Analyzing the Top Four Fantasy Football Picks

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Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson gave the Sophomore Slump a vicious stiff arm as he won the NFL Rushing Title in 2008. He ran for 1760 yards on 363 carries (4.8) with 10 TDs. He added 21 receptions for 125 yards. He topped 100 yards ten times and was held under 76 yards just once. Talk about steady production. Despite having two monster games as a Rookie (224 & 296) he topped 75 yards just seven times. His consistency improved dramatically. What I like about AP is how he holds himself accountable. He really takes his “shortcomings” seriously and works hard to improve. I fully expect him to be an even more complete back in 2009, which should be scary for opposing Defenses.

The Vikings face Cincinnati, Carolina, and Chicago in the fantasy playoffs. Cincy has a much-improved Defense (on paper), but he should still be able to have his way with them. Carolina could prove to be tough. Chicago isn’t the same Defense as it’s been in the past, but they should present a challenge, especially at home. AP should get off to a fast start facing Cleveland and Detroit in Weeks 1 & 2 and St. Louis in Week 5. He should dominate Detroit in Week 10 and Arizona in Week 13.

AP will go 1 or 2 in most leagues. Standard scoring he’ll probably be #1 while PPR leagues could push him to #2. I think he’s even better in 2009 rushing for 1800 yards and 14 TDs.

Michael Turner
Michael Turner more than proved he was capable of stepping out of LT’s shadow to be a feature back. Early in the season he was inconsistent. He would dominate bad Defenses [Detroit, KC, GB (injuries), Oakland, Denver] and get bottled up by good ones [TB, Carolina, Chicago, Philly]. Something happened in Week 12 though as he destroyed Carolina for 117 yards and 4 TDs. He became a machine putting up solid games against everyone he faced, including TB and a tough Minnesota run D. He had 100+ yards and/or a TD in his last nine games.

There is some cause for concern though despite the monster numbers (1699 yards, 17 TDs). He had 376 carries last year. That is a lot for a back even if he didn’t have much mileage prior to the season. Historically, RBs with such a huge workload see a dip in production the following year. I’m already calling for his TDs to reduce because of the addition of Tony Gonzalez, who is great inside the 20. He’ll face a tougher schedule this year with games against Miami, New England, Dallas, Washington, NY Giants, Philadelphia, and the Jets, along with two games against Carolina and Tampa Bay. His fantasy playoffs schedule consists of matchups with New Orleans, the Jets, and Buffalo, which isn’t terrible. Despite the likely dip in production I still think Turner will be a top 3-4 back. I’m expecting 1700 total yards and 13 TDs.

Maurice Jones-Drew
Maurice Jones-Drew finally gets a chance to prove that he can be an NFL feature back. Given what he’s done in a somewhat limited role, the fantasy world is salivating at the thought of what he could do in an expanded role. Naturally there is some risk in taking a player who has never had 200 carries in a season, but that can be viewed as a plus since he hasn’t put on a lot of mileage. Despite his 5′7″ stature he is quite durable. That’s because he packs 208 pounds of muscle on that frame. He is a bowling ball with great moves and quickness. What’s more impressive is his nose for the end zone. Mojo has 40 TDs (34 rushing, 4 receiving, 2 return) in his three years. He also is extremely gifted at catching the ball out of the backfield. He has had 40+ receptions every year, including a career high 62 last year. He should benefit greatly from a healthy Offensive Line, which was the main reason behind Jacksonville’s disappointing 2008 season.

This year Jacksonville has some nice matchups agaist Arizona in Week 2, St. Louis in Week 6, Kansas City in Week 9, and Cleveland in Week 17, which doesn’t help most fantasy owners. His fantasy playoff schedule consists of Miami, Indianapolis, and New England, which is less than desirable. Of course a RB with MJD’s versatility has the ability to produce against anyone.

Mo-Jo will likely go in the top three picks in most league, perhaps #1 overall in PPR leagues. I fully expect him to meet his lofty expectations. I’m putting him on 2000 total yards with 14 total TDs.

Matt Forte
Like most of the top Running Backs this year, there are some question marks with Matt Forte. AP likely has to deal with a gunslinger taking over at QB. MJD has never had more than 200 carries so it’s unknown how he’ll deal with an increased workload. Michael Turner had a ton of carries last year, something that historically has been bad for the following year production. Matt Forte’s questions are similar to AP’s. What will the addition of a proven QB mean to his production? With Jay Cutler under Center, will Forte lose carries? Likely. Though his ability to catch the football (led all RBs with 63 receptions last year) will keep him heavily involved in the Offense. Will his presence open up the running game by keeping Defenses honest? Likely. Though I don’t expect Forte’s production to suffer from Cutler’s arrival.

The main thing Forte had going for him was consistency. He only failed to reach 10 fantasy points in one game (8.5 in Week 4 against Philly) during the typical fantasy season (He had 7.5 in Week 17). He scored a TD in 10 of the first 16 games. He didn’t have monster games, but he delivered every week. Despite playing in an Offense with limited skill position players, Forte had 1715 total yards and 12 total TDs.

He has a fairly friendly fantasy schedule early on facing Detroit in Week 4 (unfortunately the second meeting is Week 17), a three-game stretch in Weeks 7-9 against Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Arizona, and Week 13 against St. Louis. His fantasy playoff schedule is brutal, which makes him a candidate to sell high. He faces Green Bay, Baltimore, and Minnesota. His pass-catching ability should help, but that’s a tough schedule at the worst possible time.

Though he could struggle down the stretch, he should still be good for 1700 total yards and 10+ TDs. Barring injury he’ll be selected in the top four picks with a slight bump in PPR leagues.

Ryan Lester
http://lesterslegends.com