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A Winning Fantasy Strategy

Every couple of weeks as the last couple months of the offseason wind down, I like to visit mock draft rooms every so often. This gives me a great opportunity to see what type of selections other fantasy players are leaning towards.  To see if the players on my ‘target’ list are getting picked up and in what rounds. I was amazed to see in a mock draft I did this week how the mere ‘suspicion of arrest’ of Cedric Benson had him dropping from a second-round mainstay to a fourth- or fifth-round selection. 
This also gives me an opportunity to draft in various positions, picks 1-3, picks 5-8, and test out the ‘ever helpful’ picks 10-12 which over the last couple years appear to give me an edge in getting those key first two picks before my competitors load up on their second-round choice.

The best strategy I’ve started developing over the years is first getting a basis as to some of the main targets I want to acquire for my team over the first few rounds. Then, more importantly, putting together a group of mid-to-late rounders that will really make the difference. I’m sure most of you have witnessed or been involved in fantasy leagues long enough to know that simply one or two late round picks, that turn up the heat during the season, can make all the difference in the world.

At this point, as we approach the season I am going to toss out to you a few names that have been going in the middle-to-late-rounds, but I’m seriously getting the feeling that they are going to play intricate roles in bringing fantasy success to their owners.

Keep these guys in mind as you do your homework. These are all great mid-to-late-round picks either way you cut it:

QB – Alex Smith

The former No. 1 pick is starting to show hints of why he was drafted at the top of his class. Smith and his team ended the 2009 campaign with most fans wondering if they are capable of winning their division in 2010. I think the 49ers will end up first or second in their division this year and at least pluck a wild-card spot. Smith is clearly the future of the franchise at this point, and coach Mike Singletary has the hard-nosed team poised and hungry for a playoff showing. Smith has some weapons that are going to help him jump to the next level and be a worthy starting quarterback this year. Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Vernon Davis becoming a trio of reliable targets, and with Frank Gore (and backup Glen Coffee providing strong relief), Smith is going to put up yardage and lots of touchdowns this season.

RB – Ricky Williams

Run, Ricky, Run! The chants will go on in

this year. One of the solid mid-round selections of last year’s fantasy draft, Williams will not let anyone down anymore (he’s a changed man, can’t you see?). Last season we witnessed the great shape he has morphed into, and that lean diet is doing him good. Williams seems to be one of the happiest players in the NFL right now. And when a player is enjoying himself, he tends to outperform his peers. I know this guy has at least another couple years in him. Yes, we all know to typically expect the split in carries with Ronnie, but I think the Dolphins coaching staff has a great formula to allow both big-time running backs to again be one of the most efficient and powerful tandems in the league. And who knows, Ricky’s durability seems to be better than Ronnie’s and we saw him handle the load in 2009.

WR – Hakeem Nicks

Nicks was a strong play off the waiver wire in many leagues last year. I think the guy is a proto-typical monster receiver … big target, huge hands and he’s starting to run routes like the best of them. Yes, we certainly did see that he couldn’t stay completely healthy for every game, but the guy is still at the very early stages of this career, and I truly see him developing into one of Eli Manning’s key go-to guys this coming campaign. We saw how pass-happy the New York Giants became this past year, especially with big Brandon Jacobs not busting over linemen and Ahmad Bradshaw playing with an injured foot. Manning is coming into this season healthier and I think he’s going to let it fly again. Nicks will be a big beneficiary of that.

TE – Greg Olsen

I think this is going to be a break-out season for Olsen. Jay Cutler is too good to continue in his ‘interception’ ways. The Bears wide receiver core is still young and needs to grow into itself (Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu are going to be a good young group this year), but Olsen will take it up a notch from last season and be a favored red zone target for Cutler. The


standout is going to be embedded in the Mike Martz scheme; a solid tight end like Olsen has lots of upside.

Here are a few others on my mind that will be discussed in the future, so keep them on the burner: quarterback – Carson Palmer, running back – Fred Jackson, wide receiver – Kenny Britt, tight end – Chris Cooley.

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