So there may not be a worse time to draft a 2013 fantasy league than today, before the final week of the 2012 regular season has even kicked off. We still have dozens of injuries ahead, plus the usual off-season player movement and coaching changes. And then there's April's NFL Draft.
Thus, we begin this feature with an important warning: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.
It's fine for me to conduct a one-man 2013 mock in 2012, of course, because I'm a fully licensed fantasy professional. Ordinary citizens shouldn't think about drafting a league for another seven or eight months, however. Today's exercise is simply a guessing game, based on an incomplete picture of the league. It's theoretical fantasy football. But you're nonetheless allowed to ridicule the mock in comments, in keeping with tradition.
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Please assume that we're playing a standard Yahoo! public league, with 10 teams, two starting running backs, three receivers, and no PPR. What you're getting here is a blend of what I'd do if drafting today, and what I think would likely happen if nine other owners were involved. And don't hold me to these results — the expiration date for this draft is coming soon.
OK, the key caveats are out of the way. Let's do this thing...
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota
2. Arian Foster, RB, Houston
3. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit
4. CJ Spiller, RB, Buffalo
5. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle
6. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore
7. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay
8. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia
9. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City
10. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington
Peterson at the top is one of the easiest calls in any draft in recent memory. He'll be coming off a historic season, the best of his six-year career. The man has never failed to reach double-digits in touchdowns, no matter how lousy his supporting cast. I might be able to construct a (weak) case to draft Megatron over AP — based on the likely separation between each player and the No. 2 at their position — but in practice, I'd always draft Peterson.
The aggressive placement of Spiller is based on the assumption that he'll have the lead role next season, with a new coaching staff in place. As of this writing, CJ is averaging an utterly ridiculous 6.5 yards per carry and 10.9 per catch, but he has just 224 touches on the season. Give him, say, 300-320 touches, and we'll be looking at 2,000 scrimmage yards, easy. (It kinda seems like I'm just taking some of this year's more bullish predictions for Ryan Mathews and reassigning them to Spiller, doesn't it? Well, let's just remember that Spiller doesn't carry all of Mathews' red flags, and he's already demonstrated that he's capable of an elite level of performance over multiple weeks).
Why no quarterbacks in the first round? I'll admit it seems a little unrealistic, because in a public-style league, someone almost always snags their favorite team's QB in Round 1. But the player pool at QB is awfully deep; in a 10 or 12-team fantasy league, every owner will be satisfied with whatever they get on draft day. It's the one position you won't be able to screw up. Right now, the tenth highest-scoring quarterback in our game (Matthew Stafford) is averaging 313.0 passing yards per game.
1. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
2. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
3. Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
4. AJ Green, WR, Cincinnati
5. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
6. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay
7. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas
8. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville
9. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee
10. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland
If you want to argue that Gronk should be a first rounder, I won't fight you. He offers a massive scoring advantage at his roster spot. Gronkowski entered Week 17 as the No. 2 overall fantasy tight end of 2012, despite having only appeared in 10 games. That's absurd.
Next August, when we're assembling fantasy rosters in a non-mock environment, I highly doubt that I'll be thinking about quarterbacks in Rounds 1-3. I like the QBs who rank 8-12 well enough to snag a pair of 'em as platoon partners. Give me Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, and I'll be good to go. But I'm trying to keep today's mock realistic; in most leagues, we'll see 4-5 quarterbacks taken in the first two rounds. Cam gets the top spot on my board, thanks mostly to his crazy-good second half and the size/durability edge over RG3. Over his last eight games, Newton has totaled 14 touchdown passes, he's rushed for five scores, and he's thrown just three picks. He's been reliably great. Ding him for inconsistency if you like, but you're talking strictly about his September and October performance.
1. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans
2. Tom Brady, QB, New England
3. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
4. Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago
5. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver
6. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
7. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago
8. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas
9. Victor Cruz, WR, NY Giants
10. Stevan Ridley, RB, New England
How can you possibly have an argument with this round? You can't. It's pretty much a perfect round, exactly as it's gonna shake out next fall. Well done, guru.
This is also the Bear round, where the only two draft-worthy Chicago skill players will be taken. (The defense obviously figures to be taken, too, though not this early). We don't yet know who the Bears' OC will be — if it's still Mike Tice, you'll see rioting in the streets — but we can still safely assume that Jay Cutler will look Marshall's way at least 160 times. No way that changes.
1. Roddy White, WR, Atlanta
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver
3. Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay
4. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston
5. Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland
6. Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England
7. Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
8. Wes Welker, WR, New England
9. Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota
10. Hakeem Nicks, WR, NY Giants
Well, McFadden had to go somewhere in the opening rounds. I didn't feel great about the pick, even in a meaningless one-man mock. When DMC's name is next in the RB queue, there's a decent chance I'll veer to another position.
Manning really shouldn't be separated from Brady and Ryan by a full draft round, as he is here, but not every team in the mock needed a QB at this stage. Peyton's fall to the fourth will make a bit more sense when you check the draft grid below. (The imaginary owner who picked second in Round 4 could afford to pass on Manning in Round 3, because the team picking at the turn had rostered Cam. Make sense? No? Scroll down for full draft results). I certainly won't guarantee that Manning will fall this far in most drafts next year; he'll be coming of the seventh 4,000-yard, 30-TD season of his career.
If Welker somehow isn't on the Patriots' roster next year, I'll be stunned (and I don't think I'll be drafting him in the fourth). Over the past six seasons, in years when both Welker and Tom Brady were healthy, Wes has never failed to deliver top-14 value at his position in standard scoring systems. He's obviously a monster in PPR, routinely catching 110-plus passes per year.
1. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay
2. Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington
3. Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis
4. Eric Decker, WR, Denver
5. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay
6. Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans
7. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona
8. Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh
9. Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis
10. Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore
There's a wide range of 2013 draft possibilities for a few players in the round above, but particularly for the guys who went 7-9. Fitzgerald's value is clearly tied to his team's miserable quarterback situation; he's hit rock-bottom in 2012, kneecapped by the Skelton-Lindley mess. If the Cards can simply find a league-average passer, Fitz will be a threat to reach 1,400 yards again. He's hit that mark four times in his career already.
Wallace is headed to free agency, and it would be a surprise if he landed back in Pittsburgh. You'll recall that he failed to agree to an extension with the Steelers during the off-season. Instead, the team committed $43 million to Antonio Brown over six years. So any attempt to value Wallace for fantasy purposes in 2013 is simply a dart throw. We know he's a huge talent, a terrific deep threat, but his hands did not always function properly in 2012. The tape isn't perfectly clean.
Jackson will almost certainly opt out of the final year of his deal with St. Louis, making him a free agent. (Fantasy-wise, the dream landing spot for S-Jax is Green Bay. But as a Bears fan, that's a nightmare I don't want to consider until it's absolutely necessary). If Jackson were to leave the Rams, Daryl Richardson would obviously get interesting, though he'd need to win a preseason position battle.
And yeah, I'm choosing to ignore the S-Jax retirement nonsense, because he's in line for one last significant payday, plus he should finally have a chance to win. It's tough to believe he'd check out now.
1. Steve Smith, WR, Carolina
2. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh
3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Cincinnati
4. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis
5. Jason Witten, TE, Dallas
6. Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego
7. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas
8. Giovani Bernard, RB, draft prospect
9. Danario Alexander, WR, San Diego
10. Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo
There's little doubt that some member of the incoming rookie class will be selected earlier than Round 6 — probably much earlier — but until we know everyone's landing spot, it's tough to pull the trigger on any first-year player. Bernard is a safe bet to be among the first backs selected, coming off back-to-back excellent seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2012, adding 47 catches for 490 yards, and he found the end zone 17 times. You'll like his tape. Give him a decent workload in 2013 and he'll be an asset in our game.
1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit
2. Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City
3. Miles Austin, WR, Dallas
4. Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco
5. Reggie Bush, RB, Miami
6. Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay
7. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle
8. James Jones, WR, Green Bay
9. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, NY Giants
10. Cecil Shorts, WR, Jacksonville
If Tim Tebow indeed ends up in Jacksonville next season as a threat to start, then you can sub Darren Sproles for Shorts in this round. All bets will be off on Jags receivers, if/when it's Tebow time. This round is something like the Island of Misfit Players, with contract situations unsettled for Bowe, Bush and Jennings. But it's tough to imagine any of those three falling beyond the seventh round in standard drafts, no matter where they land in 2013.
That's enough mock commentary from me, gamers. Feel free to discuss errors and omissions below, beyond the draft grid. Maybe map out the next round or two, if you're so inclined.
Also, many thanks to all of our regular (and irregular) commenters for a terrific season. Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year, full of fantasy success.
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