The Keys To a First-Place Fantasy Football Team

Tommy MarcusCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2008

It can be a 10-team league, 16-team league, six-team league, or a 40-team league, and no matter what, the secrets to a good fantasy draft remain locked away. You must be able to determine where these secrets may lie.

It can be a head-to-head matchup league, or a rotisserie league, and no matter what, you need to dominate the draft in order to dominate the league.

In this short fantasy football "guide," I will attempt to bring the secret formula of a successful draft day to you. I will list the top 10 players at QB, WR, and RB, and the top five for tight ends.

I will raise eyebrows, make fans mad, but most of all, provide the key to getting a good, solid, over .500 fantasy football team.



Here are some terms I will use:

Sure Thing Pick: Someone that I guarantee, if injury free, will give you an amazing season. Money-Back guaranteed.

Probable: Someone that I will not guarantee to give you an incredible year, but I do have good thoughts about. A Probable may be ranked above a sure thing.

A Little Gamble: He may have had a great year last year, but I'm not so sure he's going to be great this year. Beware, there's a good chance you'll be shocked at some of my "gamble" choices. I'll be sure to explain why the person is a gamble pick.

Don't Overpay:  There can be many explanations for a "Don't Overpay" label. His stats might look better on paper than he actually is, he could be injury-prone, he has had/may have off-field problems in the future, that may lead to him under-performing on the field, and many others.

OR: OR is overrated. It's hard for me to give this label out to players, but beware, it will be thrown out there.

Question: Which is a better label, "Don't Overpay" or "A Little Gamble"?

Answer: It's different in different situations. To fully get the meaning of what I'm saying, don't just read the label, but read my explanation. For the most part, "A Little Gamble" will be a better choice than "Don't Overpay", but it's not the case all the time.



QBs are always must-haves. A good fantasy player will always find a top five quarterback on his/her team after the second round at the latest. As someone who has succeeded in fantasy football the past few years, I strongly recommend that at least two of the players found on this list wind up on your team.

Here are the top 10 quarterbacks.


1) Tom Brady, Patriots (Sure Thing Pick) - It would be an abomination to pass up on Tom Brady, if he was available after two picks. Although I believe that LaDanian Tomlinson is a sure-thing pick, more so than Brady, I wouldn't call you dumb if you don't want to give up your chance of getting one of the greatest QBs ever on your fantasy team.


2) Tony Romo, Cowboys (Probable) - Although I only gave Romo a "probable" ranking, I do believe that, if he does what he can do, he will be the best QB in football. With some great receivers (see Owens, Terrell), teammates who love him so much that they will cry when his name is mentioned (see Owens, Terrell), and a likely available player middle-to-late in the first round, you can't go wrong drafting Romo as your No.1 pick.


3) Peyton Manning, Colts (A Little Gamble) - Yes, I gave Peyton Manning the "A Little Gamble" tag, not because I hate him, not because I'm a Giants fan and like his brother better than him, but because he has a bad knee, as well as a now-injury-prone Marvin Harrison.

I would not touch him until the sixth or seventh pick in a draft; however, I know that a lot of you in here will draft him over Tony Romo and even possibly Tom Brady. If you do, I don't blame you. Peyton Manning is one of the best QBs ever, and he deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt.

However, when I'm being totally serious, and put all previous year's thoughts aside: He is not going to be the same Peyton Manning in the beginning of the season because of his knee injury, and his go-to guy, Marvin Harrison, will likely miss a few games of the season for one reason or another.


4) Drew Brees, Saints (Probable) - After an incredibly disappointing start to a fantasy season, where many fantasy players (like me) took Brees with one of their first picks, Drew ended up settling down and finishing with a very impressive 4,423 yards. Look for both the Saints and Drew Brees to have a comeback year, and for Brees to have multiple 300-yard games, as well as multiple two or three-touchdown games this year.

If you're looking for a solid QB that will definitely give you the numbers you're expecting, Brees is the one.


5) Derek Anderson, Browns (A Little Gamble) - He went from the third-string QB on the Browns going into camp last year, to the fourth best (fantasy-wise) quarterback in football. Although there is a possibility of Derek going through a "sophomore slump" (see Young, Vince and Bush, Reggie), I do believe he can have a season that's around where he was last year.

A lot depends on the injury situation with Braylon Edwards (if your draft day isn't tomorrow, wait a little bit to see what happens with that), and if he is ready come opening day.


6) Carson Palmer, Bengals (Don't Overpay) - If you would have told me two years ago that I'd be giving Carson Palmer, the Heisman winner and incredible NFL QB, a "Don't Overpay" label, I'd simply laugh. However, I have to give this label to him.

First and foremost, T.J. Houshmandzadeh has some hamstring issues, and although he should be ready for the Bengals' first game, it will probably hold him back somewhat. Secondly, Chad Johnson is also hurt, but is also expected to play in the first game (however it isn't definite).

When you have the best two WRs on the team with some injury problems, you're likely not going to have an incredible year as a quarterback. I beg of you, please do not take Palmer in the first round. It just isn't worth it.


7) Eli Manning, Giants (A Little Gamble) - I was close to giving Manning a "Don't Overpay" label, however I decided not to do so, because I just have a great feeling about how Manning is going to perform this year. After a not-so-great regular season last year (23 TD/20 INT), he had pretty much a picture-perfect postseason.

If you thought that his performance last year was the best of his abilities, think again. All Eli needs is a little bit of confidence, and he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

I feel crazy putting him all the way at No. 7, but I also don't think I could have gotten by putting him at a better rank, due to the fact that all the quarterbacks ahead of him on the list had much better regular seasons than him last year.


8) Ben Roethlisberger (A Little Gamble) - Big Ben has a very impressive season, getting 32 passing touchdowns, as well as 3,154 yards, and I expect him to have yet another solid season. However, his inconsistency throughout his career worries me, which is why I give him the "A little Gamble" label, as well as the ranking as the No. 8 quarterback on this list.


9) Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks (Don't Overpay) - Hasselbeck is a solid pick for a third to fifth-round selection (depending on the number of players in the draft), because there's a good chance he'll put up identical numbers to last year (4,000 Yards/28 TDs), or even better.

If Julius Jones or Maurice Morris can show some dominance, it will take a lot of the pressure off of Matt, likely increasing his chances of going above and beyond the his expectations.


10) Jay Cutler, Broncos (Don't Overpay) - This here is a pretty big risk if you take Cutler. I've seen him ranked all the way down at 19 on a top-quarterback list; however, I think he can have a good year. His inconsistent play last year was a little bit worrisome; however, he did finish with statistics that you could not argue with: 20 touchdown passes and 3,497 yards.

If you are looking for a second or third quarterback (and you already have a top QB, such as Romo or Brady) who may have a good season, but is a bit of a risk, don't think twice about taking Jay Cutler.


Running Backs

RBs are always key parts of good fantasy teams. No position is more valuable to a team than a running back. If you think you can have a good fantasy team without a top-10 running back, think again.


1) LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers (Sure Thing Pick) - LaDainian Tomlinson is everything you want and more from a running back. Although his production took a serious decline from his MVP year in 2006, he still had a solid season. If you have the first pick of a draft, there is nobody else you should take but LaDainian Tomlinson. Look for a season that is better than last year, with at least 20 touchdowns and a tad over 1,500 yards.


2) Adrian Peterson, Vikings (Probable) - Although Peterson had an incredible season last year (1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns, all while missing two games), I can't say I'm expecting a LaDainian Tomlinson-caliber year. I do think he'll do even better than last year and will be a great player for a fantasy team and a decent No.2 through No. 4 pick in a draft, I am just not 100 percent confident that he will be a star just yet.


3) Brian Westbrook, Eagles (Sure Thing Pick) - Although Westbrook got a better ranking than Peterson, he was dropped down to No. 3 on the list due to the fact that if Adrian Peterson does everything he can do, he will perform better than Westbrook.

However, I can guarantee you that a healthy Brian Westbrook will perform very well, and up to par with his very good season last year. Having Brian is like having another receiver on your team, while also having a rushing beast.


4) Clinton Portis, Redskins (A Little Gamble) - Putting Portis ahead of big-time running backs like Joseph Addai and Frank Gore was a tough assignment for me; however, I felt like it was necessary. After appearing to be finished in 2006, Portis had a breakout 2007 year: 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns. Look for him to have another great year.


5) Joseph Addai, Colts (Probable) - Joseph Addai is an excellent running back to have as your No. 1, if you cannot get one of the top three. He has a very impressive 2007 season behind him and is looking to have another one. Addai could be better than two or even three of the running backs ahead of him on this list this season, and if he slips to the sixth or seventh pick, take him without a blink of your eye.


6) Ryan Grant, Packers (Probable) - After Ryan Grant took over the starting job in Green Bay in Week Six, he never looked back. One of his incredible accomplishments was rushing for 100-plus yards in five out of 10 weeks, as well as getting a touchdown in seven different games.

The reason Grant falls back so far is because of the change of offense, with Aaron Rodgers coming in. With a less confident Rodgers in, Grant will likely get more calls, and will also be focused on more by the defense than last year, where, if you put your eyes on him for a second, Brett Favre threw a 40-yard touchdown pass.


7) Steven Jackson, Rams (A Little Gamble) - After an injury-riddled, five-touchdown 2007 season, Jackson should have a bounce-back season, but it was pretty hard to put him higher than fifth on this list. If the offensive line for the St. Louis Rams can perform decently, look for Jackson to possibly have over 1,350 rushing yards and around 13 touchdowns.


8) Frank Gore, 49ers (OR) - If you ask me, Frank Gore is the most overrated running back that will appear on his list. However, due to everybody else saying he's a great running back, he has to be in my top 10. If the passing game continues to fail, the defense will continue to just pack it in on the line and stop Gore every time.

When you draft a running back, you need to be sure that he has a solid offensive line, as well as a good quarterback that will balance plays out. This is not the case of Frank Gore and his 49ers.


9) Larry Johnson, Chiefs (A Little Gamble) - Larry Johnson went from being the second-best running back in football in 2006 to the biggest bust in 2007. He disappointed every single owner and failed to get a touchdown in his first five games.

After finally getting on a roll, he broke a bone in his foot and was finished for the season in Week Nine, finishing with less than 600 yards. If you're looking to take a risk, Johnson isn't a bad choice, considering he has been an incredible running back in the past.


10) Marshawn Lynch, Bills (A Little Gamble) - If it hadn't been for the outstanding performances by Adrian Peterson last year, Lynch would have gotten all the attention. As a rookie, he had a stellar season, leading the Bills with 1,115 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. As a big risk-taker, I wouldn't be surprised if Lynch ends up on my team this year.


Wide Receivers

WRs are the third-most valuable positions in fantasy football. Although you can succeed without a top receiver, getting a good wide receiver is always a good decision. Never overpay for one, but if you see a star receiver around in the fourth round, don't hesitate to take him.


1) Randy Moss, Patriots (Sure Thing Pick) - Who can go wrong with a receiver coming off the best receiving year in football history? Taking Moss is a great choice, as he is likely to have another season with over 1,300 yards and 18 touchdown receptions.


2) Terrell Owens, Cowboys (Sure Thing Pick) - Terrell Owens, despite being one of the strangest players football has ever seen, is a must-have on a good fantasy team. Last year, he came out with one of his greatest seasons ever, and he doesn't look to be on any bit of a decline this year.


3) Braylon Edwards, Browns (Probable) - Braylon Edwards has turned into an elite receiver in the NFL and is a great player to have on your team—if he performs up to his abilities. A lot also lies on the shoulders of Derek Anderson, who's looking to have another good year taking snaps and throwing passes. If Anderson gives Edwards the ball enough, Edwards will be a top receiver to have.


4) Reggie Wayne, Colts (Probable) - After being Peyton's secondary receiver, Reggie Wayne has finally become the top option in the Colts' offense, after Marvin Harrison's performance has begun to decline. Wayne caught over 100 passes last year while getting 1,510 yards and 10 touchdowns. Wayne should be a solid player to have this year.


5) Andre Johnson, Texans (A Little Gamble) - Despite missing almost half of the season last year, Johnson had a Pro Bowl performance while healthy last season. He scored a touchdown in every game he played in but two, and finished with eight touchdowns. Not a bad first receiver to have on your team and a great second receiver to have on your team.


6) Steve Smith, Panthers (A Little Gamble) - Although Smith did not have a good year last year, it was not his fault. Because of the injury to Jake Delhomme, he was forced to be catching passes from the backup quarterback, David Carr, resulting in a subpar performance by Smith. If Delhomme stays healthy, look for a 2006 version of Steve Smith to return to form.


7) Plaxico Burress, Giants (A Little Gamble) - Although playing through an ankle injury throughout the season last year, Plaxico had a very good season last year. He finished with 12 touchdowns last season, and should get around that, if not more, this season (if he stays healthy).


8) Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (Probable) - Fitzgerald had a very good season last year, and earned a spot in the top 10. Although he is good enough to be ranked at No. 5, he falls so far down due to the fact that Kurt Warner is likely to have a season that won't impress too many, and Matt Leinart won't be too good either, if given the chance.

However, Larry is still a good player to have on your team, and showed that last year, when he got 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns.


9) Chad Johnson, Bengals (OR) - If there's any top-10 receiver you want to lay off of, it's definitely Chad Johnson. He's likely to have some lurking shoulder problems throughout the year (even if he plays the full 16 game season), and he just isn't as good as a lot of people say he is.

Although he did get over 1,400 yards last year, he got a not-so-great eight touchdowns, and is likely to have a season not as good as that.


10) T.J. Housmandzadeh, Bengals (Probable) - T.J got to work last year and put up some great numbers last year, while Johnson underperformed and ran his mouth all season. T.J. had a stellar season, finishing with 112 receptions, 1,143 yards, and 12 touchdowns. If you want a solid wide receiver that will definitely put up consistent numbers, T.J. is your guy.


Tight Ends

TEs are hard to get if you're looking for a good one. While you don't want to overpay for a guy like Gates (who will likely be taken way too early), you also don't want to end up with someone who can't do the job. A good team can easily succeed without someone on this list; however, it does help to have a good tight end.

1) Jason Witten, Cowboys (Sure Thing Pick) - Witten left an estimated 99 percent of fantasy owners last year with their eyes bulging and faces frozen in shock. Witten shocked the fantasy world by catching 96 passes and 1,145 receiving yards, while also getting seven touchdowns. If you're going to go out and take a tight end early, Jason is your man.

2) Antonio Gates, Chargers (Sure Thing Pick) - Antonio Gates is another guy that is just a great tight end every year. Although he had a back injury throughout the season, and toe surgery after the season, he ended up with another solid year for a tight end, getting nine touchdowns and receiving for 984 yards.

3) Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs (Probable) - Another consistent tight end, Tony Gonzalez put up solid numbers, yet again, for Kansas City last year, getting 1,172 receiving yards as well as scoring five touchdowns.

4) Kellen Winslow, Browns (Probable) - Winslow had an outbreak season last year, getting career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns. He finished the year with five touchdowns to go along with 1,106 receiving yards. He is yet another good tight end to have on your team. You can be confident with Kellen Winslow on your fantasy team.

5) Dallas Clark, Colts (Probable) - If you're looking for a big-touchdown player, Dallas Clark is your guy. Dallas was a big target of Peyton's last year and finished off the season with 11 touchdowns and 616 yards. Although he did not have a lot of receiving yards, he did have an incredible season when it came to touchdowns.


I'd like to thank you all for reading my Fantasy Football Draft Guide and may it be useful to you.


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