When the real imaginary games begin I'll have a more diverse fantasy portfolio, but throughout mock season – which began for some of us in December – my lineups are looking oddly similar.
Here are 10 players I love more than you …
Frank Gore(notes) – Here's the short version: I don't believe that '06 will ultimately be Gore's peak. He's an elite talent, capable of delivering a top-three fantasy season, and he's still just 26. The Niners figure to be a run-heavy, time-of-possession team in the Mike Singletary-Jimmy Raye era, and that clearly benefits their featured back.
Philip Rivers(notes) – In case you somehow missed it last year, Rivers is now the centerpiece of the Chargers' attack, and LT2 is a cast member. Rivers led the NFL in quarterback rating, tied for the league lead in passing TDs and he threw for 4,000 yards. Still, mockers rarely take him as a top five QB.
Greg Olsen(notes) – OK, I've asked around, and it sounds like Olsen is going to make pretty much everyone's list. So perhaps it's not accurate to say that I'm unusually high on him relative to my peers. We're all 7th Floor Crew groupies.
Dwayne Bowe(notes) – Bowe was one of the league's most heavily targeted receivers in 2008, back when the Chiefs' passing game had other credible options. They're going to absolutely wear him out in '09. If you're a third-year receiver fetishist, then how can you not love a guy who delivered 86 catches and 1,022 in Year 2?
Matt Schaub(notes) – After Schaub's 400-yard effort in sub-zero Green Bay last year, I was sold. No further evidence required. Schaub is a talented passer at the controls of a loaded offense, yet he's not among the first eight QBs selected in most mocks.
Darren McFadden(notes) – It's way too early to apply the bust label here. McFadden played through a medley of injuries as a rookie, but in the opening weeks we caught a glimpse of what he can do at full strength (30 carries, 210 yards). Sure, the Raiders suffer from a certain institutionalized incompetence, but they're not actually such a bad running team. McFadden still has scary speed (4.33) and lots to prove.
Percy Harvin(notes) – As a fantasy owner, every few years you'll see an obscenely talented collegian shred some poor school's defense, and you'll think to yourself, "Oh, I've gotta own that dude." And then they invariably get drafted by Minnesota.
Felix Jones(notes) – Not unlike his former Arkansas teammate McFadden, we didn't get a particularly long look at Jones last year, but what little we saw was promising (8.9 yards per carry, three rushing TDs). If he captures Julius Jones'(notes) old workload in Dallas, he'll be an every-week fantasy play.
Donald Brown(notes) – The Colts are skilled propagandists, so you'll no doubt hear all sorts of positive spin regarding Joseph Addai(notes). But Brown is an all-purpose back, and Indy grabbed him in Round 1. He's not going to have a small role. Even if he gets the short end of a 60-40 split, you'll appreciate the fantasy contribution.