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Mike’s Top Five Fantasy Football Players

The following is my submission to the Grantland Fantasy Island Contest. The prompt was to pick the top five fantasy football players in 2012, explain why, and also pick one sleeper in 750 words or less. Feel free to debate. I do apologize to MJD and Drew Brees for just missing the list. 

Welcome Fantasy Footballers to the first ever Grantland Fantasy Island contest, the second-ever fantasy football situation that would make you consider filming a porn movie in your opponent’s apartment to gain a competitive edge. But enough with introductions, we’ve only got 750 words to convey all this incredible knowledge. So without further ado, I present the top five fantasy players of 2012.

  1. Ray Rice. Bill Barnwell already pointed it out a month ago, but Ray Rice is the most complete back in the NFL today. He’s eclipsed 2000 total yards in two of the last three years, including a career-high 2,068 yards last year on only 368 touches. He also set a new high for touchdowns with 15 combined TDs, nearly doubling his career best. Throw in the fact that nobody on his roster will be vulturing carries or TDs this year with Ricky Williams gone, and it’s not unreasonable to expect 2,200 yards and close to 20 total TDs. As a bonus, Joe Flacco is the check-down king; helping Rice lead the Ravens in receptions in 2011. He’s also entering his age-25 season, the same age RBs like Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams put up career years.
  2. Arian Foster. I’m not as high on Foster as others are. A big reason is health. Foster has only played in 35 regular season games over the previous three years compared to 48 by Rice. Add in that he’s got nearly twice as many fumbles as Rice over that time (9 to 5) as well as splitting carries with a talented Ben Tate and you can see why I wouldn’t feel comfortable spending the top pick in the draft on this guy. With that said, if he can stay healthy and reach 325+ carries, you can expect to see 1,600 yards and 15 TDs.
  3. LeSean McCoy. McCoy is probably the best mover in space out of the players listed so far. He has incredibly quick feet and can change directions at will. He’s also the smallest guy in the group, which is likely the cause of his small carries compared to the other two (Andy Reid’s pass-happy attack also doesn’t help). He had 48 receptions a year ago, a number that isn’t likely to increase when you have DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and Michael Vick’s sporadic accuracy on the same team. What he does have going for him is that he’s a touchdown machine, notching twenty scores on his belt last year, nine of which came from inside two yards, which were most in the league. If Philly has the ball inside the five, you know who it’s going to.
  4. Aaron Rodgers. With a change of pace, we’re bringing a QB into the fold. I don’t even know why I have to explain myself with his pick. We have a guy coming off an MVP year in which he played the QB position about as perfectly as humanly possible. He’s got a stable of receivers, including the rapidly developing Randall Cobb, and one of the most gifted athletes in the league in Jermichael Finley. This is all in addition to the Packers utter lack of anything resembling a rushing attack. Rodgers could easily eclipse 5,000 yards and 40 TDs this year if his team actually needs him to play in all 64 quarters this year.  Not too shabby for the fourth pick of the draft.
  5. Tom Brady. According to FootballOutsiders.com, Tom Brady has had four of the top eight statistical seasons for a QB of all time, based on their DYAR metric. In fact, before 2011, he had three of the top five. Now, he’s got even more receivers to work with — thanks to Bill Belichick’s “one man’s trash” theory regarding his passing attack – and two of the best, most versatile tight ends in the league, giving Brady an embarrassment of riches. In sports, few things have been as consistent as Tom Brady over the last five years, and 2012 promises to be just as good, much to Bridget Moynahan’s chagrin.

Sleeper: Kyle Rudolph.  Kyle Rudolph is currently projecting between the 13th and 16th round in most 12-team leagues. He’s coming off a modest rookie season but is likely going to see his production go up due to a full offseason (which will also help Christian Ponder). He is the Vikes’ third-best offensive option behind healthy versions of Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. Look for him to be a top-10 tight end this year.

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