The fantasy football world is all about being able to predict what is going to happen in the next season. In fact, the success of any team is based on how well the owner can make those predictions and the moves that go along with them. In an effort to give you another viewpoint, I’m going to take a look at the top ten from each offensive position in 2012 and make a prediction about which players are most likely to miss the top ten this year as well as attempt to peg their most likely replacements.
For the top ten lists, I used standard PPR scoring with four points for a passing touchdown, six points for a receiving or rushing touchdown, one point for every 25 passing yards and one point for every ten rushing or receiving yards. I also took off two points for every turnover. I only looked at the stats for weeks one through 16 because most fantasy leagues don’t do anything in week 17.
The top Ten Quarterbacks of 2012
1) Tom Brady
2) Drew Brees
3) Aaron Rodgers
4) Cam Newton
5) Robert Griffin III
6) Matt Ryan
7) Peyton Manning
8) Tony Romo
9) Andrew Luck
10) Matthew Stafford
General Thoughts: Historically speaking, the quarterback position has the least amount of turnover in terms of the top producers. That makes it very difficult to predict anyone dropping out of this group because there just isn’t that much change from year to year. I think Brady will drop from the top half to the bottom half of the top ten, but I think he will manage to stay on the list. I could take the cheap way out and say that Matthew Stafford will drop a spot or two and be out. I’m not going to do that though for any of the positions.
Most Likely Out: Robert Griffin III is a great talent – that much is certain. He also wouldn’t have sniffed the top ten if it wasn’t for his rushing yards and touchdowns. The problem is I see the Redskins taking it slow with him at the start of the season and changing how they use him. I don’t think he’ll see another season rushing like he did in 2012. There is just too much at stake and he is too good of a passer to make him run all the time.
Possible Replacements: The easy money is on Russell Wilson, who was eleventh or Colin Kaepernick, who was in the top ten over the games he started. I’m not interested in the easy way out, though. Instead, I’m going to back Eli Manning. He had only 21 touchdowns and 3,740 yards over the first 16 weeks, which is well below what we can expect from him in that offense, especially if the running game gets going to bring the play-action element to the game. The other player who I like to take a big jump up this year is Sam Bradford. He has a lot of new weapons, but I think he might end up just short of the top ten.
The top Ten Running Backs of 2012
1) Adrian Peterson
2) Arian Foster
3) Doug Martin
4) Ray Rice
5) Marshawn Lynch
6) Trent Richardson
7) Jamaal Charles
8) CJ Spiller
9) Alfred Morris
10) Frank Gore
General Thoughts: With the injuries that tend to hit the running back position every year, the top ten often comes down to which of the top 15-20 running backs can avoid spraining their ankle or tweaking their hamstring and missing a few games – that means about half of these names on the list won’t be there next year, but it is pretty tough to predict who it will be.
Most Likely Out: Most would say Frank Gore, but I already mentioned I’m not going to pick the tenth ranked player because that’s too easy. Instead, I’m going to ruffle a lot of feathers with this one and say Trent Richardson. Through week 16, Richardson wasn’t even in the top 15 for rushing yards with only 950 in total. His position in the top ten was based largely on his touchdown totals, which can fluctuate wildly from year-to-year. He also struggled with injuries last season (and this off-season) and that seems to be the difference between top ten and top 20 running backs in a lot of cases.
Possible Replacements: There are lots of good options for choices here. Reggie Bush and Steven Jackson should both see better seasons on new teams. It is hard to imagine Chris Johnson having a year that starts as poorly as last season. Matt Forte should be a bigger part of the offense with his new coach. My personal choice if I had to only pick one would be LeSean McCoy who now finds himself in Chip Kelly’s scheme.
The top Ten Wide Receivers of 2012
1) Calvin Johnson
2) Brandon Marshall
3) AJ Green
4) Dez Bryant
5) Randall Cobb
6) Wes Welker
7) Andre Johnson
8) Reggie Wayne
9) Demaryius Thomas
10) Roddy White
General Thoughts: It is fairly interesting that four of the ten names on the list were 30+ years old when the 2012 season began even though most owners treat 30+ year old players like the plague. The top ten wide receivers tend to be fairly consistent from year-to-year. There are some minor fluctuations where a top ten players might drop into the teens before bouncing back up the following year. However, the majority of the names on the list stay on the list until they reach an age where they lose a step.
Most Likely Out: The obvious choice here is Wes Welker. He was Brady’s top target for years and years and now he’s going to be second or third on Peyton Manning’s list. He’s going to be out of the top ten, probably by a significant amount. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne will be joining him. Wayne’s stat line was inflated by his week five stats and he is likely going to be a smaller part of the Colts’ game plan as the young players step up. Johnson’s injury history combined with his age really worries me. I think the next big injury could be his last.
Possible Replacements: Julio Jones is the no brainer choice. He’s a top talent and should take the next step in his third season, finally surpassing Roddy White in yards and receptions. I also want to throw a little love in the direction of Larry Fitzgerald. After five straight seasons of at least 80/1,050/6 he fell far below that line in 2012 – that won’t happen again. I’m expecting him to be a top ten receiver this year.
The top Ten Tight Ends of 2012
1) Tony Gonzalez
2) Jason Witten
3) Jimmy Graham
4) Heath Miller
5) Rob Gronkowski
6) Brandon Myers
7) Greg Olsen
8) Dennis Pitta
9) Owen Daniels
10) Jermaine Gresham
General Thoughts: As most of us know, the tight ends feature a small top end group, then a very, very large second tier. There really isn’t much that separates the fifth tight end from the fifteenth in terms of value, so the bottom half of this top ten list could be completely different and it wouldn’t surprise anyone. About the only thing that would surprise people is if Graham, Witten, Gonzalez and Gronkowski were healthy all year and missed the top ten.
Most Likely Out: I already mentioned the names from six on down could be completely different and I wouldn’t be surprised. There is also one name in the top half that doesn’t belong and that belongs to Heath Miller. Coming off of a late season ACL injury, Miller isn’t up to form. Even if he was, I wouldn’t put money on him repeating the career best season he had in 2012.
Possible Replacements: There are lots of players who could take up the bottom half of this top ten, but I’m going to go with Jared Cook and Vernon Davis. Cook was signed to a big contract by his former coach and is going to be a big part of the Rams offense. This should be the year that he takes that step forward. Davis is back to being the guy in the 49ers passing game with the injury to Michael Crabtree and should see a major bounce back season. I have a minor concern he might line up as a receiver so much that some websites will list him as such, but that is a pretty slim chance and out of our realm of control.
Side Note: You’ll notice I didn’t mention a single rookie for any of the positions. Historically speaking, what we have seen over the last two years with rookies breaking into the top ten is it’s extremely rare. Of all the positions, running back is by far the easiest for a rookie to make the top ten. For that reason, if I had to pick some rookies to be in the top ten it would be either Montee Ball or Le’Veon Bell.
Now that you’ve heard my picks on who could be left out, who are your best guesses? Just remember it is a top ten, so if you’re saying four players are moving up, you need to pick four to drop out as well! Enjoy!
Find Jacob on Twitter at @feldmanjacob
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