Early 2005 fantasy mock draft: Nate Ravitz, USA Today
The 2004 season isn't quite in the books, but the fantasy season is. It's never too early to look ahead to next year, so I decided to put together an eight-round mock draft. Obviously, much will change between now and next summer, when most drafts are held. Key players like Shaun Alexander, Drew Brees, Plaxico Burress and Rudi Johnson are all potential free agents who could move on to other clubs. The 2005 draft also features several prospects who could be fantasy options immediately depending on where they're drafted. Among the top prospects for fantasy purposes are running backs Cedric Benson, Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown and wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Mike Williams. For the time being, I'm keeping all '05 rookies out of the picture, because there's no way to predict if, for instance, a star running back will even get a chance to play in his rookie season (see Perry, Chris).
Without further ado, here's one man's opinion of how the first eight rounds could look next year.
1 LaDainian Tomlinson RB San Diego YPC was down this year because of groin problems. Should be better in 2005.
2 Priest Holmes RB Kansas City Sure, he's a risk. But he'll be the best player in the game when he plays.
3 Shaun Alexander RB Seattle* Touchdown machine, but will he be back in Seattle? Will LT Walter Jones?
4 Peyton Manning QB Indianapolis Unlikely to throw 49 TDs again. But 35 is a lock and 40 is a safe bet.
5 Tiki Barber RB NY Giants Led NFL in total yards. Giants' offensive line will be better next year.
6 Daunte Culpepper QB Minnesota Has become a truly great QB. Without Moss injury he may have beat Manning to 48.
7 Willis McGahee RB Buffalo Scored 13 touchdowns in final 10 games.
8 Edgerrin James RB Indianapolis Could get more scores next year now that Peyton has the record.
9 Ahman Green RB Green Bay Has proven twice before he can bounce back from "off" years.
10 Randy Moss WR Minnesota Eight touchdowns in the first five games. Played hurt the rest of the way.
11 Corey Dillon RB New England Unbelievable consistency. No less than 79 rushing yards in any game in '04.
12 Domanick Davis RB Houston Dual threat played hurt much of '04 and still scored 14 touchdowns
13 Curtis Martin RB NY Jets NFL rushing champ may take a step back in '05 - or he may not.
14 Deuce McAllister RB New Orleans Came back too soon from ankle sprain but finished strong.
15 Jamal Lewis RB Baltimore Nothing wrong with his numbers when he wasn't hurt or suspended.
16 Terrell Owens WR Philadelphia Would be a top 10 pick if not for the leg injury that will remain a question.
17 Julius Jones RB Dallas Big finish to '04 and will be starter from Day 1 in '05.
18 Rudi Johnson RB Cincinnati* Lack of receiving production keeps him out of the elite. Free agent.
19 Clinton Portis RB Washington Don't underestimate the impact Jon Jansen's injury had on him.
20 Torry Holt WR St. Louis 10 touchdowns and 1,372 yards in a "down" year.
21 Kevin Jones RB Detroit Slowed by injuries early. Rushed for 906 yards in final 8 games.
22 Marvin Harrison WR Indianapolis Yards dropped in '04 but tied career high with 15 touchdowns.
23 Javon Walker WR Green Bay Had a breakout season and will put up big numbers again.
24 Brian Westbrook RB Philadelphia Great run/catch numbers and TD production but fragile.
25 Donovan McNabb QB Philadelphia Rushing stats continue to decline, but passing stats were huge.
26 Thomas Jones RB Chicago A healthy Rex Grossman (or another QB) and new receivers will help him.
27 Joe Horn WR New Orleans 21 touchdowns the last two years and almost never misses a game.
28 Fred Taylor RB Jacksonville No reason he can't rebound from off year.
29 Chris Brown RB Tennessee Will put up great numbers when healthy - but can't stay healthy.
30 Reggie Wayne WR Indianapolis Dramatically improved yards-per-catch average in breakout year.
31 Chad Johnson WR Cincinnati Got more comfortable with Carson Palmer down the stretch (7 scores in final 7 games).
32 Tony Gonzalez TE Kansas City Six 100-yard games in 2004. Still deserves to go ahead of Gates.
33 Warrick Dunn RB Atlanta Still too good to lose his job to T.J. Duckett.
34 Tatum Bell RB Denver Should assume starting job in 2005, but Reuben Droughns still lingers.
35 Antonio Gates TE San Diego Monster season but came up short in fantasy playoffs. Must prove he can do it again.
36 Drew Bennett WR Tennessee Must show more consistency, but superstar potential is there.
37 Muhsin Muhammad WR Carolina* Could move on in free agency. If he stays, a healthy Steve Smith could hurt his numbers.
38 Trent Green QB Kansas City Threw for the quietest 4,500 yards in league history this season.
39 Steven Jackson RB St. Louis Should take over as the lead back, but Marshall Faulk could still get work.
40 Lee Suggs RB Cleveland Must stay healthy and reduce fumbles but has star talent.
41 Andre Johnson WR Houston Started hot and tailed off. Should break out in third year.
42 Roy Williams WR Detroit Rookie year was marred by injuries. 1,200 yards and 10 scores is likely in 2005.
43 Onterrio Smith RB Minnesota The best bet to be the lead back in Minnesota but no sure thing.
44 Jerry Porter WR Oakland* Free agent would be best off staying in Oakland - developed chemistry with Kerry Collins.
45 Donald Driver WR Green Bay Regained status as top-notch receiver following early-2003 neck injury.
46 Kevan Barlow RB San Francisco 49ers have little choice but to give him a shot to bounce back.
47 Todd Heap TE Baltimore Ankle injury cost him 10 games. 303 yards and three scores in only six games.
48 Darrell Jackson WR Seattle Dropped passes don't hurt in fantasy football.
49 Alge Crumpler TE Atlanta Solid for yards and touchdowns and could improve as Vick does.
50 Brandon Stokley WR Indianapolis No guarantee he'll stay healthy since he almost never has before.
51 Michael Pittman RB Tampa Bay Charlie Garner could return to push him or Bucs could get another back.
52 T.J. Duckett RB Atlanta Solid numbers in part-time work and Dunn is always a health risk.
53 Jeremy Shockey TE NY Giants Stayed healthy and put up good numbers. Eli Manning's improvement will help.
54 Derrick Mason WR Tennessee Could easily out-produce Drew Bennett.
55 Brett Favre QB Green Bay Another banner year and no reason to expect much to change in '05.
56 Hines Ward WR Pittsburgh Chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger isn't there yet.
57 Anquan Boldin WR Arizona Made a solid return from knee surgery mid-year and should score more in '05.
58 Jason Witten TE Dallas Had a breakout season and should be among top tight ends.
59 Larry Fitzgerald WR Arizona 780 yards and 8 TD was a very solid debut.
60 Michael Vick QB Atlanta 900+ rushing yards but few scores. Passing needs to be more consistent.
61 Jerome Bettis RB Pittsburgh* Role in 2005 is uncertain but should still score a lot of touchdowns.
62 Duce Staley RB Pittsburgh Was solid for yards (but not TD) before injuries struck.
63 Isaac Bruce WR St. Louis Might have lost a step but still solid for yards.
64 Randy McMichael TE Miami 73 catches and 791 yards despite QB problems in 2005.
65 Reuben Droughns RB Denver Will probably lose starting job to Tatum Bell - but that's not certain.
66 Michael Bennett RB Minnesota Could get another shot in Minnesota or be a starter elsewhere.
67 Michael Clayton WR Tampa Bay Fantastic rookie season and should only get better.
68 DeShaun Foster RB Carolina Will have to battle back from second major injury in three years and could have competition.
69 Ashley Lelie WR Denver Finally emerged in third year and still has room to improve.
70 Tom Brady QB New England Steady for 25+ touchdowns, good yardage and no risk.
71 Larry Johnson RB Kansas City Will be true backup to Priest Holmes in 2005.
72 Jimmy Smith WR Jacksonville Still got it done at age 35. Shouldn't be much different at 36.
73 Baltimore Ravens TDEF Baltimore Best, most consistent defense the last few years.
74 LaMont Jordan RB NY Jets* Free agent could be a full-time starter if Jets let him go.
75 Eric Moulds WR Buffalo Don't be fooled by 2004 numbers. Still has game.
76 Nate Burleson WR Minnesota Stepped up huge for Vikes and shouldn't slip much in 2005.
77 Marc Bulger QB St. Louis TD total (21) was a disappointment but threw for nearly 4,000 yards.
78 Marshall Faulk RB St. Louis Might be done, but this is a safe place to take a chance.
79 Kellen Winslow TE Cleveland Will have plenty of time to get over broken leg.
80 Jake Delhomme QB Carolina Put up huge numbers without a healthy Steve Smith.
81 Jake Plummer QB Denver Ill-timed interceptions don't matter much in fantasy.
82 Lee Evans WR Buffalo Scored nine touchdowns as a rookie, but Buffalo QB play is spotty.
83 Chris Chambers WR Miami Should benefit if the Dolphins settle on a QB next year.
84 New England Patriots TDEF New England Ranked third in sacks in 2004.
85 Santana Moss WR NY Jets Hamstring injuries and conservative offense slowed him in 2004.
86 Chris Perry RB Cincinnati If Rudi leaves in free agency, he'll have to be the man.
87 Drew Brees QB San Diego Philip Rivers will have to wait another year.
88 Steve Smith WR Carolina Will try to come back from broken leg.
89 Travis Henry RB Buffalo Bills will try to trade him but may not get a worthwhile offer.
90 Plaxico Burress WR Pittsburgh* Free agent might have more value if he leaves Pittsburgh.
91 Stephen Davis RB Carolina Will try to come back and win his old job.
92 Maurice Morris RB Seattle Will take over if Shaun Alexander leaves in free agency.
93 Pittsburgh Steelers TDEF Pittsburgh Should have all key players back in 2005.
94 Eric Johnson TE San Francisco Extra value in leagues that reward receptions.
95 Laveranues Coles WR Washington Could rebound with the rest of the Washington offense.
96 Antonio Bryant WR Cleveland Will finally begin the year with a starting job.
*Player is a free agent and could be with another team in 2005.