Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: 10 Young Stars for Your Dynasty Team
Hakeem Nicks, the only player who's going into his third season on this list, heads the class of young, soon-to-be (if not already) superstars that you will want to have in your fantasy dynasty.
Keeper-leagues are vastly underrated. Compared to year-by-year leagues, keeper leagues are more exciting for a number of reasons: they allow you to be more creative with your team, they make you feel the most like a pseudo-GM than you're ever going to feel, and you have to make tough decisions on who to keep at the end of the season.
The reason these leagues are unappreciated, is because they do warrant more time and effort. You have to be smart and do your research, because one bad draft could haunt you for years.
But maybe keeper-leagues aren't for you, and that's fine. If that's the case, merely think of this article as if you were drafting for a dynasty team on the new Madden game.
Because, as we all know, the dynasty is the most fun portion of the game.
We all want to make GM decisions—if you're reading this article, here's a head start.
Hakeem Nicks: Wide Receiver (New York Giants)
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ESPN Overall Rank: 17
ESPN Position Rank: 4
Like I said in the previous slide, Nicks is the only player on this list who is going into his third season. Every other player on the list is either playing in their rookie or sophomore season.
That being said, I couldn't justify leaving Nicks off of the list after he proved his worth last season.
Nicks had 79 receptions for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns, and that was after he missed three games of the season! He played through his injuries and still managed to have a fantasy All-Star-caliber year.
ESPN currently has Nicks ranked behind Andre Johnson, Roddy White and Greg Jennings in their top 300, but Nicks has a chance to be the No. 1 overall fantasy receiver this year. With Steve Smith gone to Philadelphia, Nicks is going to get even more looks from Eli Manning.
Both he and Mario Manningham are in line for big years, but Nicks is the superstar of the duo.
In most keeper leagues, you're allowed to keep up to four players; Nicks is a guy you want to sign to a multi-year contract.
Sam Bradford: Quarterback (St. Louis Rams)
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ESPN Overall Rank: 99
ESPN Position Rank: 14
In his rookie season, Sam Bradford led the St. Louis Rams to a 7-9 record, which was actually almost enough to get them into the NFC Playoffs.
A 7-9 record may not seem like much—in fact, to most it may seem like an underachieving type of year, but for the Rams, Bradford was a godsend.
In 2009, the Rams were a dismal 1-15. Needless to say, 7-9 was a solid improvement.
Last season, Bradford completed 354 of 590 passes for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns; solid numbers for a rookie quarterback with limited offensive weapons.
The downside of Bradford's rookie season were his 15 interceptions. He will certainly get better in time, as he is one of the most accurate passers in the game. During his stint at the University of Oklahoma, Bradford only threw 16 interceptions.
Steven Jackson is a great running back and has been for the last six years, but he isn't enough to take the pressure off of Bradford. With the way Bradford can throw, he needs weapons at wide receiver.
He may have them this year. After an underwhelming season in Jacksonville, Mike Sims-Walker was signed to the Rams on a one-year deal. Hopefully he will get back on track with a quarterback like Bradford throwing to him.
Also, Donnie Avery is now healthy and ready to play after missing all of last season with injuries. So, with Sims-Walker, Avery and Danny Amendola doing his best Wes Welker impression, Bradford looks to have an even better season than his stellar rookie campaign.
Mike Williams: Wide Receiver (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
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ESPN Overall Rank: 39
ESPN Position Rank: 14
Josh Freeman wasn't the only Buccaneer who had a breakout season. Williams and Freeman were fantasy anomalies for the usually fantasy-deprived Buccaneers.
In his rookie season, Williams had good enough numbers for Rookie of the Year consideration: 65 receptions for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Williams' production came at a surprise to all fantasy players due to the fact that he was merely a late-round fantasy pick. Arrelious Benn, his rookie WR teammate, was the one who was supposed to average these numbers.
This wasn't the case, though. Williams outplayed Benn week by week, and this gave him more looks from Freeman.
Coupled with a surprising rushing attack by LeGarrette Blount, the Buccaneers had a great fantasy offense last season. Williams is once again going to be the No. 1 WR for the team, and he has the ability to improve on his already great production.
I wouldn't count Benn out, though. He should come back this season with something to prove, and he may try to rival Williams' looks.
That's all just speculation, though. Williams is definitely the guy you want on your team.
Dez Bryant: Wide Receiver (Dallas Cowboys)
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ESPN Overall Rank: 34
ESPN Position Rank: 12
Dez Bryant is a freak. He's super athletic, elusive in the open field, has great hands and runs a near 4.4.
Many thought that Bryant would be a shoo-in candidate for Rookie of the Year last season, but he suffered from two things: having other offensive weapons around him and playing without Tony Romo throwing to him for most of the season.
He still had a decent year: 45 receptions for 561 yards and eight all-purpose touchdowns. But compared to fellow rookie wideout Mike Williams, his numbers were noticeably lacking.
The knock on Bryant is, of course, his maturity. This seems to be the case with a lot of wide receivers who have freakish athletic ability: Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens and Joe Horn, anyone?
Hopefully with a year under his belt, Bryant will begin maturing and have a breakout year. With Miles Austin and Jason Witten around, Bryant still has a lot of competition, but because his talent level is so high, his potential is way beyond anything Austin could ever dream of.
With that being said, though, Austin has been incredibly productive and has been a favorite target of Romo.
But how long will that last? How long will we have to wait for Bryant to take over?
This could be the year. He's going to improve on his stats from last season, and he will continue doing that from year to year.
Bryant is a great pick for a fantasy dynasty team.
LeGarrette Blount: Running Back (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
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ESPN Overall Rank: 40
ESPN Position Rank: 19
The fact that two Buccaneers are on this list really amazes me. It's been so long since Tampa Bay has had a decent fantasy roster, and now they have three guys who have ridiculous amounts of fantasy potential.
The Bucs are a fun team to watch, and Blount is one of the biggest reasons this is true.
He began the year as a Tennessee Titan who signed him as an undrafted free agent. Unfortunately for Blount, he was waived before the season even began. Fortunately for the Bucs, they were able to claim him.
With Cadillac Williams still starting in Tampa Bay, Blount had to work his way up the hard way. He was initially a third-down type of back, which makes sense given his massive frame at 6'0", 247 pounds.
After having some success, Blount eventually worked his way into the starting job, and the rest was history. Blount had five double-digit fantasy scoring games after he took over as starter, and he is sure to improve on that stat this year.
While Blount doesn't necessarily have break-away speed, his power and agility make him a tough guy to tackle.
Blount will be the starter in Tampa Bay for years to come.
Colt McCoy: Quarterback (Cleveland Browns)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
ESPN Overall Rank: 199
ESPN Position Rank: 26
I don't want to get ahead of myself, but McCoy looked absolutely fantastic in Cleveland's preseason opener.
While he was in the game, McCoy completed nine of 10 attempts for 135 yards and one touchdown. He was making somewhat difficult passes seem effortless, which is hopefully a sign of what is to come.
Last season, McCoy only played in eight games for the Browns. He was stuck behind veteran Jake Delhomme for half of the season, but when he got a chance to start he made the most of it.
He was able to throw for almost 1,600 yards in eight games, but he only had six touchdowns as opposed to nine interceptions. McCoy suffered from the same fate that Bradford went through, except at an even higher level.
The Browns could really use some offensive weapons. Peyton Hills shined in his first year as a starter, but, like Bradford, McCoy really needs some wide receivers to throw to.
Unfortunately, the Browns will have to either hope to draft one next year, sign a free agent or rely on Josh Cribbs' athletic ability.
So, McCoy may not be a great fantasy option this year, but he's a guy you want to keep around because he's going to be a star.
Julio Jones: Wide Receiver (Atlanta Falcons)
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ESPN Overall Rank: 112
ESPN Position Rank: 41
While many are predicting A.J. Green to be the best candidate for Rookie of the Year, there happens to be another rookie receiver who is bound to have a better season.
After giving up a lot of future draft picks, including first-round draft picks in the 2011 and 2012 drafts, the Atlanta Falcons were able to move up to No. 6, selecting Julio Jones, the star wide receiver from the University of Alabama.
This may have been the best thing that could have happened to Jones. Unlike Green, Jones is going to have a proven quarterback in Matt Ryan throwing to him. While Green may be the best rookie wide receiver, he is not going to be the best statistically.
That honor should go to Jones, who will be playing on the other side of Roddy White, fantasy football's No. 2 WR.
The Falcons offense is going to be pretty great, with Ryan, Jones, White and Michael Turner, but the lingering question is going to be: did they give up too much for a complimentary receiver?
Time will tell, but, in the meantime, pick up Jones for your dynasty.
Daniel Thomas: Running Back (Miami Dolphins)
ESPN Overall Rank: 70
ESPN Position Rank: 29
Of all the rookie running backs, Thomas has the most potential for a fantasy All-Star season.
Bush, however, has had an underwhelming career thus far. He was used mostly as a situational back in New Orleans with the occasional opportunity as a slot receiver. His allusiveness and speed certainly make him a quality return man, but can he be more than that in Miami?
History would say no. Usually a good running game is dependent on a decent passing attack and vice-versa. Bush was playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the game in Drew Brees, but he still never shined like we all thought he would.
Now he's playing with Chad Henne, a quarterback who Miami fans are trying to run out of town. Luckily, Miami still has good receivers in Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess, so defenses can't cheat up as much.
But is this enough to help Bush renew his career? Not likely. He will yet again be stuck with return duties, and his carries will probably be limited.
Now, enough about Bush, this slide is about Thomas. Thomas was a stand-out star at Kansas State, and he has the size and speed to be an every-down RB in the NFL.
With Bush's underwhelming history that is plagued by injuries, Thomas should be the No. 1 RB in Miami in no time.
He is a dark-horse candidate for Rookie of the Year, and he will be a great RB in the league for years to come.
Mark Ingram: Running Back (New Orleans Saints)
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ESPN Overall Rank: 67
ESPN Position Rank: 28
\Meet one of Reggie Bush's replacements. Like Bush, Ingram had a fantastic college career, winning a Heisman Trophy and playing for a National Champion.
Unlike Bush, Ingram has the opportunity to be the No. 1 RB in the New Orleans offense for years to come.
The only problem with this scenario, though, is that New Orleans is a team that likes having a running back committee. This year, Ingram will likely split time with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles (the other Bush replacement) and Chris Ivory because all have proved to be worthy in years past.
Ingram has looked great in the offseason, and hopefully he will outshine his competition, because that's the only way he'll have a breakout fantasy season.
Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, reported good things about Ingram, saying that he "does have a chance to push for numbers like 1,000 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns."
Ivory will be sidelined for awhile with a sports hernia, and Sproles will likely man the return duties, making him more of a situational back, so Ingram will split most of his time with Thomas.
Thomas is no stranger to the injury bug himself, and Ingram could very well have the opportunity to get the bulk of the carries.
His fantasy outlook is good, his options are all in front of him and he is set to have a strong rookie season.
He should be able to turn a strong rookie season into even stronger seasons down the road.
Cam Newton: Quarterback (Carolina Panthers)
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ESPN Overall Rank: 253
ESPN Position Rank: 29
By far the biggest reach of this slideshow, Newton has yet to even win the starting job in Carolina. He didn't look terrible in his preseason debut, and he's set to start tonight's match against Miami.
It's only a matter of time before he wins the job from Jimmy Clausen.
Hate all you want, but Newton has all the tools and ability to be a great QB in the NFL. He has to work on his accuracy, sure, but that can be said about most quarterbacks, especially rookies.
He has ridiculous arm strength and he is built like a defensive end or linebacker; when you couple his speed with his size, the guy is unreal to watch.
Like Dez Bryant, the knock on Newton is his maturity. He has gone through a lot of controversy, stemming from his days at the University of Florida, the University of Auburn and up to the NFL draft.
Newton is cocky, sure, but I'd take cocky over poor ability any day. Newton has an opportunity to be a starter in this league for a long time, and he also has the ability to post huge fantasy numbers if he stays healthy.
This is a reach, yes. This is risky, yes. But Newton could help your dynasty team for a long time if everything works out.