Normally the dog days of summer are a little rough for the sports fan. The World Cup has obviously given us some respite, and with fantastic playoffs in both the NHL and NBA, we didn't have to rely on days upon days of baseball to keep us entertained.
But now, friends, I'm happy to report that our national sporting nightmare is nearing an end: It's now July, and that means fantasy football season is upon us. You better get those mock drafts ready - the horde is coming!
We're going to have so much fantasy content throughout the season, you're not going to want to ever close that tab. But for now, we'll get the party started by going into the most basic question of them all: who's the best? Who goes number one overall?
Note: For the sake of ease, we'll go with standard scoring settings here. Just noting it. Oh, and Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) and Reception NEP are efficiency metrics for rushing and receiving, respectively. They measure the impact the player had on his team's winning. These metrics are adjusted for defense and are not just about counting up yards, but rather how valuable this player was.
Perhaps the most fashionable of selections, LeSean McCoy, really does have it all. He's a dynamic playmaker in a dynamic offense with a coach that seems to be determined to go HAM on the league. Conventional wisdom still thinks of him as a scatback type, but 2013 may have been his coming out party: he led the league in rushing attempts, rushing yards, all-purpose yards, touches, and was fifth in yards per carry.
Analytically speaking, no one came close to McCoy; his 37.12 Rushing NEP is nearly double that of the number two most-efficient rusher, which somewhat shockingly was DeMarco Murray. In fact, this Rushing NEP was the highest score recorded since 2010, when Jamaal Charles clocked a 44.88.
On the flip side, it's still very much a question about how McCoy will get along with Darren Sproles in the backfield, not to mention how the offense will look after DeSean Jackson was run out of town on a rail.
If you're worried about McCoy getting competition from Sproles, you don't have to worry about that with Adrian Peterson: he's the only game in town and then some. Now that Toby Gerhart has been shipped out, it's Matt Asiata and rookie Jerick McKinnon behind Peterson on the depth chart. Yikes.
For just about anyone else, AP's 2013 campaign would have been a smashing success; for him, it was downright average. Hampered by a late-season injury (and having absolutely nothing to play for), AP put him his worst yards per carry average since 2009, his lowest touchdown total since 2008, and significantly less receptions and targets than any season save his injury-shortened 2011.
But what do the analytics say? His Rushing NEP slots him all the way down at number eight - behind LaGarrette Blount and Rashad Jennings - and it gets worse when you factor in his Rushing NEP on a per rush basis. Whether this slip is a function of his team, his injury, or the advancing tread in his tires is up to you, but it's safe to say there is at the very least some worrisome signs when you look at Peterson.
If you're in a PPR league, this article basically starts and ends here - your pick is Jamaal Charles. But since we're talking standard, the water becomes a little more murky, as Charles racked up only 259 carries last year. And despite the strong 5.0 yards per carry average, it's fair to wonder if Alex Smith will regress back to his normal self and if they'll find anyone to be a competent receiver now that Dwayne Bowe has apparently entered the Fantasy Witness Protection Program.
The analytics, as you might imagine, are solid: fourth in Rushing NEP (13.09), third on a per rush basis (0.07). And on the receiving side, no back added more points through the air than Jamaal Charles, and on a per catch basis, he was only behind Knowshon Moreno. It's hard to find a red flag here.
It's hard to argue that Matt Forte isn't a monster, and his basic stats from 2013 are stacked: second in total touches behind LeSean McCoy, second rushing yards (again, McCoy), and fourth in all-purpose yards. Despite the amount of talent around him - Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, just for starters - Forte still saw plenty of action, and responded strongly in turn when given the chance.
The analytics aren't all that rosy, however: he ranked just ninth in Rushing NEP, though his Reception NEP was better (third behind McCoy and Moreno). But since we're specifically talking standard scoring here, there's a little cause for concern.
Calvin Johnson, Peyton Manning and the Rest of the Field
Don't be stupid.
Want to know who we're going to pick? Check our our completely customizable Cheat Sheet, which breaks down 250 players, complete with risk profiles, tier sheets, auction values, and more.