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Who's No.1?

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's the question that every fantasy owner must ask himself - "Who should I select if I am lucky enough to have the first pick on Draft Day?"

The first part of the question to answer is what position should I select?

Place kicker...just joking, is a non-factor as are team defenses.

Tight ends have the most talent they've had in years, so there is no reason to pick San Diego tight end Antonio Gates No.1 overall when you could still get a talent like Vernon Davis of San Francisco in the fifth round (current fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP is 56.5).

It's the same at wide receiver where Andre Johnson seems to be the first wideout off most boards, but isn't that much better than Calvin Johnson or Roddy White.

And the quarterback depth is truly as deep as it's been since I started playing fantasy football in the early 1980's. Consider just the top four quarterbacks this year - Michael Vick (ADP 11.0), Aaron Rodgers (14.5), Tom Brady (31.7) and Peyton Manning (31.9). There are reasons that each could post the most fantasy points this season and, in fact, each player has led all quarterback scoring at least once in their career.

But behind them are still more great fantasy quarterbacks - Philip Rivers who led the league in passing yards last season despite massive injuries at his wide receiver position. There's Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, up-and-coming Josh Freeman and Eli Manning.

The quarterback position is far too balanced to make a passer the No.1 overall selection, which brings us to the running back position.

Based on 2010 statistics, the best running back in the league was Houston tailback Arian Foster. In his first year as a starter, Foster ran for a league-leading 1,616 yards, 16 touchdowns and 101.0 yards-per-game. But he wasn't just a runner, he was a primary receiver as well, pulling down 66 balls for 604 yards and two more scores. In my fantasy league, he led all running backs with 356 points, 93 more than second-place Adrian Peterson.

In addition, among the top running back options, Foster will also be playing with the best quarterback. Which means that he'll see a lot fewer "eight-man fronts" than guys like Peterson and Chris Johnson.

In fact, the only factor that might lead you to look elsewhere is his lack of a track record. His "career" consists of just 22 games. There is also the nagging feeling that we've been here before. We have. In 2008, rookie Steve Slaton was the rage, running for 1,282 yards and catching another 50 balls for 377 yards to lead the Texans' offense. We drafted Slaton in the top-10 the next season, expecting to see much of the same and instead we were crushed as Slaton fell apart, running for just 437 yards, fumbling his way out of the starting lineup and killing our fantasy teams.

If that scares you, then you should look for a more reliable running back, one with a history of great production. That's the definition of Peterson. "All Day" has been in the league for four seasons and has never run for fewer than 1,298 yards, or scored less than 10 times in a year.

Last year, despite horrible quarterback play and facing eight and nine-man defensive fronts, Peterson finished second in fantasy points at the position and eighth overall. The bad news, if you are thinking about picking Peterson, is that the quarterback position likely won't get much better this season. The team drafted a quarterback in the first round and will either start rookie Christian Ponder or a journeyman like Tarvaris Jackson.

Your other option is to go for the "game-breaker" in Chris Johnson. If your league gives bonus points for long touchdowns, he is a particularly good choice. Johnson, like Peterson, has produced excellent statistics in every NFL season. He ran for 1,228 yards as a rookie, a stunning 2,006 yards in his second year and 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

Johnson is like Peterson in another way, he plays for a team with a weakness at the quarterback position. As we write this, the Tennessee Titans have the following quarterbacks on their roster; Chris Simms, Vince Young, Rusty Smith and rookie first-round draft choice Jake Locker. Therefore, unless the team comes to terms with a quarterback in the upcoming free agent signing period, Johnson figures to have a lot of defensive players staring him in the face when he runs.

But it's the "score-from-anywhere" explosiveness that separates Johnson from Peterson. Of his 38 career touchdowns, 17 have been from over 20-yards out and an amazing 10 (26.3%) have been "home runs" from 50 yards-or-more. That's a much higher percentage of "home runs" than you'll get from Peterson (14.8%) or Foster (4.7%).

For me, Johnson is the best choice as the No.1 pick in the draft, but if you want to play it safe, pick Peterson and if you are a gambler the selection is Foster.

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


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