January 31, 2011

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 points2 QB Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, 53 points*3 QB Mark Sanchez, Jets, 49*4 QB Jay Cutler, Bears, 42*5 RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers, 386 QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers, 347 RB James Starks, Packers, 338 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, 2317 WR Braylon Edwards, Jets, 22*17 WR Santonio Holmes, Jets, 2219 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, Eagles2 RB Arian Foster, Texans3 RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings4 RB Chris Johnson, Titans5 RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs6 RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles7 RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers8 RB Michael Turner, Falcons9 RB Ray Rice, Ravens10 RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars11 QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers12 WR Calvin Johnson, Lions13 RB Darren McFadden, Raiders14 RB Steven Jackson, Rams15 WR Andre Johnson, Texans16 QB Drew Brees, Saints17 RB Frank Gore, 49ers18 WR Roddy White, Falcons19 WR Greg Jennings, Packers20 WR Reggie Wayne, Colts21 RB Matt Forte, Bears22 RB Peyton Hillis, Browns23 QB Philip Rivers, Chargers24 WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers25 RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants26 TE Antonio Gates, Chargers27 QB Peyton Manning, Colts28 RB Ryan Grant, Packers29 WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs30 TE Dallas Clark, Colts31 WR Miles Austin, Cowboys32 WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins33 QB Tom Brady, Patriots34 RB LeGarrette Blount, Bucs35 WR Brandon Lloyd, Broncos36 WR Marques Colston, Saints37 WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles38 RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers39 WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants40 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, Eagles2 Aaron Rodgers, Packers3 Drew Brees, Saints4 Philip Rivers, Chargers5 Peyton Manning, Colts6 Tom Brady, Patriots7 Tony Romo, Cowboys8 Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers9 Joe Flacco, Ravens10 Matt Shaub, Texans11 Josh Freeman, Bucs12 Eli Manning, Giants13 Jay Cutler, Bears14 Matt Ryan, Falcons15 Sam Bradford, Rams16 Donovan McNabb, Redskins17 Matthew Stafford, Lions18 Carson Palmer, Bengals19 David Garrard, Jaguars20 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, Texans2 Adrian Peterson, Vikings3 Chris Johnson, Titans4 Jamaal Charles, Chiefs5 LeSean McCoy, Eagles6 Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers7 Michael Turner, Falcons8 Ray Rice, Ravens9 Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars10 Darren McFadden, Raiders11 Steven Jackson, Rams12 Frank Gore, 49ers13 Matt Forte, Bears14 Peyton Hillis, Browns15 Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants16 Ryan Grant, Packers17 Knowshon Moreno, Broncos18 LeGarrette Blount, Bucs19 Jonathan Stewart, Panthers20 BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots21 Mike Tolbert, Chargers22 DeAngelo Williams, Panthers22 Ryan Mathews, Chargers23 Shonn Greene, Jets24 Jahvid Best, Lions25 Ronnie Brown, Dolphins26 Joseph Addai, Colts27 Brandon Jacobs, Giants28 Fred Jackson, Bills29 Pierre Thomas, Saints30 Danny Woodhead, Patriots31 Felix Jones, Cowboys32 Beanie Wells, Cardinals33 Chris Ivory, Saints34 Donald Brown, Colts35 Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks36 Michael Bush, Raiders37 Reggie Bush, Saints38 LaDainian Tomlinson39 Clinton Portis, Redskins40 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, Lions2 Andre Johnson, Texans3 Roddy White, Falcons4 Greg Jennings, Packers5 Reggie Wayne, Colts6 Vincent Jackson, Chargers7 Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs8 Miles Austin, Cowboys9 Brandon Marshall, Dolphins10 Brandon Lloyd, Broncos11 Marques Colston, Saints12 DeSean Jackson, Eagles13 Hakeem Nicks, Giants14 Mike Wallace, Steelers15 Mike Williams, Bucs16 Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals17 Jeremy Maclin, Eagles18 Kenny Britt, Titans19 Wes Welker, Patriots20 Sidney Rice, Vikings21 Steve Johnson, Bills22 Percy Harvin, Vikings23 Dez Bryant, Cowboys24 Steve Smith, Giants25 Santonio Holmes, Jets26 Anthony Armstrong, Redskins27 Anquan Boldin, Ravens28 Pierre Garcon, Colts29 Deion Branch, Patriots30 Santana Moss, Redskins31 Michael Crabtree, 49ers32 Steve Smith, Panthers33 Terrell Owens, Bengals34 Braylon Edwards, Jets35 Johnny Knox, Bears36 Mike Williams, Seahawks37 Randy Moss, Titans38 Mario Manningham, Giants39 Austin Collie, Colts40 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, Chargers2 Dallas Clark, Colts3 Jermichael Finley, Packers4 Jason Witten, Cowboys5 Mercedes Lewis, Jaguars6 Vernon Davis, 49ers7 Zach Miller, Raiders8 Kellen Winslow, Bucs9 Rob Gronkowski, Patriots10 Brandon Pettigrew, Lions11 Chris Cooley, Redskins12 Tony Gonzalez, Falcons13 Jermaine Gresham, Bengals14 Brent Celek, Eagles15 Dustin Keller, Jets16 Aaron Hernandez, Patriots17 John Carlson, Seahawks18 Greg Olson, Bears19 Todd Heap, Ravens20 Ben Watson, Browns

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