Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: 7 Players with Major Fantasy Implications

Joe GryniewskiContributor IAugust 21, 2011

Fantasy Football Draft Strategy: 7 Players with Major Fantasy Implications

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    It's the time of year that we all begin huddling around the TV sets to watch the new rookies and free agents play for the first time on their new teams. Preseason football is every good fantasy player's best friend, and this article is going to tell you about 10 players to keep an eye out for while watching these games, and to guide you as you begin to assemble your fantasy boards. 

    These players all are going to have major plays in fantasy football in 2011, and it's best to know them before they are ruining your team or single-handedly beating your squad.

    As you begin to join your office pools, drafts with friends and family and every other kind of draft you might partake in, you will want to keep these players in mind. Let's begin.

    NOTE: This is not the best or worst 10 players, but instead just a list of 10 players to have a major impact in fantasy in 2011.

7. Chris Johnson

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    This guy is the ultimate question mark. With the superstar running back missing all the time in the offseason due to the lockout and now holding out of practice, as he is in the midst of a contract battle with his team, it might be wise to stray from CJ2K early in the first round.

    Chris Johnson is known to be one of the best running backs in the league, but his style of play commonly gets him dinged up, and he can be shut down by speedy defenses—the fact that he is missing so much work really puts him as too high a risk for the top 10 picks. 

    If you want CJ on your team in 2011, you most likely have to snag him in the top five. He has even been going No. 1 overall in some drafts, much like he was last year at this time.

    The guy is still in his prime, and even though he has only one truly great year in his career, he is still a top-five back in this league, but defenses began to adjust to his game last year and he looked frustrated to the point where he checked out of some games.

    That is not something you want to see from your first-round pick, and the guy who is supposed to be the bread winner on your squad.

    Advice: Stray away from CJ2K until around pick No. 10. Will he be a solid player? Yes, but is he worth the No. 1 to No. 3 overall selection he has been seeing?

6. Cedric Benson

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    We are going running-back crazy on the early going of this list, but for good reason. Just as Chris Johnson may be going too high in most fantasy drafts, Cedric Benson might be going too low. 

    He had a down year in 2010, as did most Bengals, but he still has all the ability in the world to become a fantasy stud this season.

    Last year, Benson struggled in a Bengal's offense that had major identity issues, huge problems on the offensive line and fullback positions, and a major fixation on having a struggling Carson Palmer airing the ball out to loud-mouth receivers Ochocinco and T.O.

    However, now Bob Bratkowski is gone and Jay Gruden has taken over in his place. Jay Gruden has installed the West Coast Offense and has vowed to run the ball with much more regularity, which has Benson salivating. 

    Also, Benson is coming off a year in which he has had yet another arrest, which hurt his free-agent value this summer, and thus he is looking to rebound on his short extension with the Bengals in hope of getting the big contract next year.

    The Bengals offense couldn't be any more unstable right now with the rookie Andy Dalton taking over at QB, and a bunch of rookies and second-year players as the main aerial targets. With this instability and uncertainty comes the belief that Benson and his O-line are in for a huge role in 2011, and as he now returns as the Bengals' go-to offensive weapon, look for him to shine on what should be a pretty average offense.

    Advice: Cedric Benson will be a great No. 2 starter on your team, but do not draft him too high as the Bengals' new offense might slow him down. As your No. 2 starter at running back, Cedric should flourish, but as your go-to bell cow, I would look in a different direction.

5. Mike Vick

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    Yes, it's the amazing Mike Vick coming in at No. 5. It was hard to put him this low on the list, but seeing as how he is getting snatched up so quickly in many of these drafts this year, he finds himself as the No.5 most influential player on the list.

    Vick is going to have to face the entire world in 2011 as he will be taking no one by surprise as he did last season. While his improved passing will help him a ton this year, and the "dream team" the Eagles have will ease his workload, he will still be facing a tough task this season.

    With so much talent around him, the glaring and ruthless media/fans of Philadelphia, and the pressure of leading the NFC favored "dream team" to what many expect to be nothing short of a Super Bowl appearance, could be tough on Vick. 

    While he has all the talent in the world to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for another three or four thousand, while scoring 35 total touchdowns, he is going to be blitzed and blitzed and blitzed some more.

    He has struggled in his career to ever go a full season without an injury, and his style of play can get him hurt. 

    Advice: He will once again be a dominating force in the fantasy world again; yes, he is worth your No. 1 overall pick, but beware that you could be missing him for a few games throughout the year. If you can live with that snatch him up, but if not, then look in another direction.

4. Shonn Greene

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    Coming in at No. 5 is the Jets running back Shonn Greene. 

    Speaking from personal experience, Shonn Greene was a huge disappointment in 2010, as he gave up a lot more carries to L.T. than people imagined he would. In what was supposed to be a near 50/50 split of reps, instead became L.T. getting 219 attempts to just the 185 Greene received. 

    However, in 2011 things are expected to go much different for the Jets running back. L.T. finally had his age creep up on him as his legs began to slow down in the postseason, but he was still a very important player for the Jets offense so expect head coach Rex Ryan to try and split the carries more evenly so that they can have L.T. rested for what they believe to be a deep playoff run this year.

    Shonn Greene is a huge factor in the red zone as well as running inside the tackles. Look for the running back to play a huge role in this offense this year and to put up a ton of red-zone touchdowns, and a very respectable amount of yards.

    Advice: As a mid-round pick, and the second starting running back for your team, you may just find the perfect guy for the job in the form of Shonn Greene.

3. Larry Fitzgerald

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    This one is obvious. This guy is one of the most amazing wide receivers this league has ever seen. With his ability to catch the football and make insane catches look routine, he is truly one remarkable player.

    The reason he finds himself so high on this list is because of the situation he finds himself in with the Cardinals.  

    Similar to Cedric Benson, Larry will be the only established major weapon on his team. If the Cardinals want to win games they will need points, and those points will have to come through Fitz'.

    With the big-armed Kevin Kolb in at QB for the Cards, and running back Ryan Williams being lost for the season, the Cards will go to Fitz' consistently which makes him one of the safest bets in all of fantasy football.

    Advice: No. 1 wide receivers can be hard to find. While Andre Johnson should be the No. 1 receiver on your board, Larry should be your second one. If you want an absolute stud who will put up big numbers for you every game, then Larry is a no brainer at the end of the first/early second round.

2. Aaron Rodgers

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    While I easily could go Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, or one of my sleepers here, I have to go with Mr. Rodgers. 

    Aaron Rodgers single-handedly got people to the playoffs last year in fantasy and I was one of those guys. When Rodgers went down late in the year, so did my team. Your team will go as Aaron goes, and expect him to be full go in 2011.

    Coming off a Super Bowl MVP, Rodgers will be looking to repeat the insane season he had last year, and with the talent around him that shouldn't be too hard.

    Advice: This guy will get you rushing yards, rushing scores and a huge amount of passing yards/touchdowns. He is a stud and has playmakers like Donald Driver and Greg Jennings to throw to. He will once again be a huge player in the fantasy world and looks to be the first or second QB off the board. With injuries to usual No. 1 Peyton Manning, this is a good year to snatch Rodgers up as your everyday starter.

1. Arian Foster

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    This guy exploded onto the scene in 2010, and he never looked back. He was the NFL's triple crown leader on the ground as he rushed for the best average, most touchdowns and most yards in the entire NFL last season. With a season of extremely high expectations for the Texans, Arian Foster is going to be at the center of all of it. 

    When it comes to running backs, this guy has it all. Arian can blow by your quickest linebacker, he can run over your best safety, he can score from short yardage, or he can bust the home run play on you. With talent like this you are going to easily be one of the top 5 running backs in the NFL, but when you put him on an offense like the Texans, then you begin to put in up there as possibly the No. 1 most influential fantasy player.

    With a decent offensive line, and Matt Schaub throwing the ball to Andre Johnson, defenses will not know what to key in on to stop.

    The reason he finds himself this high on my list is because whether he blows away the league like he did last year, or if he struggles, he will still cause huge ripples in the fantasy world. In most leagues he is going somewhere in the No. 3 overall picks, and in a ton of leagues he is being swept up with the No. 1 overall selection.

    Advice: It's tough to spend a top-three pick on a player with such a small sample size of success (for example, see Chris Johnson last year), but if there was ever a player to use it on, it would be this guy. He can be the guy who single-handedly puts your team in position to win—hell, with some of the games he had last season he could beat some fantasy squads alone. Don't be afraid to make him the No. 1 RB on your board as he may even be worth being placed as your No. 1 player overall.