David Sabino
Thursday December 23rd, 2010

Gridiron 11: Best Bets For Next Season

This is championship week for most leagues. For the rest of us, it's not too soon to cast an eye toward next season's draft. This final 2010 edition of Gridiron 11 takes a look at the top 11 picks of next year's fantasy drafts. Happy Holidays to everyone, and we hope to see you again in 2011.

For more insights, follow SI's fantasy expert David Sabino on Twitter at SI_DavidSabino.

1<a href=Arian Foster, RB, Texans" title="Arian Foster, RB, Texans"/>
His strained glute last week was a real pain in the butt for owners who rode him to the playoffs, but we won't hold that against the NFL's breakout player of 2010. The league's top rusher for most of the season has been nearly as valuable in the passing game, making him bulletproof next season, even in the event of regime change in Houston.
2<a href=Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings" title="Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings"/>
The next time the Vikes play a meaningful game the Brett Favre circus will be a distant memory. Whoever is coaching the team will certainly go back to the basics of turning the league's best rusher back into a workhorse and nexus of the offense. Should Donovan McNabb end up at the helm as has been rumored, Peterson's receptions would also climb dramatically.
3<a href=Michael Vick, QB, Eagles" title="Michael Vick, QB, Eagles"/>
Although it's not certain that Vick will return to Philly, it's hard to believe that he won't be roaming The Linc for years to come following his 2010 on-field masterpiece. The only reason the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year isn't No. 1 on this list is his reckless style of running which makes him very vulnerable to injuries, evidenced by his absence early in the season due to rib injuries. Otherwise, it's impossible to ignore his accomplishments and the potential for 30 passing touchdowns with another dozen on the ground.
4<a href=Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs" title="Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs"/>
A clear case where being part of a committee in no way hindered his fantasy production. Charles placed second to Michael Vick in yards per carry (6.4 to 6.7) this year and ranks third in rushing (1,303 yards) while tied for 15th in carries (203), all while getting fewer carries than backfield-mate Thomas Jones (212 carries). Charles has seen an uptick in workload in the second half of the season, which bodes well for next season. In fact in seven career games in which he's carried the ball at least 20 times, Charles averages 160.6 yards.
5<a href=Chris Johnson, RB, Titans" title="Chris Johnson, RB, Titans"/>
Few believed the league's fastest back would repeat his 2,000-yard 2009 season, but despite a terrible Titans attack, the popular first overall fantasy pick did well, placing in the top five in rushing yards and touchdowns. A new starting quarterback should add to Johnson's already great value.
6<a href=Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars" title="Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars"/>
After a slow start, MoJo got his mojo back, peeling off six straight 100-yard games before having the streak snapped last week in Indy. His touchdowns (seven) are a little light this season, but a few scoring opportunities went to others due to game circumstances. That's no reason to worry about his value next year.
7<a href=Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns" title="Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns"/>
Top running back checklist: Lots of yards? Check. Good receiver out of the backfield? Check. Hard-running workhorse? Check. Scores lots of touchdowns? Check. Good offensive line? Check. Run-centered offense? Check. 2011 First rounder? Check.
8<a href=Tom Brady, QB, Patriots" title="Tom Brady, QB, Patriots"/>
The 2010 story isn't complete yet but it's hard to imagine any quarterback being more valuable next year than Brady, who was All-World after losing his "top" receiver early in the season. He's a maestro and perfectly suited to direct the cast of interchangeable characters Bill Belichick has assembled for him.
9<a href=LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles" title="LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles"/>
Call him Brian Westbrook 2K10 as Shady gained over 1,000 yards on the ground while leading the league in receptions for running backs. In fact when all is said and done this year his numbers will rival the best Westbrook ever enjoyed as a Pro Bowler, sure first round fantasy player in Philly.
10<a href=Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders" title="Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders"/>
DMC was basically AWOL for most of his first two seasons but he showed up in a big way in 2010 becoming the first Raider running back to top the 1,100-yard mark since Napoleon Kaufman in 1997. What makes his numbers even more impressive is the fact that he missed two full games due to injury and has two games remaining. It took an injury for him to become the featured back this season, but entering next year he's the clear choice for a full complement of touches for the improving Raiders.
11<a href=Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions" title="Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions"/>
Already one of the top 10 fantasy receivers while playing with a hodgepodge of quarterbacks, the physically imposing and incredibly talented Johnson is ready to reach the top with a little luck. I expect the Lions to be one of the surprising teams of 2011 once they can keep a healthy Matthew Stafford on the field, which can only mean good things for Megatron.

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