What’s going on die-hard fans and fantasy football players?! This isn’t a Fantasy Football Draft Guide just yet, but let me pull back the curtain when it comes to this season’s rankings and mock drafts. From the jump, I have to tell you, that everything is straight up wild right now.
Just looking at the various rankings, a common denominator is the official, changing of the guard at quarterback. Sure, Aaron Rodgers has been elite for awhile, but only the last season or two, has he been considered a lock to be a top-3 QB in a majority of rankings. When I say lock, I’m talking about how Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees held the position down for quite some time. Brady has been on the gradual decline in recent seasons, while Manning and Brady still garnered the benefit of the doubt. Now? It’s clear that the fantasy football world sees Rodgers and Andrew Luck, as the undisputed elite. Then Russell Wilson throws a wrench into the position with his dynamic rushing, and that naturally, bumps Cam Newton up higher on some boards.
Mixed into the starting QB group: Manning, Brees, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tony Romo. That’s 9 signal callers.
The rest are based upon your preference: Matthew Stafford, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Ryan Tannehill, and Brady. The total is up to 16.
The guys you don’t know what you’re going to get: Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford, Nick Foles, Robert Griffin,
You just can’t give them the benefit of the doubt: Andy Dalton, Derek Carr, Alex Smith, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater, and Colin Kaepernick.
Don’t even think about it: Blake Bortles, Browns QB, Bills QB, Jets QB, and the Texans QB. Alright, that’s all 32 teams at the helm.
The most deceptive position to eyeball and immediately figure out where to draft, is the backfield. After the usual first round picks, maybe some fall into the second, there’s a drastic compare and contrast between young backs and the vets.
Let’s headline the stars first then go from there: Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Arian Foster, Marshawn Lynch and Matt Forte.
The next popular group and understandably so: DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, and Eddie Lacy.
So there’s nine running backs. You may be sold on some other players, but check this out. C.J. Anderson looked great last season after a pair of players got hurt in front of him. He made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, even. There’s a new coaching staff in Denver, but the front office is still in tact and they drafted Montee Ball in the second round of 2013. It looks clear on the surface, just remember that this backfield has shuffled faces since Manning arrived.
Wait a minute, not so fast, what about that last trio? You mean Murray, who led the league in rushing. Are you afraid that is workload will catch up because of his injury history? You do know that this dark cloud has hovered over Charles before, and Foster every year, right? If anything, Murray will see less carries on the healthiest team in football, and happens to have Ryan Mathews with Darren Sproles sharing a slice of the pie. You’re probably all about Bell, as you should be, that all around stud will hit the ground running after his 2-game suspension. Should that scare you off? He’s still getting picked in round 1, by you or someone else. If for some reason he slides to the second round because he’s going to miss a pair, that’s a no-brainer pick. Lacy to me, is closer to Anderson’s unknown than he is Bell’s usage. James Starks isn’t the better back or anything like that, but Lacy gets nicked up frequently while the Packers look inclined to spread the ball around to everyone. He’s still going in the first round in most drafts and I get it.
There’s a few ways to approach the draft: (1) Prioritize your starting running backs, (2) Get a QB-RB-WR so you have a strength at each position, or (3) load up on the receivers early.
To pick a strategy, rather than do what worked for you in the past, or the opposite of what failed, look at the depth of backs and targets. If you like the second, third, and fourth tiers better at one position, those are who you want to fallback on if the draft went accordingly. You should know better to draft the clear-cut, best player available in any given round, when you get the sense that someone is sliding.
After the top backs go, or even sprinkled in with them: Jeremy Hill, Alfred Morris, Mark Ingram, Andre Ellington, Justin Forsett, C.J. Anderson and Frank Gore. This rounds out the top 16, and in fact, half of the league’s starters.
Hill is the business with Bernard giving him a blow. Morris now gets Bill Callahan to scheme the offensive line, who came from Dallas. Ingram had a good year, but he may split the work as evenly as possible with C.J. Spiller. Ellington proved to be a productive starter, and perhaps will benefit from David Johnson spelling him, as opposed to being a workhorse and worn out. Forsett and Gore are the veterans that should draw a split opinion. I’m sure a lot of people don’t buy Forsett’s talent, just keep in mind that he’s only started one season and his body is football young. Gore was a stable player for years and finds himself in an enticing situation. This guy does have a lot of mileage, but will face the lightest box in years on the Colts.
If you want to get wide outs early, you have to decide if you can roll with these running backs as your number one: Jonathan Stewart, Melvin Gordon, Carlos Hyde, C.J. Spiller, Giovani Bernard, Ryan Mathews, Lamar Miller and Latavius Murray. Two of those would be ideal for most people that selected a trio of receivers early. This brings the total number of backs to 24, not all are starters up to this point, which is a good sign for some depth.
Gordon is a rookie that steps into a historically productive situation, fresh legs are simply popular for a reason. Hyde and Murray had moments during their rookie years, and now they are the lead backs in the Bay. The best handcuffs are Spiller, Mathews, and Bernard, likely in that order. They’re all going to be involved in every game plan, but if the first back in line were to go down, you struck gold. Stewart is somewhere in between Forsett and Gore. He’ll be the top back for the first time, now that DeAngelo Williams has moved on. Stewart has had limited touches throughout his career, so he may be entering his prime alongside Newton’s dual-threat, as a full-time starter. By the way, Williams could be useful for the Steelers while Bell is suspended, but that’s pretty much it.
As we move down the list, here are some backups that will get limited touches, along with some timeshare situations for various reasons:
Reggie Bush and James Starks are expected to get some work behind Hyde and Lacy. Joique Bell is a popular name, but he’s had injury issues all offseason. His rookie teammate, Ameer Abdullah, may very well lead the Lions in backfield snaps and touches. That should be monitored throughout the season, which means, it could be a headache that I completely avoid. This is where I would include Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden, we just don’t know. Well, I don’t think either is a good option, maybe on the bench to spot start, I guess. I like Rashad Jennings a lot, but again, he got banged up and there’s a new Earth, Wind, & Fire for the G-Men. Jennings is the main back, but they want to get Shane Vereen involved and pound it inside the 20 with Andre Williams. That’s why I wouldn’t consider Darren Sproles on draft day, Philly has the best triplets. Not to be forgotten, LeGarrette Blount is the current starter in New England, and he should get more touches during Brady’s deflating suspension. To throw in a couple backups, Fred Jackson, Branden Oliver, David Johnson, and Jay Ajayi,
Going into the draft, I would give the edge to Tevin Coleman over Devonta Freeman in Atlanta. Todd Gurley is going to be the man for St. Louis. The question is when, and Tre Mason will get all of the carries as long as Gurley is sidelined. Monitor the Rams, because Gurley will takeover, eventually. Mason may be the one you want to draft. I really would recommend trying to stay away from Tampa Bay’s and Tennessee’s backfields. The Jaguars, between T.J. Yeldon and Denard Robinson, they might rank somewhere in between the Rams and Bucs. The same can be said for the Browns and their trio of young running backs: Isaiah Crowell, Terrence West, and Duke Johnson. Why would you even touch the Jets handful of carriers: Stevan Ridley, Bilal Powell, Christopher Ivory, Zac Stacy, and Darryl Richardson. They won’t all be there come opening day, but if you’re desperate, go ahead and follow that murky backfield. You must have really messed up to get to this point and these players in this paragraph, or really believe in one of these guys.
Mostly named, a few that are not, that’s 58 backs that have a crack at fantasy football relevance. So, you’re saying there’s a chance? Well, there will always be an injury somewhere, and there’s more backups that could turn out to have a bigger role than initially thought. There can also be more suspensions handed out for substance abuse, too, so who knows? Ray Rice, anybody?
Stay tuned for more fantasy football talk leading up to draft day. We’ll be going over all positions, and diving into player comparisons to simplify your decisions. Stay up die-hard fans!