April 27, 2009
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. Mr. Evans gets things started...
All hail the Purple Jesus! Despite leading the league in rushing last year, fantasy’s most heralded commodity surprisingly finished the season ranked outside the top-five in fantasy points per game at his position. But his incredible explosiveness and home-run hitting ability are too dreamy to pass up. Minnesota’s immovable offensive line and improved passing attack should create mammoth holes for All-Day to burst through. In only his third season, this could be the year he makes Eric Dickerson sweat. Don’t be shocked if he flirts with 2,000 rushing yards with 11-14 end-zone plunges. (Brad Evans)
Mr. Universe was a statistical marvel last season, especially in PPR leagues. A consistency king, he set the pace in receptions among running backs (64 catches) and topped 100 total yards in 11 of 16 games. The acquisitions of Jay Cutler and trench monolith Orlando Pace will greatly enhance the versatile back’s value. Because Cutler can stretch opponents by targeting Devin Hester downfield, Forte will rarely see overloaded boxes. Combine that with his tender hands and expected increase in goal-line attempts, and the second-year wonder could accumulate 2,000 total yards and 12-15 scores this season. After racking up 379 touches a year ago, he’ll surrender a few carries to Kevin Jones, but his steady yields are invaluable. (B.E.)
Based upon his career averages for yards per touch (carries and receptions) and touchdowns per touch, if Jones-Drew had handled the rock 300 times in ’08, he would have finished the season with 1,743 yards from scrimmage and 17 touchdowns –- totals that would have landed him just shy of last year’s fantasy point leader at the RB position, DeAngelo Williams. With Fred Taylor’s exit to New England this past offseason, the finally-featured MoJo is destined to surpass 300 touches for the first time in his career in ’09 –- he had a career-high 259 touches last season. If you’re worried that the diminutive dynamo can’t handle the extra burden, you’re fooling yourself. MoJo is stout, sturdy and tough as nails –- a Week 17 DNP in ’07 is his only absence on his three-year attendance record. MJD has proven adept in all facets of the game, excelling at the goal-line, in the open field, as a receiver and blocker, and he should garner something in the neighborhood of 250 carries and another 60-70 receptions. He’s the new and improved Brian Westbrook. (Brandon Funston)
While Turner is a complete non-factor in the passing game, he made up for it last season with a league-high 377 carries. And, rather than burning out from the extreme workload, he only seemed to grow stronger as the season progressed, averaging 113 rushing yards and scoring 11 TDs in the final eight games -- sharp improvements over his first-half numbers. With the addition of TE Tony Gonzalez, there is a decent chance Atlanta won’t be quite as run-heavy in ’09 -- the team finished second in total carries in ’08, with 41 more carries than third-place Minnesota (560 to 519). Still, as the unquestioned featured back for what is shaping up to be one of the league’s better all-around offensive units, “The Burner” is likely to tote the pigskin roughly 325-350 times. And that should be more than enough work to make him worthy of a top four pick. (B.F.)
Round 1, Pick 5 - RB Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles went running back early over the weekend, but that was expected with Correll Buckhalter gone to Denver. You know what you're getting with Westbrook: versatility, PPR gold (average of 71 reception over last five seasons) and, yes, a few anxious injury report moments on Sundays. With their recent skill haul, there's talk of the Eagles morphing into a run and shoot/wildcat-type system. I can't think of a better player to thrive under those conditions than Westbrook. An upgraded OL should help boost a 4.0 ypg average that tied a career low in 2008. (Matt Romig)
Round 1, Pick 6 - RB DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
From Weeks 8-16, Williams scored 16 touchdowns in eight games. Some will shy away here due to the presence of Jonathan Stewart, but on Carolina's all-you-can-eat days on the ground, nobody feeds until Williams pushed back from the buffet. Case in point: Stewart's monster games came in Weeks 11 and 14 (combined 245 yards, 3 TDs), and in those weeks Williams averaged 153 rushing yards and 2 TDs. There's plenty to go around. Pull up a chair and have a taste. (Mig)
Ok, so L.T. isn’t the fantasy juggernaut he once was, but I couldn’t bear to pass up his ridiculous potential with this pick. Even with a bum foot for most of 2008, he still racked up 1,536 yards from scrimmage and scored 12 times. Sure, those numbers don’t seem all that impressive compared to what he’d done the previous six campaigns, but they were enough to put him among the top 10 fantasy rushers. Tomlinson will turn 30 in June, but something tells me he has at least one more prolific season left in him. The Chargers didn’t go out and get him any RB competition this offseason, so they must think the same thing. And so what if he’s injured again during the postseason — his fantasy owners only need him through Week 16. (Michael Blunda, Pro Football Weekly)
Deciding between two injury risks in Jackson and Brandon Jacobs, I opted for the one who’s clearly the focal point of his team’s offense. With a declining QB in Marc Bulger and an unproven receiving corps, the Rams will have no choice but to feed S-Jax, both as a rusher and pass-catcher. Remember what he did in 2006, the last time he made it through a full season unscathed? 2,334 scrimmage yards, 16 TDs. The last two campaigns (in which he’s only played 12 games each) haven’t been quite as sweet, but the guy is only 25 and has to get healthy one of these years, right? I’m willing to bet that with a new head coach, coordinator and stud blocker in OLT Jason Smith, the stars are going to again align for Jackson in 2009. (Blunda)
I had eight backs earmarked for this pick and all eight of them flew off the board. Things got a little testy in the war room during our 1:30 on the clock.
Okay, why not Chris Johnson in this spot? He might be the fastest player in the league and he's capable of scoring from anywhere on the field; he had touchdowns of 66, 58, 25 and 21 yards as a rookie. While his body isn't ideally suited for inside running, he's shown good vision and quick decision-making when the play calls for a carry between the tackles. The rookie wall was never a problem, as Johnson went for 5.6 yards a pop in December.
Sure, there's a limit to how much work you can give a 200-pound tailback, and LenDale White got most of the goal-line work and stole 15 touchdowns, most of them plunges from in-close. But the Titans didn't handle Johnson with kid gloves, either; he collected 294 touches and would have been in the Top 10 in that stat had Jeff Fisher not benched everyone of note for the meaningless season finale. Johnson went for 1,488 total yards and 10 scores as a rookie, and I'm confident he'll be in that neighborhood again this time around. Speed thrills. (Scott Pianowski)
We're at a point in the draft where I don't see any backs jumping out at me, so it's time to jump positions. Fitzgerald climbed to the top of the receiver board with his electric run in the playoffs (546 yards and seven touchdowns is just ridiculous), and the hits figure to keep coming with Kurt Warner sticking around. Fitzgerald might be the most valuable commodity in the league today; he doesn't turn 26 until the end of August.
What if Anquan Boldin leaves town, you ask? Non-factor, amigo. The whiny wideout missed five games last year and it didn't hurt Fitzgerald at all; the dreadlocked dynamo piled up 28 catches for 528 yards and six scores in those games. The bottom line is this — Fitzgerald will command the ball and fill the box score no matter who's on the other side of the formation. Enjoy the ride. (Pianow)
The set-up for Gore is almost perfect. Under head coach Mike Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, the Niners will be a physical, run-heavy team. Here's what Raye had to say about Gore back in January:
"Frank Gore seems like he has the capability to carry the ball 25 times (a game). Now (fullback) Tony Richardson - we don't have that player or that body right now in the building. But I think we'll find that guy."
To that end, San Francisco signed FB Moran Norris to a three-year deal. Norris was the Niner's lead blocker in 2006, back when Gore averaged 105.9 rushing yards per game and 5.4 per carry. Don't let third round pick Glen Coffee scare you off. He's a handcuff, a rookie back to complement the 25-year-old Gore. The only concern here is health; Gore's workload is safe (and probably huge), and his talent isn't in doubt. (Andy Behrens)
Round 1, Pick 12 - RB Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants
Jacobs delivered 15 touchdowns in just 13 games last season, and he was the No. 4 running back in per-game fantasy scoring. At the end of Round 1, he's a terrific value and a fairly obvious pick. We assume that LaRon Landry agrees.
Jacobs has suggested that he could get an additional five carries per game for the Giants now that Derrick Ward has moved on. But if you're drafting him, you'd settle for the same old workload and 14 or 15 games played. Don't get too greedy. (Behrens)
OK, this team is on the clock again for the first pick of Round 2. They'll have approximately 14 hours to decide whether to draft old school (RB-RB), or instead take a top-tier WR or QB. The turn is a tricky place.
We'll now turn the comments over to angry Clinton Portis supporters.
Photos via Getty Images