The 2014 NFL preseason slate just got underway Sunday night, which means the clock is ticking for fantasy football owners to study up before drafting.
It takes much more than a strong first few picks to be a fantasy champion. Nabbing a top running back or a touchdown-guzzling quarterback is a must in the opening round, but that's only the start.
The ability to add the right sleepers can be the difference between boasting a stacked lineup all season and having to search the waiver wire every week. Some of the most talked-about sleepers will come off the board early, but impact players are found in the latter rounds every year, and 2014 will be no exception.
Here's a player from every position you should target after assembling your starting lineup:
|Top 2014 Sleepers at Each Position|
|Quarterback||Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Running Back||Khiry Robinson, New Orleans Saints|
|Wide Receiver||Justin Hunter, Tennessee Titans|
|Tight End||Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Defense||New York Jets|
|Kicker||Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings|
|Steven Cook's projections|
Rankings Cheat Sheet
|2014 Fantasy Football Top 25|
|1||Jamaal Charles, KC||6|
|2||Adrian Peterson, MIN||10|
|3||LeSean McCoy, PHI||7|
|4||Peyton Manning, DEN||4|
|5||Eddie Lacy, GB||9|
|6||Matt Forte, CHI||9|
|7||Calvin Johnson, DET||9|
|8||Jimmy Graham, NO||4|
|9||A.J. Green, CIN||4|
|10||Aaron Rodgers, GB||9|
|11||Dez Bryant, DAL||11|
|12||Demaryius Thomas, DEN||4|
|13||Marshawn Lynch, SEA||4|
|14||Brandon Marshall, CHI||9|
|15||Drew Brees, NO||6|
|16||Arian Foster, HOU||10|
|17||Julio Jones, ATL||9|
|18||DeMarco Murray, DAL||11|
|19||Doug Martin, TB||7|
|20||Antonio Brown, PIT||12|
|21||Le'Veon Bell, PIT||12|
|22||Rob Gronkowski, NE||10|
|23||Giovani Bernard, CIN||4|
|24||Zac Stacy, STL||4|
|25||Montee Ball, DEN||4|
|Steven Cook's rankings|
Mock Draft Strategy
Most fantasy owners' mock drafts will start to be defined simply by who's available when said owner makes his or her pick.
Going in any direction other than running back with an opening pick used to be suicide, but that becomes less and less true every year as the NFL becomes increasingly pass-happy. Now, it's impossible to ignore a quarterback such as Peyton Manning or a receiver such as Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green in the first round.
Picking the best single player available—regardless of position—is usually the way to go early on. Even if you end up with two receivers or two backs, the quality available in the third, fourth and fifth rounds often allows owners to make up for any deficiencies caused by early selections.
It's also never a bad idea to wait and see at the quarterback position. Adding Manning, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers can give you solid production each week, but it's not far from what a mid-round value pick such as Tony Romo or Andrew Luck will put up.
Another strong strategy is to keep your sleepers at the forefront. Many of the less-touted players you're targeting are also circled by other owners, so picking the right sleepers well ahead of their projected selection can be the difference between getting that impact bench player or not getting him.
Last—but just as important—don't log out of the fantasy draft just because your starting lineup is solid and you've added a few bench standouts. Some players on the waiver wire will put up strong opening games, so there's always the opportunity to nab an unheralded player poised for a breakout.
The NFL season is just around the corner, and fantasy football drafts are already starting to fly around. Don't be the one who comes underprepared.
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