Fantasy Football 2013: The 5 Most Reliable Picks at Each Position

Bruce Chen@bsk1364Analyst IAugust 16, 2013

Jul 26, 2013; Mankato, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) carries the ball during training camp at Minnesota State University. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

In fantasy, there aren't a lot of sure things that I would bet my life on. Other than the fact that there are no sure things, Shonn Greene is a terrible running back and you'll end up picking some scrub who some expert talked you into as a "sleeper" who ended up being horrible. 

There are so many variables (such as freak injuries) that can make even the safest fantasy players have bad seasons.

Yet, if I had to choose a guy at one position that would give you the most reasonable return on investment, I'd have to say drafting Tim Tebow as your starting tight end would be a solid, but unspectacular pick. He won't give you Jimmy Graham numbers, but he'll be a trusted target, netting you about 900 yards and six touchdowns.

Just kidding.

Here's the safest player to pick at each position. I define "safe" as somebody who, at their respective ADP (courtesy of FantasyPros) will produce at that level.

Tight End: Jimmy Graham

Maybe it's boring to him, but there's a reason no draft on the face of the earth won't have Graham as the first tight end gone. He's going No. 22 overall, and with all the good running backs gone at that point he'll be worth it.

Since he broke on the scene in 2011, he's caught 20 touchdowns in 31 games and averaged 73.9 receiving yards per contest. Think about that for a second; you're getting 7-8 fantasy points right off the bat with Graham, and if he catches a touchdown he's giving you the production of a top level wide receiver.

Sure, Rob Gronkowski could catch more touchdowns than him. If only he didn't break his arm trying to order a coffee; Gronk will probably begin the season on the PUP (according to the Boston Globe).

For the next best tight ends? The stats get uglier and uglier. Tony Gonzalez is 37 years old and the fourth option in the Atlanta offense. Four of the past five seasons, Jason Witten hasn't hit five touchdowns. Once Colin Kaepernick became the starter, Vernon Davis had six straight games where he caught less than two passes and produced a total of five fantasy points.

It's Graham, and everyone else. He's a sure bet for 1,000 yards and probably 10 or more touchdowns. More importantly, no other tight end can dream of that.

Wide Receiver: Roddy White

White is similar to Graham. He's going No. 27 overall, behind Graham, because there's more depth at receiver. For someone as skilled and fast as he is, he isn't as exciting a pick as his teammate, Julio Jones.

Since Matt Ryan took over as quarterback, White has averaged 1314 receiving yards and 8.6 touchdowns per season. That's a five-season sample size, which is something that doesn't happen often in fantasy.

Even with Julio Jones as his teammate, White has consistently ranked in the top-10 in the NFL for targets and approaches 100 receptions a season without fail.

I look at the "concern" of Jones being there as a good thing. You'll get third-round production from him no matter what, but with the upside of a second-round pick.

Quarterback: Drew Brees

The guy throwing to Graham is pretty good, too. Like White, because of positional depth, he has dropped to 14th overall, even though you know as a quarterback he could lead the fantasy world in points scored. 

Among the top signal-callers, I can't choose Aaron Rodgers for this spot given the departure of his top pass-catcher and offensive line woes.

Tom Brady lost his top five pass-catchers from last year. Peyton Manning will always be the mystery of the bionic neck. Cam Newton's stats looked great last year, but consistency is part of being a safe pick. And from Weeks 1-8, Cam had five games of 15 fantasy points or less and cost you valuable ground in making the playoffs. 

And Brees? He's only thrown for 5,000 yards the last two seasons straight, something that's never been done in NFL history. He's had 46 and 43 touchdowns in those two campaigns. He hasn't thrown less than 658 passes in the past three seasons, only throwing more than 17 picks in his "Madden Cover" 2011 season.

Per ProFootballReference, Drew Brees finished No. 5 and No. 6 in QB scoring in 2007 and 2010. The rest of his tenure in New Orleans? He's always been No. 1 or No. 2.

Team D/ST: San Francisco 49'ers

Alright, I don't have a lot of fancy stats on this one. Predicting D/ST scoring is almost completely impossible; the point-scoring plays like defensive and kickoff touchdowns, interceptions, and fumbles are very hard to predict. The most predictable thing would be sacks, but most leagues only count those as one point.

But the most consistent way to score fantasy points reliable for defenses? Shut down opponents on the scoreboard. They were second in fewest points allowed and rank in the top four for yards allowed on both the ground and the air.

They play Green Bay, New Orleans, and Atlanta once each, and outside of that, they don't play any spectacular offenses.

Also, it's just a talent thing. Nobody has a better linebacking corps than the one led by Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman; Willis is one of the few LBs in the league that can actually cover tight ends. As long as Justin Smith is standing, Aldon Smith can get to the QB on seemingly every play and have crazy depth on the line.

Donte Whitner is perhaps the hardest hitter in the league at safety, and they have a strong nickel package, too.

Running Back, Adrian Peterson

I'd kind of have to stop writing here if I didn't pick All Day. The consensus No. 1 selection overall and best running back available, Adrian Peterson will go first in your draft.

Like Graham, it's seriously Peterson and everyone else. Running back has gotten increasingly more frustrating every year, and I can pick nits with every single top-10 runner this year.

Doug Martin's only done it for one year. Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy have good backups that will either steal carries or take over if they get injured. Arian Foster's been run into the ground, he's a product of a scheme and his backup is arguably better than him. Marshawn Lynch has sucked us in and broken our hearts before.

We've never seen C.J. Spiller get even more than 230 carries in a season. Alfred Morris plays for Mike Shanahan. Trent Richardson plays on a terrible offense and will have an injury-inducing workload on him.

And truth be told, Peterson isn't perfect either. Like T-Rich, he doesn't play on a great offense led by the immortal Christian Ponder. Like Foster, he's overworked (312 offensive touches per season since he was drafted).

But the overwhelming difference between Peterson and everyone is simple; he is simply on a different level talent-wise. No human being should be able to recover from an ACL that fast, or do this to another human being.

Peterson was recovering from a career-threatening injury, playing in Christian Ponder's offense, a decent but not great offensive line, and missing the only other guy who resembles a playmaker on his team for over half the season.

The next best guy, Foster, played behind the best run-grading offensive line in a scheme that has historically proven to make any average Joe a fantasy producer with a healthy, elite wideout and a playoff contender around him. He was No. 2 behind Peterson by about 50 fantasy points.

Like Brees, Peterson rarely finishes outside the top-three in his position's scoring, and that season was the one where he tore his knee up (per PFR).

No other running back available in 2013 fantasy drafts currently stands a good chance at making the Hall of Fame. Draft Peterson No. 1 and enjoy.


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