Finding fantasy sleepers is important in any fake football draft, but knowing how to properly navigate the first few rounds of a draft is equally important.
Some prefer to take running backs in the early rounds. Others do not mind grabbing a quarterback or wide receiver.
Whatever strategy an owner prefers, there will always be players at each position to avoid early. Whether it's injuries, age or simply better options in the present and future, there is always a reason to hesitate before clicking "draft."
The following players are big-name superstars being selected early in drafts for obvious reasons. It's the not-so-obvious that fantasy owners should know in order to avoid them.
Note: All fantasy rankings courtesy of FantasyPros.com.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Player Ranking: No.4 QB, No. 34 Overall
Cam Newton is one of the most recognizable faces in the NFL and an equally popular fantasy option because of his prowess through the air and on the ground. Newton threw for 3,689 yards last year and added another 742 on the ground to go with 27 total touchdowns.
According to ESPN, Newton was the No. 4 scoring player in standard fantasy leagues last year.
While all of that is sexy, Newton is a major name to avoid in the first three or so rounds. Unless an owner is getting a Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers in the first two or three rounds, there is no need to draft a quarterback.
Newton puts up good numbers that compare to that of Rodgers and Co. named above, just by combining running and passing. If fantasy owners wait and take say, Matt Ryan (No. 37 overall) they will get similar production later in the draft.
It is also worth noting that Newton's offensive line is a work in progress and his receivers are notorious for dropping passes. The production he has put up this far in his career has been remarkable given the circumstances.
Skip Newton and get similar value in later rounds. Instead, stockpile running back and receiving talent while others waste the early selections on quarterbacks. With the impressive depth of the position, there is no need to get caught up in a big name like Newton.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Player Ranking: No. 16 RB, No. 31 Overall
Frank Gore has been one of the most consistent fantasy producers at running back for the past eight years.
Gore threw together four consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns starting in 2006 before just barely missing the mark again in 2010 while missing five games. No sweat for Gore though, who has bounced back in the past two years to surpass 1,200 yards both times.
Per the rankings Gore is a top 16 back, which is essentially the cutoff for where the dip in fantasy production begins.
Gore was the No. 10 scoring back in 2012 per ESPN, but at some point he is going to hit a wall now at the age of 30. There is a stout line in front, but to expect him to retain his 4.7 yards per carry total from last season would be ill-advised.
Taking a chance on a back like David Wilson a few picks later presents higher upside and longevity throughout the season.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Player Ranking: No. 5 RB, No. 5 Overall
Arian Foster ranked as the No. 2 scoring leader at running back last year behind Adrian Peterson thanks to his 1,411 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Unfortunately Foster is the biggest name to avoid in fantasy drafts because the Texans have literally ran him into the ground the last three years with carry totals of 327, 329 and 405.
The wear and tear on Foster's body is taking its toll. Foster suffered a hamstring injury back in May during OTAs that spread to his back and even had his legs feeling discomfort. Foster himself sounds ready per ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Texans RB Arian Foster, asked if he'll be ready for the regular-season opener vs the Chargers on Monday Sept. 9: “Yeah, I’ll be ready.”— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 22, 2013
That's great to hear, but owners should steer clear. A top five pick is too valuable to waste on a player not even guaranteed to start the season. There's also a talented back behind Foster in Ben Tate, who has seen starter reps in Foster's absence and flirted with 1,000 yards in 2011.
Unless fantasy owners can guaranteed they get Tate as a handcuff (which they can't), such a high pick is better spent on a back like LeSean McCoy or C.J. Spiller.
Foster is a great player, but 2013 is not shaping up to be one of his typical dominant fantasy years. Owners have the Texans to thank for that (and his great three years prior).
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