The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft is now in the books, and the fantasy landscape is undergoing major changes. Suddenly, teams have a surplus at certain positions, their quarterbacks of the futures on board, and the need to jettison some players on their rosters who were replaced by rookie selections. It is time to take a look at how the first round selections rank as fantasy options. These rankings are tailored for a re-draft 12 team league, PPR, standard scoring and 6 points for all touchdowns format.
#1 Trent Richardson, RB, CLE: The Browns traded up one spot, and fended off competition from other interested teams to get their man, Trent Richardson. Widely considered the best running back to come out of college since Adrian Peterson, Richardson is now officially the number one running back in Cleveland. This kid is the total package and will instantly become the focal point of the Browns offense. With a rookie quarterback under center heading into 2012 (sorry Colt McCoy, it was fun while it lasted), Richardson will be counted on for 20-25 carries a week, as well as serving as a safety valve receiving option for Weeden. Richardson immediately lands on fantasy rankings as a 13-15th ranked running back option, and should the Browns bolster their wide receiving options throughout draft weekend, he could be as high as 12th. A late second, or early third round draft selection in fantasy drafts for 2012.
#2 Doug Martin, RB, TB: This is an ideal landing spot for the running back out of Boise State. The Buccaneers needed to find an all purpose running back to anchor their running attack and Martin can do it all. He has Ray Rice like potential, and new Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano coached Ray Rice during his career at Rutgers. Martin will step right in as a three down running back for the Buccaneers, and push incumbent LeGarrette Blount into the role of short yardage specialist. In all honesty, Blount may not even inherit that role as Martin is a short, compact, hard runner who may end up as the short yardage, goal line option himself. He has soft hands and will be a nice receiving option for Josh Freeman, and is also an accomplished pass blocking running back. As the number one running back in Tampa Bay, Martin ranks just behind the aforementioned Richardson on 2012 fantasy draft boards. He falls at approximately the 15th position, and should be drafted in the third round of fantasy drafts.
#3 Robert Griffin III, QB, WSH: For the entirety of their careers, Andrew Luck may end up as the better fantasy option between the two top picks of the draft, but for 2012 Griffin III is the better player. Their physical attributes have been broken down to the point of nausea, and we don’t need to rehash it here. The reasons behind the ranking of RGIII higher than Luck, is pure and simply about their supporting casts. Griffin will be working with a squad of receivers that include, at least as of now; Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson(if healthy, and reports are positive as of now, that he will be) and perhaps Jabar Gaffney. More importantly, the tight ends in Washington are Chris Cooley (may need to restructure his deal to stay in D.C.), and the blossoming Fred Davis. Quality tight ends are a rookie quarterbacks best friend, and Washington is sitting pretty at the tight end position. Roy Helu and Evan Royster are both young, talented running backs that can catch the ball out of the backfield. The weapons are in place for Griffin III to be a solid 10th round selection in fantasy drafts, as either the #2 fantasy QB behind a Brady, Brees early round pick, or even possibly a high risk/high reward fantasy starter on a team that has filled out all their skill positions.
#4 David Wilson, RB, NYG: Wilson is the surprise player ranked here, above Andrew Luck or Blackmon, but I feel the circumstances he lands in with the Giants are perfect for him to be an instant fantasy producer. When Brandon Jacobs left for San Francisco after last season, he took 152 of the 374 total carries the Giants attempted in 2011. That is roughly 40% of the rushing game that will need to be accounted for in 2012, for the Giants to be able to play the game the way they like to. DJ Ware will more than likely continue to be a third down option, and not see a significant jump in the number of carries he receives(46 last season), and second year man Da’Rel Scott may be relegated to return duties, where he flashed potential in 2011. That leaves Wilson to be the new sheriff in town alongside Ahmad Bradshaw. Wilson runs very hard and led the nation in yards after contact last season, and you know coach Tom Coughlin loves that. He is still a bit raw, especially in the passing game and will need to improve his ball security. Hey, the Giants cured Tiki and his fumbling ways, and then helped Bradshaw to cut his fumbles from 7 in 2010, to only 1 last season. Bradshaw will be the unquestioned lead back in New York, but let’s not fool ourselves, his feet will always make him a candidate to miss time or at least be limited, and Wilson will see the field plenty in 2012. Start looking to take Wilson in the 9th round of fantasy drafts, he is the handcuff to Bradshaw, and could be a breakout fantasy star if Ahmad’s brittle feet act up.
#5 Andrew Luck, QB, IND: Do not take this ranking as a sign that I have any kind of problem with Andrew Luck or his fantasy potential. I think this kid is going to be a very special fantasy commodity for many years to come. Just not this year, and the Colts current roster is the reason he will not have a very productive fantasy season in 2012. Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie are fine weapons to help out the rookie, but after those two names, it gets very dicey looking down the Colts offensive roster( sorry Donnie Avery, I just don’t see it). The Colts will undoubtedly add a tight end as the draft continues because Brody Eldridge is not the answer. However, I don’t like the idea of my rookie quarterback growing along with a rookie tight end, and I’d like to see some veteran presence added at that position in Indianapolis. Donald Brown and Delone Carter are middle of the road talent running backs, and Luck will lack the luxury of a running attack to set up play-action passes, or to ease the pressure he will face. The growing pains that Luck will encounter early in his career, on a rebuilding(yes, I actually used the word) franchise will stunt his fantasy potential. Look to draft him late in your fantasy drafts, no earlier than late 13th, early 14th round as a bye week replacement, who could surprise with some garbage time stats on given weeks.
#6 Justin Blackmon, WR, JAX: Enjoy life while you can young man, and cherish those draft night memories when you were the 5th player selected overall, because a rough road lies ahead. OK, I may be being a bit hard on the Jaguars here, they do seem to be trying to surround second year quarterback Blaine Gabbert with some weapons, but I just don’t see him as a viable NFL stating quarterback. Blackmon will get plenty of opportunities to shine in Jacksonville, and should easily surpass the team leading 44 receptions that Mike Thomas put up in 2011. Yes, that was correct, 44 receptions led the Jaguars in receiving last season. The additions of Laurent Robinson and Lee Evans(I am not falling for this guy again) in free agency will at least assure Blackmon of a modicum of single coverages from time to time. The rushing attack, led by MJ Drew will keep defenses honest in their formations, allowing Blackmon some space to perform, his talent, tenacity and ‘my ball’ attitude will keep him on our fantasy draft boards. Currently, he ranks in the realm of a Torrey Smith in rankings, and can be selected around the late 8th, early 9th round in fantasy drafts.
#7 Michael Floyd, WR, AZ: What Larry Fitzgerald wants, Larry Fitzgerald gets. Well, I suppose that isn’t necessarily true because I’m sure Larry wanted to see Peyton Manning sign in the desert. Once that did not happen, and L-Fitz spoke of wanting some additions to the offensive side of the ball, you can damn well bet that the Arizona brass took note. It is bad enough for Fitzgerald to be saddled with a quarterback like Kolb or Skelton, but to leave him out there as the only wide receiving threat worth covering, sorry Andre Roberts, would have been almost criminal. Enter Michael Floyd. At 6’3″, 220 lbs, Floyd is finally the #2 wide receiver that the Cardinals have been lacking since the departure of Anquan Boldin. Arizona may have one of the best wide receiving units in all the NFL from top to bottom, and it is a shame that they do not have a quarterback better than Kolb or Skelton to take full advantage of the talent. Fantasy wise, for Fitzgerald and Floyd, it would be best if Skelton comes out of training camp as the starting quarterback in Arizona. Kevin Kolb seems like a nice guy, and he also seems a lot like Scott Mitchell, minus the one good year Mithchell had in Detroit. Floyd will step in as the #2 wide receiver in Arizona from the drop, don’t be fooled by the coach speak that he will need to beat out Roberts or Doucet. He ranks just in front of Boldin, or Sidney Rice in the mid 20s of fantasy wide receivers and can be safely drafted starting in the 8th round for fantasy purposes.
#8 Kendall Wright, WR, TENN: At first glance, this selection baffled me a little bit by the Titans. Examining it closer, I like it more and more. A great slot receiving option opens up quite a bit of things for an offense and Wright will spend quite a bit of time in that position for Tennessee. He also has the speed, and deep threat capability to line up out wide and test coverages. Kenny Britt has seen his last two seasons cut short by injuries, and the addition of Wright to the roster is insurance in case Britt should go down again. Nate Washington has developed into a fine all around receiver for the Titans, but once Britt went down last season, the deep ball seemed to disappear from the offense.Wright will enable Locker or Hasselbeck to keep defenses honoring the deep ball, and in turn keep them from stacking 8 in the box to stuff CJ2K. Start looking to draft Wright in the 11th or 12th round of your fantasy draft as a solid WR3#/Flex option, with WR#2 upside.
#9 AJ Jenkins, WR, SF: Jenkins was surprised to be drafted in the first round and I was surprised to see him drafted in the first round. He joins the revamped San Francisco receiving unit and must find his niche amongst Manningham, Crabtree, Moss, Ginn Jr and Vernon Davis. Jenkins is a speed burner, and could be the heir apparent to Randy Moss, or the replacement for him, if things do not pan out by the Bay for Randy (wouldn’t be unheard of). The San Francisco front office has praised his abilities to line up at any of the wide receiving positions, so figuring out his fantasy potential is a hazy proposition. He is a first round draft pick, so he will see the field as a rookie, but just how much is a mystery. The 49ers are in a position to draft luxury players, Jenkins feels that way to me and that clouds the picture in analyzing him even more. That said, take a flyer on the kid right before you take your first kicker or defense and maybe you have a fantasy stud in waiting to help your squad late in the season.
#10 Brandon Weeden, QB, CLE: Weeden will step right in as the week one starter for the Browns in 2012, and we can say goodbye to the Colt McCoy era. That being said, it will not be a fantasy bonanza for Weeden next season in Cleveland. The Browns need to bolster their wide receiving corps in a big way to keep teams from stacking the box, and sending the house after the rookie quarterback. Ben Watson and Evan Moore will be nice security blankets for Weeden, and Greg Little is coming off a moderately productive season where he hauled in 61 balls and 2 touchdowns. Monitor the rest of the weekend to see what the Browns do to solve their receiving woes, and unless it is a two quarterback league, leave Weeden on the waiver wire.
#11 Ryan Tannehill, QB, MIA: OK, the Dolphins have their quarterback of the future. The smart money says that Miami lets Tannehill sit behind Garrard or Moore for a season, or at least 3/4 of a season and learn. The current state of the Dolphins does not lend itself to quarterback success, or do we all trust Hartline and Bess as go to receivers? I’m sure that the Dolphins will select some more talent at wide receiver, they have to, as the weekend plays out in New York. As of right now, in re-draft leagues, Tannehill does not need to be considered on fantasy draft day.
As the rest of the 2012 NFL Draft plays itself out, there will be plenty of skilled position players drafted that will absolutely alter these rankings. Wide receivers will land on teams that need immediate help, and will certainly leap frog some of the players listed here. Any running back that the Detroit Lions select will have the potential to be a fantasy stand out as their backfield is a mess. For now, this is how I see the fantasy potential of the players selected in the first round. Now, we can sit back and see what other fantasy options emerge as the 2012 NFL Draft continues…..enjoy!