Adrian Peterson: AP
Welcome to the dirty little secret that is postseason fantasy football. At least, it WAS a secret ... before millions of owners discovered an addictive, highly creative way to get their fantasy fix long after Week 17 became official. To wit, here are the Revelations from Championship Sunday:
New Orleans 31, Minnesota 28 (OT)
What We Loved: No one should be shocked by Adrian Peterson's 136-yard, three-TD day against the Saints (even those fantasy owners whose leagues subtract points for 'fumbles lost'). After seeing him struggle against the Cowboys last week, Peterson was overdue for a major breakout against an average rush defense, so much that we're generally surprised he didn't squeeze in a fourth touchdown sometime during regulation.
What We Loathed: Chester Taylor should have produced more than 46 total yards against New Orleans. But then again ... he only touched the ball nine times -- and Peterson was rather stingy (read: selfish) with the touchdowns. HA!
What Made Us Indifferent: We're taking the easy-way-out on this one, but Percy Harvin gets a free pass for amassing only 53 yards. With his well-chronicled migraines leading up to Sunday's NFC championship, the Vikings clearly made the pregame decision to feature him as a decoy, with minimal touches on the side.
What Made Us Indifferent, Part II: Yes, Brett Favre threw only one TD pass against the Saints ... and he did register a game-changing INT with seconds to play in regulation. But we're not in the position to bemoan 310 passing yards -- especially with someone who MAY retire (wink-wink) in the offseason.
What Made Us Indifferent, Part III: Poor, Sidney Rice. He saw double-teams on nearly every obvious passing down ... which, in turn, affected his endgame totals (4 catches, 43 yards, 1 TD). But anytime a stud like that can pull an Al Bundy -- scoring four TDs (over two playoff games, granted) -- we're willing to look the other way.
What Made Us Laugh: If only opposing defenses had thought of suffocating Sir Sidney during the regular season ... perhaps Bernard Berrian would have enjoyed more 9-catch, 102-yard afternoons in 2009.
What We're Going To Remember on Fantasy Draft Day: If Favre returns for one last season in 2010, he'll be an easy selection in the middle rounds of 14- or 16-team leagues. And if that's the case, make sure to grab another solid QB -- such as Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Vince Young, Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel, Joe Flacco -- two or three rounds later. It pays to have good insurance.
Indianapolis 30, N.Y. Jets 17
What We Liked: How about Jets TE Dustin Keller (6 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD vs. Indy) scoring touchdowns in all three playoff games -- on the road? Simply put, no other playoff participant raised his pre-draft stock higher than Keller, whose three-game totals were 12 catches for 181 yards and three scores. But will it be enough to crack the tight ends' preseason top 10? (scroll down)
What We Liked, Part II: Jets QB Mark Sanchez deserves beaucoup props for showing incredible poise (and skill) in one of the most pressurized environments known to NFL rookies (and many veterans) -- Lucas Oil Stadium on Championship Sunday. All told, he finished with 257 passing yards and two touchdowns. Very impressive!
What We Loved: Leave it to Peyton Manning to bring his A-game to the party ... and doing most of his damage AFTER the Colts fell behind 17-6 in the second quarter. Manning amassed 377 passing yards and three touchdowns, a magnificent effort from perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time.
What We Loved, Part II: Apparently, reports of Pierre Garcon's demise -- especially after a monster midseason run -- were greatly exaggerated. Garcon, knowing full well that Darrelle Revis would be hounding Reggie Wayne all day, responded with easily the best output of his pro career -- 11 catches, 151 yards and one TD. For what it's worth, Garcon will garner a slightly higher ranking over teammate Austin Collie (7 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD) in standard-scoring drafts ... with Collie gaining an even-slighter edge in Points Per Reception leagues. Either way, Anthony Gonzalez will be a distant 4th in the Colts' fantasy pecking order among wideouts.
What Made Us Indifferent: Does it really matter that TE Dallas Clark only finished with four catches for 35 yards? Thanks to his customary TD reception, he turned an ordinary fantasy day into a quietly solid one.
What Made Us Indifferent, Part II: As we mentioned above, Reggie Wayne took one for the team and essentially played the decoy role with the Jets' Revis shadowing his every move. The result: Three catches for only 55 yards ... which doesn't include the near-miss-TD in the second quarter -- as Manning barely overthrew his favorite target.
What Made Us Laugh: As much as we love Braylon Edwards for his Michigan ties and two left hands (kidding!) ... there's really nothing to glean from his 2-catch, 100-yard, 1-TD effort against the Colts. He is what he is in fantasyland ... and that's not really a good thing.
What We're Going To Remember on Fantasy Draft Day: Shonn Greene gets the edge over Joseph Addai and Thomas Jones in Round 2 -- even if T-Jones re-signs with the Jets in the offseason (odds of that happening: 40-60). Simply put, there's no reason New York won't be the league's No. 1 or 2 rushing offense in 2010 ... which speaks to Greene's incredibly underrated value -- at least right now. Speaking of overlooked studs, I'd dance a little jig for all to see upon landing Jerricho Cotchery (6 catches, 102 yards) in Round 6 of standard-scoring drafts next August. In fact, I'd be willing to name my firstborn son (whenever that day may come) ... "Cotchery Clemons," as part of the unusual draft-pact-with-the-fantasy-gods. Of course, the whole deal is contingent on the wifey's approval (no sweat).
Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night (@SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday and Monday during the NFL season.
Over the next eight months, fantasy owners will be overwhelmed with (accurate) propaganda supporting Chris Johnson's candidacy for the No. 1 overall pick in standard-scoring leagues; and for the most part, it'll be good advice to heed for the August drafts. However, there are still a few rock-solid reasons -- six, actually -- to consider Adrian Peterson for the top spot leading up to draft day:
1. The numbers only tell part of the story. Everyone knows Peterson made a quantum leap in total touchdowns from 2009 (18) to '08 (10). But very few fantasy owners probably realize that AP's yards-per-touch ratio jumped to 5.21 -- up from 4.91 in '08 -- even though he finished with 66 fewer total yards on the season.
2. Peterson has finally become in a vital cog in the passing game. Thanks to Brett Favre and Brad Childress, AP experienced a monumental jump in receptions. How much? His 43 catches in 2009 exceeded his combined total (40) from 2007-08. Perish the thought: Peterson may have the capacity for 55-60 catches someday -- adding to his allure in Points Per Reception leagues. (On the downside, he only has one career TD reception -- off his very first pro catch back in '07.)
3. Without a doubt, Chris Johnson has the higher upside ... but if you're looking for a lead-pipe cinch for 1,850 total yards and 17 touchdowns in any given year -- for at least the next five seasons -- Peterson's your man!
4. If Brett Favre retires at season's end ... Peterson's touches will most definitely go up about 6-8 percent. And with more touches comes more opportunities for breakaway runs like these.
5. If Favre returns to Minnesota in 2010 ... tell me you wouldn't rubber-stamp a repeat of 1,819 total yards and 18 touchdowns, leaving yourself more time to focus on the crucial swing picks of Round 2 (No. 24) and Round 3 (No. 25). In other words, as great as Tennessee's Johnson should be this decade, he hasn't fully earned the bankability for 1,800-2,000 yards yet. And before laughing that off, just remember that Steven Jackson hasn't really emulated his out-of-this-world success from 2006 (2,334 total yards, 16 TDs).
6. Let's be honest: Money talks. Whether Peterson and the Vikings carve out an extension this summer or midway through next season, rest assured that a highly lucrative deal is coming Adrian's way ... perhaps making him the highest-paid non-QB in the league. As a good-faith gesture for getting all that do-re-mi before his current contract expires in a few years, Peterson will certainly bring his A+-game to the table this fall.
Verdict: The above arguments only work for standard-scoring and TD-only leagues. For PPR leagues, Chris Johnson is the redoubtable choice for No. 1 overall ... while AP could even be usurpred by Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Steven Jackson at the No. 2 spot.
Here's how you could have maximized your points in postseason 'Survivor' leagues, where owners had one chance -- and one chance only -- to use a player's eligibility during the NFL playoffs:
QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers (436 total yards, 5 cumulative TDs) -- Wild Card round
RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings (136 total yards, 3 TDs) -- NFC championship
RB Ray Rice, Ravens (159 yards, 2 TDs) -- Wild Card round
RB Felix Jones, Cowboys (178 total yards, 1 TD) -- Wild Card round
WR Sidney Rice, Vikings (6 catches, 141 yards, 3 TDs) -- Divisional playoff round
WR Greg Jennings, Packers (8 catches, 130 yards, 1 TD) -- Wild Card round
WR Pierre Garcon, Colts (11 catches, 151 yards, 1 TD) -- AFC championship
TE Jermichael Finley, Packers (6 catches, 159 yards) -- Wild Card round
PK Shaun Suisham, Cowboys (2 field goals, 4 PATs) -- Wild Card round
Here's an early, early listing of the top 20 for 2010:
1. Dallas Clark, Colts
2. Vernon Davis, 49ers
3. Jason Witten, Cowboys
4. Antonio Gates, Chargers
5. Brent Celek, Eagles
6. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
7. Jermichael Finley, Packers
8. Kellen Winslow, Jr., Buccaneers
8a. Greg Olsen , Bears (thanks, eHose of Twitter fame)
9. Visanthe Shiancoe, Vikings
10. Owen Daniels, Texans
11. John Carlson, Seahawks
12. Dustin Keller, Jets
13. Zach Miller, Raiders
14. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions (would be much higher if no ACL tear)
15. Fred Davis, Redskins
16. David Thomas/Jeremy Shockey, Saints
17. Todd Heap, Ravens
18. Heath Miller, Steelers
19. Kevin Boss, Giants
20. Jared Cook, Titans
Rookies To Watch: Jermaine Gresham, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
... There are now only two remaining non-expansion franchises (Jaguars, Texans don't count) that haven't reached one of the 44 Super Bowls: The Lions and Browns. Ironically, both clubs enjoyed plenty of championship success in the days prior to Max McGee, Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Chuck Howley, Jim O'Brien and Bob Lilly (all heroes of Super Bowls I through VI) becoming household names. And yet, neither team has been able to break on through to the NFL's hallowed land of Roman numerals and Up With People. Which franchise will be the last one standing? I'm guessing Matthew Stafford and Detroit will capture a conference title sometime in the next 5-7 years, with Cleveland left holding the bag on this sad-sack debate. Sorry, Ohio!