Rodgers deserves to be a first-round pick

“Running backs are the lifeblood of fantasy football.”

That’s a statement I’ve made more than once in my 10-plus years of covering the NFL. But with time comes change, and that quote no longer holds as much water. While the first round still will be littered with running backs, it no longer makes sense to take one at all costs.

Instead, fantasy owners should consider Aaron Rodgers.

Right now, I would argue that only six running backs should be taken ahead of Rodgers in Round 1. That list includes Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Frank Gore and Michael Turner.

Any running back you take after that will come with at least some risk.

While I like Rashard Mendenhall, he’s never handled a full workload for an entire NFL season. Is Steven Jackson really worth a low first-round pick with his health issues, not to mention the lack of offensive talent in St. Louis?

Nope, I don’t think so.

I know it’s hard to resist taking a runner in Round 1 – force of habit, right? I find myself in the same boat. But once those six backs are off the board, you almost have to take Rodgers. How could you not? Do you realize no player has scored more fantasy points (602) than the Packers quarterback over the past two seasons on NFL.com?

The common argument against taking a quarterback in the second half of the first round is that it leaves you vulnerable to having a weaker backfield. Another argument is that due to the high number of effective signal-callers in the league, you can wait until the middle rounds and still get a good option.

But in the era of the backfield committee, you’ll get more points by taking Rodgers and targeting your top running backs and wide receivers over the next several rounds. In the NFL.com Fantasy Magazine league draft, Rodgers was the seventh overall selection.

The owner who took him (Matt Marini, our magazine stats coordinator) had these options at the running back and wide receiver positions still available in the following rounds:

Round 2: Cedric Benson, Shonn Greene, DeAngelo Williams, Ryan Mathews, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne
Round 3: Joseph Addai, Beanie Wells, Ronnie Brown, Jonathan Stewart, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson
Round 4: Brown, Stewart, Jahvid Best, Matt Forte, Roddy White, Greg Jennings
Round 5: Brown, Stewart, Forte, Brandon Jacobs, Steve Smith (Panthers), Wes Welker

Believe it or not, the owner who took Rodgers could have had a backfield of Benson and Stewart and DeSean Jackson and White as his top two wideouts. That’s a pretty good haul after five rounds. Out of those players, Rodgers (who has a ton of talent, great weapons around him and a very favorable schedule) could lead Matt’s team to a championship.

Can you say the same about Mendenhall or Steven Jackson?

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