Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson — What a year in 2009 for CJ2K! The Tennessee Titans’ speedster running back was a Fantasy Football cash machine as he set an NFL single-season record for yards from scrimmage (2,509). All Johnson did was rush for 2,006 yards on 358 carries with 14 TDs and caught an additional 50 receptions on 71 targets for 503 yards and 2 TDs. Johnson is now motivated too after a brief holdout was resolved by a “short-term fix”, where his 2010 pay was raised from $550,000 to roughly $2.5 million, so look out. CJ2K is predicting a run at Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2105 rushing yards. And I think he has a chance as Johnson can take it to the house from anywhere as he totaled 693 yards on 14 carries of over 30 yards in 2009.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Maurice Jones Drew – Pocket Hercules proved in 2009 that he was more than worth the new contract he received the year before (four-years, $31 Million contract includes $17.5 million guaranteed). A scoring machine, Jones-Drew has 56 touchdowns in 63 career games including 40 TDs in his first three seasons — second only to LaDainian Tomlinson’s 61 during that span. My only concern with MJD is that the shorter back will wear down over time. In 2009, he had over 400 combined touches and his knee was giving him some problems in training camp. But MJD is assuring everyone that he is ready for another season and on-the-hotseat head coach Jack Del Rio needs him to perform greatly. 2009 FF Numbers: 16 games played, 16 starts, 312 carries for 1,391 rushing yards, 15 TDs, 71 targets, 53 catches for 374 receiving yards and 1 TD
Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson – The NFL’s greatest secret may reside in Houston, TX and his name is “Andre Johnson”. Johnson in seven seasons has 587 receptions for 7,948 yards and 42 touchdowns. And his greatest year was probably last season. In leading the Texans to their first winning season ever, Johnson (29) led the NFL in receiving with 1,569 yards to join Hall of Famer Jerry Rice as the only players since 1970 to lead the league in consecutive seasons. The star from the “U” also joined former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison (2001-02) as the only players in NFL history to record at least 1,500 receiving yards in consecutive seasons. With the Texans looking to finally end their playoff drought and quarterback Matt Schaub showing that he is also a star, watch out for receivers Johnson, Jacoby Jones, and Kevin Walter. Johnson’s 2009 numbers were 16 games players, 171 targets, 101 receptions for 1,569 yards, and 9 TDs.
Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning – No Fantasy Football list would be complete without the NFL’s version of Robo-Quarterback. To no one’s surprise, all Manning did in ’09 was put up another 12-win season (NFL record 7th consecutive) and pass for over 4,000 yards in winning his record 4th MVP Award. Peyton also led his team to the Super Bowl and extended his NFL record with his tenth 4,000-yard season. With all of his receivers back in 2010 including Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, you can expect more fireworks at Lucas Oil Stadium. If healthy –- BTW Manning has never missed a start going back to 1998 – you can already write down 4,000 passing yards and 30 TDs guaranteed. 2009 FF Numbers: 16 games played, 16 starts, 393 of 571 for 4,500 yards, 33 TDs and 16 INTs
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers – Remember back to the 2005 NFL Draft, I know Rodgers does. The former star from Cal had to endure a very long wait until the Packers rescued him with the 24th overall selection. Now there is no doubt that Green Bay couldn’t be happier as Rodgers has become one of the top NFL passers. Last season was magical for the young quarterback as he stepped out of Brett Favre’s shadow to finish fourth in the NFL in passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating. Rodgers led the Packers back to the playoffs and Green Bay became the first team in NFL history with a 4,000-yard passer (QB Aaron Rodgers), 1,200-yard rusher (RB Ryan Grant) and two 1,000-yard receivers (WRs Donald Driver & Greg Jennings) in consecutive seasons. In 2010, the sky is the limit for Mike McCarthy’s offense as the Packers return all of their weapons including Rodgers and emerging TE Jermichael Finley. In 2009, Rodgers’ numbers were 16 games, 350-541 for 4,434 yards, 30 TDs, and 7 INTs with an additional 304 rushing yards and 5 TDs.
Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson – A powerful violent runner who should be a top fantasy points scorer again. Peterson has worked on his fumbling problems from 2009 — 20 total fumbles in 3 years including 7 in ’09) — and seems poised to have another solid season. Even with quarterback Brett Favre back in the fold for the Vikes in 2010, opponents know stopping Peterson is priority one. Expect the former Rookie of the Year on the field often as former carries stealer Chester Taylor is in Chicago and I am not sure rookie Toby Gerhart is ready to be a consistent back-up. 2009 FF Numbers: 16 games played, 15 starts, 315 carries for 1,389 rushing yards, 18 TDs, 57 targets, 43 catches for 436 receiving yards and 0 TDs
St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson – Talk about a one-man show…Jackson in 2009 had his fifth consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season despite playing on a 1-win team. The perennial Pro Bowl back has been “Mr. Consistent” over six years in the NFL as he has averaged 1,221 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns a year. Though Jackson can get nicked up — has played just one 16-game season in his career – who can blame him for getting nagging injuries when defenses know that he is getting the ball. It will be interesting to see if rookie quarterback Sam Bradford can help take some of the pressure off Jackson – coming off back surgery. In 2009, despite some injuries, S-Jax produced 1,424 rushing yards on 325 carries and 4 TDs plus 314 receiving yards on 50 receptions (74 targets).
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees – In 2009, it all came together for the formerly hard-luck New Orleans Saints. The team that once had their fans wearing bags on their heads ascended to the Super Bowl title and Brees was one of the major reasons. If he can survive the Madden Curse (cover boy of 2011 version), look for Brees to pick right back up where he left off last year. The former Purdue superstar led the Saints to scoring an amazing 510 points last year and you can expect more fireworks in 2010. Big fantasy numbers should fly off the board in the Bayou as head coach Sean Payton’s offense has a lot of weapons including RB Pierre Thomas, RB/Slot WR Reggie Bush, WR Marques Colston and others. Though last year Brees didn’t break the 5,000-yard passing barrier again – like in 2008 – he did put up some great numbers. 2009 stats: 16 games, 363 of 514, 4388 yards, 34 TDs and 11 INTs plus 2 rushing touchdowns.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald – The most dominating receiver in the NFL has to have a spot in the Top 10, despite several FF analysts saying to wait on selecting a receiver. Fitzgerald was productive in 2009 even though he battled through some nagging injuries to produce numbers of 97 receptions on 153 targets for 1,092 yards, and 13 TDs. Though he will probably face more double-teams this year due to the trading of his partner Anquan Boldin to Baltimore, look for Fitzgerald to have another productive season. Of course, the key person to Fitzgerald’s success will be quarterback Derek Anderson, who now takes over as the Cardinals triggerman. Expect Fitz to catch the ball in the redzone and over the middle as Ken Whisenhunt will still rely on him even though the Cardinals are supposed to become a “run first” team.
Carolina Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams – For the second year in a row, Williams showed that he is a tough player worth a high FF pick. The former Memphis star is definitely the Panthers lead back in their two-headed backfield. If they can avoid nagging injuries, Williams and Jonathan Stewart are probably the NFL’s best 1-2 punch. Last year they became the first NFL teammates to each rush for over 1,100 yards in a single season. In 2010, look for Williams to continue on his productive path as first-year starter QB Matt Moore is still developing and the Panthers huge O-line looks healthy again. 2009 FF Numbers: 13 games played, 13 starts, 216 carries for 1,117 rushing yards, 7 TDs, 41 targets, 29 catches for 252 receiving yards and 0 TD
Best of the Rest
QBs — New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers, Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo, Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub, Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer and Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre (ankle)
RBs — Indianapolis Colts RB Donald Brown, Falcons RB Michael Turner, San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore, Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice, Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson, Miami Dolphins RB Ricky Williams, Carolina Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart, NY Jets Shonn Greene, Dallas Cowboys RB Felix Jones and San Diego Chargers rookie RB Ryan Matthews
WRs — Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White, New England Patriots WR Randy Moss, Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin, Cincinnati Bengals WR Terrell Owens, Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson (neck), Green Bay Packers WR Greg Jennings, Baltimore Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne, Miami Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall (hip), New England Patriots WR Wes Welker (knee), New Orleans Saints Marques Colston, Jacksonville Jaguars WR Mike Sims-Walker and Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco
TEs — San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates, Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten, Philadelphia Eagles TE Brent Celek, Chicago Bears TE Greg Olsen, Indianapolis Colts TE Dallas Clark (leg), SF 49ers TE Vernon Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Kellen Winslow, Green Bay Packers TE Jermichael Finley, NY Jets TE Dustin Keller, Washington Redskins TE Chris Cooley and Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe
Kickers – New England Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski, Oakland Raiders Sebastian Janikowski, Philadelphia Eagles K David Akers, Tennessee Titans K Rob Bironas, San Diego Chargers K Nate Kaeding, Green Bay Packers K Mason Crosby, Minnesota Vikings K Ryan Longwell, New Orleans Saints K Garrett Hartley and Houston Texans Neil Rackers
Defenses – Baltimore Ravens, NY Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Francisco 49ers