Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: January 25, 1:12 PM ET
2012 Fantasy Football All-Pro Team
By Christopher Harris
It's time for our annual look at fantasy football's All-Pro teams. We've removed opinion from the equation and simply provided a look back at 2012's highest fantasy scorers at each position over the course of the season. How many of your players made the squad?
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (Average Draft Position: 7th overall, 3rd among QBs): Brees appears to be invulnerable to fantasy downturns; even a season without Sean Payton calling plays couldn't stop him. Brees led the NFL in passing yards (topping 5,000 yards for the second straight year) and TDs (he was the only man to eclipse 40), though his 19 interceptions tied Tony Romo for the league's most. With Payton returning in '13, Brees remains ensconced in the top tier of QBs.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 15th overall, 7th among RBs): What more needs to be said? Peterson produced the second-greatest rushing season in NFL history, coming within eight yards of tying Eric Dickerson's all-time single-season yardage record, less than a year after a catastrophic knee injury. No matter what mess the Vikes have at their QB position, Peterson deserves to be the No. 1 pick on all draft boards in '13.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans (ADP: 1st overall): Over the past three seasons, Foster has finished first, fourth and second in fantasy points among RBs. He's simply the best short-yardage runner in the game and is a perfect match for Houston's zone-blocking offense. Some will worry about his yards-per-carry drop (he's gone from 4.9 in '10, to 4.4 in '11, to 4.1 in '12), but he's as close as they come to a lock for double-digit TDs every single year.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (ADP: 6th overall, 1st among WRs): Megatron crushed Jerry Rice's single-season record by 116 yards, and so earned his second straight fantasy points title among WRs (and his third straight top-five finish) despite finding the end zone only five times. Johnson was tackled on the 1-yard line six times in '12, lending credence to the notion that he'll be right back up into double-digit TDs once again next season.
Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears (ADP: 32nd overall, 12th among WRs): Here's our first big surprise, as Marshall had never produced a fantasy season better than ninth among NFL wideouts in his career. His reunion with Jay Cutler in the Windy City went better than their original run in Denver, despite the Bears' utter lack of other aerial weaponry. Continued concerns over Marshall's erratic personality will always be scary, but at minimum he has to be considered a top-10 wideout again in '13.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 20th overall, 2nd among TEs): It wasn't exactly the season his fantasy owners predicted when they grabbed him so early in their drafts, but Graham did wind up with the league's best statistical season for a TE, despite battling a bad wrist for most of the year. Unfortunately, he also had 15 drops, and saw his yardage total drop by 328 from '11. He'll be better at full health in '13, but hopefully we've all learned our lesson about reaching for what might be fantasy's most frustrating position.
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: undrafted): This rookie out of Georgia set an NFL record by going 10-for-10 on kicks of 50 yards or longer this season. Overall, he went 35-for-38 and drilled all 36 of his extra points. He's yet another object lesson on why you should never take a kicker before the final round of your draft.
Chicago Bears (ADP: 92nd overall, 4th among D/STs): They slowed down considerably from a first half of '12 that saw them produce 28 turnovers and eight defensive scores (in the second half of the season, they had 16 turnovers and two TDs), but their overall output was still enough to top all other units in fantasy. The question for '13 will be whether Lovie Smith's departure cripples the unit's fantasy production.
(tie) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, and Tom Brady, New England Patriots (ADPs: 3rd and 5th overall, 1st and 2nd among QBs, respectively): These two elite quarterbacks just keep on trucking. Rodgers has now finished first or second in fantasy points among QBs in five straight seasons, and Brady has been inside the top three for his past three years. Their respective disappointing playoff exits notwithstanding, these guys remain clear fantasy first-rounders heading into '13.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP: 65th overall, 25th among RBs): Truth be told, Martin actually tied Arian Foster for the No. 2 spot among RBs, but I gave Foster the bump to first team because of his consistency; Martin amassed one-third of his fantasy points in two massive back-to-back games. However that doesn't change the fact that the Muscle Hamster was perhaps fantasy's best value of '12, producing 12 double-digit fantasy point days despite being drafted on average one spot ahead of Shonn Greene.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 12th overall, 6th among RBs): Beast Mode followed up his shocking '11 campaign with an even better, more consistent effort in '12. He shattered his career-best single-season rushing and total yardage, while topping double-digit TDs for the second straight year. If the Seahawks continue to call a conservative game plan on offense despite Russell Wilson's emergence, Lynch will be a top-end No. 1 fantasy RB in '13.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 41st overall, 15th among WRs): After two-plus years of teasing, Dez finally followed through on his massive physical ability, going on a streak in '12 that saw him score a TD in seven straight games despite a fractured finger that almost ended his season in December. Health always seems to be a question with Bryant, but finally the inconsistent mental side of his game seems to have disappeared.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP: 28th overall, 9th among WRs): Despite catching passes from popgun-armed Andy Dalton, Green improved on his strong rookie season, becoming a lethal combination of elite downfield threat and powerful open-field runner. He slowed down in the season's second half as opposing defenses played back and dared Cincy to beat them with anyone else, but it doesn't matter: Green's elite skill makes him a top-five WR headed into '13.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (ADP: 14th overall, 1st among TEs): How frustrating was the TE position in '12? Gronk missed five games and still finished second in fantasy points among his peers. Nevertheless, the fact that this man-child has 39 career TDs in 43 career games should put him atop the TE rolls for the upcoming season. The question you'll have to ask yourself is how early in your draft can you take him, given Gronk's disturbing injury trend the past two years.
Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots (ADP: 98th overall, 1st among Ks): Let's be clear, it's completely insane to draft any kicker as high as Gostkowski went in '12. His 10 fantasy points per game were 1.75 higher than the No. 12 bootsman. But Gostkowski doesn't figure to fall off the table kicking for the powerful Pats in '13, provided he can stay healthy.
Denver Broncos (ADP: 147th overall, 11th among D/STs): This unit finished '12 among the top five NFL defenses in points allowed, total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, sacks, recovered fumbles and defensive TDs. (It certainly doesn't hurt that the other teams in the AFC West stink.) Von Miller is the league's best 4-3 outside linebacker by a wide margin, producing 18.5 sacks and absolutely dominating on run defense; his continued presence with this group would seem to guarantee them strong fantasy status heading into '13.