Well, another fantasy year has passed, and I don’t know about you, but it was a productive 2012 in the Pallister household. Sure, a lot of that had to do with my better half — a phrase that certainly applied to our respective fantasy success this season — but I acquitted myself well in too many leagues for a grown man and have no regrets. OK, that’s a bit of a lie. I regret starting Eli Manning in Week 15. But other than that, pretty happy with 16 weeks of decisions.
But enough of what was. Let’s look ahead to next year and what (most likely, according to me) will be. Without further ado, my first round for 2013 (in reverse order):
12) Brandon Marshall, Bears WR: If you follow the Bears like I do, you would realize how amazing it has been for him to put up the following numbers: 113 catches, 1,466 yards and 11 TDs. Other than Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, no player has carried the offense like Marshall. He has accumulated a higher percentage of his team’s passing yards than Calvin Johnson.
11) Peyton Manning, Broncos QB: It doesn’t seem like he missed an entire season, does it? By October, he was back to his old self. Given the uncertainty surrounding his return, you could make the argument this is his best season ever. Manning enters Week 17 having thrown 34 TDs, one more than he threw in each of his last two seasons with the Colts. At this point, there’s no reason not to expect similar numbers next year.
10) Rob Gronkowski, Patriots TE: Before breaking his forearm, he was on pace for 89 catches, 1,200 yards and 16 TDs, which would be slightly below his numbers in all three categories from his record-setting 2011 season. Overlooking the tight end is a huge mistake in standard leagues. Don’t sleep on Gronk.
9) A.J. Green, Bengals WR: At one point this season — just his second in the NFL — he caught a TD in nine straight games. Like Marshall and Calvin Johnson, he’s a one-man offense. But he’s got greater upside — and it could be argued a better QB — than both. I was tempted to put Dez Bryant here, but I trust Green more. And so should you late in the first round of any 2013 draft.
8) Calvin Johnson, Lions WR: My first prediction for 2013: Johnson won’t have anywhere near the yards but three times the TDs next year. Don’t draft him expecting him to flirt with 2,000 yards again. But neither should you shy away from him because he only has 5 TDs. Both those numbers are outliers Expect a year more like 2011: 1,681 yards and 16 TDs.
7) Ray Rice, Ravens RB: If Rice was on your team this year, you probably wondered a couple of dozen times why you didn’t select someone else with your first pick. I understand the frustration. Hopefully, Baltimore’s offensive staff finally will figure out how to use the team’s best player. Despite inexplicably not being used for long stretches too many times, Rice still managed to gain more than 100 total yards per game (1,616 entering Sunday) and score 10 total TDs. Dependable running backs are too scarce to bypass out of frustration.
6) Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks RB: QB Russell Wilson and the defense get most of the credit for Seattle’s resurgence, but Lynch is the team’s MVP. In 28 games in the Pacific Northwest, he has gained almost 2,700 yards and scored 25 total TDs. Beast mode, indeed.
5) Drew Brees, Saints QB: In a tumultuous, disappointing season for New Orleans — played entirely without its Super Bowl-winning head coach — all Brees has done through 15 games is lead the league in passing yards (4,781) and TDs (39).
4) Arian Foster, Texans RB: He has not been as explosive this season (averaging only 3.9 yards per carry), but he’s been as dependable as always. Compared with 2011, he has the same number of 100-yard rushing games (seven) and four more rushing TDs (14). He also has added three 100-yard receiving games and two more scores. Depending on your scoring system, Foster could be rated a spot or two higher.
3) Tom Brady, Patriots QB: Speaking of dependable, Brady is closing in on Drew Brees’ record for consecutive games with a TD. Brees’ streak ended with a five-INT clunker a few weeks ago. And that’s the thing about Brady — you don’t have to worry about clunkers. On the rare chance he throws multiple picks, he always ends up with multiple TDs to offset them. Because of his other-worldly consistency and ability to avoid mistakes, Brady hurts you less than any QB, and in most standard leagues. That is invaluable.
2) Aaron Rodgers, Packers QB: How good is he? He’s thrown 35 TDs in what many consider a down year. He’s had some relatively bad games this season, but no other QB has the potential to put up huge numbers in any given week, no matter the opponent. He and the Packers stumbled into Houston earlier in the year to face an undefeated Texans team led by a smothering defense. Rodgers threw six TDs in a rout. That’s why he shouldn’t fall past the second pick in any draft.
1) Adrian Peterson, Vikings RB: I have been obsessed with the NFL for more than 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like what Peterson has done this year. I avoided him in every league, assuming — like many others — that there was no way he could have any significant impact as he “recovered” from major knee surgery. Then he goes out and puts together one of the greatest seasons ever from a running back: 1,898 yards through 15 games. I just shake my head when I watch him play each week, and that is the response you should receive from your fellow fantasy owners if you have the No. 1 pick next year and select anyone other than Peterson.