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With football season fast approaching, fantasy magazines and top player lists are popping up everywhere you look. It’s definitely not a waste to rank the likes of the top running backs or wide receivers, since I think most of us have a pretty good grasp on where everyone should fall. Not to mention, there’s so many different ones that it’s like reading the same book, but with a slightly different ending. ‘Hey, look at my rankings! I have Terrell Owens ranked number one!’ Yeah, that’s great. You’re a dumb ass.
Anyway, I figured I’d try and make some atypical fantasy football rankings. So many things go into a successful draft and the more you know about the rookies, sleepers and potential busts, the better your chances of hopefully winning that green. First up: The top ten skill position rookies. This is not a keeper league list, this is based on the amount of points they will likely score this year. It takes into account the amount of playing time they’ll likely see, the talent they are surrounded by and most importantly, how good they are at the game of football.
As always, enjoy and feel free to disagree vehemently in the comments.
10. Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
Matt Ryan, or ‘Matty Ice’ as he was known at B.C. is believed to be the most talented quarterback in the draft class. While I strongly disagree, I’m not even going to get started on Brian Brohm going from being the likely number one pick in 2007 to dropping to the second round in 2008, even though he had a better season on a less talented team. Even so, Brohm is stuck in the quarterback fiasco that is the Green Bay Packers so the fact that Brett Favre might come back (what a shocker!) means he might not even get to play at all this season. Ryan meanwhile has the best chance to start the earliest out of the trifecta of the first three QB’s taken. Although, since he was interception prone in college he will likely push twenty interceptions this year so be wary if your in a negative point per interception league. If you want to take a gamble and don’t like Ryan, Joey Flacco has a shot at starting and will likely put up better stats than Ryan should they play the same amount of games.
9. Devin Thomas, WR, WAS
Out of all twenty six players the Redskins took in the draft, Thomas should have the most impact. Going into the pre-season, he’s the #4 WR and could spend the majority of the season battling Antwaan Randle El for the slot spot. The Redskins QB situation is a bit iffy, but if Jason Campbell can get back on track, or at least somewhat near it than the Redskins have enough weapons on offense to leave Devin Thomas relatively unnoticed. And when your unnoticed, you generally get thrown the ball, which is a good thing if you’re a rookie receiver.
8. Chris Johnson, RB, TEN
LenDale White may have the Titans starting RB job on lock (and with good reason), but Johnson should be a nice compliment to him. If you haven’t noticed, the Titans appear to be content with their severely mediocre receiving corps. There’s no other explanation for why they didn’t take a wide receiver until the fourth round with so many of the top wide outs falling to them so many times. Because of this, expect the Titans to run. A lot. I don’t think I need to tell you that’s a good thing for Chris Johnson but I will anyway. It’s a good thing.
7. Limas Sweed, WR, PIT
The Steelers did the exact opposite of the Titans in the draft: Got what they’re quarterback needed. In Big Ben’s case, it was a big possession receiver. With so many other players capturing the defenses attention, Sweed should have a field day raking in Roethlisberger’s passes. He will also likely be one of Ben’s favorite targets in the red zone as well. Cha-ching! Plus, he has a pretty cool name which is always good.
6. Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR
Word out of Panthers camp is that the staff has never viewed DeAngelo Williams as starter material. While this baffles and pains me to no end (he was one of the five players I kept on my keeper league team -- which was BEFORE the draft, just throwing that out there) the starting running back job is Stewart’s to win. The knock against Williams is that he doesn’t have what it takes to take the punishment that comes with being a starting NFL RB. While he’s had injuries, he was fantastic in college and he posted 5.5 yards on 144 touches last year. Not starter material though, which just confuses the shit out of me. Regardless of how the Williams situation is handled Stewart will get his share of carries including the bulk of the goal line work. For all you new fantasy players out there, touchdowns = :) .
5. Felix Jones, RB, DAL
Jones has landed himself in a similar (and definitely better) situation in Dallas. At Arkansas, Jones was a worthy compliment to the powerful, talented Darren McFadden. In Dallas, Jones finds himself behind Marion ‘The Barbarian’ Barber, who if you can believe it is a powerful, physical runner -- barbaric even! Unlike in Arkansas, Felix’s new offense has talent at receiver and quarterback. It could even be said it is one of the most talented offenses in the entire league. Not a bad spot to be in. Although Jones’ only likely opportunity to score touchdown’s will be to break off some outside of the red zone, he’s still going to get his touches and gain some yards.
4. Kevin Smith, RB, DET
It will be interesting to see how the departure of Mike Martz will effect the Lions offense. If they can manage to put up some similar offensive numbers, Kevin Smith has the opportunity to be what Kevin Jones was not. By that, I mean a competent starting running back. Barring a miraculous, turn around season for the ages out of Tatum Bell, starting running back duties should be turned over to Smith early on (if they haven‘t already with Bell reporting to camp overweight). Smith should make a strong contribution once he gets the butterflies out and should help the Lions attempt to fulfill Jon Kitna’s prediction of fourteen wins this season.
3. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, PIT
Some feel that Mendenhall could be the best back in the draft. I think it’s too tough to say for sure, because I do not have psychic, future reading abilities. Mendenhall should give the Steelers what they’ve been missing since Bettis’ retirement and then some. And by that, I mean a big bruiser who can will himself into the end zone but also athletically break off some long runs. In essence, he’s the very epitimy of what a Steelers running back should be. Although Willie Parker shouldn’t lose the starting job anytime soon, Mendenhall and Parker could turn out to be the best running back committee in the entire NFL.
2. Darren McFadden, RB, OAK
The general consensus was that that McFadden was the best back in the draft. Which isn’t surprising because the label is usually placed on the first RB taken who had great stats his final year in college. Talk about making a crazy prediction! Unfortunately for McFadden, being hailed as the best back to come out of the 2008 Draft meant he landed himself on the suspect Oakland Raiders offense. Although he’s the clear cut starter and should get many carries, the basically-still-a-rookie-QB JaMarcus Russell should make sure that McFadden gets a painful intro to NFL defenses. A trial by eight in the box fire, if you will.
1. Matt Forte, RB, CHI
Matt Forte has garnered major attention the past few weeks after the Bears released perennial under-achiever and Ricky Williams boating buddy, Cedric Benson. The Bears have made it clear that Forte is their starter and he was just offered a lucrative four year contract. Although he’s going to be lining up behind either Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton, the Bears’ defense should give the offense many opportunities to score each game. Basically, as of right now, Forte is looking like he might be the back that has NFL teams and fantasy owners alike face palming because they passed up on him. Draft wisely.