Every year, fantasy owners begin the process of ranking fantasy football players again. Veteran team owners tend to have a vague fantasy pecking order anyway, given years of experience with certain players either helping or hindering their playoff drives. But it still helps a player to review what they already know about the top fantasy football players. With new fantasy owners, getting up to speed as quickly as possible is essential.
Most draft lists and fantasy cheat sheets are based on the production from last year. But the turnover on a Top 10 list at any given position from one year to the next is often around 50%, meaning it’s a coin toss whether the player you’re drafting high is going to be worth the high pick you spend on them.
So when you consider a player’s draft value, you need to look beyond last year’s numbers and try to project where that player’s value is headed.
Is the player injury prone? Is he reaching the prime of his career, or have his skills began to decline? Did that star running back lose two or three offensive linemen? Did a quarterback lose his top receiver, or get a new offensive coordinator who likes to throw more often? What is the strength of schedule for a player’s team?
Of course, you can take the easy way out and just look at fantasy cheat sheets. Many devoted fantasy owners would never do that, though, because it’s the easy way out. Diehard fantasy football players want to make out their own list — making their own brilliant sleeper picks, or falling on their face by trying to do the same.
Whether a fantasy team owner uses cheat sheets from fantasy magazines or builds his own rankings, everyone needs a draft list when walking into a draft. (I’ve talked before about going to a draft with no materials and "drafting blind", but I never have had the guts to do it. I wouldn’t suggest anyone else try it, either, but it’s fun to talk about.)
Even if you use a cheat sheet from a magazine or a website, a player should probably do some extra reading to make sure they remember what’s happened in the offseason. So whether you’re wanting to fill out your fantasy draft list or simply brush up on what’s happened in the offseason, here’s our coverage of the top fantasy football player prospects of 2008.
Ladainian Tomlinson is the consensus #1 fantasy draft pick and has been a Top 3 player for years now. See if LT2 will make it through another season at the most brutal NFL position without major injuries.
Adrian Peterson is going #2 in most mock drafts, though some fantasy owners are tempted to take the younger AD over Tomlinson, who has more wear and tear at this point in his career.
Steven Jackson was last year’s trendy #2 pick after a stellar fantasy playoffs in 2006, but injuries destroyed Jackson’s 2007 fantasy season — and the season of most owners who drafted the Rams star runner.
Tom Brady is one of those generational players, already a lock for the Hall of Fame and now only trying to add to his legacy of three Super Bowl championships and the all-time single-season touchdown record.
Randy Moss is the companion piece to Tom Brady. He’s coming off a record-breaking season, but continues to have certain question marks that make Moss a risk as a 1st rounder.
Joseph Addai is the starting running back for the Indianapolis Colts, meaning he’ll have plenty of running lanes while defenses are focusing on Peyton Manning and his wide receivers.
Larry Johnson doesn’t have the same advantages as Addai, but he is a big, bruising running back playing for a Chiefs offense which should improve with the growth of Dwayne Bowe and the addition of Branden Albert on the line.
Frank Gore had a disappointing year after his standout 2006 season, but the San Francisco 49ers runner still posted a Top 10 RB performance.
Brian Westbrook is going in the Top Three of most fantasy football mock drafts this year, because his 2007 numbers were better than any NFL running back not named Tomlinson.
Marion Barber is now the starting RB for the vaunted Dallas Cowboys offense, though questions remain if Big D will use a platoon system with MBIII and rookie Felix Jones.
Clinton Portis is no longer playing in Joe Gibbs’ power running attack, but returns to a West Coast Offense under Jim Zorn this year. Portis’s best seasons were running in the Denver Broncos WC system.
Peyton Manning needs no introduction to fantasy football owners, because he’s been a dream pick for ten years now. The Manning Curse has been lifting over ff teams with Peyton on their roster in recent years.
Reggie Wayne has become Peyton Manning’s #1 target these days, which means the former Miami Hurricanes WR is one of the most coveted wide receivers in fantasy football in 2008.
Terrell Owens screwed a lot of fantasy football teams when he was suspended by the Eagles back in 2005, but two amazing years with the Dallas Cowboys have gone a long way to erazing those memories.
Marshawn Lynch comes into his 2nd NFL season as the Buffalo Bills main offensive threat, and his combination of speed, quickness and crazyman looks make him a favorite to have a breakout fantasy football year.
Willis McGahee was Lynch’s predecessor with the Bills, but now he is the featured runner with the Baltimore Ravens. McGahee will have to fight through the play of Kyle Boller or rookie Joe Flacco to post big fantasy numbers in 2008.
Jamal Lewis is the leading rusher for the Cleveland Browns, so he is a veteran bruiser in an offense that’s going to score a whole lot of points in 2008.
Braylon Edwards is the big play threat on the Cleveland Browns offense, and his 16 touchdowns in 2007 make him a major commodity in 2008 fantasy football drafts.
Kellen Winslow is another major component of the Cleveland Browns suddenly high-powered offense, and the brash Winslow Jr. gives toughness, attitude and major quickness (for a tight end) to the Browns’ game.
Jason Witten is listed as the #1 overall tight end on some draft lists this season, given that Antonio Gates is injured and the Dallas Cowboys don’t have a reliable 2nd receiver.
Tony Romo hopefully will be throwing most of the balls to Witten, and this combo could win a few leagues if the Cowboys avoid a fourth-straight December collapse.
Maurice Jones-Drew stand 5’7" if you give him a break, but he’s primed to be the #2 overall pick in many 2009 fantasy football drafts.
DeAngelo Williams will have Jonathan Stewart breathing down his neck in 2009, but he put up 20 combined TDs (rushing, receiving) in 2008 in the exact same situation.
Matt Forte came out of nowhere in 2008 and has Jay Cutler leading the offense in 2009. See if Forte’s new big play offense will help or hurt, and see if his 2008 workload will have a negative effect in 2009.
Michael Turner had the biggest workload of any running back in the NFL in 2008, so let’s see if there’s a sophomore jinx for Turners and the Atlanta Falcons in 2009.