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While Ricky Williams was a high pick (no pun intended) coming off a one-year suspension in his prime, Adrian Peterson is the most extreme case, as plenty argue he should be the No. 1 pick in 2015. He’s obviously our generation’s best talent at running back, and the argument is he should be fresh after sitting out essentially a full season that had nothing to do with an injury. Peterson had never failed to rush for double-digit touchdowns during his previous seven years in the league, averaging 5.0 YPC. He ran for 2,097 yards in 2012, and with Norv Turner now his OC, there’s a real chance he’s given the opportunity to have the most catches of his career. Moreover, Teddy Bridgewater is a breakout candidate, and the Vikings’ schedule looks favorable. But it’s mostly unprecedented for an RB taking a full year off at age 30. I don’t really know what to make of Peterson this season, but he’s going to cost a top-three pick, and while the upside makes sense, I doubt I’ll own him.
Andrew Luck threw for 4,761 yards, 40 touchdowns and got 7.7 YPA during his third year in the league last season, also adding 273 rushing yards and three scores on the ground. He’s 25 years old, hasn’t missed a single snap in his NFL career due to injury despite taking a ton of hits and now has Andre Johnson joining an emerging T.Y. Hilton to go along with Donte Moncrief and rookie Phillip Dorsett, whom Indy just spent a first round pick on. Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are solid options at tight end, and new running back Frank Gore should provide better pass protection if nothing else. Luck is my choice to win the NFL’s MVP, and he’d easily be the No. 1 pick if all franchises held a draft today. Still, I personally don’t recommend taking a quarterback early (unless it’s a two-QB league of course, then he’d be the No. 1 overall pick), so I’ll be watching him ball on teams other than my own this year, because he’s obviously going to be costly.
I’m all in on the Travis Kelce hype train, willing to spend a (late) third-round pick on him, ahead of Jimmy Graham even. Kelce had just 27 fewer receiving yards than Graham last season despite seeing 40 fewer targets, and the latter is now leaving a New Orleans team that attempted the second-most pass attempts to a Seattle one that attempted by far the fewest (a difference of 205). Meanwhile, Kelce’s 503 yards after contact led all tight ends in football, and while that can be attributed to Alex Smith not targeting him deep downfield, he broke 17 tackles (fourth most among TEs), dropped just four passes, and there were zero interceptions on passes in which he was the target. He’s just 25 years old and reportedly played through injuries most of last year (to be fair, so did Graham, probably to an even greater extent). Kelce is going to be a monster.
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Brandin Cooks secured an NFL-high 81.5 percent of his targets (minimum 60 looks) during his rookie campaign, when he totaled 623 yards over 10 games (an 85-catch, 997-yard pace over 16 contests) before suffering a season-ending thumb injury. The Saints attempted the second-most passes last year and lost Jimmy Graham (121 targets) during the offseason, and Marques Colston is seemingly slowing down at age 32. Cooks has the upside to easily be a top-10 fantasy wide receiver in 2015, especially in PPR formats. He got the 11th most fantasy points per target last season, ahead of Mike Evans and Demaryius Thomas (h/t Mike Salfino). Go get Cooks.
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I don’t understand why DeMarco Murray’s current ADP is outside the first round, one year after he totaled 2,261 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s had durability issues in the past, but most running backs can say the same, and he’s played 30 games over the past two seasons. I get the concern about him having 436 carries last year counting the postseason, which is definitely a heavy workload, but Murray is 27 years old with 934 career-rushing attempts. In other words, 1,099 fewer carries than Marshawn Lynch. And while he’s leaving the No. 2 ranked run blocking team graded by Pro Football Focus last year, he’s joining an Eagles squad that PFF has graded as No. 1 in each of the past two years by wide margins. His new team’s uptempo system produces a lot of snaps, so Murray seems like a top-five back. Ryan Mathews is nice insurance, and his utter lack of durability history should mean he won’t cost too much as a handcuff.
Song of the Week: CHVRCHES – “Leave A Trace.”
Jeremy Hill needs to improve his pass catching ability, but he proved to be a good blocker and clearly a superior runner to Giovani Bernard during his rookie season last year. Hill’s 2.8 YPC after contact tied for the second-most in the NFL among all backs who had at least 100 carries, and his 622 yards after contact were the eighth most in football, and every back ahead of him had more rushing attempts. It’s a gift if Hill falls to you in round two. He’s the real deal. I’d take him in the latter half of the first.
Longread of the Week: You Just Got Out Of Prison. Now What?
Justin Forsett totaled 1,373 yards over 14 games as a starter last year, getting 5.3 YPC with seven rushing scores on just 216 carries. He also ran for 129 yards on a season-high 24 attempts during Baltimore’s loss in New England in the playoffs. The Ravens didn’t do much to address the running back position during the offseason, as the team clearly believes in him. Forsett is 5-8, 195 pounds and 29 years old but has just 582 career carries, so it’s not crazy to expect one more year of elite production. It’s typically not smart betting on someone coming off a career year, especially a running back approaching 30 years old, but Baltimore projects to win around 10 games this year, and the addition of offensive coordinator Marc Trestman could easily result in Forsett doubling his reception total from last year. He’s undervalued and has the upside to be a top-10 player.