Packers emerge as hot properties of NFL fantasy drafts this fall

The irony of he conference title games was that both winners featured second-half offenses that were, well, offensive. Fantasy points may have slowed to a trickle at times but the final four still gave us the Jets' offense showing it can come from behind, Rashard Mendenhall proving why he's an elite fantasy back for 2011, Aaron Rodgers showing he's finally human and Jay Cutler apparently becoming the Tin Man. The Super Bowl is set and fantasy playoff owners of Steelers and Packers players are the last ones standing. As always, there was plenty of fantasy fodder to sift through in projecting ahead.

Rashard Mendenhall, hero: Despite the Steelers' offensive line issues, a sub-par passing game to back him up and the Jets' regular-season third-best rushing defense in the league, Mendenhall put on a first-half show for Pittsburgh. He had 100 yards in the first two quarters, shredding the Jets' front seven. Despite being shutdown for the most part in the second half, the damage had been done with over 150 total yards and a score. Mendenhall showed why he's a top-10 pick in next year's 2011 fantasy drafts.

Santonio was right: Holmes was one of the most vocal to bemoan about the Jets' offensive game plan and it's hard to argue. Despite New York's comeback, we were treated to a Patriots-esque lack of urgency and eight (!) targets for Jerricho Cotchery. The biggest question was the handling of the backfield. Shonn Greene rushed for 52 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, and gave as good as he got on a helmet to helmet death-shot by James Farrior, flaking off chips of his helmet in the process. Yet LaDainian Tomlinson (16 yards, nine carries) got the same amount of work, including the infamous fourth-and-one carry in which we was stuffed. If Tomlinson is brought back, he may have to take a back seat.

Timeshare in Chicago: It's hard not to love what Matt Forte did in the playoffs, including his 160-total yard tour de force outing against the Packers with nary a passing game in either half. And one of the most shocking stat wrinkles was a whopping 16 targets by Bears QBs. While most were products of check-downs, Forte's value in the passing game as well as PPR (Point-Per Reception) leagues can't be undersold. The problem lies with Chester Taylor, who got both running back touchdowns in each of the Bears' games. Forte did more of the work and posted impressive yardage totals, but as the playoffs showed, Taylor isn't going away. Adjust your ranking of Forte next season, dropping him a few notches for Mike Martz's lack of love for him at the goal line.

Pack Attack: Scary to think how good Rodgers and the Packers would look with a healthy Ryan Grant running the ball and tight end Jermichael Finley as another target to throw to. Even if one of the other comes back 100 percent, let alone both, it's easy to be bullish on the Packers' skill players in 2011 regardless of the Super Bowl outcome. Top wideout Greg Jennings, after one catch against the Eagles, has had back-to-back eight-catch games for over 100 yards in consecutive weeks while Jordy Nelson and James Jones' emergence may push Donald Driver out the door. James Starks has been a revelation and could replace Grant next year as the lead back if his health should falter. Draft day stock for the Packers will be off the charts come this summer.

Using the one-point-per-10 rushing or receiving yards and one-point-per-20 passing yards scoring method with touchdown passes worth four points, here are the top performers in postseason fantasy football. An * indicates the player is no longer alive in the playoffs.

1 QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers, 78 points 2 QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, 53 points* 3 QB Mark Sanchez, Jets, 49* 4 QB Jay Cutler, Bears, 42* 5 RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers, 38 6 QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, 34 7 RB James Starks, Packers, 33 8 QB Joe Flacco, Ravens, 32* 8 RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets, 32* 10 RB Matt Forte, Bears, 29* 11 QB Drew Brees, Saints, 28* 12 QB Michael Vick, Eagles, 27* 12 RB Ray Rice, Ravens, 27* 12 WR Brandon Stokley, Seahawks, 27* 15 WR Mike Williams, Seahawks, 25* 16 WR Greg Jennings, Packers, 23 17 WR Braylon Edwards, Jets, 22* 17 WR Santonio Holmes, Jets, 22 19 QB Tom Brady, Patriots, 20* 19 TE Todd Heap, Ravens, 20* 19 TE Greg Olsen, Bears, 20* 22 RB Shonn Greene, Jets, 19* 23 RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks, 19* 23 WR Jordy Nelson, Packers, 19

As we all know, it's never too early to start planning league domination. Without factoring player movement or rookies, here is the ultra-early draft projection if the next season were to start immediately following the Super Bowl (which is about the only thing the owners haven't asked for). Beyond just my top 40 regardless of position, is also a breakdown for each position for an early projection.

Top 40 Overall

1 QB Michael Vick, Eagles 2 RB Arian Foster, Texans 3 RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings 4 RB Chris Johnson, Titans 5 RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs 6 RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles 7 RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers 8 RB Michael Turner, Falcons 9 RB Ray Rice, Ravens 10 RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars 11 QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers 12 WR Calvin Johnson, Lions 13 RB Darren McFadden, Raiders 14 RB Steven Jackson, Rams 15 WR Andre Johnson, Texans 16 QB Drew Brees, Saints 17 RB Frank Gore, 49ers 18 WR Roddy White, Falcons 19 WR Greg Jennings, Packers 20 WR Reggie Wayne, Colts 21 RB Matt Forte, Bears 22 RB Peyton Hillis, Browns 23 QB Philip Rivers, Chargers 24 WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers 25 RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants 26 TE Antonio Gates, Chargers 27 QB Peyton Manning, Colts 28 RB Ryan Grant, Packers 29 WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs 30 TE Dallas Clark, Colts 31 WR Miles Austin, Cowboys 32 WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins 33 QB Tom Brady, Patriots 34 RB LeGarrette Blount, Bucs 35 WR Brandon Lloyd, Broncos 36 WR Marques Colston, Saints 37 WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles 38 RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers 39 WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants 40 WR Mike Wallace, Steelers

Top 20 QBs

Vick and Rodgers are easily first-round picks, with Vick the top choice overall. Brees is the final cut in the top tier, but could slip to the start of the third round. The next grouping starting with Rivers and ending with Brady is the second tier, while the next group with Romo runs until Matt Shaub. Josh Freeman is the position's biggest wildcard and could finish as a top-six fantasy QB in 2011.

1 Michael Vick, Eagles 2 Aaron Rodgers, Packers 3 Drew Brees, Saints 4 Philip Rivers, Chargers 5 Peyton Manning, Colts 6 Tom Brady, Patriots 7 Tony Romo, Cowboys 8 Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers 9 Joe Flacco, Ravens 10 Matt Shaub, Texans 11 Josh Freeman, Bucs 12 Eli Manning, Giants 13 Jay Cutler, Bears 14 Matt Ryan, Falcons 15 Sam Bradford, Rams 16 Donovan McNabb, Redskins 17 Matthew Stafford, Lions 18 Carson Palmer, Bengals 19 David Garrard, Jaguars 20 Matt Cassel, Chiefs

Top 40 RBs

Foster is a slam dunk, while Peterson gets the nod over Johnson due to a more talented receiving core and a slightly better line. Old reliables like MJD, Steven Jackson and Frank Gore dropped due to injuries and wear and tear, while the upside is tantalizing for the trio of Charles, McCoy and Mendenhall. Darren McFadden is the position's biggest wildcard in the top 10, with boom or bust capability.

1 Arian Foster, Texans 2 Adrian Peterson, Vikings 3 Chris Johnson, Titans 4 Jamaal Charles, Chiefs 5 LeSean McCoy, Eagles 6 Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers 7 Michael Turner, Falcons 8 Ray Rice, Ravens 9 Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars 10 Darren McFadden, Raiders 11 Steven Jackson, Rams 12 Frank Gore, 49ers 13 Matt Forte, Bears 14 Peyton Hillis, Browns 15 Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants 16 Ryan Grant, Packers 17 Knowshon Moreno, Broncos 18 LeGarrette Blount, Bucs 19 Jonathan Stewart, Panthers 20 BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots 21 Mike Tolbert, Chargers 22 DeAngelo Williams, Panthers 22 Ryan Mathews, Chargers 23 Shonn Greene, Jets 24 Jahvid Best, Lions 25 Ronnie Brown, Dolphins 26 Joseph Addai, Colts 27 Brandon Jacobs, Giants 28 Fred Jackson, Bills 29 Pierre Thomas, Saints 30 Danny Woodhead, Patriots 31 Felix Jones, Cowboys 32 Beanie Wells, Cardinals 33 Chris Ivory, Saints 34 Donald Brown, Colts 35 Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks 36 Michael Bush, Raiders 37 Reggie Bush, Saints 38 LaDainian Tomlinson 39 Clinton Portis, Redskins 40 Ricky Williams, Dolphins

Top 40 WRs

The top four spots are as sure a thing as one will find at the position, with Calvin Johnson taking the top spot. The sky is the limit for Megatron, whose production has not slipped in two of the last three years, even with a revolving door of QBs. There a couple high-ranking wild cards here, including a head case (Brandon Marshall) and a hopefully former holdout (Vincent Jackson), but Brandon Lloyd takes the cake. One-year wonder worries aside, if the Tim Tebow QB experiment suffers, he will be the first casualty.

1 Calvin Johnson, Lions 2 Andre Johnson, Texans 3 Roddy White, Falcons 4 Greg Jennings, Packers 5 Reggie Wayne, Colts 6 Vincent Jackson, Chargers 7 Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs 8 Miles Austin, Cowboys 9 Brandon Marshall, Dolphins 10 Brandon Lloyd, Broncos 11 Marques Colston, Saints 12 DeSean Jackson, Eagles 13 Hakeem Nicks, Giants 14 Mike Wallace, Steelers 15 Mike Williams, Bucs 16 Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals 17 Jeremy Maclin, Eagles 18 Kenny Britt, Titans 19 Wes Welker, Patriots 20 Sidney Rice, Vikings 21 Steve Johnson, Bills 22 Percy Harvin, Vikings 23 Dez Bryant, Cowboys 24 Steve Smith, Giants 25 Santonio Holmes, Jets 26 Anthony Armstrong, Redskins 27 Anquan Boldin, Ravens 28 Pierre Garcon, Colts 29 Deion Branch, Patriots 30 Santana Moss, Redskins 31 Michael Crabtree, 49ers 32 Steve Smith, Panthers 33 Terrell Owens, Bengals 34 Braylon Edwards, Jets 35 Johnny Knox, Bears 36 Mike Williams, Seahawks 37 Randy Moss, Titans 38 Mario Manningham, Giants 39 Austin Collie, Colts 40 Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars

Top 20 TEs

If you had a good starting tight end, chances were you waited for a piano to drop from the sky on them last year. Injuries were rampant and inconsistency a constant. Antonio Gates gets the nod, followed closely by Dallas Clark in a two-player elite tier where both produce like wide receivers. The second tier starts with Finley and ends with Miller, as any one of them could come close to matching Clark and Gates. While Lewis is a question mark after one great year, Davis is the wild card here due to all the physical ability in the world, but a team whose new coach, Jim Harbaugh, could probably beat out last year's starter, Alex Smith, for the QB job.

1 Antonio Gates, Chargers 2 Dallas Clark, Colts 3 Jermichael Finley, Packers 4 Jason Witten, Cowboys 5 Mercedes Lewis, Jaguars 6 Vernon Davis, 49ers 7 Zach Miller, Raiders 8 Kellen Winslow, Bucs 9 Rob Gronkowski, Patriots 10 Brandon Pettigrew, Lions 11 Chris Cooley, Redskins 12 Tony Gonzalez, Falcons 13 Jermaine Gresham, Bengals 14 Brent Celek, Eagles 15 Dustin Keller, Jets 16 Aaron Hernandez, Patriots 17 John Carlson, Seahawks 18 Greg Olson, Bears 19 Todd Heap, Ravens 20 Ben Watson, Browns

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