Throughout the week, the Yahoo! fantasy staff will be conducting our annual post-NFL Draft fantasy mock. This thing will look EXACTLY like your league's draft in August, with zero exceptions. Book it. End of story. That's how deadly accurate we are around here. To see the Round 1 results, just follow the link.
Despite the fact that Johnson is clearly a first-tier receiver – he led the NFL in both catches and yardage in '08 – this was actually a tricky call. Picking at the turn, this team will now wait through 22 selections before adding a second running back. It's a risk, but there are some useful names in the 18-28 range in the RB ranks. And again, Johnson is exceptional. He reached triple-digit receiving yardage eight times last season, and he caught 10 or more passes in seven games. Johnson led the league in receptions back when David Carr was his quarterback in '06, so he's already proven himself in the most challenging circumstances. Calvin received consideration here, too, in the draft's most difficult pick-your-Johnson moment. (Andy Behrens)
Round 2, Pick 2 - RB Steve Slaton, Houston Texans
It's a run on Texans! Better get 'em before they secede. Slaton is coming off a spectacular rookie year (1282 rushing yards, 50 receptions, 10 total TDs), and he finished strong, topping 100 total yards in six of his final seven games. Entering last season, we knew he was elusive; his toughness near the goal-line was a mild surprise. Houston didn't draft a back to complement Slaton, but obviously the Texans still have time to add a veteran from the scrapheap. He's nonetheless in line for 20-25 touches per game. In points-per-reception (PPR) formats, he should be considered a bit earlier than this. (Behrens)
I know, I know, this is so predictable of me. Once a Portishead, always a Portishead. But while others are bridge jumping after the second-half swoon Portis went through, I'm taking a broader look at the back and happy to jump on board. He was third in carries last year, fourth in yards, he's made 32 consecutive starts, he runs inside, he runs outside, he's dynamite in blitz pickup (okay, no points for that). Perhaps Portis should be showing wear on the tires after seven years in the league, but there's nothing wrong with last year's 4.3 YPC. The odometer can push Portis out of the first round, sure, but I'm happy to get him in this spot. (Scott Pianowski)Randy Moss, New England Patriots
Say this for Moss, he's clearly bought into the Patriot Way, 100 percent. The old Moss might have pouted through last season's Year Without Brady (it was maddening – to fantasy owners anyway – that Matt Cassel couldn't deliver the deep ball), but Moss didn't lose focus. He played the dedicated soldier, kept working hard, helped the club any way he could, in truth, he evolved into one of the team's leaders.
Now Moss gets to play with Brady again, and you might remember that duo having some occasional success back in 2007 (23 touchdowns). I'm willing to roughly split the difference between the last two seasons; with average luck we're probably looking at 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns, and if thing really click, there might be another 17-20 touchdowns to come. Forget the running back herd when you can grab an upside this tantalizing in the middle of the second round; take a shot at greatness. (Pianow)
Quick: Which receiver had a league-leading 101.5 yards per game last season? If you didn't guess Steve Smith, then you probably didn't look at the guy I just picked. Even after serving a two-game suspension to start the year, Smith still racked up a ridiculous 1,421 yards receiving; had he played a full season, he would've led the NFL in that stat, too. And for those in bonus leagues, the mighty Smith chipped in with 100-plus yards in eight of his 14 contests. Given the presence of "Double Trouble" – DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart – Smith probably won't scores a ton of TDs. But those two backs are also the reason he's able to run free so much, a good tradeoff for his fantasy owners. (Michael Blunda, Pro Football Weekly)
RB Steve Jackson, R1; WR Steve Smith, R2.
Just how good is Calvin Johnson? Last season, with defenses draped all over him and a hodgepodge of quarterbacks throwing his way, he somehow managed to snag 78 catches for 1,331 yards and an NFL-high 12 receiving scores. Entering his third campaign at just age 23, "Megatron" only figures to get more studly. Ok, so his surrounding cast didn't improve by leaps and bounds, but Detroit at least upgraded a bit at receiver and could have a budding star in RB Kevin Smith. Plus, Johnson should finally have some QB consistency as long as the Lions stick with Daunte Culpepper and don't decide to throw Matthew Stafford to the wolves. Only Larry Fitzgerald posted better fantasy numbers than Johnson in 2008, and it wouldn't be surprising if the exact same thing happens this season. (Blunda)
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, R1; WR Calvin Johnson, R2.Round 2, Pick 7 - RB Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys
There is temptation to go wide receiver here. Even though there's been a run (5 of last 9 picks have been WRs), the next five teams that will account for the next 10 picks still need a WR1. The top two WR tiers will be picked pretty thin by then, but rather than make a mini-reach for a Roddy White-type here, I'll make the WR drafters pay a premium by further diluting the RB field. Barber's rushing numbers regressed in 2008, but toss his toe injury, Tony Romo's absence and the TO circus into a blender and what you get is a big fat mulligan. Sure he'll cede carries to Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, but Barber is still the go-to guy in goalline and clock-control situations, which gives him a realistic shot at another 12-14 TD season. Now let's see if I can find a QB in a platoon to continue this team's theme ... (Matt Romig)
RB DeAngelo Williams, R1; RB Marion Barber, R2.
The Saints have made modest improvements to a defense that ranked 23rd in the league in yards allowed and 27th in the NFL in points surrendered. I get that, but was the unit transformed enough to turn a potential first-round pick into a mid-second round selection? I don't think so. I still see the Saints playing plenty of catch-up this year, so Brees should keep most of the gains he made in 2008 when he threw for six more touchdowns and roughly 600 more yards than his previous career highs. Investing in career years has been a risky proposition for those willing to go QB in Rounds 1-3. Conditions are perfect for Brees to reverse that trend. (Mig)
RB Brian Westbrook, R1; QB Drew Brees, R2.
I get a stars-aligning type of feel for Brown this season. He’s now 18 months removed from ACL surgery that cut short his ’07 campaign at a time when he was running away from the rest of the fantasy running back pack. And even though he was fresh off the knee injury last season and saddled in a platoon with Ricky Williams (who took away 161 carries), Brown still managed 10 touchdowns, nearly 1,200 yards from scrimmage and a respectable 4.3 ypc clip. Williams will open the ’09 campaign at the ripe old age of 32, while Brown is just 27. In what is currently a contract year, I fully expect Brown to take back some workload, pushing his touches over 300 (he finished with 247 in ’08) en route to the best fantasy season of his career. (Brandon Funston)
RB Michael Turner, R1; RB Ronnie Brown, R2.
Considered going several different ways with this pick: Roddy White, but there’s more ball to share with Tony Gonzalez in town; Anquan Boldin, but there’s that contract squabble to worry about; Tom Brady, but there’s ACL recovery to worry about, not to mention there’ll be a Brady, Kurt Warner, Tony Romo or Peyton Manning available on the comeback since we know Evans won’t take a QB this early. Ultimately, I settled on Jennings, who has scored 23 touchdowns in his past 30 games (two in the postseason). Everything is arrowing up for Jennings, who is embarking on his fourth season in the league after setting career marks for catches (80) and yards (1,292) last season. (BFun)
RB Maurice Jones-Drew, R1; WR Greg Jennings, R2.
Round 2, Pick 11 - RB Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints
Down the stretch last season the PT Cruiser was the ultimate fantasy bailout. Over the final six weeks, the Illinois grad averaged an astonishing 113 total yards per game and totaled nine touchdowns. From Week 13 on only DeAngelo Williams outscored Thomas in fantasy points per game at running back. Doubters contend Reggie Bush will wrest away touches from him, but the veteran rusher is the only reliable between-the-tackles option on roster. New Orleans' explosive vertical offense will create enormous holes and generate abundant goal-line touches for Thomas. Toss in his tacky hands (3.4 receptions/game from Weeks 10-17) and it's conceivable the Bourbon Street bulldozer could roll his way to a 1,700-total yard 12-15 TD campaign. (Brad Evans)
RB Matt Forte, R1; RB Pierre Thomas, R2.
Round 2, Pick 12 - QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots
When Brady's knee ligaments snapped Week 1 versus KC the fantasy universe was altered. But when the Pats dealt Matt Cassel, ironically to the Chiefs, it assured the pigskin masses the Golden Boy should return to form in '09. Bill Beezlechick reiterated just last week his star QB is "working in the offseason program without limitations." The orchestrator of Brady's historic 50-TD season is now in Denver attempting to retool the Broncos offense so thoughts of another scoring outburst are farfetched. Still, with familiar faces (Randy Moss/Wes Welker) and new weapons (Joey Galloway/Fred Taylor) to target, he should surpass 30 touchdowns. (BE)
RB Adrian Peterson, R1; QB Tom Brady, R2.
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