You have the first pick in your fantasy football draft and you are on the clock. Who are you taking? Peyton Manning may have lapped the field in fantasy scoring after his record-breaking season, but does that mean you should take him with the No. 1 pick?
Not according to the Athlon Sports editors and fantasy football contributors who were posed this exact question. In fact, everyone was in agreement that the first player taken should be a running back, not a quarterback. Which one? Well that apparently is something clearly up for debate.
Jamaal Charles for No. 1
As my draft results in this magazine’s mock draft proved, I’m behind Jamaal Charles as the 2014 No. 1 overall pick. In his first season under new head coach Andy Reid, with Alex Smith at quarterback, Charles posted a career season, with highs in yards, touchdowns, receptions and fantasy points. His 19 touchdowns were five more than the second-best running back.
It has often been said that you should draft this year’s fantasy team, never last year’s. There is one caveat with that saying — the person with the No. 1 overall pick shouldn’t be guessing at this year’s best fantasy player. He should take the guy who, barring injury or major offseason roster overhauls, is the best player in fantasy and has yet to be knocked from his seat.
Jamaal Charles for No. 1
This is not exactly a safe pick, because of Charles’ stature — listed at just 199 pounds by the NFL — and injury history, but Charles was the workhorse in Andy Reid’s running back-friendly offense. He is the reigning scoring leader thanks to his added use in the Chiefs’ short passing game, racking up 70 receptions for 693 yards. Charles can take the ball to the house on any given play, and he will touch the ball well over 300 times again, if he stays healthy.
Perhaps the clincher is we all should be inclined to knock some value off LeSean McCoy, because the Eagles added Darren Sproles to take some receptions from their lead back. Charles is very clearly his team’s No. 1 weapon. He also happens to be at his physical prime of age 27, which is the same year Adrian Peterson went over 2,000 yards. A.P. is too close to 30. Charles is No. 1 this preseason.
Jamaal Charles for No. 1
Is it not said, “To the victor go the spoils”? Well, in that case, Jamaal Charles should be the choice for No. 1, unless you think Peyton Manning will replicate his record-breaking success from last season. After all, Charles not only led all running backs in fantasy points in 2013, but he also finished with more points than every player but five quarterbacks. And only Manning and Drew Brees outscored Charles by more than 12 points.
As difficult as it will be for Charles to duplicate his 19 total touchdowns from last season, let’s not forget that he finished third in rushing yards, even though he wound up 10th in the NFL in carries. The appeal with Charles is that you know Andy Reid will do whatever he can to get the ball to him, as evidenced by his 70 catches, and it’s not like the Chiefs have upgraded their pass-catchers this offseason. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Charles gets more than the 329 touches he got in 2013. If that’s the case, who wouldn’t take the guy who has averaged 5.6 yards per carry in his career?
LeSean McCoy For No. 1
Chip Kelly’s high-powered offense led the NFL in rushing last season, as the Eagles averaged 5.1 yards per carry and finished with an average of 160.4 yards per game. LeSean McCoy was the team’s workhorse on the ground, posting career-high numbers in carries (314) and rushing yards (1,607). McCoy has never recorded back-to-back seasons of more than 270 carries, but Chris Polk and Darren Sproles won’t eat into his workload in 2014.
Another factor working in McCoy’s favor is his offensive line. Philadelphia kept its starting five intact, which should allow McCoy to push for 1,600 yards again. Even if McCoy doesn’t match last year’s rushing yards, he has two scoring areas in which to improve in 2014. He had just two touchdown catches despite hauling in 52 passes, and he recorded only nine scores on the ground on 314 attempts.
LeSean McCoy For No. 1
If you’re sitting in the top spot, grab LeSean McCoy over Adrian Peterson.
I took no college math classes, but even I can see regression potential throughout Jamaal Charles’ 2013 numbers. He more than doubled his career high in total touchdowns and blew up his receiving stats. And then the Chiefs lost their three highest rated O-linemen — according to Pro Football Focus — in free agency.
McCoy vs. Peterson is close only because Peterson is superhuman. His 2,000-yard 2012 shows why you can’t judge him by the late-career decline of most backs, but he has missed seven games over the past four years.
McCoy’s 26, he just finished leading the league in touches and rushing yards, and he still has touchdown upside. He also tied for just sixth in rushing scores last year despite playing for the league’s No. 4 scoring offense.
Matt Forté for No. 1
In his first year in Marc Trestman’s offense, Matt Forté jumped nine spots from 2012 to finish behind Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy for third place in fantasy points among running backs. And the biggest difference between Forté and leading scorer Charles was the seven additional touchdowns the Chiefs’ workhorse scored.
That said, the Chiefs lost three starters on the offensive line, and they still didn’t address the receiver position. Also, De’Anthony Thomas was drafted as a situational back, and Knile Davis is expected to chip away at Charles’ workload. Meanwhile in Chicago, rookie fourth-rounder Ka’Deem Carey is the only one set to challenge Forté. You can’t go wrong with Charles, McCoy or even Adrian Peterson, but I prefer Forté and the weapons around him more than any of the other three.
Adrian Peterson for No. 1
Adrian Peterson is the best running back to come through the NFL in a long while, and there is no reason to expect a slowdown for All Day — at least, not in 2014. His long-term keeper value is certainly more of a question, but for the immediate future, there is no one better in the league than Peterson. The Vikings’ offensive line was one of the better run-blocking units in the league last year. In seven pro seasons and three college campaigns, Peterson has never scored fewer than 10 touchdowns and only once rushed for fewer than 1,000 yards — and that was due to his torn ACL late in 2011. He’s not yet 30 years old, and, with rumors swirling about this being his swan song in Minnesota, A.D. should be extremely motivated to produce in ’14.
Athlon Sports' 2014 Fantasy Football magazine is now available for purchase at newsstands everyone or online. The ultimate draft-day resource, this year's edition features 419 in-depth player reports, informative features, a 20-round mock draft, team-by-team analysis from NFL beat writers and much more. Whether your fantasy league is head-to-head, roto, PPR or IDP, this magazine has all the stats and insight you need to help you get ready for the upcoming season. Click here to purchase you copy today!