I was supposed to pick the top five players in fantasy football for the 2012 season, but honestly, how is someone supposed to do that? There are so many different leagues throughout the country and not everyone has the same scoring system. I am in one league (it’s my league actually) with ten people and we start two quarterbacks (laugh it up, “experts”, because this league is the most fun out of any and anyone who joins agrees) and in that league, it is and always has been all about quarterbacks.
In standard league formats, everyone is always clamoring about running backs;” You need running back’s!!” I say that is a bunch of crap. Take a look at last year’s top running backs. Pretty scary, isn’t it? Chris Johnson, Jamaal Charles and Darren McFadden broke fantasy owner’s hearts across the country. Arian Foster and Lesean McCoy had great years, but two of the three aforementioned players were better prospects going into 2011 (Johnson, Charles) than Foster and McCoy.
Another problem-how many teams in the NFL have a bell-cow running back nowadays? I won’t look it up, because I’m too lazy, but considering I care about football too much and watch every game, I know from memory that there are only four running backs that are worthy of going early, and two of them will most likely get hurt or drop off, and three others will rise up out of nowhere or return from injury. Of course there will be some guys that slip through the cracks, but if you pick those type of guys early (Jamaal Charles, Frank Gore) it is a gamble. Personally, I don’t like running backs coming off an injury or one that hasn’t had one in awhile that is due. In general, as you can tell, I hate drafting the top running back prospects early. If you know that drafting a running back early is a gamble, why take one? Draft a top five quarterback and trust yourself.
Most leagues have seven to eight running backs listed out of the top ten players. In PPR (point per reception) leagues, the lists are pretty much the same, but the rankings will be different (Matt Forte is more valuable in a PPR than standard due to his high volume of catches). I had my first draft of the season yesterday, and it went exactly as I thought. I had the number five pick in a ten person league that starts one quarterback, two running back’s, two wide receiver’s, one flex running back/wide receiver, tight end, defense, and kicker, a standard ESPN league that I lost the championship in last year. Thing is, I got lucky last year because two of my first three picks were Chris Johnson and Darren McFadden, one being a bust and the other busting his foot.
Rob Gronkowski was my 11th round pick last season, and he pretty much made up for any issues I had. He was a beast. I was able to take advantage of an important fantasy rule about drafting- it isn’t about running back’s, quarterback’s, wide receiver’s, tight end’s…no, it is about having the best player at a position to make up for other deficiencies and being prepared for the draft. I came into the 2012 drafts with this theory in mind. Arian Foster, Aaron Rodgers, Ray Rice and Lesean McCoy went one through four, and I took Calvin Johnson at five. Let me repeat- he is so much better than every other receiver and he makes up for points that I may lose in other areas, which WILL happen.
My next pick came and I knew exactly who I wanted. I had initially struggled with the decision (there are TWO deficiency busters at tight end.)As teams around me drafted quarterbacks (remember, after the top four or five, there is a group of 8-12 that are all the same) and running backs, I patiently waited. My second round pick was Rob Gronkowski. Last year I had Gronk AND Jimmy Graham. I drafted them both. Gronk is similar to Megatron where he is so much better than everyone at his position (besides Graham) that he makes up for other areas of lean points. My plan was coming to fruition. I wanted to get a quarterback and running back with my next two picks, and things were getting thin, or so I thought. Here is another tip – never think that there is nothing left because if you do your homework, there are guys to build your team with.
With my next selection, I took Philip Rivers, who had a down year in 2011, but was a top five quarterback in the two seasons prior. He was right in the middle of the pack last year too, even having the down year. In the NFL, every season is different, and guys that have one down year, especially quarterbacks that are as talented as Rivers, bounce back strong. I was sweating because a running back I wanted was slipping that I believe is a legitimate “bell-cow” and I had targeted him early. He made it to me- Trent Richardson. I got to say, the more I think about this pick, the more excited I get. I know he had his knee scoped, but he is young. He is going to get the ball a lot this season, and although he may lose yards here and there, he is talented and with my receiver and tight end, I figured it was time to gamble.
I am not going to bore you with the rest of the draft (although I did end up with Hakeem Nicks, Dermaryius Thomas, Doug Martin, Cedric Benson, and Reggie Wayne, to name a few) but you get the point. There are running backs that are very good that are going to slip through the cracks, and unless you have a top three pick, you have to be creative when you build your team, and if you want to win, this is the blueprint on how to do it, in a one quarterback league, if you don’t have a top three pick.
If you do have one of the top three pick, proceed with caution. If you draft Foster, McCoy, or Rodgers, you had better keep an eye on that board and take a quarterback, running back, or Jimmy Graham when it is your time to pick again. Having a top three pick isn’t always a good thing, so if I have the first pick I lean towards the guy who is the most consistent. Hello, Mr. Rodgers. Arian Foster would have to be my second pick and McCoy third, but that is just one man’s opinion. The reason I say Jimmy Graham is a great second pick for teams drafting high is simple and again speaks to my theory- separation at a position that makes up for point deficiencies.
I refuse to divulge my game plan in my two quarterback league because, well, we haven’t drafted yet and I’m not looking to give away my strategy, although it isn’t much different. IF you happen to be in a two-qb starting league, take quarterbacks with your top two picks and another in the seventh. Trust me, you will thank me later.
I am supposed to list a top five, so I suppose I’ll do that, but my top 5 deficiency busters are a little different.
Top Five Players
1. Aaron Rodgers- Give me the guy who I know isn’t getting hit 300 times a year.
2. Arian Foster- Proceed with caution, and be smart, draft Ben Tate early because he will be just as good as Foster if an injury occurs
3. Drew Brees- I bet you thought I was going to say McCoy? Nope, I like the sure thing better, and Brees is the sure thing.
4. Lesean McCoy- He is the second best running back and can make up for other deficiencies, the only reason he beats Brady to this spot
5. Calvin Johnson- There is no bigger drop off after the top player than WR, making Megatron more valuable than any WR in memory. (FYI-Brady is #6)
***Sleeper Pick- CAUTION- THIS IS A TOP FIVE SLEEPER, a player who will provide top 5 production that will slip. Drum roll……and my sleeper for top 5 production is Jimmy Graham. In that New Orleans offense, guys just seem to get better, and Graham is maybe the best athlete on the team.
Top 5 Deficiency Busters
1. Aaron Rodgers- 45 touchdowns makes up for a bad tight end or a gimpy running back, trust me on that.
2. Calvin Johnson- The second rated receiver catches passes from Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Need I say more?
3. Arian Foster- His ability in the passing game alone puts him in this top five.
4. Drew Brees- The guy just keeps getting better, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he broke his own passing yards record.
5. Rob Gronkowski- Only one WIDE RECEIVER had better production that Gronk last year. He gets the five spot over Graham due to his red zone prowess.
****Sleeper Deficiency Buster
Cam Newton- when a quarterback has 35 combined touchdowns, it can’t be ignored. Newton would be in my top five if he didn’t drop off in the passing game the last five games last year. I like him, but I think he could regress slightly. Some people think his running stats will drop, but I still think that is two years away.
So, to reiterate-
1. DON’T TRUST RUNNING BACKS WITH THE TOP PICK
2. COLLECT AS MANY “DEFICIENCY BUSTERS” AS POSSIBLE
3. TRUST YOUR OWN EYES AND YOUR GUT. IF YOU HAVE DONE YOUR HOMEWORK, YOU’LL BE FINE.
4. DON’T BE THE FIRST GUY TO DRAFT A KICKER OR A DEFENSE
5. COLLECT AS MUCH TALENT AS POSSIBLE AT QB,RB,WR
Good luck to you all, and if you don’t win your league, don’t blame me if you drafted a running back that gets hurt week two.
Follow me at