The 2012 NFL season is quickly approaching and that means fantasy football. Pigskin fanatics have been in agony for a few months now, but mock drafts are starting to get under way. In fact, some actual league drafts are already taking place now, so it’s time to roll out the off-season edition of the RantSports.com 3-round mock draft for the 2012 fantasy football year.
1. Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy
A true workhorse, McCoy provides the best of the rushing and receiving game in an offense designed around him.
2. Houston Texans RB Arian Foster
a. Like McCoy, Foster is the focal point of his team’s offensive attack, which makes him a surefire top 3 pick in any draft.
3. Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
a. He’s been a top 3 scorer for half a decade. Enough said.
4. Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice
a. If he doesn’t hold out, Rice is arguably the best back in fantasy land this year. He’s a top 5 pick anywhere regardless.
5. Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson
a. Megatron set a new standard for fantasy receivers in 2011 and, unless you believe in the Madden Curse, you should take him at No. 5 or later if the previous four players are already gone.
6. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady
a. His 5,235 passing yards were overshadowed last year, but he’s a fantasy superstar and he’s a tremendous consolation if Rodgers is gone.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew
a. If not for a possible holdout, MJD would be a top 5 pick after a career-high 1,606 rushing yards in 2011. With a shaky second-year QB under center, he’ll get plenty of work again this year.
8. Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson
a. This is the first uncertain pick of the draft. Toward the end of 2011, CJ2K seemed to have returned to form after his holdout hurt him the previous year. Here’s to gambling that he’ll return to form in 2012.
9. San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews
a. Surprisingly, Mathews rushed for 1,091 yards in 15 games last season and now that he’s all alone in the Chargers’ backfield, he should get a workhorse’s load of carries in 2012.
10. New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
a. A record-setting season didn’t bring this QB closer to his team. If Brees holds out, his value will drop considerably, but 5,476 passing yards in a single season is easily worth a first-round pick.
11. Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray
a. If you pass on a rusher in Round 1, Murray is a great second-round option. His six-game pace as a starter in 2011 had him on pace for over 2,000 rushing yards before he broke his ankle.
12. Lions QB Matthew Stafford
a. Yet another 5,000-yard passer coming off shoulder surgery, it will be very interesting to see what Stafford does for an encore in 2012. With Megatron out wide, he should repeat the feat.
13. Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton
a. After the most prolific rookie season by any QB in history, Newton is already a fantasy stud and well worth a second-round pick.
14. Patriots WR Wes Welker
a. Often overlooked for whatever reason, Welker led the NFL with 122 receptions in 2011. Add in 1,569 and nine touchdowns and he’s easily the second-best fantasy receiver on the board.
15. Oakland Raiders RB Darren McFadden
a. Big dice roll here. If McFadden stays healthy, he could be the top fantasy running back in 2012. However, that’s a huge “if” so beware.
16. Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte
a. A holdout isn’t the only reason Forte falls to the second round. Word in Chicago is Michael Bush will get the Bears’ goal line carries, so Forte’s numbers could drop in 2012.
17. Cleveland Browns RB Trent Richardson
a. Typically rookies don’t get drafted in the second round, but considering Richardson’s production at Alabama and Peyton Hillis’ big year with the Browns in 2010, this rookie might be well worth this spot in most drafts.
18. Saints TE Jimmy Graham
a. A tight end in Round 2?! You better betcha. Graham’s numbers would have made him the 5th-best fantasy receiver in 2011, so he’s easily worth a second-round pick.
19. Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald
a. Poor Larry. He was once a top 5 pick when he had a decent QB throwing him the ball and that’s the only thing keeping him from being a first-round pick now.
20. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski
a. Gronk actually outscored Graham in 2011, but he’s got way more competition for Brady’s attention now. However, he’s still easily worth a second-round pick, even as a tight end.
21. Texans WR Andre Johnson
a. Until AJ proves he can stay healthy, he drops to the third round. If he stays on the field for 16 games, he will challenge Megatron, Welker and Larry for the top receiver spot, but he drops until then.
22. Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White
a. Yes, he has competition for the ball in Atlanta, but White was the only player other than Welker to record 100 receptions in 2011. Enough said.
23. Packers WR Greg Jennings
a. A sprained knee kept Jennings from finishing 2011 as a top 10 fantasy receiver, so there’s no reason to think he can’t be that in 2012, especially with Rodgers throwing him the ball.
24. St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson
a. Another often forgotten fantasy star is Jackson, who was a top 10 fantasy RB in 2011 behind the worst O-line in the game. With Sam Bradford healthy, Jackson is easily a top 10 option again in 2012.
25. Panthers WR Steve Smith
a. Newton revived Smith in 2011 as the veteran posted his best statistical totals in four years. The 6th-best fantasy receiver a year ago, Smith shouldn’t go later than Round 3.
26. Falcons WR Julio Jones
a. Jones had half the catches White did last year, but the same number of touchdowns. His deep-ball ability makes him a top 10 fantasy receiving option in 2012.
27. Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green
a. Green quietly had one of the best rookie season of any receiver in history last year. With a year of experience under his and QB Andy Dalton’s belts, he’s in for a breakout season.
28. San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore
a. How can he be so forgotten? Gore posted five straight 100-yard rushing games in 2011 before suffering a hip injury. Don’t be scared by the 49ers’ crowded backfield; Gore is the workhorse and he’s a steal in Round 3.
29. Denver Broncos WR Demayrius Thomas
a. He only played 10 games in 2011, but those numbers stretched over an entire season come out to 51 catches for 881 yards and six touchdowns. That was with Tim Tebow “throwing” him the ball. With Peyton Manning in town, Thomas is in for a breakout season.
30. Seattle Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch
a. He’s a gamble because he had his best year as a pro in 2011, but now he’s got a hefty new deal and Lynch has a history of laziness on the field. Take your chances on the 6th-best fantasy RB in 2011.
Where were some of the usual names, you ask? Well, critical injuries keep several big names like Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Hakeem Nicks and Peyton Manning out of the first three rounds. That doesn’t mean they won’t be worth third-round picks, but who knows if they’ll be the same dynamic players and fantasy studs they once were.
If holdouts end before training camp, guys like Forte will see their stock rise considerably on draft day, which still might be a bad thing. In Forte’s case, he’s not the only capable ball carrier in the Bears’ backfield anymore. Crowded backfields also hurt the value of perennial stars like Gore, while the drastically rising value of tights, such as Graham and Gronkowski, cause the values of players like Andre Johnson to fall slightly.
One thing is certain: drafts for the 2012 fantasy football season will be very different than any previous year, so hold on to your hats this season!