Fantasy: 5-minute guide for surviving Draft Day

Here is my annual “Five-Minute Guide to Faking Your Way Through a Fantasy Football Draft,” a piece that was largely inspired by the fake book, Performing Heart Surgery For Dummies.

Now, I’m not saying performing heart surgery and crafting a successful 16-round draft are similar occupations, requiring the same skill set.

However, if given the task of explaining “rudimentary heart surgery” or the “art of fantasy drafting” to my 90-something grandma (or 30-something wife), they’d probably have a better grasp of clearing blocked arteries than why Doug Martin should be ranked ahead of Adrian Peterson in Points Per Reception drafts — even though AP has a 50/50 shot at rushing for 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

(No one in NFL history has ever accomplished that feat.)

For more rankings, video previews and other fantasy nuggets, check out my Smartphone-Friendly Cheat Sheet.

15 Simple Draft Rules To Live By

1. Unless blessed with the opportunity to corral both Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green, it’s vital to snag a top-12 running back in Round 1 or 2 (standard-scoring drafts). It’s been said many times, many ways on this blog: Running backs make the fantasy world go ’round.

2. Don’t over-think your selections in Round 1 or 2. Barring injuries, every owner will have two certifiable stars with both picks.

3. Avoid being at the tail end of a same-position run at running back, wide receiver or tight end — after Round 2. Go against the grain.

4. Avoid taking a quarterback and tight end in the first seven rounds of a standard-scoring draft. The only exceptions: The Saints’ Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham.

5. There’s no point in reaching for a quarterback in leagues that reward only four points per touchdown pass. As a happy alternative, I promise that either Matthew Stafford, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck or Tony Romo will be available in Rounds 6-8.

6. In PPR drafts, you can never have enough targets-driven receivers. For example, it’s worth noting that Buffalo’s Steve Johnson posted 13 games of six catches, 95 yards and/or one touchdown last year.

7. Don’t let Darren McFadden fall too far in Round 5. Of the eight games he logged 15 or more touches last season, McFadden averaged 100.7 total yards and 0.25 TDs — solid numbers for a Raiders offense that was in complete disarray. As a bonus reason for keeping the faith, Run DMC turns just 26 on Aug. 27.

8. Ben Tate, Bernard Pierce, Robert Turbin (or Christine Michael), Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown and Gio Bernard should be automatic ‘handcuffs’ to Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Marshawn Lynch, C.J. Spiller, LeSean McCoy and BenJarvus Green-Ellis … in standard-scoring drafts that allow for five or six tailbacks on a roster.

Only the Seahawks, Bears and 49ers defense/special teams should be drafted prior to Round 13 in 12-team leagues. For everyone else, we’re talking about varying levels of eminently comparable assets.

10. It’s OK to be the last owner to snag a tight end. This strategy is best reserved for those who load up on quarterbacks, running backs and receivers in the first nine picks. (My kind of people.)

Show me an owner who waits until Round 10 to get serious about tight ends … and I’ll show you a guy or gal who happily stumbles onto Coby Fleener, Fred Davis, Jermaine Gresham, Brandon Myers, Tyler Eifert or Brandon Pettigrew (one of three tight ends with 100-plus targets for 2010-12).

As a long shot, Kyle Rudolph or Jermichael Finley might still be on the board. Bottom line: Embrace the impetuousness of your fellow drafters … at positions that aren’t vital to a fantasy title.

11. Don’t waste time with running backs and Lisfranc injuries, with the notable exception of stashing them on an “injured reserve” list.

12. When in doubt … draft running back or receiver.

13. When live-drafting on the Web, pay homage to the mainstream sites. For the most part, renowned experts like Matthew Berry, Andy Behrens, Brad Evans, Dave Richard, Jamey Eisenberg, Eric Mack, Ryan Fowler and yours truly have already done the legwork, in terms of aligning their preseason rankings to how ‘snake’ drafts should play out.

Their rankings aren’t some kind of Jedi Mind Trick to screw you over on Draft Day.

14. Do not obsess over other owners’ drafts. The only GMs who will profoundly affect your round-by-round alterations are the ones selecting immediately before and after your picks.

15. Limit your alcohol intake during a LIVE draft.

The rule of thumb here: Always consume less alcohol than the owners selecting immediately before AND after you in a snake draft.

Top 20 Quarterbacks (Standard Scoring)

1. Drew Brees, Saints
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
3. Peyton Manning, Broncos
4. Cam Newton, Panthers
5. Tom Brady, Patriots
6. Matt Ryan, Falcons
7. Matthew Stafford, Lions
8. Tony Romo, Cowboys
9. Andrew Luck, Colts
10. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
11. Robert Griffin III, Redskins
12. Eli Manning, Giants
13. Andy Dalton, Bengals
14. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
15. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
16. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
17. Matt Schaub, Texans
18. Carson Palmer, Cardinals
19. Joe Flacco, Ravens
20. Philip Rivers, Chargers

Food For Thought — QB Edition

1. For Weeks 13-16 (fantasy-playoff period), Cam Newton and the Panthers draw the two worst pass defenses from last year (Bucs, Saints twice) three times in a four-week span.

2. Josh Freeman and the Buccaneers can look forward to 16 ideal-weather games this season — the only NFL team likely to avoid bad weather for the entire slate.

3. Arizona’s Carson Palmer has an easy-cheesy slate against the Lions, Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers for Weeks 2-5. He could easily finish as a top-10 passer four weeks in a row.

4. For Weeks 12-16, Matthew Stafford gets the Buccaneers, Packers, Eagles, Ravens and Giants. All told, the Lions quarterback should be a reasonable bet for 300 yards passing and/or three touchdowns each time.

Top 20 Running Backs — Standard-Scoring Leagues

1. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
2. Doug Martin, Buccaneers
3. Arian Foster, Texans
4. Ray Rice, Ravens
5. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
6. C.J. Spiller, Bills
7. Trent Richardson, Browns
8. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
9. Alfred Morris, Redskins
10. Chris Johnson, Titans
11. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
12. Stevan Ridley, Patriots
13. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
14. Frank Gore, 49ers
15. Matt Forte, Bears
16. David Wilson, Giants
17. Darren McFadden, Raiders
18. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
19. Reggie Bush, Lions
20. Steven Jackson, Falcons

Top 20 Running Backs — PPR  Leagues

1. Doug Martin, Buccaneers
2. Ray Rice, Ravens
3. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
4. Arian Foster, Texans
5. C.J. Spiller, Bills
6. Trent Richardson, Browns
7. LeSean McCoy, Eagles
8. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
9. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
10. Matt Forte, Bears
11. Darren Sproles, Saints
12. Chris Johnson, Titans
13. Alfred Morris, Redskins
14. Reggie Bush, Lions
15. Frank Gore, 49ers
16. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
17. Darren McFadden, Raiders
18. Steven Jackson, Falcons
19. Stevan Ridley, Patriots
20. David Wilson, Giants

Choose Your Own Adventure

Here’s my impromptu vision of a best-case-scenario draft when holding the No. 6 slot (12-teamer, standard-scoring rules):

Round 1 (6th overall): RB Ray Rice, Ravens
Round 2 (19th overall): QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Round 3 (30th overall): WR Andre Johnson, Texans
Round 4 (43rd overall): RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
Round 5 (54th overall): RB Lamar Miller, Dolphins
Round 6 (67th overall): WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Round 7 (78th overall): RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
Round 8 (91st overall): WR Steve Johnson, Bills
Round 9 (102nd overall): TE Greg Olsen, Panthers
Round 10 (115th overall): RB Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
Round 11 (126th overall): WR Michael Floyd, Cardinals
Round 12 (139th overall): WR Justin Blackmon, Jaguars
Round 13 (150th overall): D/ST New England Patriots
Round 14 (163rd overall): QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
Round 15 (174th overall): TE Coby Fleener, Colts
Round 16 (187th overall): PK Greg Zuerlein, Rams

Top 20 Wide Receivers — Standard-Scoring Leagues

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions
2. A.J. Green, Bengals
3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
4. Brandon Marshall, Bears
5. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
6. Julio Jones, Falcons
7. Andre Johnson, Texans
8. Roddy White, Falcons
9. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
10. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
11. Victor Cruz, Giants
12. Marques Colston, Saints
13. Randall Cobb, Packers
14. Eric Decker, Broncos
15. Reggie Wayne, Colts
16. Hakeem Nicks, Giants
17. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
18. Wes Welker, Broncos
19. Mike Wallace, Dolphins
20. James Jones, Packers

Top 20 Wide Receivers — PPR Leagues

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions
2. Brandon Marshall, Bears
3. A.J. Green, Bengals
4. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
5. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
6. Andre Johnson, Texans
7. Roddy White, Falcons
8. Julio Jones, Falcons
9. Randall Cobb, Packers
10. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
11. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
12. Marques Colston, Saints
13. Reggie Wayne, Colts
14. Eric Decker, Broncos
15. Victor Cruz, Giants
16. Danny Amendola, Patriots
17. Wes Welker, Broncos
18. Hakeem Nicks, Giants
19. Antonio Brown, Steelers
20. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs

Food For Thought, Part II

The following wideouts crossed the (subjective) PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 95 yards and/or one touchdown at least nine times last year:

13 — Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Steve Johnson
12 — Calvin Johnson, Eric Decker, Randall Cobb, Reggie Wayne
11 — Dez Bryant, Andre Johnson, James Jones, Victor Cruz, Miles Austin
10 — Vincent Jackson, Cecil Shorts, Mike Williams, Lance Moore
9 — Julio Jones, Roddy White, Marques Colston, Steve Smith

Top 15 Tight Ends — Standard-Scoring Leagues

1. Jimmy Graham, Saints
2. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
3. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
4. Jason Witten, Cowboys
5. Greg Olsen, Panthers
6. Owen Daniels, Texans
7. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
8. Jermichael Finley, Packers
9. Vernon Davis, 49ers
10. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
11. Antonio Gates, Chargers
12. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
13. Brandon Myers, Giants
14. Fred Davis, Redskins
15. Coby Fleener, Colts

Top 15 Tight Ends — PPR Leagues

1. Jimmy Graham, Saints
2. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons
3. Jason Witten, Cowboys
4. Greg Olsen, Panthers
5. Owen Daniels, Texans
6. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
7. Jermichael Finley, Packers
8. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
9. Vernon Davis, 49ers
10. Antonio Gates, Chargers
11. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings
12. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
13. Coby Fleener, Colts
14. Brandon Myers, Giants
15. Jordan Cameron, Browns

Survivor Pool Picks


1. A victorious team can only be chosen once.
2. The losing club can only be tabbed twice.

Week 1: Indianapolis over Oakland
Week 2: New England over N.Y. Jets
Week 3: Seattle over Jacksonville
Week 4: New Orleans over Miami
Week 5: Atlanta over N.Y. Jets
Week 6: San Francisco over Arizona
Week 7: N.Y. Giants over Minnesota
Week 8: Kansas City over Cleveland
Week 9: Washington over San Diego
Week 10: Green Bay over Philadelphia
Week 11: Pittsburgh over Detroit
Week 12: Houston over Jacksonville
Week 13: Dallas over Oakland
Week 14: Chicago over Dallas
Week 15: Denver over San Diego
Week 16: St. Louis over Tampa Bay
Week 17: San Diego over Kansas City

Super-Sleeper Cells

These 15 veteran wideouts with 29 or fewer catches last season should take significant steps forward in 2013:

1. Mohamed Sanu, Bengals
2. Alshon Jeffery, Bears
3. Nate Burleson, Lions
4. Riley Cooper, Eagles
5. Ryan Broyles, Lions
6. Stephen Hill, Jets
7. Rueben Randle, Giants
8. Jarius Wright, Vikings
9. Earl Bennett, Bears
10. Damaris Johnson, Eagles
11. Kyle Williams, 49ers
12. Jacoby Jones, Ravens
13. Lestar Jean, Texans
14. LaVon Brazill, Colts
15. Brian Quick, Rams

My Two Cents

If you’ve spent any time mock drafting this month, you’d know that Montee Ball ranks roughly 30 slots ahead of Ronnie Hillman — even though the latter sits atop the Broncos’ official depth chart at tailback.

At this stage of the preseason, it’s impossible to know which runner will end up logging the majority of carries for Denver, especially in a pass-first, pass-second offense.

My advice: If you’re going to take the non-recommended Round-5 plunge for Ball — a red-zone dynamo at Wisconsin — it should be a moral imperative to snag Hillman as the handcuff.

And any move to corral either back in the RB1, RB2 or RB3 slots — without the other in tow — seems like a half-baked strategy for the season ahead.

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Jay Clemons
can be reached, day or night, on Twitter at @FOX_JayClemons.