Instead of sitting here and saying, "Here are my top 10 players," like most fantasy analysts do (which frankly is ridiculous), I feel a better way to approach this is to look at what makes a player worthy of being in your top 10.
This is more helpful than anything else because there are an abundance of factors that make some players more valuable than others.
This is the most important factor of all: Your understanding of your league scoring settings.
If I am in a league that rewards only four points for a passing touchdown, but six for rushing and receiving scores, picking Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers with your first pick makes no sense. Yes, you can get four TDs out of these guys on any given day, but that is worth a measly 16 points.
If Mike Turner beats in two TDs, which is highly more probable then a four-touchdown game even from these studs, I'm already at 12 points just on rushing scores.
If you are in a PPR league, players like Ray Rice, Arian Foster and MJD go way up on most boards because of their phenomenal hands.
Some fantasy players pick without understanding their scoring settings and get burned.
For instance, my brother is in a league that rewards only four points for passing touchdowns, but six points for all other scores. He is one win away from declaring himself the champion of his league all because of his strong—and strong is an understatement—running backs and receiving core.
He owns Foster, Rice, Forte and Blount, and his receivers are Jennings, Megatron, White, Colston and Stevie Johnson. That is what carried him to the final game and he can attribute it solely to his understanding of the scoring system in his league and realizing burning an early pick on a QB was only detrimental to his team.
Understanding the situation the player you pick is in on his team.
You must do your research and know a few key things. Is there a time share in the backfield, what is the philosophy of the team; are they run first, pass heavy; also, who is the quarterback and does he have chemistry with your receiver?
All of these aspects can turn your big time pick into a huge bust. Let's go with some examples from this season.
Larry Fitzgerald is a man amongst boys and still racked up over 1,000 yards, but his fantasy production hit an all-time low and was far from a WR1 in all leagues. Brandon Marshall is another huge bust this season since Chad Henne didn't live up to the hype and this killed Marshall.
Probably the receiver who was hurt the worst by his quarterback play was Steve Smith of the abysmal Panthers. His name alone brings rage to my heart since he single-handedly KO'd me in the championship last year and then was a complete waste of a third-round pick on my team this season. He is forever black-listed.
Back to a few of my other points, you must how the OC calls the plays and who will be featured. The Saints, for one, are a team you MUST stay away from unless you pick Drew Brees or their defense. Brees is one of the best in spreading the ball around, which is good for the Saints, but bad for fantasy owners; they also do not run the ball.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Chiefs: They run, run and run some more. This philosophy though does help Matt Cassel, since it opens up the field for him and D. Bowe to have big games, but Todd Hayley and his approach makes Jamaal Charles a beast in all leagues.
Sticking with this same point, the Cowboys and Cardinals are backfields you should always stay away from because they have too many capable runners on their roster, making this a fantasy nightmare.
You must look at the teams strength of schedule.
A classic example of this happened to me this year. Going into this year's draft, I had decided to go with a QB early—and by early I am referring to the fourth round or so.
This left me with a decision: Pick Rivers or Romo.
Knowing that Rivers didn't have his starting left tackle at this time or Vincent Jackson, I still felt that he had more upside over Romo even though Romo had dream receivers at his finger tips. I based my decision on their schedules.
Romo is in the tough NFC East, while Rivers is in the laughable AFC West. Romo has to go up against teams with stiff defenses on a more constant basis, while Rivers only faces a few and has more opportunities to go off even with a depleted receiving core.
Some players are matchup proof and you frankly will never bench, but you would rather have a handful of games that you know your player can go off in.
Understand how the other players in your league like to draft.
Do your opponents love to have that big-name QB or do they wait until the later rounds? Are they a bunch of rookies and draft players from their favorite teams or do they pounce on the Ravens D in Round 6?
Knowing the other owners approaches, you will be able to cater the players you target to their strategies putting you at an advantage.
Just look at a draft recap from the year before and you will be golden.
Now for the lazy people out there who feel that the points I outlined take too much work and you want a top 10 handed to you, I'll provide you with one just to keep you happy:
- Adrian Peterson
- Arian Foster
- Chris Johnson
- Jamaal Charles
- Michael Turner
- Michael Vick
- Maurice Jones-Drew
- Aaron Rodgers
- Ray Rice
- Frank Gore
Now, that was made literally in 30 seconds so no research was put into it and I just flew by the seat of my pants.
There are too many variables going into next season to really give a complete top 10, but if I would be feeling confident week in and week out with those studs on my team.
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