Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It's a cold winter day, baseball players have yet to report to spring training, the NBA and NHL are about halfway through their long regular season so I have decided to look ahead, way ahead, to speculate what next year's NFL fantasy draft might look like.
It appears at first glance to be very different from 2008. Last year, there were three players, LaDainian Tomlinson (1.4 ADP), Adrian Peterson (2.4) and Brian Westbrook (2.8) who dominated the beginning of almost every draft. I don't believe that will be the case in 2009.
The top of the 2009 draft will still include "AP" (1,760 yards rushing, 10 TDs), but Tomlinson and Westbrook will "fall" until later in the first round. They have become too injury prone and aren't reliable enough to warrant a top-three selection.
But that's where the problem starts. Most of the possible replacements are very young - can you build an entire roster around a 23 to 25-year-old?
Twenty-five year old DeAngelo Williams (1,636 combined yards, 20 TDs) was the TSN Fantasy Player of the Year and will certainly be in the mix. But you still have to worry about Jonathan Stewart, the Carolina Panther's No.1 pick in 2008, getting hot and taking carries away from Williams. Remember, it was just last year that "experts" selected Stewart ahead of Williams in their fantasy drafts.
There is 23-year-old Maurice Jones-Drew (1,389 combined yards, 14 TDs) who will likely not have to share carries with Fred Taylor next season. Or 23-year-old Matt Forte (1,715 combined yards, 12 TDs) who carried the Chicago Bears running game in his rookie season. Or even speedy rookie Chris Johnson in Tennessee (1,488, 10 TDs) who showed explosive ability, but "lost" a lot of fantasy points when the short TD runs went to LenDale White. Or how about 22-year-old Steve Slaton (1,659 combined yards, 10 TDs) who became the "main man" in Houston by default and flourished in the role.
Michael Turner (1,740 combined yards, 17 TDs), who at the ripe old age of 26 finally got out from behind Tomlinson's shadow, got a chance to start, and blossomed in Atlanta. He will go early in the first round.
Besides those young running backs, there is a solid group who could rebound from so-so years and be worthy of a first-round selection - Frank Gore, Marion Barber III, Clinton Portis and Steven Jackson.
I can say for sure that Randy Moss, who was in almost everybody's first-round in 2008 will not be there in 2009. First of all, will Tom Brady, himself a top- five pick in 2008, be healthy? And will Moss, who disappeared at times with Matt Cassell at quarterback play like the receiver of 2007 (98 receptions for 1,493 yards and 23 TDs) or 2008?
No, the only wide receiver that should be considered in the first round is Larry Fitzgerald (96 receptions, 1,431 yards, 12 TDs). Fitzgerald plays in a great passing offense, has another very good wide receiver across from him to help prevent double teams (Anquan Boldin) and is the No.1 option down in the red zone.
And speaking of Brady, if healthy he is a first-round option, but will you know that before the season begins, How much action will he see before you go to your draft in late August or early September?
At the quarterback position, Drew Brees (5,069 yards, 34 TDs, 17 INTs) is coming off a spectacular season and should definitely be a top-12 pick. But what about Peyton Manning? Kurt Warner? Philip Rivers?
Below you will see our first attempt at next fall's draft - at least the first five rounds. A lot will change, between January and August, but on this cold winter day it's fun to think about.
| Team || Round 1 || Round 2 || Round 3 || Round 4 || Round 5 |
| 1 || A Peterson || T Brady || R Moss || Reggie Bush || D McFadden |
| 2 || M Turner || B Jacobs || CalvJohnson || D Bowe || J Witten |
| 3 || DeA Williams || B Marshall || S Smith-Car || Pierre Thomas || Roeth'berger |
| 4 || M Forte || R Wayne || R White || W Parker || D McNabb |
| 5 || S Jackson || C Portis || K Warner || B Edwards || K Moreno |
| 6 || B Westbrook || M Lynch || T Romo || T Gonzalez || S Holmes |
| 7 || M Jones-Drew || Andre Johnson || R Grant || A Rodgers || A Bryant |
| 8 || D Brees || S Slaton || M Colston || Larry Johnson || M Crabtree |
| 9 || F Gore || P Manning || Thomas Jones || W Welker || P Burress |
| 10 || M Barber || J Addai || G Jennings || J Cutler || E Royal |
| 11 || L Tomlinson || Ronnie Brown || P Rivers || T Owens || DeS Jackson |
| 12 || L Fitzgerald || Chris Johnson || Kevin Smith || A Boldin || L White |