Week 4 of the preseason is set to commence in short order, and for fantasy football enthusiasts, that means impending drafts are just days away. Despite the benefit of heavy amounts of research over the offseason, a lack of understanding regarding current fantasy draft trends could doom even the best of owners.
No, this doesn't simply mean that you must keep up on the latest NFL news—we all know Josh Gordon has been suspended for the year—it means extra attention must be paid to average draft positions and other telling trends in recent fantasy drafts.
Taking the most current player and positional trends into consideration, here's a look at the updated top-50 player rankings for the 2014 fantasy football season, followed by an overview of a few recent mock draft trends to keep an eye on.
Sean O'Donnell's Rankings
*Average draft position (ADP) based on 12-team leagues with standard scoring, via FantasyFootballCalculator.com, and up to date as of Aug. 28.
Risers and Fallers
One bit of trouble some fantasy owners run into this time of year is working off a rankings system that isn't exactly up to date. While rankings that were written in July were most certainly accurate at one point in time, they aren't anymore.
This is due to players quickly jumping up the fantasy football ranks—and others severely plummeting—for a multitude of reasons.
Let's take Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington for example.
Ellington's role was small in 2013; however, he averaged 5.5 yards per carry and proved to be a threat in the passing game as well. With the second-year back now atop Arizona's depth chart, fantasy owners were excited about a potential breakout season.
The hype surrounding Ellington was real earlier in the offseason, as Rotoworld's Adam Levitan tweeted about the running back's ADP in late May:
He has a late third-round ADP right now. I'd take him there. RT @FelskeFiles Where do you suspect Andre Ellington is going to go in non PPR?— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) May 31, 2014
Now, Ellington's ADP has almost a full round differential at 3.02. If this running back is one of your coveted targets, don't hesitate too long.
Running Back/Wide Receiver Strategy
Many fantasy owners want to know exactly when to draft their running backs and wide receivers. Well, the best possible advice here is to stick to your big board and select the highest-ranked player when you're on the clock.
Although, if we are going to put some sort of chronological order on this process, here's a strategy to follow.
If you're selecting early in the first round, you have the option of drafting one of the league's best ball-carriers. Don't hesitate to do so. In snake-draft formats, there will be plenty of RB2 options remaining at the end of the second round to complete a dynamic duo of ball-carriers.
JJ Zachariason of LateRoundQB.com employed this strategy in a recent draft. Here's his haul:
Got Keenan Allen and Larry Fitzgerald to go along with DeMarco and Marshawn.— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) August 18, 2014
If you're selecting late in the first round, you could opt for an elite wide receiver first. However, coupling a second-round running back is necessary in this situation. Grabbing DeMarco Murray or Giovani Bernard as your RB1 is crucial, as running back depth will begin to deteriorate quickly.
Beware of Injuries
This is a trend that's easy to follow. Be sure you're completely up to date on all injuries before the draft, as a recent incident could send a player into a free-fall down draft boards. Don't be the owner who takes this player early due to a lack of vital information.
History is also very helpful in these situations. Knowing which players are currently injured is a big part of the process, but also paying attention to a player's injury history should weigh heavily on your draft decisions as well.
Note the rankings of Arian Foster and Rob Gronkowski. Both of these players have proved to be among the most dangerous in the league; however, due to their inability to stay healthy, their ranking don't come close to reflecting on their talent.
Chad Parsons of Footballguys.com tweeted his thoughts on drafting Foster:
Arian Foster with an ADP of RB11 is filled with downside and not much, if any, upside from there. Draft at your own risk.— Chad Parsons (@ChadParsonsNFL) August 14, 2014
Selecting a player with a checkered injury history is always a risk. Fantasy owners must decide if that risk is worth the potential reward. Will Doug Martin have a big comeback year? Will Adrian Peterson remain healthy through all 16 games?
Ask yourself similar questions before gambling with an early-round pick.