It is fitting, since the real 2011 NFL season currently exists only as a fantasy, that our ESPN.com fantasy experts released their 2011 fantasy football player rankings Tuesday. Here are the top 10 NFC East players on the list, with their overall rankings and positional rankings in parentheses.
1. LeSean McCoy (8, RB7)
2. Michael Vick (10, QB2)
3. Hakeem Nicks (17, WR4)
4. Miles Austin (31, WR10)
5. DeSean Jackson (32, WR11)
6. Dez Bryant (34, WR12)
7*. Ahmad Bradshaw (35, RB17)
8. Jeremy Maclin (41, WR15)
9. Tony Romo (42, QB7)
10. Felix Jones (54 RB24)
11*. Jason Witten (56, TE3)
All right. Full disclosure here: I'm a big fantasy sports nut. Before I worked here, I would bet I read the fantasy guys as much or as religiously as I read anybody else on the site. I play fantasy football, fantasy baseball, fantasy hockey ... heck I'm currently in the middle of a huge season in fantasy golf -- maybe my best ever in the 10 years we've had the league going. I wrote a weekly fantasy football column for the last place I worked, and had a blast doing it. So I dig this stuff, even if I'm sitting here thinking none of it's going to matter until November anyway.
As for these rankings, I understand the fantasy credo says RBs matter the most, but I could argue for Vick over McCoy. Heck, I could argue for Vick over Aaron Rodgers, the only QB ranked ahead of him on the overall list, because of Vick's rushing stats and ability to break a big play without the help of anyone who's on anybody else's fantasy team. But that's fine. Rodgers runs, too, and he's a stud. As for McCoy, the league I play in gives a point per reception, which makes him more valuable than a lot of other running backs, including Frank Gore and Michael Turner, who are ranked behind him on this list.
And, yeah, there sits Jackson, behind both Nicks and Austin. Why? Well, because most standard fantasy leagues don't count the return stats for individual players, and because, as we've mentioned here a lot in the past week, Jackson caught only 47 balls last year. Yes, he's as dangerous as any player in the league with the ball in his hands. But he's not as useful a fantasy player as he'd be if the ball were ... you know ... in his hands more often.
I threw Witten in there at the end because Bradshaw (No. 7) is a free agent and I guess might not be back in the division.
Now, for those of you fellow fantasy nuts out there, answer me this question: Do you like having your favorite players on your fantasy team? Do you avoid players from teams you hate? Or are you able to separate your fan emotions from your fantasy GM philosophies? Key question, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.