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Hayden Goethe, Published July 24 2011

Goethe: Lately, fantasy beats football reality

Fargo

For more than four months, most of what we’ve seen of the NFL is footage of players and executives in suits coming in and out of meetings.

Well, that has to change. Allow me to instigate that change. Imagine jerseys instead of sport jackets, cleats instead of wingtips and shoulder pads instead of, well, shoulder pads.

The NFL lockout continues to drag through the summer, despite both sides reportedly being awfully close to a new labor agreement that will allow the players to take the field for training camp and save the season.

I believe the end of the lockout is right around the corner. And because of that, I’m already looking ahead to what should be an exciting 2011 season.

Minnesota Vikings fans might not have a lot of optimism. After a subpar 2010 campaign, the team lacks any stability at quarterback and has many free agents to deal with, including wide receiver Sidney Rice and a number of key defensive players.

So for the pessimists out there, that places more emphasis on fantasy football.

Without further ado, here are my top five players heading into your 2011 fantasy drafts:

E 1) Arian Foster. Tough call at No. 1. The Houston Texans stud running back doesn’t have much of a track record prior to 2010. But he was the clear-cut best player in fantasy football last season, piling up more than 2,200 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns. To put that in some perspective, in my league’s scoring format last year, Foster had 313 points. The next-closest running back had 231. Case closed.

E 2) Chris Johnson. The consensus No. 1 pick entering 2010, Johnson had a disappointing season, if only because he’s Chris Johnson. After rushing for more than 2,000 yards in 2009, the Tennessee Titans rusher still had more than 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 12 TDs last season.

E 3) Adrian Peterson. The Minnesota Vikings will no doubt continue to put a heavy workload on their heavy-hitting running back. Like Johnson, Peterson also eclipsed 1,600 yards from scrimmage last season, and he had 13 TDs. Pretty much a coin flip between Peterson and Johnson at No. 2. I gave Johnson the nod because he has a little less tread on the tires.

E 4) Jamaal Charles. I’ll be honest: I’m a huge fan. Turn back the clock to about this time last year. Late in the second round of my 16-team league, I pull the trigger on Charles, drawing heavy criticism from a couple of friends of mine. Hard to blame them, despite Charles’ monster second half in 2009. He was largely unproven and locked in a timeshare with Chiefs teammate Thomas Jones in 2010. Flash forward to the end of the 2010 season, and I get the last laugh and the title. Charles upped his average to 6.4 yards per carry, which was the second-highest in NFL history behind Jim Brown’s 1963 season. Charles had nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage and eight TDs. Jones is also back for 2011, but the cream – Charles – will rise to the top again. You want talent? Here it is.

E 5) Ray Rice. The former Rutgers star is another one of my personal favorites. Could make the case for Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew or Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (though I’m not a big fan of taking QBs this high). But I’ll try to make the argument for the Baltimore Ravens scat-back. Like Johnson, Rice saw his numbers drop in 2010. And like Johnson, the elusive Rice still managed to torment defenders. He rushed for more than 1,200 yards and hauling in 63 catches for 556 yards. He scored just six touchdowns and will never be a big goal-line threat. But I’m a big fan of versatile backs. If Rice gets 370 touches again in 2011, he should score more TDs.

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Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558