If you're fortunate enough to land a top-three pick in your draft, you can fly through the first round on auto-pilot. No thinking required. In most leagues — at least those with traditional scoring systems — the top three selections are going to be Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy, typically in that order. But when the clock starts ticking on the fourth pick, someone in your draft room will actually have to do some work. Reasonable people can disagree on the proper choice at No. 4 — and so can unreasonable people, like the Yahoo! fantasy team. Today, Scott Pianowski and Andy Behrens will present arguments on behalf of their preferred pick from the clean-up spot. Readers will then settle the debate in comments (probably with a third name). Let's play the feud...
Scott does the Discount Double-Check: The two players we're discussing in this exercise are elite, we can all agree on that. Both have MVP upside and explosive ceilings. Just make sure you ask yourself the key question before you commit to an answer at the four-spot: Who's got the highest floor, the safest set of draft specs?
The answer is Aaron Rodgers.
The NFL has all but legislated quarterback hits out of the game, so we don't have to worry about most QBs getting injured. And when Rodgers is on the field, you're getting a dreamy set of stats. If you rank all the quarterbacks in basic-league scoring the last four years, Rodgers grades this way: First, second, first, third. And he's holding his own in the overall ranks, finishing first, 16th, third and seventh. He's been here before. Conversely, Megatron never finished top-10 overall before last year.
You shouldn't need any selling on Rodgers' fantasy setup, which might be the best in the NFL. The Packers have a loaded receiving group (Jennings, Nelson, Finley, Jones, Cobb, you know the names) and a bunch of forgettable backs (which pushes Rodgers into some goal-line work). Mike McCarthy is a brilliant offensive designer, and just for fun Rodgers runs for 200-360 yards per season. Perfection.
Those who wait on a fantasy quarterback can still do well — there's plenty of quality in the 11-20 range. But unless you find another Cam Newton lottery ticket in the haystack (not likely), you're spotting a big lead to those who get first-tier signal callers. Go Green, amigos. As much as I hate to force Rodgers to wear No. 4, he deserves this slot.
Behrens makes the case for Megatron: Not only did Calvin Johnson lead all receivers in fantasy scoring last season, but he crushed the field. Megatron finished 46.9 points ahead of the second-best fantasy wideout, the largest gap at any position in 2011.
Does anyone seriously doubt that his stats are repeatable? No, of course you don't. Good luck finding a fantasy expert who thinks any other receiver deserves top-billing. Every Yahoo! analyst agrees on Johnson's value relative to the WR field.
While I understand the argument for picking Rodgers at No. 4, I could also build compelling cases for Darren McFadden, Drew Brees, Chris Johnson and Tom Brady. There's no other wideout who belongs in this discussion — in fact, I don't think another receiver belongs in the first round. Statistically speaking, the difference between Johnson and this year's No. 2 wide receiver, whoever that guy might be, is probably going to be enormous again.
Calvin is tied to a team that averaged 29.6 points per game last season and a QB who threw for 5,038 yards. His setup is ideal, his skill-set is unrivaled. The dude is 6-foot-5 and possesses superhero-level athleticism, making him essentially uncoverable. He's dominant in jump-ball situations, one of the best red-zone threats in the league. How surprised would you really be if Johnson were to break a few all-time single-season receiving records in the year ahead? Not very, I'd wager.
Again, I like Rodgers — I really do. But I also like the quarterbacks who will be available to me in Rounds 2 and 3 if I'm picking fourth overall. In my eyes, there's simply not another receiver who compares to 'Tron. He's in a one-man tier.