Hey, condolences on not winning the championship this year. Your team looked so promising, but injuries crushed you.
And who could have imagined that (choose all that apply) Eli Manning/Matthew Stafford/Doug Martin/Ray Rice/Jamaal Charles/Demaryius Thomas/Reggie Wayne/Danario Alexander would completely flop for you in Week 15?
But forget about that. Leave your regrets and frustrations right over there, with Mindy the coat-check girl. Then come on in. Let’s have a drink and some hors d’oeuvres and talk about 2013.
All season long we’ve used this space to assess the ever-changing fantasy landscape. Well, we’ve reached our destination. It’s championship week, and for those of us who aren’t playing for a title, it’s time to gaze into the future.
What follows is an early mock fantasy draft for 2013. Rather than basing this mock on my own opinions of players, I’m going to base it mostly on where I think players will be taken (though I’m sure a few of my own biases will creep into it). But before we get started, let’s take stock at each position.
Quarterback: The rookie class of 2012 has proven to be so bountiful that the 2013 QB pool is going to be like an overstocked trout pond — it will be almost impossible not to catch something. Just look at the names: Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Manning (times two), Newton, RG3, Luck, Ryan, Stafford, Roethlisberger, Romo, Kaepernick, Wilson. That’s more than enough to equip every team in a 12-team league with a starter. And still, that list omits a couple of solid youngsters (Freeman, Dalton) and a few capable but unsexy veterans (Rivers, Schaub, Cutler). When choosing a quarterback next year, patience will be a virtue.
Running back: Entering this season, the perception was that Arian Foster, Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy comprised “The Big Three” at the position, and then there was a steep drop-off to riskier runners. Going into 2013, Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster will be on a tier of their own, but there will be a deeper group of attractive second-tier options. As superb as this year’s rookie QB crop has proven to be, the rookie RB crop has been pretty terrific, too: Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson are likely to be first-round selections in most fantasy leagues next year. There won’t be many safe bets at running back after the first two rounds or so, but when are there ever?
Wide receiver: Calvin Johnson still reigns supreme at the position, though young A.J. Green isn’t far behind. Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones appear to be on the cusp of greatness. Beyond that, there are enough Brandon Marshalls and Vincent Jacksons and Andre Johnsons and Wes Welkers to give everyone in a 12-team league a solid pair of starting receivers. You can afford to be patient at the position, though not too patient.
Tight end: Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham were thought to be far and away the top two tight ends available in this year’s drafts. Despite missing significant time because of a broken arm, Gronkowski still has to be considered elite, given that he has caught 37 TD passes in the 42 regular-season games in which he has played in his career. Graham hasn’t met expectations this season. He still will be highly regarded next year, but Graham’s value might be closer to that of Gronkowski’s teammate, Aaron Hernandez, than to that of Gronk himself. Jason Witten continues to be a decent option, but the TE herd thins out pretty quickly. With so few dependable, every-week tight ends available, there’s a reasonable case to be made for spending a top-15 pick on Gronkowski, even though Gronk’s injury prevented that tactic from paying off this season.
Let’s get on with the mock draft, shall we? Let’s make it 12 teams, five rounds, standard scoring. But forget about team needs — none of these picks will be based on what a particular team has already drafted. Positional balance will not be a consideration. Here we go …
Adrian Peterson — His performance this year so soon after a major knee injury is simply astonishing. Minnesota’s lack of a passing game hasn’t slowed him down in the least. Peterson has no known kryptonite. He’s a seemingly foolproof No. 1 pick.
Arian Foster — Always good for a pile of touchdowns, but a workload spike and a drop in his yardage per carry are mildly troubling. It’s hard to knock a guy who’s been so consistently productive, but he’s put on heavy mileage over the past three seasons.
Trent Richardson — The rookie has produced strong numbers despite being banged up all season. With a season of good health, look out.
Ray Rice — His game-to-game usage can be frustrating, but his year-to-year consistency makes him one of the safer first-round picks.
Doug Martin — In light of some of the memorable performances he’s had this season, he might be taken third or fourth overall. There’s a lot to like here, though I’d contend that Richardson has the higher ceiling.
Chris Johnson — He’s an absolute monster when he’s right, but it doesn’t take much to throw him off track. I wouldn’t take him quite this early, but I think he’ll be the sixth or seventh overall pick in a lot of next year’s drafts.
Alfred Morris — Some fantasy owners remain distrustful of him for a variety of reasons (lack of college pedigree, Washington’s unconventional running game, the Mike Shanahan factor, etc.), but maybe he’s really as good as his numbers suggest. I suspect he’ll be drafted behind Chris Johnson in a majority of leagues. I’d rather have Morris.
LeSean McCoy — Might be available at a discount after a major drop-off in TD production and a concussion that kept him out for a month.
Marshawn Lynch — A seemingly safe late-first-round choice, though it’s still possible the NFL could suspend Lynch after his DUI case goes to court during the offseason.
DeMarco Murray — Comes with the injury-prone label, but he has the potential to be a 1,500-yard rusher.
C.J. Spiller — The Bills have to anoint him as their featured back for 2013, don’t they?
Jamaal Charles — Back to old form in 2012 after last year’s knee injury.
Calvin Johnson — No doubt he’ll be taken in the first round in a lot of leagues. Still the top receiver in the game.
Robert Griffin III — It’s going to be fascinating to see where he goes in drafts next year. Perhaps Aaron Rodgers is a safer choice, but no quarterback has more fantasy potential than RG3. Remember how highly Michael Vick was drafted in 2011? Griffin has similar running ability but is a vastly superior passer. And there’s a lot to be said for how much fun it is to have RG3 on your team.
Aaron Rodgers — The best passer in the game, and it’s a safe bet that the Packers will upgrade his offensive line in the offseason.
Rob Gronkowski — Worth a high pick simply because he’s a uniquely lethal TD scorer at a position where quality fantasy numbers can be scarce.
A.J. Green — He’s so good and still so young. It’s exciting to imagine the possibilities.
Matt Forté — His TD totals don’t always satisfy, but he dependably amasses high yardage totals. An overhaul of the Bears’ horrendous offensive line could give his numbers a boost.
Darren McFadden — As talented as he is, D-Mac will only slip so far before someone rolls the dice.
Julio Jones — A lot of people thought he’d put it all together in 2012. It hasn’t been a poor season for him by any means, but one senses that a true breakout is just around the bend.
Tom Brady — He’ll be 36 when the 2013 season begins but has shown no signs of slippage.
Drew Brees — Some will rank him ahead of Brady. It’s an interesting debate, but I just feel slightly safer with Brady.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis — Has really turned it on over the second half of the season. Once considered an unsexy option, BJGE now has some sizzle.
Frank Gore — He’s entering his twilight years but still going strong, and he runs behind the best offensive line in football.
Jimmy Graham — Hasn’t lived up to the enormous expectations that people had for him this season, but he hasn’t completely flopped either. His freakish athleticism will still make him an attractive target in next year’s drafts.
Cam Newton — He started the season somewhat sluggishly but has ratcheted up his production in recent weeks. His rushing ability keeps him near the top QB tier.
Andrew Luck — A very good quarterback already, and the numbers are only going to get better.
Demaryius Thomas — With his health issues behind him, he’s produced big numbers this season. The talented young receiver is extremely worthy of an early-round pick.
Stevan Ridley — Yes, Ridley has produced a double-digit TD total, but Shane Vereen’s presence makes me uneasy about Ridley’s future. Will Ridley be the main man in New England’s backfield next year, or will he end up being part of a committee? Tread lightly here.
Brandon Marshall — He’s done the work of two receivers for the Bears this season. But he’s a quirky cat, and for some reason his hands often turn stony when he’s standing in the endzone. Still, it’s hard to argue with the numbers.
Aaron Hernandez — Beyond this point, the drop-off at tight end is steep.
Ahmad Bradshaw — Injuries are a concern, but Bradshaw is usually productive when healthy, and productive running backs will always be in demand at fantasy drafts.
Matt Ryan — Maybe he isn’t cut out to be a superstar, but he and his numbers are still very, very good.
Ryan Mathews — His stock has plummeted after an injury-marred year. Mathews is a major risk, and there may not be any Darren McFadden-type upside here. But again, someone will always be willing to take a chance on a running back with attractive potential.
Peyton Manning — After the sexier quarterbacks have come off the board, Old Faithful will look pretty appealing.
Victor Cruz — He’s proven that 2011 was no fluke. A solid top-10 receiver.
Mikel Leshoure — I’m finding it hard to get a handle on Leshoure’s fantasy prospects for 2013. It doesn’t look as if he’s destined to become a high-yardage runner, but he’s pretty adept at punching it into the endzone.
Percy Harvin — Highly talented and wildly versatile, Harvin will be a popular draft target despite the early truncation of his 2012 season.
Vincent Jackson — A change of venue has done nothing to hurt his fantasy value. In fact, his value has never been higher.
Randall Cobb — The Packers have turned Cobb loose, and the young receiver has been putting up Harvin-like numbers. He and Aaron Rodgers are going to produce a ton of big plays over the next few seasons.
Roddy White — This is White’s eighth NFL season and he still hasn’t missed a game. He’s a rock.
Reggie Bush — It will be interesting to see where he winds up. It will also be interesting to hear how his next employer plans to use him.
Knowshon Moreno — His fantasy value was nonexistent just a few short weeks ago, but with Willis McGahee out with a knee injury, the Broncos have let Moreno serve as their workhorse, and he’s handled the role very ably. His 2013 value is still a moving target, but he’s proving that he’s worthy of work.
Andre Johnson — This might be too low for him in light of the nice bounce-back season he’s been having. But he gets dinged up a lot, and he’s never been an especially prolific TD scorer.
Maurice Jones-Drew — Here’s a tough call. Some owners may consider him undraftable. Others may consider him a steal at any point beyond the second or third round. There’s no telling how much gas MJD has left in his tank.
Matthew Stafford — He regressed in 2012 but could bounce back in a big way.
Dez Bryant — One of these years he’s going to put it all together … unless he doesn’t.
Steven Jackson — The old warhorse’s fantasy value continues to gently fade. He’s now a low-end RB2 or a high-end RB3. But Jackson is expected to end up with a new team next season, and if the situation is right, he could continue to be a helpful fantasy contributor.
Wes Welker — This assumes that he stays in New England. If he and Tom Brady part ways, all bets are off.
Eli Manning — He’s highly durable and usually productive, but sometimes he makes you scratch your head. This season, Manning owners had to endure a three-game stretch in which Eli threw exactly zero TD passes. Given the depth at the position, it wouldn’t be particularly wise to reach for him.
David Wilson — The youngster has big-time talent, but his role remains uncertain. With the voracious demand for running backs, someone in your league is apt to gamble on the talent.
Colin Kaepernick — Kappy can really run, and he’s surprisingly adept as a passer. It’s difficult to assess his value, but the potential is vast.
Darren Sproles — A fine RB3 for a fantasy team, and obviously, his value increases in PPR leagues.
Pierre Garcon — If he and RG3 both stay healthy next season, Garcon probably will be a top-10 receiver.
Willis McGahee — Age, injury concerns and role uncertainty make it tough to pin down his 2013 value. His dependability and versatility make it likely he’ll be a significant contributor.
Mike Wallace — I can’t wait to see where he ends up. If he ends up paired with an elite quarterback, Wallace could be in for a huge season. If he ends up paired with a bottom-rung quarterback, Wallace’s stock could take a nosedive.
Jordy Nelson — Hamstring injuries derailed him in 2012, but his ’11 numbers remind us of the potential upside.
Hakeem Nicks — Wouldn’t it be fun to see what sort of numbers he could produce if healthy for an entire season?
Reggie Wayne — Aging gracefully, though his days as a top-10 receiver are over.
Jonathan Stewart — Or DeAngelo Williams … take your pick. I’m more intrigued by Stewart despite his many health issues. If Carolina makes a move and breaks up this value-crushing time-share arrangement at running back, Stewart and Williams could become more attractive commodities.