1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Rodgers already has 5 seasons of 3,900+ yards and 28+ TDs to his name. And he’s still only 29 years old. Even if Greg Jennings leaves via free-agency, the Packers are loaded at WR with Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones.
2. Cam Newton, Panthers
Newton seemed to get over his sophomore slump in the 2nd half of the season. He was fantasy’s #1 QB over the final 10 weeks. Unlike other running QBs like Robert Griffin and Michael Vick, the 6’5, 248-pound Newton has proven durable. He’s played in 31 of 32 possible games so far.
3. Drew Brees, Saints
Brees just recorded his 7th straight season of 4,300+ yards. He’s topped 5,000 in 2 of the last 3. Brees is 34 years old but is the type of guy who could still play another 4-5 seasons. HC Sean Payton’s new contract is excellent news.
4. Matt Stafford, Lions
He tossed for 4,967 yards and 20 TDs in a “down” year. Stafford’s 10th-place fantasy finish is his floor over the next decade. The guy doesn’t turn 25 until February.
5. Andrew Luck, Colts
He set an NFL rookie record with 4,374 passing yards. And he did it with a subpar o-line and mediocre pass-catching corps. Luck is as good as advertised.
1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
He’s coming off the most impressive season by a RB in NFL history. And AP could be even better next year as he continues to leave that ACL injury in the dust. Peterson turns 28 in March. But after this last season, we wouldn’t put it past him to dominate well into his 30s.
2. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
McCoy struggled with injuries and an inconsistent supporting cast in 2012. The Eagles are headed in a new direction after firing Andy Reid, but Shady will remain the focal point of the offense. He doesn’t turn 25 until July.
3. Ray Rice, Ravens
4 straight 1,600+ yard seasons. And Rice will still be only 26 years old for the 2013 campaign.
4. C.J. Spiller, Bills
He set career-highs across the board in 2012 — on the strength of 6.0 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per catch. With Chan Gailey gone and Fred Jackson clearly in decline, Spiller’s workload should only grow from here. The guy is just 25 years old.
5. Doug Martin, Bucs
Here’s a young, well-rounded RB playing in a run-first offense. Martin finished 3rd at his position in fantasy points in his first NFL campaign. Get used to seeing him up there.
1. Calvin Johnson, Lions
The NFL’s new single-season receiving yardage record-holder is still only 27 years old. He’s just now entering his prime. Johnson should be the 1st pick in start-up dynasty leagues.
2. A.J. Green, Bengals
He gets a slight edge over Julio because he’s been more durable and reliable from game-to-game. Green has averaged 1,191 yards and 9 TDs in his first 2 NFL seasons. And the best is yet to come.
3. Julio Jones, Falcons
We still think Jones has more upside than fellow 2011 draftee A.J. Green. He’s more explosive and is in a better situation (QB, OC).
4. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
The light bulb finally flicked on in the 2nd half of 2012. And the results were spectacular. Bryant was fantasy football’s #1 WR over the final 8 weeks. He’ll be a regular in the top 5 for the next 5-6 seasons.
5. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
He’s just as talented as the 3 guys directly ahead of him on this list. The only issue for Thomas is figuring out who will chuck him the rock when Manning hangs up the cleats. But it might not matter — he was a stud in 2011 even with Tim Tebow under center.
1. Jimmy Graham, Saints
Graham’s 2012 included a league-high 14 drops and a lingering wrist injury. He still managed to finish as fantasy’s top TE. With Drew Brees chucking him the rock — and HC Sean Payton back to run the offense — Graham’s upside remains limitless.
2. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
Gronk missed 5 games in 2012, but still recorded his 3rd straight 10+ TD campaign. The 23-year-old now owns an insane 38 career scores across 43 contests. A matchup nightmare, Gronk will remain a fantasy building block for years to come.
3. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Age, supreme talent, and a supercharged offense are all huge pluses. Injuries have proven to be the only downside – he’s yet to play a full season. At just 23, however, we’re confident that we haven’t seen the best from Hernandez yet.
4. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
Rudolph led all TEs in red zone targets (14), tying for 2nd in TDs (9) in 2012. He’s built a fine rapport with Christian Ponder and should continue to develop his game between the 20s.
5. Vernon Davis, 49ers
VD’s stock sunk with Colin Kaepernick under center. But a full offseason with the kid should do him wonders. He remains one of the league’s most freakish athletes.