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Draft day strategy: The WR-WR approach

When it comes to the first two rounds of a fantasy football draft, you can’t afford to be passive and “reach” for certain players. We have been preached to, time and time again, that running backs are “safe” picks and their consistency far supersedes any other position out there. The second closest would be quarterback due to their imprint on the game and our ability as fantasy players to gauge how much they will throw and the scheme that a team employs.

So why am I telling you that you should draft wide receivers back-to-back in 2011? Here are four factors that you should consider heading into this year’s fantasy draft:

Top-Tier Running Backs Raise Red Flags

When you look at the list of the top tier running backs, I’m a little scared to pencil any of these guys in to become the centerpiece of my team. By the top tier I mean the following players: Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner and Frank Gore. I will briefly mention main reasons why they might fail to produce at the position you drafted them in.

Arian Foster
Is he a
one-year wonder? Coach Gary Kubiak’s indecisiveness and Ben Tate factors into his repeat-production this season.

Adrian Peterson
As sure-fire as anyone on this list and is dominant as ever, but question marks in terms of balance in the passing game.

Jamaal Charles
Those who owned him last year were frustrated by his number of touches. Will the coaching staff continue to preserve this playmaker by limiting his touches?

Chris Johnson
Unless they sign a veteran quarterback you can’t be comfortable with defenses keying in on him; happy retirement Kerry Collins.

Ray Rice

The Willis McGahee factor and inconsistency in running the ball. Rice is a great dual-threat but he disappointed owners through inconsistencies last year.

Darren McFadden
Injury factor. Can he stay on the field? We loved him when he was healthy.

Maurice Jones-Drew

Does his injury scare anyone else besides me? Rashad Jennings might work in tandem to be a more evenly split running back by committee.

Rashard Mendenhall
pectacular to start the 2010 season without Ben Roethlisberger. Towards the end of the season we saw a lot of 80-100 rushing yards, zero- or one-touchdown games. He’s as bland as they come in that passing attack in Pittsburgh

Michael Turner

Wear and tear factor. Turner’s near the top of the list when it comes to the number of carries in the past three years and he suffered an injury that slowed him down last season. Going all in on Julio Jones in this year’s draft will mean more mouths to feed and a slight lean towards the pass.

Frank Gore
Injury concern and his team’s offensive ineptitude along with new coaching regime give Gore a ton of question marks.

Quarterback Position is Deep

You don’t need me to tell you that quarterback is deep this year. Every analyst seems to tout waiting on a quarterback as the best draft day strategy this year, so I won’t belabor the point. Unless you’re drafting in a two-quarterback league, don’t waste an early pick on Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning when you could target Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick and super-sleeper Sam Bradford.

The Elite Eight Wide Receivers

In contrast, when it comes to wide receivers, it is a more top-heavy list with elite producers at the top who can carry your team due to their game-changing abilities.

Thus grabbing two out of the eight on this list is a great strategy to employ: Andre Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, Reggie Wayne and Vincent Jackson. These players are legitimate weapons for their teams and have sustained production for a significant period of time. They should not be ignored on your draft boards. With question marks when it comes to top running backs, solidifying the most inconsistent position in fantasy football will help stabilize your team for the long grueling season.

Middle-of-the-Round Running Back Gold

One of the ways you can afford to draft two wide receivers in the first two rounds is the strength and depth of the running back position in the middle rounds. The running-back-by-committee approach that many teams have employed has widened the field to allow for more producers for different teams.

Here are a few names that I would rather have than any of the questionable running backs available in the first two rounds (granted if any of them slide down this far, you’d be wise to scoop them up first):

Shonn Greene
– A friend of mine refers to fantasy football as a young man’s game. Greene has everything going for him – a stud offensive line and a run-it-down-their-throat offensive system guaranteeing him touches. Additionally, the great LaDainian Tomlinson is fading fast, giving Greene the perfect opportunity to shine.

Ryan Mathews
– Can we take a mulligan on both of these young runners? Mathews came on late after he sustained an injury and is primed to be the featured back we all expected him to be last year. Don’t worry about Mike Tolbert this year. Mathews will be featured, to not only get production out of him, but to also boost his confidence.

LeGarrette Blount
– He averaged five yards a carry last season and he possesses size and speed that make him a dangerous runner in between the tackles. He’s a big part of that young Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense.

Felix Jones
– He may not be a No. 1 running back in fantasy, but he can be locked into your No. 2 slot. Jones finds himself as the lead back in this vibrant Dallas offense and can put up the numbers that LeSean McCoy logged in playing alongside Michael Vick. Jones is lethal in the open field and can prove to be valuable as the season progresses with a healthy Tony Romo.

Ryan Grant
I would gladly roll the dice with Grant in the middle rounds. Even if he split the carries with second-year man James Starks, Grant will be a bigger plan of the Green Bay more balanced offensive attack.

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