Fantasy

Fantasy Football 2014: Last-Minute Cheat Sheets to Examine Before Draft Day

Aug 23, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (84) celebrates as he scores a touchdown in the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2014

Nothing like waiting until the last minute, right? While that strategy is terrible when it comes to Christmas shopping and test preparation, it's arguably the way to go when it comes to fantasy football.

So much can happen in training camp and preseason that the earlier you draft, the more trouble you could get into.

There's the chance that a player or two have performed above expectations so far, thus meaning you walked away with a steal. More than likely, though, you got stuck with Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, Jordan Reed or Wes Welker, who will be suspended for the first four games of the season, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

By letting everything play out, you've allowed yourself to be as educated as possible heading into the regular season.

Below are some last-minute tips to consider before heading into your fantasy draft.

 

Quarterbacks

Top 5 Quarterbacks
RankPlayerTeam
1Peyton ManningDenver Broncos
2Drew BreesNew Orleans Saints
3Aaron RodgersGreen Bay Packers
4Matthew StaffordDetroit Lions
5Cam NewtonCarolina Panthers
5 Quarterback Sleepers
PlayerTeam
Andy DaltonCincinnati Bengals
Carson PalmerArizona Cardinals
Philip RiversSan Diego Chargers
Jay CutlerChicago Bears
Ryan TannehillMiami Dolphins

If you're drafting near the end of the first round, you might be tempted to go with a quarterback who's sure to deliver like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. It wouldn't be the worst strategy, considering you'd likely be guaranteed to still nab a good running back with your second-rounder in a snake-draft format.

For those with a first-round pick in the early to middle stages of the round, you're better off drafting a couple of running backs and a wide receiver before addressing the QB position.

You could probably still get somebody like Tom Brady, Nick Foles, Cam Newton and maybe even Matthew Stafford around the fourth or fifth rounds. Stafford and Brady would be very good options because they look primed to have their luck turn around this year.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 28:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots runs onto the field before the preseason game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on August 28, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Im
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

ESPN.com's Matthew Berry wrote that they had the two highest number of dropped passes in 2013:

6. Last year, only one quarterback had more drops from his pass-catchers than Tom Brady.

7. The quarterback who had more passes dropped than Tom Brady? Matthew Stafford. Detroit had 46 drops last season -- 10 more than any other team.

8. Those 46 drops accounted for 7.5 percent of Detroit's total targets, which is also highest in the NFL.

If you're able to grab either one in the fourth round, you'd be getting a great quarterback without sacrificing value at other positions.

 

Running Backs

Top 5 Running Backs
RankPlayerTeam
1LeSean McCoyPhiladelphia Eagles
2Adrian PetersonMinnesota Vikings
3Jamaal CharlesKansas City Chiefs
4Matt ForteChicago Bears
5Eddie LacyGreen Bay Packers
5 Running Back Sleepers
PlayerTeam
Bishop SankeyTennessee Titans
Trent RichardsonIndianapolis Colts
Maurice Jones-DrewOakland Raiders
Toby GerhartJacksonville Jaguars
Andre EllingtonArizona Cardinals

Running back continues to be the most coveted position in fantasy football. Only in a few circumstances should you look to anywhere else in the first round. The trick will be finding the right RB2 and RB3.

Unless you draft a quarterback with your first pick, you should usually enter the fourth round with two running backs and a wide receiver. It's your choice as to how you structure that.

Looking toward the middle rounds, Bishop Sankey would be a great option, but this close to the regular season, whatever secret once surrounded the Tennessee Titans rookie is now gone. Don't overvalue Sankey too much. You should only view him as your third option.

Aug 16, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington (38) rushes against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Andre Ellington is one of those running backs who could transition from RB2 to bona fide No. 1 rusher in fantasy football. After splitting carries last year with Rashard Mendenhall, the second-year running back is the unquestioned top guy in Arizona.

"I am very confident," said Ellington, per AZCardinals.com's Darren Urban. "Last year I wasn’t aware of what my role would be on the team. Now I have got kind of an idea. I am approaching the year a lot differently."

If you're willing to wait beyond the first round for a running back, Ellington could be worth the risk.

 

Wide Receiver

Top 5 Wide Receivers
RankPlayerTeam
1Calvin JohnsonDetroit Lions
2Demaryius ThomasDenver Broncos
3A.J. GreenCincinnati Bengals
4Dez BryantDallas Cowboys
5Julio JonesAtlanta Falcons
5 Wide Receiver Sleepers
PlayerTeam
Michael FloydArizona Cardinals
Cordarrelle PattersonMinnesota Vikings
Robert WoodsBuffalo Bills
DeAndre HopkinsHouston Texans
Kelvin BenjaminCarolina Panthers

Outside of Calvin Johnson, no wide receiver is worth taking in the first round if you're in a standard 12-team league. The more teams in your league, though, the more you could consider one of Dez Bryant, A.J. Green or Demaryius Thomas with your top pick.

Then the guys like Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Alshon Jeffery, Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson should be targeted in the second round at the earliest.

NFL.com's Alex Gelhar advocates drafting as many wide receivers as you can so as to assemble as much value as possible at the position:

Don't be afraid to draft deep at wide receiver. The notion that it's better to use a running back at the flex isn't without merit, but it also isn't the only way to go about business. Last year, 18 running backs scored north of 150 fantasy points, while 16 pass-catchers managed to reach that same plateau. If your options in the middle rounds are a number of backs trapped in a committee, or someone in the vein of Cordarrelle Patterson or T.Y. Hilton, for the love of the fantasy gods take the wide receiver! If these guys will fill your WR2 spot, that's a pretty good spot as well.

Cordarrelle Patterson would be a great pick as long as you're not hinging too much of your draft on him.

Ideally, you'd get somebody like Megatron, Green, Jones, Bryant or Marshall who's guaranteed to deliver. Then you could supplement that with a high-ceiling player like Patterson, who carries some risk but could break out in a major way in 2014.

 

Tight Ends

Top 5 Tight Ends
RankPlayerTeam
1Jimmy GrahamNew Orleans Saints
2Julius ThomasDenver Broncos
3Vernon DavisSan Francisco 49ers
4Rob GronkowskiNew England Patriots
5Jordan CameronCleveland Browns
5 Tight End Sleepers
PlayerTeam
Ladarius GreenSan Diego Chargers
Eric EbronDetroit Lions
Tyler EifertCincinnati Bengals
Mychal RiveraOakland Raiders
Jace AmaroNew York Jets

You could make the case that Jimmy Graham is worth drafting near the end of the first round. He should put up huge numbers, and the gulf between he and the next tight end is likely to be massive.

Aside from Graham, you shouldn't be reaching too much for TEs. The difference between somebody like Julius Thomas or Rob Gronkowski and others lower down like Kyle Rudolph or Martellus Bennett isn't enough to pass up the chance to draft a productive running back or wideout.

The numbers from last year bear that point out.

Aug 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) before the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

According to ESPN.com, Vernon Davis was the second-highest fantasy producer at the position with 156 points. Bennett was 10th with 96 points. That's an average of 126 points, which is a difference of 3.75 points a week. That isn't enough of a gap to warrant overrating a top tight end.

For 126 points last year, you would've gotten Rashad Jennings at running back or one of Marvin Jones, Riley Cooper and Michael Floyd at wide receiver.

If you can get Davis, Julius Thomas or Rob Gronkowski with a reasonable pick, then by all means pull the trigger. But don't fall into the trap of grabbing one of that trio because there's an early run on the position and you don't want to be left out.

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