While the waiver wire can often be helpful, it is incredibly difficult to win your fantasy football league if you do not draft well. A great draft can separate yourself from the pack and give you an edge throughout the year.
Additionally, your entire season can come down to what you do in the first round. Making a mistake right away can set you back for weeks as you miss out on a great opportunity to get a game-changing player.
This makes it important to make a relatively safe pick in the opening round of the draft. You certainly do not want to draft a boom-or-bust player who could end up leaving you with nothing during the season. Otherwise, you will end up on a foul-smelling creek without a paddle.
With this in mind, here is a look at how a draft in a standard-scoring league should play out.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
There is a chance that Adrian Peterson does not lead running backs in fantasy points this season. However, if last season showed us anything, it is that you should never bet against this freak athlete.
After tearing multiple ligaments in his knee, Peterson rushed for 2,097 yards last season and carried the Minnesota Vikings to the playoffs. Although it is unlikely he will be able to put up these types of numbers again, he is the most talented player at the position and should remain dominant as long as he is on the field.
If you are in a league where someone picks anyone besides AP with the first pick, feel free to berate them as much as possible.
2. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks
This is where things get tricky, as the next six running backs are all worthy of consideration for the No. 2 pick. However, Marshawn Lynch takes the spot due to his continued improvement over the last three seasons.
Since coming to Seattle in 2010, the running back has shouldered more responsibility and has delivered with more production each time. Last year, he pounded his way to an impressive average of five yards per carry while totaling 1,590 rushing yards.
Although Russell Wilson might notch more passing attempts in his second year, Lynch has little competition for carries in the backfield and should remain a solid option throughout the year.
Whom would you draft with the No. 2 pick?
3. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
There are certainly reasons for people to be concerned about Arian Foster this season. His yards-per-carry average has decreased in each of the last three seasons, and he has become less of a factor in the passing game recently.
However, his ability in the red zone should keep him high on everyone's list. He led the NFL with 15 touchdowns last season and has reached double digits in each of the last three years.
Foster will get his carries, and he is almost certain to be productive all season.
4. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last season, it seemed like Doug Martin was the sleeper who won a lot of people a championship after coming out of nowhere to be productive on the ground and through the air.
However, the truth is that he was a first-round pick who should have been good all along—some simply overlooked him because he was playing in Tampa Bay. That will not happen again this year as he should be a top-five pick in every draft.
Martin's receiving ability guarantees him enough yards to make him a safe fantasy option virtually every week, and he should be able to come close to repeating his production from his rookie season.
5. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens
In PPR leagues, Ray Rice should get a bump because he is going to be used a lot in the passing game once again this year. The running back has caught at least 60 passes in each of the last four years, and he is one of the few targets still on the roster for Joe Flacco.
Baltimore lost leading receiver Anquan Boldin to San Francisco in the offseason, and Dennis Pitta is most likely out all year with a dislocated hip. This leaves Rice as a great check-down target for the Super Bowl champions, which will help his production.
Second-year player Bernard Pierce impressed in the postseason and might cut into Rice's carries, which drops him down a notch. However, he is still an elite player and should be a top-five pick.
6. C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
Fantasy owners were furious last season watching C.J. Spiller, not because he struggled, but because he did not get anywhere near the touches that he deserved.
However, this season should be different as new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett says, "We're going to give him the ball until he throws up," according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com.
The only question is whether his body will be able to hold up to the increased workload. He has never been a featured back in the NFL and was even used in a two-man backfield throughout most of his college career at Clemson.
Spiller could be as good as anyone this year, but be cautious about the fact that he could start throwing up early on in the season.
7. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
There certainly have been successful fantasy running backs under Andy Reid (Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy), but they still were not as good as they could have been.
The new Kansas City coach loves to throw the ball, and it will be up to Jamaal Charles to adapt to the new system as his carries still remain low.
While he still has plenty of big-play potential, owners should expect inconsistent weeks and low touchdown totals. This makes him a bit of a risk compared to other running backs expected to be taken in the first round.
8. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
After Charles, there is a bit of a gap in running backs. That makes it a perfect time to grab Calvin Johnson, who is easily the best receiver on the board.
While it is usually a better strategy to stock up on running backs early, Megatron is so much better than the rest of the players at his position that you can feel comfortable changing things up with this pick.
Detroit will continue throwing the ball at a high rate, and Johnson remains the top target for Matthew Stafford. At this point, it seems like the worst-case scenario is a 1,500-yard season, and that is more than good enough for your fantasy team.
9. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Many drafts are seeing LeSean McCoy dropping out of the first round. According to ESPN, the running back's average draft position is 12.5. This would be a mistake.
Although McCoy had a down year last season, the talent is still there for some eye-popping numbers this time around. Chip Kelly's new system is based on plenty of running, and the Eagles really do not have the receivers to throw the ball to even if they wanted to.
Even if Bryce Brown ends up sharing the backfield, the lanes will be open for Shady to break off some huge runs and have a bounce-back season. You can also expect him to get into the end zone more than twice like he did a year ago.
10. Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Trent Richardson had a solid rookie season, but he was relied on to do too much and he ended up gaining only 3.6 yards per carry. The problem is that it is hard to imagine a better showing this year.
Without a legitimate passing attack, defenses are certain to keep a lot of men close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Richardson will be forced to grind away again as he tries to get a couple of yards each play.
The young player will get his touches, but do not be overanxious about drafting him early.
11. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins
One of the first rules in fantasy football is to never trust Mike Shanahan. Even if Alfred Morris was one of the top running backs in the league last season, the Redskins coach has a knack for messing up his backfield at the last minute.
However, the bigger question is the health of Robert Griffin III. Morris benefited from the fact that defenses had to focus on the dynamic quarterback on every play. If Griffin is not 100 percent healthy, it will allow opposing teams to key on stopping the rushing attack.
Morris had a great season, but assuming a repeat is a bad strategy.
12. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
Most people are against drafting a quarterback in the first round, and the deep class this season justifies that to a degree. However, most of the second-tier players come with a great deal of risk, and you can be left in trouble if you pick the wrong guy.
On the other hand, it is near impossible to imagine a down year from Aaron Rodgers if he is healthy. Over the last five years, he has averaged 4,266 yards and 34 touchdowns, and he has kept his interceptions down as well.
Rodgers had at least nine points every week last season and topped 24 points on eight occasions. Grabbing him in the first round allows you to simply forget about the quarterback position for the rest of the season because he just helps you win games.
This is something you cannot say about any of the remaining running backs.
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