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

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Fantasy Football 2014: Last-Minute Cheat Sheets to Examine Before Draft Day
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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
Rank Player Team
1 Peyton Manning Denver Broncos
2 Drew Brees New Orleans Saints
3 Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers
4 Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions
5 Cam Newton Carolina Panthers

5 Quarterback Sleepers
Player Team
Andy Dalton Cincinnati Bengals
Carson Palmer Arizona Cardinals
Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers
Jay Cutler Chicago Bears
Ryan Tannehill Miami 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.

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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
Rank Player Team
1 LeSean McCoy Philadelphia Eagles
2 Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings
3 Jamaal Charles Kansas City Chiefs
4 Matt Forte Chicago Bears
5 Eddie Lacy Green Bay Packers

5 Running Back Sleepers
Player Team
Bishop Sankey Tennessee Titans
Trent Richardson Indianapolis Colts
Maurice Jones-Drew Oakland Raiders
Toby Gerhart Jacksonville Jaguars
Andre Ellington Arizona 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.

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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
Rank Player Team
1 Calvin Johnson Detroit Lions
2 Demaryius Thomas Denver Broncos
3 A.J. Green Cincinnati Bengals
4 Dez Bryant Dallas Cowboys
5 Julio Jones Atlanta Falcons

5 Wide Receiver Sleepers
Player Team
Michael Floyd Arizona Cardinals
Cordarrelle Patterson Minnesota Vikings
Robert Woods Buffalo Bills
DeAndre Hopkins Houston Texans
Kelvin Benjamin Carolina 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
Rank Player Team
1 Jimmy Graham New Orleans Saints
2 Julius Thomas Denver Broncos
3 Vernon Davis San Francisco 49ers
4 Rob Gronkowski New England Patriots
5 Jordan Cameron Cleveland Browns

5 Tight End Sleepers
Player Team
Ladarius Green San Diego Chargers
Eric Ebron Detroit Lions
Tyler Eifert Cincinnati Bengals
Mychal Rivera Oakland Raiders
Jace Amaro New 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.

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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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