Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
With just a month to go before the start of NFL training camps and 78 days left before the first game of the 2014 regular season, it's time to start some serious draft preparation.
The mock drafts are already in full swing on fantasyfootballcalculator.com and we have some early average draft position (ADP) data to examine.
Here are three players each for the running back, wide receiver and quarterback positions who have ADPs that I found noteworthy:
Arian Foster, Houston Texans (11.2) - Foster entered last season with all kinds of red flags and suffered hamstring and back injuries during the season. The latter injury required season-ending surgery. But fantasy owners don't appear to be concerned about Foster this year, as evidenced by an ADP that places him seventh among running backs. If healthy, Foster is slated for a huge workload -- new Texans coach Bill O'Brien, the former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, said Foster will fill the passing- back role that Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead filled in the past in addition to being the workhorse rusher. Foster is a high-risk player, but the reason I like him with pick 11 is because there's no question he'll produce top-eight running back numbers if he plays 16 games. Other injury-prone players don't offer the same assurance. For example ...
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (14.6) - I think fantasy owners are overreacting to Murray's strong finish to the season. From Weeks 13-16, Murray compiled 521 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns. But he also faced four of the worst run defenses in the NFL in that span. The 26-year-old missed two more games, bringing his total up to 11 in three NFL seasons, and had 863 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in his first nine games. He's being drafted as a RB1 in 10-team leagues, which he's rarely been even when healthy.
Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars (44.1) - Just because Gerhart now plays for the sad-sack Jaguars doesn't mean he won't be a good fantasy option. Gerhart has virtually no competition and his coach started talking about giving up 18 touches a game as soon as the Jaguars signed him. Gerhart's ADP has him going 21st among running backs, which is entirely too low. The 27-year-old has plenty of tread left on his tires after carrying the ball just 276 times the past four seasons as Adrian Peterson's backup. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville's starter last season, only ran for 3.4 yards per carry but still averaged 8.8 fantasy points per game. Alfred Morris, who has an ADP of 20.7, averaged 10.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (8.6) - Calvin Johnson is once again the No. 1 receiver on draft boards, but it's not Dez Bryant or A.J. Green going second behind Johnson this season. Not only is Thomas going second among receivers, he's also being drafted within the top nine picks. And I don't have a problem with that at all. In fact, I'm comfortable taking Thomas, who has a floor of 90 catches, 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns and a ceiling of 100 catches, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns with Eric Decker gone, even higher.
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (33.6) - Allen became the 17th player ever and the 12th since 1966 to produce 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie, but this ADP is a bit of a reach. He's going ahead of Pierre Garcon (36.7), Victor Cruz (41.4), Andre Johnson (45.6), Michael Crabtree (46.9), DeSean Jackson (49.4) and Roddy White (50.6).
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings (53.8) - The hype machine has been working overtime for Patterson ever since he finished his rookie season with 378 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in his last five games. While new OC Norv Turner, who unlocked the magic of Josh Gordon last season, reportedly began designing plays for Patterson as soon as the Vikings hired him, Patterson is going to have to make huge strides as a receiver to justify this ADP. He may still be too limited to get a No. 1 receiver's workload, and Minnesota's QB situation isn't exactly stable with Matt Cassel competing with rookie Teddy Bridgewater. There's a ton of upside here, but also a lower floor than you expect from a fifth-rounder.
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (10.1) - In the fantasy drafts following Manning's 49-touchdown season in 2004 and Tom Brady's 50-TD campaign in 2007, both players were top-five picks. But Manning, fresh off a 5,477-yard, 55- touchdown season, is only going 10th overall, perhaps because neither Manning nor Brady duplicated their record-breaking numbers in the next season (Manning had 28 touchdowns in 2005, Brady tore his ACL in the first game of 2008). Quarterback is also a deep position once again, with players like Brady, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton available in the seventh round. Even though I expect Manning's numbers to drop off a bit, he still has 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns in his right arm and won't disappoint anyone at this ADP.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (46.2) - There's a 23-pick gap between the consensus top three at the quarterback position -- Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees -- and Stafford, who has been the fourth QB off the board. Stafford has put up prolific numbers in three straight seasons, but he's also extremely inconsistent and had just 825 passing yards and 2/5 TD/INT ratio in the final four games. Plus, he's entirely dependent on Calvin Johnson's health whereas someone like Brady has excelled regardless of his weapons.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (107.3) - In his first season under coach Mike McCoy, Rivers revived his career and finished sixth among quarterbacks in fantasy points. Not only did the Chargers retain their important weapons, Rivers' supporting cast should be even stronger this year. San Diego added Donald Brown, is getting Malcom Floyd back from a neck injury and has tight end Ladarius Green ready to assume a major role. Rivers is a steal at this ADP.