Fantasy Football 2014: Cheatsheet and Draft Strategy to Help You Win Your League

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIAugust 9, 2014

Michael Fabiano and Marshall Faulk are seen during the NFL Fantasy Draft Week Panel discussion and Fantasy Live taping on August 23, 2013, in New York City. (Brian Ach/AP Images for NFL)
Brian Ach/Associated Press

Every hardcore fantasy football owner is looking for an edge. What piece of information will be key to pushing you over the top in your league?

In most instances, injuries play a huge role. Your team needs to either be extraordinarily lucky when it comes to staying healthy, or well prepared to handle injuries to key fantasy-point producers.

While there's no real way to know when or if Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Calvin Johnson will go down, you can attempt to add the depth necessary to keep your chances of winning together should your stars get injured.

Here's a three-step strategy for building a squad best equipped to handle injuries at quarterback, running back or wide receiver/tight end. This approach is best suited for a larger league that allows you to start two quarterbacks.


Step 1. Don't Draft 2 Players at Same Position With Same Bye Week

BEREA, OH - JULY 26: Rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns during training camp at the Cleveland Browns training facility on July 26, 2014 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

You'll need the flexibility to switch guys in and out when your preferred starter is on a bye week. If you take Manning and Johnny Manziel, you'll probably be down two quarterbacks automatically in Week 4 when the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns are on a bye. You never want to have a week in which the byes knock out two options automatically.

The same goes for the running back and wide receiver/tight end positions.


Step 2. Don't Draft All Starters

This might sound crazy, but it's smart to intentionally aim for second- and even third-string players. With injuries playing such a major role in every NFL season, you know there's a good chance almost every team's backups will see a start here or there.

Your job is to try and pinpoint which backups are more apt to be thrown into the fire because of an injury.

If you can tab players like this in your fantasy draft, you won't have to worry about trying to trade for them later, or even hitting up the waiver wire as much.

As a matter of fact, if your best players are fortunate enough to remain healthy, the backups you've compiled could become valuable trade bait once your fellow owners have seen their teams decimated by injury.

Need a hint as to which backups seem like shoo-ins to play major roles in the upcoming season? Here's two to keep an eye on.


Bishop Sankey

The Tennessee Titans rookie is not going to start the season as the team's No. 1 back, but there's a good chance he will have supplanted Shonn Greene as the featured guy by midseason.

Aside from outstanding vision, Bishop Sankey is also an excellent receiver. In addition to the 3,309 yards he rushed for over the last two years, Sankey had 61 receptions. 

Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post thinks Sankey will win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. That's certainly possible, but fantasy owners wouldn't necessarily need him to be that good to validate a seventh- or eighth-round pick.

Sprinkle in a couple 100-yard games and few with over 150 yards from scrimmage, and Sankey will have already been worth the risk.


Jimmy Clausen

Jul 25, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen throws a pass during training camp at Olivet Nazarene University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears fans will hate to see this name listed here, because it means there's a chance Jay Cutler will go down again this year.

As a fantasy owner, you can't ignore the fact that Cutler has missed an average of four games in each of the last three seasons. Last season, fantasy owners who had Josh McCown got an unexpected surprise when he lit the world on fire in Cutler's absence.

In five starts, McCown averaged 308.1 yards and 2.2 touchdown passes per game. 

Can Clausen come in and do the same type of job if Cutler goes down again? It's possible; the team certainly has the weapons with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett.

Clausen will battle Jordan Palmer for the backup spot, but the former's arm strength likely gives him an edge for the No. 2 role. Zach Zaidman of the Chicago Bears radio network reports that Clausen is in the mix for the backup role.

Maybe Cutler stays healthy this year, but if things hold to form, Bears head coach Marc Trestman will need to go to the bullpen at some point this season.

Wouldn't you like to have the guy on your fantasy team fortunate enough to throw the ball to Chicago's plethora of weapons?


Step 3. Let the Offensive Lines Guide You

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: Offensive players  Kyle DeVan #68, Jason Kelce #62, Evan Mathis #69, and Jason Peters #71 of the Philadelphia Eagles sit on the bench during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept
Rob Carr/Getty Images

When selecting the running backs for your squad, pay less attention to their 40 times—and even previous year's stats. Look at the quality of the team's offensive lines as a guide to potentially productive backs.

Likewise, it's the easiest way to find a backup who will step in and find success in relief of an injured starting halfback.

If the Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy were to suffer an injury, there's a good chance Darren Sproles or Chris Polk could step in and have a good season behind Philly's line.

Per Pro Football Focus, the 2013 Eagles had the No. 1 overall offensive line in the NFL and tops in run blocking. That's the type of information that can lead to major success in your fantasy season.