league's best receiver. Stafford isn't too shabby himself. A Rotoworld darling entering 2011 drafts, Stafford paid dividends and then some by throwing 41 TD passes and ranking fourth among QBs in fantasy scoring. Unfortunately, Stafford's not going to be available in the eighth round anymore.

6. Drew Brees, Saints -- I think the top-six quarterbacks are all fairly interchangeable, so the No. 6 ranking is no slight of Brees. He is squarely in the top tier. The Saints may scale back passing a bit under interim coach Joe Vitt, but Brees will be playing with a chip on his shoulder.

7. Tony Romo, Cowboys -- Romo has made it through three full seasons in his career, and he's finished among the top-seven fantasy QBs every time. Dallas' offense remains built for the passing game, and Miles Austin and Dez Bryant are back healthy to inflict serious damage.

8. Peyton Manning, Broncos -- Manning will play with the most physical receivers of his career in Denver, but we just don't know how much velocity he'll recover after four neck surgeries.

9. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers -- Despite popular belief to the contrary, new Steelers OC Todd Haley favors a pass-first, no huddle-heavy offense with lots of shotgun. With Antonio Brown emerging across from Mike Wallace, Big Ben could pan out as the top value pick QB behind Vick.

10. Matt Ryan, Falcons -- His line remains a concern, but Ryan's weaponry is a major strength and Atlanta may have to lean on the pass game with Michael Turner running on fumes.

Just Missed: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Robert Griffin III.

Running Backs

1. Arian Foster, Texans -- The Houston offense has undergone a dramatic shift over the course of Gary Kubiak's seven-year tenure, morphing from one of the league's most pass-heavy teams into its most run reliant. Foster is dynamite in the passing game, and he dominates as a ball carrier in the zone-blocking scheme. He's the No. 1 fantasy back this year, and it's not close.

2. LeSean McCoy, Eagles -- Coach Andy Reid wants to scale back McCoy's carries this season, but that's easier said than done in the heat of battle. McCoy capitalizes on wide running lanes created by a dual-threat quarterback and improving, young offensive line. He probably won't repeat 20 all-purpose TDs, but McCoy will pile up yardage and is likely to catch more passes.

3. Trent Richardson, Browns -- There are factors working against Richardson. He plays in the run-tough AFC North and in an offense lacking a pass game. It is worth noting that one of Richardson's Steelers matchups is reserved for fantasy-irrelevant Week 17, however, and few backs have as much potential to dominate their team's workload. He isn’t a bad player, either.

4. Chris Johnson, Titans -- I'm not sure we'll ever see the same CJ2K who ran for 2,000-plus yards at a clip of 5.6 per, but I also don't think he'll be as out of shape and off his game as he was last year. Still the most crucial piece in Tennessee's offense, a big bounce back is likely.

5. Ryan Mathews, Chargers -- Mathews quietly finished 2011 as the No. 7 fantasy back in standard leagues, and tied for seventh among running backs in receptions. With Mike Tolbert gone to Carolina, Mathews could explode with a stranglehold on goal-line and passing-down work.

6. Ray Rice, Ravens -- Rice's contract situation isn't a concern, but he's unlikely to get the football 367 times again. Still a workhorse with rare all-purpose ability, he's a shoo-in top-tier back.

7. Darren McFadden, Raiders -- No, you can't count on him for 16 starts. But you can count on McFadden to be a week-winning difference-maker when he's in the lineup. Prior to the week of his 2011 Lisfranc injury, McFadden was on pace for well over 2,000 total yards and 14 TDs. New Oakland OC Greg Knapp is one of this generation's most run-heavy offensive minds, and the Raiders will count even more heavily on McFadden with Michael Bush out of the picture.

8. Matt Forte -- Our expectation is that Forte will report by camp whether or not his contract demands are met, but he'll lose goal-line work to Michael Bush and perhaps even some passing-down looks. Bush is a terrific blocker and receiver. Expect more of a committee in 2012.

9. Marshawn Lynch -- Lynch's outlook is littered with red flags after four seasons of mediocrity suddenly morphed into a mammoth breakout down the stretch of a contract year. Lynch is an offensive centerpiece, however, and he benefits from OL coach Tom Cable's tried-and-true zone scheme. He's safely in the top ten because he's going to get the ball so much.

10. Jamaal Charles -- Charles' ACL recovery is a concern, but he gets the edge over Adrian Peterson because he's a better bet to play early, and the nod over MJD because Jones-Drew's workloads are piling up at an alarming rate. The Chiefs' offseason design points strongly toward one of the league's most run-heavy offenses. Charles will be at the forefront of that.

Just Missed: Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Doug Martin, DeMarco Murray, Beanie Wells.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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