Friday, May 8, 2009

Who's No. 2?

Last week, I participated in my first mock draft of the 2009 season -- a day following NFL draft weekend.

Too soon, you say? Absolutely. But that's what Sporting News asked its writers to do, so they could incorporate the draft into their annual fantasy football guide that hits the shelves in June.

I had the #2 overall pick for the second consecutive year. In 2008, I selected Adrian Peterson (after LT was gone), bypassing other highly touted options like Tom Brady, Brian Westbrook and Steven Jackson. I made the right choice then, and backed it up in the fifth round with an even better pick: Michael Turner.

This year, no surprise, AP went first overall, leaving me with an interesting conundrum. In my mind, there's no clear-cut choice for this year's second pick. At least not as we sit here in early May. I was torn between Matt Forte, Michael Turner and Maurice Jones-Drew.

Turner is an excellent candidate, coming off his breakout year in a high-octane offense led by NFL ROY Matt Ryan. The offseason acquisition of Tony Gonzalez gives the Falcons even more firepower. This team will do a lot of scoring in '09, and Turner is sure to get his fair share of the action. But can he really match, much less exceed, his '08 results?

MJD is poised for his best year yet, now that Fred Taylor is a Patriot. But MJD is in the opposite situation from Turner: A lackluster offense that won't light it up often. Still, he's the only viable weapon the Jags have. His upside is real.

Some will argue that Steven Jackson and DeAngelo Williams are viable picks here, too. But S-Jax's injury history makes him a risky bet this high, while DeAngelo will likely have to share even more carries with second-year pro Jonathan Stewart this season.

Which is why I opted for Forte.

For starters, he was a top five fantasy RB in his rookie season, despite playing in a snoozer of an offense led by Kyle Orton. This year, Jay Cutler will be at the controls, forcing opponents to respect the Bears' passing game like never before. No more stacking the line of scrimmage to stop the run, as opponents did late in '08.

Forte is the clear-cut workhorse in that offense ( his backup), having taken part in a whopping 85% of Chicago's offensive plays last season. That workload will catch up to him eventually, but not in his second campaign. He still has young legs, proven durability and -- something Turner can't say -- a prominent role as a receiver.

Forte's not the sexiest pick; just the best one.

That said, I probably could have gotten him with a later pick. SN has him ranked #3, but he could slide as far as 5 or 6. Which is why I'd just as soon not get the second pick when we do this for real in August.

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