The NFL conducts its annual draft in April and May. But football fans – fantasy-football fans – build their draft boards in August for another season of touchdowns, points and payoffs. So you have the first overall pick of your draft. Whom do you take? Here are eight options – four quarterbacks, two runners and two receivers:
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh. Despite sitting the first three games of the 2016 season with an NFL suspension and sitting out the season finale in preparation for the playoffs, Bell still finished fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,268 yards and second among running backs with 75 receptions. He had 10 receptions in one game against New England and a franchise-record 236 rushing in another game against Buffalo.
Tom Brady, QB, New England. Brady also had a slow start to his 2016 season, sitting out the first four games with an NFL suspension. But his play didn’t reflect any rust from that month-long absence as he passed for 406 yards in his first game back. Brady went on to pass for 3,445 yards, with 28 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He capped his season with a Super Bowl-record 466 yards passing in that victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans. There have been nine 5,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history, and Brees has five of them — including a 5,208-yard, 37-touchdown performance in 2016. Brees passed for 300-plus yards in a league-high 10 of his 16 starts a year ago. He ranks third all-time in both passing yards (66,111) and touchdowns (465).
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh. Brown led the NFL in receiving in both 2014 (129) and 2015 (136) and finished second in 2016 with 106. He converted those 106 catches into 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also is Pittsburgh’s special occasion punt returner and has returned four punts for touchdowns in his seven-year career. His best game last season was 14 catches for 154 yards against Dallas.
David Johnson, HB, Arizona. In both fantasy and real football, it’s all about putting the ball in the end zone. No one does it better than Johnson, who scored a league-leading 20 times last season on 16 runs and four receptions. He finished eighth in the league in rushing with 1,239 yards and led all NFL running backs in receptions with 80.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta. The only receiver in the NFL to average 100 yards per game last season, catching 83 passes for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns in his 14 healthy games. Jones posted seven 100-yard games, including a franchise-record 300-yard game on 12 catches against Carolina. In 16 games in 2015 he caught 136 passes for 1,871 yards and eight touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay. The NFL’s all-time leading passer and the only quarterback in history with an efficiency rating over 100 at 104.1. Rodgers threw an NFL-leading 40 touchdown passes last season and finished fourth in yardage with 4,428. He passed for at least 300 yards in six games and also rushed for 369 yards on the season with four touchdowns.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta. The NFL’s MVP in 2016 after passing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. Ryan completed 69.9 percent of his passes and led the league with an average of 9.3 yards per attempt, winning his first NFL passing title with a 117.1 efficiency rating. He has now strung together six consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 yards passing and four consecutive seasons with 30-plus touchdowns.