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.
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(No one in NFL history has ever accomplished that feat.)
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.
9. 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):
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
These 15 veteran wideouts with 29 or fewer catches last season should take significant steps forward in 2013: