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TGIF: Fantasy Football Draft, 2009

The regular season has only been over for a few days but, that doesn’t mean we can’t start thinking about next season. I pulled a similar stunt like this when I made a first round projection for the 2009 baseball season. So naturally, I am back again to do the same thing only this time, for football. It is my firm belief that for most people, your first round pick is going to let you down. If you just look over your draft results from your most recent league, you will see disappointing players polluting picks 1-12. Hell, I’ve already highlighted how atrocious the first round of the SoB football draft was. Who should go in Round of 2009 drafts and who may let owners down once again? Let’s find out.

1. Adrian Peterson (RB), Minnesota Vikings

Peterson was a wrecking ball of offense for the second straight season. He lead the NFL in rush yds with 1,760 and he found the endzone 10 times. He recorded 10 games with at least 100 yds rushing and his lowest single game total for rush yds was 32 yds against New Orleans. Other than that, he was never below 76 yds rushing in any game. He’ll only be 24 when the 2009 season starts which assures years and years of fantasy production.

2. DeAngelo Williams (RB), Carolina Panthers

DeAngelo Williams went from undrafted back who split carries all the way to fantasy god. After only 414 rush yds and 4 total TD through the first 7 games, owners who did draft DeAngelo quickly dumped him into the free agent pool. Williams then went on a tear of epic proportions by rushing for at least 100 yds in 7 of the last 9 games of the season and ended with 1,515 yds and 20 total TD. Rookie Jonathan Stewart also did well in his limited roll (836 yds, 10 TD) but, Williams is the clear #1 back in Carolina.

3. Michael Turner (RB), Atlanta Falcons

Turner was on a new team and was in the role of the featured back, something he had never done before. Not to mention he was part of a Falcons franchise that was destroyed by the Michael Vick incident and had to work with a rookie QB. How would he respond? How about 1,699 yds and 17 rush TD’s (2nd most in the NFL). Turner’s great season included a pair of games where he rushed for 200+ yds. Critics point out that he was only good against bad defenses and couldn’t run against good defenses. Well, I say that Atlanta’s passing game was not developed yet so opposing defenses would concentrate on Turner and the running game. Once Matt Ryan emerged, all defenses backed off and a gate opened for Turner. He is the real deal.

4. LaDainian Tomlinson (RB), San Diego Chargers

It is true that he is not what he used to be. That doesn’t mean he still can’t be useful. 2008 was a season that saw LT rush for a career low 1,110 yds but, he did reach double digit rushing TD’s and 50+ receptions for the 8th straight season. LT battled numerous injuries that saw him miss playing time and affect his performance. In fact, he only had two games of 100+ rush yds. So yes, in spite of all the bad, LT still did a lot of good. He may make us pay for doubting him next season.

5. Brian Westbrook (RB), Philadelphia Eagles

Westbrook is no stranger to injuries. 2008 saw his worst epidemic of the injury big to date. Westbrook appeared in only 14 games and failed to reach 1,000 yds rushing for the first time since 2005. Despite that, he reached a career high in rushing TD (9) and added 5 receiving TD for a total of 14. His 402 receiving yds were also a dip in his usual total but, if these are his numbers during an off year then, just wait til next season when he is healthy.

6. Steve Slaton (RB), Houston Texans

Going into the 2008 season, the Houston backfield was a mystery. Names like Ron Dayne and Ahman Green floated around but in the end, it was the unknown newcomer. Slaton, the rookie running back out of West Virginia, turned out to be one of the more versatile backs in the game. He could run (1,282 rush yds, 9 TD) and he could catch (50 receptions, 377 yds, 3 TD). The Texans are bolstering a superb, young offense these days and Slaton is the new foundation at RB in Houston.

7. Matt Forte (RB), Chicago Bears

Forte was also another impressive rookie RB in 2008. He was just as good of an all around back as you could get. Forte had 11 games with 100+ total yds and ran for 1,238 yds with 8 rushing TD and had 477 receiving yds with 4 receiving TD for a total of 12 TD. His 63 receptions lead all rookie RB’s and he had over 300 carries which means he is #1 in that backfield. As an added bonus, Forte only fumbled once all season.

8. Drew Brees (QB), New Orleans Saints

Move over Brady and Manning, there is a new sheriff in town. Every season someone is going to take a QB in round one. In 2009, it will be Brees. Brees set career highs in pass yds (5,069, 2nd best ever for a single season) and TD passes (34). Does this mean he will be a monster let down next year? Heck no! New Orleans has an offensive policy that says “pass first,” which has brought Brees success in his time as a Saint, as he has at least 4,400 pass yds per season since joining New Orleans. The team also has a deep core of young and talented WR’s. Throw in a healthy Reggie Bush catching out of the backfield and we have the #1 QB in fantasy football. 

9. Steven Jackson (RB), St. Louis Rams

OK, I hate Steven Jackson. Why you ask? Every season he is projected to go in the top 5 picks. There is no reason for this. Jackson had one great season and that was in 2006 when he had over 2,300 total yds and 16 TD. Every other season he has barely eclipsed 1,000 yds rushing. So, if you must draft him, do it around this pick. Jackson is talented but, the problem lies within two things: injuries, and his team. Jackson has missed 8 games over the last two seasons. His team can’t put a good enough offense around him to support him. The Rams can’t pass and their defense is so horrible that they can’t afford to run the ball. All things considered, Jackson is a good risk/reward pick in the first round.

10. Thomas Jones (RB), New York Jets

I know what you’re thinking. “Golly gee Pete, for a guy who had 1,312 rush yds and 15 total TD, you sure are ranking him pretty low.” In my defense, it is hard to expect a repeat of those numbers considering the year before, he only had one rushing TD. If you go from one rush TD to 13 rush TD (career high) in the span of one season, you can’t expect him to duplicate it. When Favre and the Jets did well, so did Jones. When the Jets faltered at the end of the season, Jones couldn’t reach 100 yds rushing in each of the final four games of the season. So with next season’s QB situation up in the air, we can’t bank on Jones being amazing. However, Jones did reach the 1,000-yd plateau for the 4th straight season and New York’s offensive line is one of the best in the league. You could do worse but, just don’t reach too high for Jones.

11. Clinton Portis (RB), Washington Redskins

Although he had some nagging injuries, Portis failed to miss a single game in 2008. He once again eclipsed 300 carries and ran for 1,487 yds and 9 TD. At one point in the season, he rolled off five consecutive games of 100+ rush yds. The only time in his career where he has failed to reach at least 1,200 yds rushing was in 2006 when he was injured and only played in 8 games. Not too many RB’s are guaranteed to be a success but, Portis is one the exceptions that offers a big reward for minimal risk.

12. Larry Fitzgerald (WR), Arizona Cardinals

Just like with QB’s, at least one WR will be off the board in the first round. Fitzgerald is as good a guarantee as any and that is a rarity at the WR position. The number one thing you look for in a player is consistency. In three of the last four seasons, Fitzgerlad has reached at least 1,400 yds and 10+ TD. The only exception being an injury-plagued 2006 that saw him miss three games. Also in three of the last four seasons, he has at least 96 catches with two of those years being seasons with 100+ catches. Also worth noting is Arizona’s less than stellar defense and lack of a running game, both of which assure a lot of throwing.

Although most of the first round I have projected is full of RB’s, it also doesn’t hurt to wait. Just look at my list. DeAngelo Williams, Michael Turner, Steve Slaton, Matt Forte, and Thomas Jones were all, for the most part, drafted in later rounds or even went undrafted all together in 2008 drafts. All I am saying is that, if you want to pass on a first round RB, then it is OK because there are diamonds in the rough out there every single season.

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