“The NFL has become a passing league” is now a frequently heard statement in fantasy football as a result of last year’s phenomenal statistics put up by many signal-callers. Slinging the ball at a higher percentage translates into higher production at the wide receiver position, providing us with the deepest crop of wide receivers that fantasy fanatics have likely ever had to choose from.
This is definitely the year to wait on a wide receiver – even in points per reception leagues. The other positions get ugly much quicker than the wide receiver position. Let’s break each position down to help you understand why you need to land elite players at other positions instead of grabbing wide receivers within the first five or so rounds.
I believe it is now a major advantage to have a Top 5 fantasy quarterback. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton can give you a significant edge in production on a weekly basis. You can wait (and may have to depending on your draft position) to select a quarterback. But let’s be honest. Are you truly confident that Michael Vick, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, or one of the Manning brother (Peyton and Eli) will provide you with a distinct advantage over other teams in your league?
While other teams are chasing top wide receivers in the early rounds, grab a quarterback that can provide you with a consistent and significant amount of points on a weekly basis. It is the most predictable position in fantasy football, meaning your quarterback has the highest chance of living up to expectations.
With the emphasis on the passing game, shouldn’t running backs be devalued? Not at all. Finding a stud running back that is not smack in the middle of a running-back-by-committee platoon has become difficult. Predicting the number of carries a running back will get each week is easier than predicting the number of catches a wide receiver will get.
As preseason approaches, here are the guys that you can expect to tote the rock a good 20 times each game:
Arian Foster, Houston
Ray Rice, Baltimore
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle
Ryan Mathews, San Diego
Chris Johnson, Tennessee
Darren McFadden, Oakland
Steven Jackson, St. Louis
Michael Turner, Atlanta
Trent Richardson (rookie), Cleveland
Depending on your personal preference, there are only about 10 or 11 guys that will consistently carry the ball amd have goal-line carries. After this, you are looking at “committee-men” whose production can vary greatly from week to week.
Suppose you are in a 10-team league where you start a minimum of two running backs each week. At least half of the teams will also start a running back at flex, putting the number of starting running backs around 25. Teams that take a wide receiver within the first three or four rounds will be giving up on the chance to acquire two of the Top 10 running backs. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to decide if I should start Roy Helu or Reggie Bush as one of my primary runners each week.
Without a doubt, Rob Gronkowski is a beast and a very consistent fantasy producer. He is going in the Top 10 in many early mock drafts. Prior to Gronkowski, when has a tight end scored 17 touchdowns? Answer – never. Do you really think he will score 17 touchdowns in consecutive years? Hardly, especially with the addition of more offensive weapons in New England.
In my opinion, Jimmy Graham actually has more upside this year than Gronkowski. Robert Meachem is gone, the defense will not be as strong, and the running game is far from stellar.
I’m not saying to wait forever on a tight end. Just do not reach too far at a position that has very good depth. Antonio Gates is getting healthy. Players like Fred Davis, Jacob Tamme and Brandon Pettigrew are great values that have plenty of upside and can be had much later in drafts.
What to Expect
Here is a short list of wide receivers that will potentially be available to you if you wait until Round 5 to nab your first one. Let’s assume by now you have an elite quarterback, two stud running backs, and a top-tier tight end.
Julio Jones, Atlanta
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay
Steve Smith, Carolina
Miles Austin, Dallas
Dez Bryant, Dallas
Percy Harvin, Minnesota
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City
Marques Colston, New Orleans
Demaryius Thomas, Denver
Making it even more appealing is the fact that most of the players listed have tremendous upside.
Of course, there are exceptions to almost any rule. So, when is it okay to grab a wide receiver very early?
Calvin Johnson – He has a good chance of outscoring many of the top running backs. Just beware of the ‘Madden Curse’.
Scoring system – If your league has a rather lopsided points-per-reception scoring system that only rewards points for catches to wide receivers and tight ends, it makes sense to make grabbing one of the top receivers a priority.
The flow of your draft. If there are more top quarterbacks and running backs still on the board than you anticipated at a certain point in the draft, you could grab a top wide receiver provided you are certain you can still fill those other positions within the next two or three rounds with top-level players.
I hope this article helps you set a framework and strategy for knowing which positions to emphasize in the early rounds of your draft this year.