Asking Michelangelo to paint Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was brilliant. Requesting he get it done in a day or two would have been ridiculous.
Asking us to come up with a Top 12 overall rank list for the 2015 season just days after the end of the 2014 season is brilliant. Asking us to stick to it through the end of the 2015 preseason is ridiculous. And although we're not quite as magnificent as Michelangelo, we'd like to think we're pretty good at the art of ranking stuff. Football players mostly.
This year, we were jolted by the lack of quality running backs with 20-touch potential and goal-line duties. It's a trend heading in the wrong direction as teams are content loading up on multiple rushers at bargain salaries and utilizing them at their discretion. That's why the backs who have a lot of work on their plates and not many players to share it with will remain in heavy demand in Fantasy.
And I'd rather get the stud rusher I can set a lineup with week after week than shuffle through running backs, which some Fantasy owners will have to do. Fortunately, those owners can commit to that strategy on Draft Day by loading up on backs throughout the draft but kicking off with a stud at another position in Round 1 (and Round 2 and 3).
That will be the genesis of your Fantasy draft game plan next year: Model your team with a quality running back early or fill up on them later and hope to find a gem.
How might this play into what the first round of your Fantasy draft might look like? Here's what I have in mind.
Getting down to 12
In a very unscientific process, I began tiering players at each position as I normally do. Understanding that my tiers will change between now and the Super Bowl, and then again and again as offseason news warrants, I take the top tier at each position and evaluate each player to get down to the candidates in the Top 12.
See that glut of wide receivers? That's just the beginning of what will end up being the best talent pool of wide receivers we'll ever have to pick from in Fantasy Football. That's right -- wide receivers will be so dang good next year that you'll be able to find potential No. 1 receivers into Round 3 and 4 next year.
Which makes getting the very best of the best a priority for some -- but not over taking one of those 20-touch running backs.
My Top 12 is based on getting those running backs, then taking advantage of the thinnest position -- tight end -- with an exception mixed in. Receivers and other backs will go off the board from there with a quarterback potentially in the mix at 12th overall.
1. Le'Veon Bell, Steelers: This is pending a possible suspension for getting arrested in August, 2014, for possession of marijuana. If he's suspended for a game or two then I'd probably pass on him at No. 1 overall but still consider him a Top 5 pick with the understanding I'd take his handcuff in Round 8.
2. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs: I guess I'm just a sucker for Andy Reid running backs. I don't like how he slowed down this season, be it because he was hurt and the Chiefs wanted to be careful with him or because Reid lost his mind. But he still has lots of potential for a huge season, particularly if the Chiefs address their offensive line this summer.
3. Eddie Lacy, Packers: Already I am tempted to put Lacy ahead of Charles, but am holding off. For now. Maybe. OK, yeah, holding off. I'm the guy who's always worried about Lacy's injury history but he has missed just two games in two seasons and has 10-plus Fantasy points in 22 of 30 games. Drafting Lacy means drafting his backup, but that can be done in Round 9 or 10.
4. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys: Murray scares me and might be out of my Top 12 altogether before too long. Known for being injury prone, Murray played in all 16 games this season, set Cowboys franchise marks for rushing yards in a season, had his best single season by a country mile and is sitting on 392 carries and 56 catches (448 touches) with at least one more game to play in the postseason. Concerns about where he'll play, what kind of offensive line he'll run behind and whether or not he can hold up for another 16 games will scare Fantasy owners. Let's say he re-signs with Dallas and has over 400 carries -- drafting him in the first round isn't a bad move but handcuffing him with whoever his backup is will be an absolute must. That'll cost an eighth-round pick because fellow owners will try to capitalize on Murray's injury history and just wait for him to hurt himself. Of course, until he actually does hurt himself, he should be a dominant back behind that line in Dallas ... if he stays there.
5. Matt Forte, Bears: I don't see the Bears bringing in a coach who will get away from Forte as a foundation back. He's too versatile a player to call a bad fit for any offense. The issue with Forte is workload -- 266 carries and 102 catches this season, 1,859 career carries and 456 career catches. He's getting to that point where he's due for a breakdown, which stinks because he's been very productive for a long, long time. The good news is that his handcuff, Ka'Deem Carey, can be had late in drafts.
So that's it. Those are the five backs I feel the best about. From here on out, it's time to take a more tactical approach toward finding consistent players regardless of positions.
6. Antonio Brown, Steelers: Brown has evolved into the most consistent player in Fantasy. Since Roethlisberger had more of a hand in the offense in the second half of last season, Brown has posted 10-plus Fantasy points in 21 of his last 25 games including 14 of 16 games in 2014. Even though that consistency rate is tough to keep up, Brown has dazzled as a shifty receiver with some of the best speed and hands you'll see. The bet is he keeps up the great numbers.
7. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: I'm not convinced that Gronk couldn't go higher than seventh overall. The tight end position turned out to be a total poopsicle in 2014, save for the big guy in New England. The only tight end to post 10-plus Fantasy points per game on average, Gronkowski had seven points or less three times in 15 games. He's truly a difference maker in Fantasy since, when healthy, he puts up stats like a low-end No. 1 receiver while his peers' yardage and touchdowns fluctuate wildly.
8. Calvin Johnson, Lions: There's already a bit of remorse ranking Johnson this high when there are other younger devastating receivers on the board. Call it fear of missing out on a big year from Megatron -- if he can stay healthy he could score 16 touchdowns and get over 1,700 total yards. It's a fairly big if, but the Lions offense should be even better in the second year of its current scheme and the schedule shouldn't be any worse (even with a trip at Seattle on the docket).
9. Dez Bryant, Cowboys: In a perfect world, Dez would be ahead of Megatron and potentially Gronkowski. But if I'm being nitpicky I'll point to Bryant posting 10-plus Fantasy points in 11 of 16 games this season with nearly 30 percent of his Fantasy points in his final three games. There's also concern about how he'll play after receiving a monster deal, which is expected.
10. Odell Beckham, Giants: There's a small part of me that feels like a sucker for calling Beckham a first-round pick, but a larger part of me thinks Beckham can't be covered. Like Antonio Brown, Beckham does so many things right that cornerbacks can't contain him for a full game. That would make Beckham a safe must-start with plenty of upside every single week. This year he returned 10-plus Fantasy points in 9 of 12 games. Assuming we hear more about him improving his technique and not partying Manziel style, he's definitely worth a late first-round pick.
11. LeSean McCoy, Eagles: My fingers are shaking nervously as I type this. I was nervous to draft McCoy this past year because I thought he'd regress and especially lose touches to Darren Sproles, which happened. I can't help but think the Eagles will either stick with Sproles or find another back to help McCoy out. So why did I put him 11th? Because in spite of all of his troubles last year, I can't help but think he'll be more effective in 2015. The Eagles' offensive line (hopefully) won't be a major issue and the quarterback (hopefully) won't be a major issue. End result: a better Shady.
12. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Contingent on what his offensive line and receiving corps looks like, Rodgers should wind up as the top quarterback in Fantasy. Usually, quarterbacks are the safest picks in the early rounds (many might disagree after Drew Brees' up-and-down year and Peyton Manning's late-season meltdown). I'm not yet comfortable with Arian Foster, C.J. Anderson, T.Y. Hilton or Jimmy Graham as a first-round choice. So, Rodgers is the safe pick. Following him up with Foster/Anderson/Hilton/Graham with the swing pick heading into Round 2 is a different story.