What’s Your Fantasy?

Hello to all the fans out there! Be prepared to receive some advice here that many so-called “experts” would not make on Sportscenter, NFL Live or the NFL Network.

Down to business. The draft establishes your core and is the only time you have every player to choose from. Personally, I think having a quick hand on the waiver wire is very important and being able to have room to pick up a po­tential impact player is key. That’s why I tend to draft my starters as follows: 1st round – RB, 2nd round – QB, 3rd round – WR, 4th round – TE/ RB, 5th round – RB/TE, 6th round – DEF, 7th round – WR. You tend to get top-level players at all of the most predictable positions – QB, TE and DEF – and waiting for WRs or even RBs is just fine; there are always breakout stars that become available in the free agency market or sleepers in the later rounds. As for kicker, I couldn’t care less. They’re generally way too un­predictable to really even matter or be consid­ered and I usually take one as my last pick in the draft. Obviously everyone has his or her pref­erences and every draft is different, but the key is making your team as consistently good and predictable as possible.

Top QBs

1. Tom Brady: I just don’t understand why he’s so overlooked right now. He only had four interceptions last year, something Peyton Man­ning managed to do in one game twice last year. Pair that with the addition of Chad Ochocinco, another big time playmaking wideout with something to prove and a ring-craver a la Randy Moss in 2007. The Pats have also improved their defense to get the ball back to Brady in Coach Belichick’s offensive system of destruction. This guy is the reigning NFL MVP, after all.

2. Aaron Rodgers: The reigning Super Bowl MVP got his reward justifiably. His accuracy and chemistry with his teammates is undeni­able. The additional experience he compiled from a Super Bowl run, coupled with the re­turning weapons of Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant, spells out a dangerous combination for the rest of the NFC.

3. Michael Vick: I don’t see him having the season he had last year, simply because the amped-up defense and the addition of Ronnie Brown means the Eagles won’t be getting in half as many shootouts as they did last year. How­ever, his offense remains explosive and he is of­ten dangerous enough on his own with his legs. Being the clear-cut starter from the beginning of the year brings his stock up. Be careful, though, as he is injury-prone, so make sure to get a solid backup.

4. Phillip Rivers: This may surprise some people, but Vincent Jackson is back and play­ing in a Nnamdi-less AFC West. Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league based on his skill, and it seems the Chargers might need to stray away from the run this year pending Ryan Matthews’s health.

5. Drew Brees: I’m feeling a little fall Brees. Mr. New Orleans has always had many weap­ons to choose from and, with the additions to the Saints’s improved run-stopping defense, he will get the ball in his hands often. Be careful, though – he has had inconsistency issues in the past.

*Notables: Matt Schaub, Tony Romo and Peyton Manning. Be happy with these guys.

Top RBs

1. Adrian Peterson: No, I did not mean to write Arian Foster; he could easily be a one-season-wonder like the Bears’s Matt Forte or his teammate Steve Slaton in recent years (both of whom were unfortunately picked by our very own National Sports Editor). With that said, AP is a freak combination of power and speed. He’s in a featured role, and playing in a contract year on a team lacking a passing attack. Look for him to produce the same great statline we’ve gotten used to over the years. Stack the box if you like. It won’t matter.

2. Arian Foster: Even if I think he’s over-hyped and will not replicate the huge numbers he posted last season, the fact remains that he was still No. 1 last year and put up unbelievable numbers every game he played. Playing against the Colts run defense twice a year is a gift to a RB of his caliber and he should be just fine with those games in his back pocket and his skills leading the way. I really hope I’m wrong about him being a bust this year.

3. Chris Johnson: Although I think he’s on the wrong side of his prime, he’s still the best RB in the league (AP is still a fumbler, after all). His ridiculous speed gives him a huge upside in big-play ability and Hasselbeck is enough of a pres­ence to make defenses give him that little bit of room he needs to take it to the house. Johnson is a quality choice here.

4. Maurice Jones-Drew: MJD has not re­ceived enough attention lately. He’s been con­sistently great and is on one of the few teams with any real competition at the QB position. This means he will be relied on heavily. He’s al­ways a great pick with a featured role and gets as many red zone touches as anyone. Low-risk choice here.

5. Jamaal Charles: I absolutely love Charles this year. With a ridiculous 6.42 YPC average last year (the highest for rushers averaging over 90 yards per game since 1950), he’s certifiable. With Thomas Jones getting old fast, a weak division and a skill set and playmaking ability similar to that of Chris Johnson, ’nuff said.

6. Rashard Mendenhall: The Steelers have always been a run-first offense and I don’t see that changing any time soon. He carries on the theme of the featured role in the backfield, most definitely gets his touches in and out of the red zone and is a consistent force.

7. Ray Rice: With an aging Anquan Boldin, no Derrick Mason and an average Joe Flacco, Rice will definitely get carries regardless of Ricky Williams joining the mix. I can definitely see him getting more carries in the red zone than ever before with McGahee out of Baltimore. He’ll always get solid point-production, as he remains a nice safety throw for Flacco.

8. Michael Turner: If Julio Jones turns out to be worth what the Falcons gave up to get him, the Dirty Birds will undoubtedly have a very dangerous offense this season. Turner is a tough runner and he’s definitely their guy in the red zone. He may not be the biggest home-run hitter, but he can dish out a punch and definitely has a nose for the endzone.

9. Frank Gore: With a division full of weak run defenses and a set of receivers you must cover, you give Gore more than enough room to make big plays and score TDs. A very solid pick at No. 9.

10. Darren McFadden: In a weak divi­sion with a run-focused offense, I can see Mc­Fadden definitely pulling out a huge year. He will get more carries this year and we all know the Raiders drafted him for his break-out play ability. He’s going to be a steal.

*Notables: Peyton Hillis, LeGarrette Blount and Steven Jackson

Top WRs

1. Andre Johnson: By FAR my favorite fan­tasy wideout. I have had the luxury to have him on every team I have ever had, and he has always produced great numbers. He’s even pulled out some wins for me, almost on his own. Johnson can easily have a two-touchdown, 100-plus-yard-game any Sunday, and always gets his re­ceptions and looks in the red zone no matter who he is put up against.

2. Calvin Johnson: An unbelievable receiver with glue-hands and ridiculous vertical ability (not to mention his speed and route-running skills) Johnson is narrowly the second-best John­son at his position. He is always a favorite target in the red zone (for whomever is the Lions QB at the time) and manages to do it with almost a consistent double-team. With the Lions on the upswing and the return of Matt Stafford and Jahvid Best in the backfield, I can’t wait to see him have a stunning year through the air.

3. Greg Jennings: He’s the No. 1 playmak­ing receiver for Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, plus he has speed and guaranteed receptions? Count me in.

4. Roddy White: With Julio Jones alleviat­ing some of the coverage on him, expect this Pro-bowler to make some big-time plays. He may not have the same consistency as other players on this list, but he could easily turn a game around.

5. Larry Fitzgerald: A fantastic wideout who has always made plays regardless of his QB. Still, he was much better back when old Kurt Warner was behind center. I’m not completely sold on Kolb, especially with the lack of offseason time to gain chemistry with his No. 1, but either way Fitzgerald will make ridiculous catches if he needs to score, especially in his weak division.

6. Hakeem Nicks: With the losses of Steve Smith and Kevin Boss, Nicks has emerged as the primary target for Eli Manning and the Giants offense. He exhibited great playmaking ability last year and, with Mario Manningham causing trouble on the other side of the field, he will most likely not be subject to double-teams too often.

7. Reggie Wayne: Like Greg Jennings, he is a great wide receiver with one of the best QBs in the league at the helm. However, Manning’s current injury will hurt Wayne as well, so we’ll see if he can continue to perform without Pey­ton. He may not be a useful pick for the first few weeks.

8. DeSean Jackson: The combination of his speed with Vick’s arm strength is downright le­thal. However, his stock dropped a bit for me with the addition of new weapons Steve Smith and Ronnie Brown. It is undeniable, however, that he is one of the fastest and most danger­ous players on any team right now. You can also get a random TD every once in a while from a great return on special teams as a nice little added bonus.

9. Vincent Jackson: Being in a weak yet competitive division will force the Chargers to constantly go to the air towards their big-time receiver. The lack of production in the run game compared to that of years past will also force more throwing plays for this Chargers offense.

10. Brandon Lloyd: Kyle Orton managed to make Lloyd a total stud off of the waiver wire last year. With Orton remaining in Denver and playing with pressure from the fans to succeed (not to mention Tebow in waiting), look for him to stick to his bread and butter in Denver – the diamond in the rough – Brandon Lloyd.

*Notables: Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Dez Bryant and Chad Ochocinco

Top TEs

1. Antonio Gates: He has been and will continue to be the best TE in the league. With the Chargers needing to pass more, look for their consistent mismatch-making tight end to get the ball early and often.

2. Vernon Davis: A freak of a skill set for a TE, he manages to have huge playmaking abil­ity for his position and makes good use of it. I see Alex Smith sticking to his big man until he can really trust his wideouts.

3. Jason Witten: With Romo healthy, you can trust that he will get the ball often. Witten is a very talented TE and one of Romo’s favorite targets, especially in tight situations or if he’s on the run. A nice pickup here for later rounds.

4. Jermichael Finley: He has definitely been the mouth of the Super Bowl Champs, and I think he has the skills to back it up. With great hands, route running ability and a marquee QB, he will be scoring often.

5. Dallas Clark: It is clear that Clark and Manning have fantastic chemistry on the field, but that won’t happen until Manning is back. However, he’s a veteran tight end you can still trust to get the job done. Dallas will deliver.

*Notables: Zach Miller, Tony Gonzalez and Owen Daniels

Top DEFs

1. PIT: It’s the Steelers. Their defense over the years is what I personally attribute their playoff success to. They consistently sack QBs, stuff RBs and force turnovers. With a run-first offense, opponents will have difficulty finding the time to score often. You can’t go wrong here.

2. NYJ: Rex Ryan is loving all the talent he has on this defense to make plays and blitz, blitz and blitz some more. With a shutdown corner on one side, a premier corner on the other and a huge pass rush, look to get a lot out of this team trying to earn the respect of the league and its division by making a Super Bowl run.

3. PHI: The Eagles were busy on both sides of the ball during free agency, but no acquisi­tion was bigger than Nnamdi Asomugha. With a STACKED secondary and crazy depth at the DE position, look for this defense to be a QB’s worst nightmare. So why are they here? Well, if you can name all three starters of the LB core, I commend you as a true fan. With that part of the defense missing, run plays and screens can and will be used to achieve some success.

4. NE: With the additions of Haynesworth and Ellis, the Patriots D-Line just got much bet­ter. Look for the big men to wreck timing in the backfield. Also, keep in mind that Brady will keep the ball in his possession often, decreasing time opponents will have to score.

5. GB: I round out this list with the Packers. With all the talk about the Eagles and Saints, people forget how good this entire team (not just the offense) really is. If I remember cor­rectly, it was B.J. Raji’s interception that took them to the Super Bowl and the defense as a whole that halted another heroic comeback in the Super Bowl by Mr. Roethlisberger. Do not underestimate their value.

*Notables: CHI, BAL and NYG

Contact Albert Raminfard at [email protected].