The majority of fantasy leagues drafted Adrian Peterson between Round 2-3 prior to the 2012 season. Those owners sat laughing every Sunday as they watched him destroy every defense he faced. Guess who's average draft position is at the very top for next year?
Arian Foster was a common first pick this season. He, LeSean McCoy, Aaron Rodgers and Ray Rice all moved off draft boards early, but there didn't appear to be a clear-cut top selection overall. That should change heading into next year.
Let's take a look at which players will be in consideration for the No. 1 draft pick in 2013. After weighing the pros and cons of each, you should have a better idea of who you're aiming for next season.
Upside: If AP was this ridiculous in 2012, how good can he be two seasons removed from his ACL tear? He endured a minor lull towards the beginning of the year, but he's been absolutely out of control since late October. Peterson finished the year with 2,097 yards, 13 total touchdowns and a 6.0 yards per carry average. No, that's not a typo.
Downside: The only visible negative to AP's game would be his chances of getting hurt again. He's surpassed all odds with his torrid pace after coming off of ACL surgery. Look at the statistics of running backs returning from that kind of operation. They aren't promising. Barring any offseason setbacks, though, AP looks good to go.
Upside: He only missed part of one game due to an irregular heartbeat. Foster is a workhorse who can go the distance each season. His 15 rushing touchdowns led all running backs in 2012, and he's now posted three consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards on the ground. Even with the Texans passing game improving, Foster finished with a career-high 351 carries.
Downside: What happened to the receiving numbers? After two straight years of 600+ receiving yards, Foster finished this season with just 217 yards on 40 receptions. His knack for scoring in the red zone overshadows the lack of production in the passing game, but it's something to take into consideration.
Upside: Martin rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns on 319 carries in his first season in the NFL. Not a bad way to start your career. He also possesses explosive ability catching passes out of the backfield, as he added in another 472 yards receiving. Want even better news? Carl Nicks, the Buccaneers best guard, didn't even play the second half of the season. Tampa dealt with a few injuries on the offensive line, and Martin still finished fifth overall in rushing.
Downside: The dreaded sophomore slump will surely be talked about concerning Martin this offseason. Opposing defenses will have plenty of time to watch film and hone in on how to slow down the Muscle Hamster or Douganator or whatever you want to call him. Fortunately, though, running backs do seem to have more success in avoiding this troublesome phase.
Upside: Baltimore seemed to lose track of Rice at times throughout the season, failing to utilize his skills more often. Assuming the Ravens figure out what direction they would like the offense to go in 2013, instead of firing their offensive coordinator in the middle of the year, Rice should be in line for more work, and close to 300 carries once again.
Downside: His receptions, carries and yards per touch are all down from 2012. We've seen a Jekyll and Hyde version of the Ravens this season. One minute they can't be stopped, the next they can't even figure out how to score on the Chiefs. Until consistency is fully established, Rice's value drops off a bit.
Upside: Brees led standard leagues in scoring despite the absence of Sean Payton. Already you have to feel confident about his potential in 2013. He led the league in passing yards and touchdowns, even though both marks were down from last season. With Payton calling the shots again, you can expect the Saints offense to pick up the pace and return to its dominant form from prior years.
Downside: Turnovers became a huge issue for Brees. He was forced to constantly throw the ball, because let's face it, his defense was nearly nonexistent. His 19 interceptions tied Tony Romo for most in the league. Whenever you match Romo's mark in this category, you can't be pleased. Plus, the quarterback position is even deeper now with young stars like RGIII and Andrew Luck stepping up for fantasy owners.
Upside: The Packers receiving corps dealt with multiple injuries throughout 2012. Add in the fact that their run game was rather ineffective yet again, and Rodgers' numbers are even more impressive. He threw 39 touchdowns and just eight interceptions while boasting a 108.0 passer rating. Greg Jennings may be heading out of town soon, but Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones comprise a solid trio at wideout when healthy.
Downside: He threw for 348 yards and six touchdowns fewer than last season. Rodgers even finished two weeks without a single scoring pass, an improbable event that never occurred in 2011. He closed out with 11 total touchdowns in his final three games, so you can at least feel comfortable about that. Keep the deep quarterback list in mind as well.
Upside: Chan Gailey is gone. Bills/Spiller fans everywhere can let out a collective sigh of relief. Whoever takes the reigns in Buffalo, hopefully they will realize how dangerous Spiller is in both the ground and passing attack. He finished eighth overall in rushing yards on just 207 carries. Let that sink in for a moment. He's bound to breakaway at any time, and if Fred Jackson continues to battle injuries, or finds his way out of town, Spiller's average draft position will continue to shoot up. The sky is the limit for him if he is relied on as the primary back
Downside: Unfortunately that Jackson guy is still there. He's locked up until 2014, but keep in mind Jackson will turn 32 in February. That's borderline ancient for running backs. Realistically a timeshare is the only issue holding Spiller back. Jackson missed 12 games over the last two years, though.
You can probably expect Adrian Peterson to be taken as the No. 1 pick in a fair amount of fantasy leagues. He's just that good. No one could stop him in 2012, and that's after everyone questioned his chances of returning to his dominant form. If AP somehow falls to you at the second pick, you should literally have your selection made within one second.