Fantasy Football 2014: Who Deserves The Number One Spot?

Adrian Peterson

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

 

You’re on the clock.

Like the Cleveland Cavaliers, fantasy owners picking first are very fortunate. They’ll have the first crack at three incredible players, each possessing their own skill-sets and positives. However, they have to make the most of the pick, because, unlike the Cavaliers, they won’t be lucky enough to have the first pick in three of the past four seasons.

That’s a 0.75 percent chance, folks.

Similar to this year’s NBA Draft, there is also a big three in fantasy football. Of course, there’s last year’s fantasy MVP, Jamaal Charles, who was the best back in fantasy. He is oozing with upside and athletic ability, just like Andrew Wiggins. Then, there’s the speedy LeSean McCoy, who led the NFL in rushing a season ago. The league’s deadliest cutter, McCoy provides a rare skill-set. And finally, there’s Adrian Peterson, who may not have as much upside as the aforementioned guys, but is still elite in all aspects, like Joel Embiid. And while you certainly can’t make a wrong choice with any player, can you make a right one?

Let’s find out.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

I laughed.

Last season, when pass-happy Andy Reid joined the team, so many people were worried about Charles’ fantasy prospects. Little did they know it would only help the electric back, as he went on to finish as the top rusher in fantasy, averaging over 19 fantasy points per game. Sure, he ran the ball well, but he made his biggest impact catching the football. Consider this– under Reid, Charles averaged 4.6 catches per game, and his 70 catches on the season ranked 28th in all of football, ahead of teammate and number one receiver, Dwayne Bowe. He was the most consistent back in fantasy, finishing as a top-12 back all of one week, and sporting a consistency rating of 87.5% in PPR formats. And in a league driven by passing,  one-fourth of CBS Sports fantasy teams that made it to the championship had Charles on their roster, while only 16 percent of teams with Peyton Manning made it to the finals.

There is no denying how great Charles was in 2013, but 2014 may be a bit more difficult. The Chiefs lost three offensive linemen during the first two hours of free agency, watching Brandon AlbertGeoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah walk. However, as long as Alex Smith is under center and Andy Reid is on the sideline, the rushing totals may actually come second for Charles. Last season, Smith actually saw more than half of his pass attempts travel five yards in the air or less. He’s the king of the checkdown, and we all know Andy Reid loves throwing the screen pass. In fact, the Chiefs threw behind the line of scrimmage almost 19 percent of the time (via PFF). This makes Charles possibly the ideal number one pick for PPR leagues.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

McCoy recently stated that he is the best running back in football. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen, but there is no denying that last season, he probably was.

If Charles was one among fantasy running backs, McCoy was definitely 1A, scoring the second-most points among the position, averaging 18.7 fantasy points per contest. He was just as consistent as Charles, too, posting just one week where he wasn’t a top-12 fantasy back. Many people were excited about the arrival of new head coach Chip Kelly, who wanted to go fast like Ricky Bobby, but they only ran the 12th-most plays per game in 2013. McCoy could see even more volume this season, seeing as Kelly stated that he wants to be much, much faster. And while many may be concerned with the arrival of Darren Sproles, consider this– Sproles only averages about 3.5 carries per game, and with Bryce Brown in Buffalo, there is no real backup to threaten McCoy’s goal line work. Besides, Sproles is going to serve as more of a receiver, operating out of the slot quite a bit, especially without the presence of DeSean Jackson.

McCoy may be the most talented runner in the league, and the Eagles offense is one of the most explosive in football. And while Nick Foles was really good last year, I still think they want to run the ball a lot more than throw it.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

No disrespect, Shady, but until he proves otherwise, Adrian Peterson is the best running back in football.

He just is.

Granted, he wasn’t the best in fantasy last year– heck, he wasn’t even top-five, but Peterson, when healthy, is the safest player in the game to own. He has finished inside the top-10 among running backs in every season of his career, including his rookie year. An absolute monster, and now he will be graced with the presence of Norv Turner?

Sign me up.

Turner has been one of the best offensive minds in football over the past decade, and has gotten the best out of elite running backs. Guys like LaDainian Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith thrived under Norv, and now he’ll get another Hall of Fame caliber back in Peterson. Turner already stated that he plans to use Peterson a lot more in the passing game, which could be huge for his value. The Vikings new coordinator stated that he envisions Peterson catching 50-60 balls, and if he manages that, he will be the surefire top fantasy back when you consider all of the work he is going to do on the ground.

Notable RB Receptions Under Turner

RB Receptions under Norv Turner

 

If the likes of LaMont Jordan and Frank Gore can catch over 60 passes in a season, I see no reason why Adrian Peterson couldn’t, and to those who have McCoy and Charles ahead of him because they catch more passes, an uptick in receptions should put AP at the top of the list.

So, you’re on the clock. Who are you taking?

It’s Peterson for me because, to me, he is the best combination of safety and upside. But, like I said, it’s impossible to go wrong.

Adam Pfeifer is a lead fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.

 

 

 


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