The old adage in fantasy football is you won’t win a championship in the first round but you sure can lose it there remains spot on. Unlike fantasy baseball, where premium players are found in abundance in the first few rounds of a draft, fantasy football has few proven elite talents whose potential production merits a first-round selection.
However, as fantasy owners know all too well, once the games begin anything can happen. It doesn’t take long for preseason rankings to carry little weight. Fantasy football has become a week-to-week proposition with owners often desperately seeking any solutions they can find on a weekly basis that will propel their team to greatness.
That isn’t to say those stud first-round picks carry little value, though. If you land a first-round stud and he performs like a first-round stud, chances are your team is in a much stronger position to contend as a result. It’s certainly the optimum situation and one that will help an owner successfully navigate the often treacherous waters that arise during the season.
With one half of the season in the books for many fantasy leagues, now is a good time to look back at how the first round has delivered in 2011. How many of the players who fantasy owners couldn’t wait to get with their opening pick have delivered and how many have sent seasons spiraling out of control as a result of underachieving play?
Using the Average Draft Position in the National Fantasy Football Championship’s 12-team Primetime event, let’s see how this season’s first round has fared:
1. Adrian Peterson RB – All Day has been his typical stud self. He ranks sixth among NFFC running backs and if Week 8 is any indication his production may get even better if the Vikings continue to utilize him in the passing game. You can never go wrong with Peterson as a top fantasy pick and he’s delivered for his owners once again this season.
2. Ray Rice RB – Rice continues to be an elite fantasy player. He’s currently fifth in the NFFC in average points per game among running backs and remains the bell cow of the Ravens’ offensive attack.
3. Chris Johnson RB – This season’s biggest fantasy bust, CJ2K is having a miserable season. As I wrote last week, I still believe he’s worth targeting if you can Buy Low. But after his Week 8 disaster against the hapless Colts he cannot be started in any fantasy league until he shows some signs of consistent production. His season has been an epic fail.
4. Arian Foster RB – After some early season issues with a hamstring injury, Foster has regained fantasy stud status. He’s third among RBs in the NFFC in average points per game and gets it done as both a runner and receiver. He could very well be the No. 1 pick in fantasy drafts in 2012.
5. Jamaal Charles RB – Charles’ season ended quickly as he suffered a knee injury in the Week 1 loss to the Bills. It was a devastating blow and one his fantasy owners may not have been able to recover from.
6. LeSean McCoy RB – The premier pick of the top half of NFFC drafts, McCoy is having an MVP season for the Eagles. He ranks No. 1 among RBs in scoring in the NFFC and has gone from being a very good player to one of the best in the league.
7. Andre Johnson WR – Johnson has missed four games and possibly a fifth this week due to a hamstring injury. That has knocked him out of the Top 25 among NFFC wide receivers although he does rank seventh in average points per game at the position. If healthy, he remains a fantasy stud, but the injury has deprived his owners of the production expected from the seventh overall pick in the draft.
8. Calvin Johnson WR – The NFL’s best wide receiver, Megatron is the No. 1-ranked wide receiver in the NFFC. A big play threat who is virtually impossible to defend in the Red Zone, Johnson has been one of this season’s best value picks in the first round. The current leader in the Primetime event took Megatron No. 1 overall in his draft and that decision has paid off handsomely thus far.
9. Roddy White WR – White has struggled to regain his elite fantasy status. He ranks 15th among WRs in the NFFC and is on pace for 89 receptions, a far cry from the 115 he hauled in last season. He’s still a terrific talent, though, but he hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing.
10. Larry Fitzgerald WR – With Kevin Kolb struggling, Fitz’s production has not returned to the level of excellence many anticipated before the season. He’s WR12 in the NFFC and is on pace for the third-fewest receptions of his career. As I wrote last week, though, he has some good matchups coming up the rest of the season, making him a fine Buy Low candidate. He may not justify his preseason ADP but he still has a chance to be a productive WR1 in the second half of the season.
11. Rashard Mendenhall RB – It’s been a dismal fantasy season for Mendenhall as he ranks a disappointing 23rd among NFFC RBs. He’s only topped 70 yards rushing once and he’s been held to 45 yards rushing or less four times. Mendenhall hasn’t lost his talent but the Steelers’ inability to run block consistently and their confidence in Ben Roethlisberger and the passing game have combined to render him one of this season’s biggest busts.
12. Aaron Rodgers QB – The lone quarterback typically taken in the first round of the Primetime event this year, Rodgers has been a terrific source of fantasy production. He is the No. 1-ranked QB in the NFFC and is on pace for a jaw-dropping 5,400-yard passing season. Rodgers is the NFL’s premier quarterback and with an ADP of 12, he’s been one of this season’s strongest first-round value picks. If you have him, chances are your team is in contention. That’s precisely what you want from a first-round pick.
TK’s HOT PICKS
Here are five sleeper picks for Week 9:
QB: Matt Cassel (KC) – Cassel has topped 255 yards passing in three of his past four games and faces a Miami pass defense that allows 271 yards and 2 passing TDs per game. He makes for a fine bye-week replacement this week.
RB: Benjarvus Green-Ellis (NE) – He soiled the bed last week with only five carries. But Law Firm will rebound this week against a Giants’ run defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points to RBs in the last four games.
WR: Doug Baldwin (Sea) – He has a great rapport with Tarvaris Jackson and has five receptions or more in three of the past four games. The Seahawks will likely have to throw it more this week to try and beat the Cowboys and Baldwin will receive a healthy number of targets once again.
TE: Jake Ballard (NYG) – Ballard is quietly emerging as a reliable option in the Giants’ passing game. This week he gets to face the Patriots and their league-worst pass defense. Start him with confidence.
D: Oakland – Tim Tebow has been sacked 13 times the past two games and gave up two defensive scores to the Lions last week. If you have a defense facing Tebow, you absolutely positively have to start them. Don’t even think about it. Just do it.
Tom Kessenich is the Manager of High Stakes Fantasy Games for STATS LLC. Find out more about the NFFC at nffc.stats.com or email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomKessenich.