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Who is No. 1?

So… Your draft is probably right around the corner. And you are stressing, because you are not sure who you would take in the (unlikely) event that you get the number 1 overall pick. I have RB Adrian Peterson ranked number 1 overall. But you could make a case for some of the other top RBs. So, for your reading enjoyment, below is a debate (of sorts) over who should be the top pick in your 2009 fantasy draft.

Adrian Peterson (MIN): Some people are concerned about RB Michael Turner because he had 370-plus carries in 2008 (see below). However, those same people often neglect to mention that AP had 363 regular-season carries (plus another 20 in the playoffs). Do you really think those 7 carries saved AP from the so-called curse of 370? I don’t. But I also do not think there is too much cause for concern. Yes, AP is an injury risk. Yes, he does not get receiving yards. And yes, his QB situation is worrisome. But he is a stud. There is no one else in the NFL right now who is a better pure RB. He should challenge for the rushing title and hopefully finds the endzone a few more times in 2009.  Will he end up as the top-scoring fantasy RB in 2009? Nobody knows. But he is the safest pick at number 1.

Matt Forte (CHI): He surprised just about everyone as a rookie in 2008 as he finished 5th in scoring among RBs. Forte is an attractive option because he can run and catch, and there is nobody breathing down his neck for playing time. Plus, he is no longer a rookie, and now he has QB Jay Cutler in the backfield with him to keep defenses honest. I think Forte will continue to be a yardage-machine and should get into the endzone a few more times in 2009. But is he worth the number 1 overall pick? I certainly would not argue with anyone who took him number 1 overall. In fact, in my updated rankings, I have him ranked 2nd, behind AP.

Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX): Fantasy players everywhere have been waiting for RB Fred Taylor to leave so MJD could finally be the man in Jacksonville. He has an exciting skill set, and now that he is poised to get more touches, MJD is one of the most over-hyped players going into the 2009 season. But is it justified? He has never had more than 200 carries in a season. How many touches can we expect him to get in 2009? Will he be as effective in a full-time role? Should injuries be a concern? Also, even though Taylor is gone, do not forget about rookie RB Rashad Jennings and RB Chauncey Washington. The Jags would not have released Taylor if they were not confident in their other backups. Either way, he finished 10th among RBs in 2008, so you can assume he will improve on that in 2009. The question is, by how much? (Side note: Anyone else proud that I wrote that entire summary without using the word “diminutive”? Is there an unwritten rule somewhere that requires you to refer to him as “diminutive” at least once in every article? I get it. He’s short. And you know an infrequently-used word. Awesome. Get over it.)

Michael Turner (ATL): Some people are making a big deal out of the 376 regular-season carries that Turner had last year. But I am not buying into this theory, for a couple reasons: (1) Turner is young (he only had 228 carries coming into 2008); and (2) The Falcons should be a better team in 2009. However, I do not expect Tuner to match his 2008 numbers. The Falcons do want to decrease his workload, so look for RB Jerious Norwood to get more touches. And expect the Falcons to open up the offense a little as QB Matt Ryan gets more comfortable. So why do I have him ranked 4th when so many others have him 1st or 2nd? Reduced carries and a (much) tougher schedule. Last year, he put up over half his yards and TDs in 6 games against some of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL. This year, the Falcons replace those games with games against the NFC East and AFC East, most of whom have much stouter run defenses. Expect a decline in carries, yards, and TDs from Turner in 2009.

DeAngelo Williams (CAR): What a difference a year makes. At this time in 2008, most people were more worried about whether Williams was the top RB on his team, let alone in the league. The first-round selection of rookie RB Jonathan Stewart had everyone convinced that Williams had missed his opportunity to shine. And that appeared to be the case through the first half of the season. And then, something miraculous happened, and Williams put together one of the more impressive stretches in fantasy history, scoring 15 TDs in the second half of the season. Before you get too excited, though, remember that he only scored 3 TDs in the 8 games. So, which DeAngelo can we expect in 2009? I think it will be an average of the two. And I also think (a healthy) J-Stew will continue to get the ball, frustrating owners of both players who just want the Panthers to pick one RB. Could he pick up where he left off in 2008? Absolutely. But I would not want to bet the number 1 overall pick on it.

My Advice? Everyone has their opinion — and you should consider them all — but, if I had the top pick, I would have to decide betwen AP, Forte, and MJD. In the end, I think I would settle on AP, because he presents the least amount of risk. I would be very tempted to take Forte, though, given how well he performed as a rookie and the acquisition of Cutler. How well the Viking QBs perform and how the Bears use Cutler in the preseason could sway my opinion, though. In any event, the only player discussed above that I would avoid is Williams, because he presents too much of a risk. Inevitably, someone will get a great deal on Williams due to those risks, but with the top pick you have to play it safe.

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