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Early Mock Draft Analysis

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Training camp is still more than a month away, but it's never too early to begin thinking about the NFL season and your fantasy draft.

So it's time to check in with my favorite off-season site fantasyfootballcalculator.com. There you can see the latest mock drafts and find out the public's current mind-set toward almost any fantasy football player.

Below is the Top 10 based on 758 mock drafts run between May 12 and May 15:

1) Arian Foster, Houston - Foster's 2011 season was not as good as his previous year, but there were a number of mitigating factors working against him. He missed the first three games due to a hamstring injury and only had starting quarterback Matt Schaub under center for seven games. That made him target No.1 for the opposing defenses down the stretch. He'll have Schaub back in 2012 along with Andre Johnson to distract defenders, which is why fantasy owners obviously think he'll return to his 2010 form which saw him post 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground and 66 receptions for 604 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

2) Ray Rice, Baltimore - The addition of talented running back Bernard Pierce (Temple) has not deterred fantasy owners from making Rice the No. 2 overall selection. Rice posted a league-high 2,068 yards from scrimmage and for the first time in his career cracked the double-digit mark for touchdowns with 15 (12 rushing). As long as quarterback Joe Flacco doesn't really believe he's the best QB in the NFL, then Rice could easily become the No. 1 fantasy player in the league.

3) LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia - McCoy performed at a level consistent with being the third player off the board (1,309 yards rushing, 315 yards receiving, 20 TDs in 2011), but there are warning signs that he won't get the chance to reproduce those numbers in 2012. The most ominous of these is that head coach Andy Reid said he "overplayed" McCoy in 2011. McCoy isn't likely to see 321 touches in 15 games as he did last season because the Eagles drafted two more running backs to go along with Dion Lewis. And we always have the injury bug for the 5-foot-10, 215-pound back who started 15 games last season, but just 17 in his first two years.

4) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay - You can hardly blame anyone for drafting Rodgers this high, particularly in leagues which give six points for touchdown passes instead of three or four. Rodgers threw for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns against just six interceptions in 2011 over 15 games, making him worth 406 fantasy points. He'll have all his favorite weapons back and this might just be the surest pick of the Top 10.

5) Calvin Johnson, Detroit - Johnson showed what a talented receiver can do when he has a healthy Matthew Stafford throwing the ball. Johnson led the league with 1,681 receiving yards and hauled in 16 touchdown passes. The Lions added a receiver in the second round of the draft, which likely won't hurt Johnson's numbers. There are two items to worry about when picking Johnson this high: the health of Stafford and the "Madden Curse" as Johnson will grace this year's cover of the popular video game.

6) Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville - Jones-Drew was the Jaguars' only offensive weapon in 2011 and that won't change in 2012. Unless Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne sudden blossom into Tom Brady, MJD will be overused again this season. If you pick Jones-Drew, you must always beware of his knee problems and there is a chance that he'll be a holdout as well. Neither is a signal that 2012 will be a big year and Jones-Drew is a high-risk selection at No. 6.

7) Chris Johnson, Tennessee - Johnson's production dipped to its lowest level in 2011 with 1,047 yards rushing, 418 yards receiving and just four touchdowns. yet things are looking up for the Titans running back, and fantasy owners have not soured on him. First, he's going to attend off-season workouts for the first time in his career. Secondly, Tennessee has drafted a talented receiver in Kendall Wright to go alongside Kenny Britt, who will back from injury. The result is that defenses won't be able to line eight and nine guys in the box to stop Johnson. We expect big things from "CJ" in 2012 and seventh overall might end up being a bargain.

8) Tom Brady, New England - As long as Brady doesn't get hit in the knee, he's going to produce monster numbers again in 2012. Last year's 5,235 passing yards and 39 touchdown passes came with just one wideout (Wes Welker), two tight ends (Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez) and almost no running game what-so-ever. The Patriots added talented Brandon Lloyd to the mix at wideout and that should make the New England passing game completely unstoppable.

9) Ryan Mathews, San Diego - On the surface, this seems to be the strangest pick in the Top 10, but upon further review there is good reason for such optimism. Mathews played just 14 games last season, but totaled 1,546 yards from scrimmage. Where he struggled was getting into the end zone, scoring just six times. Now that touchdown-stealing Mike Tolbert has left town, fantasy owners are expecting Mathews to scoop up most of those 10 touchdowns. If he stays healthy enough to play all 16 games, he could post 1,800 yards and 12 touchdowns, which would certainly make him worthy of a spot at No. 9.

10) Darren McFadden, Oakland - McFadden's appearance in the Top 10 can be directly tied to Michael Bush signing with the Chicago Bears. Bush was a pain in the side to McFadden owners as he stole touches and touchdowns from the Raiders starting tailback. Now the only thing McFadden owners need to fear is the injury bug. A healthy McFadden could be worth 2,000 yards from scrimmage and double-digit touchdowns. Of course, McFadden has never played a 16-game season, so this is another high-risk, high-reward selection.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.


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