Sweating over the perfect fantasy football team

With just over two weeks remaining until the start of the NFL season, many fantasy football leagues are gearing up and getting their drafts out of the way. I know that my personal league is waiting as long as possible, with our draft likely going down sometime next week.  If you’re like us, you’ve likely spent a lot of time considering your draft strategy and have probably reached a point where all you’re doing is second-guessing yourself. If this describes you, I want you to check out a couple of these basic draft-day points to keep in mind when selecting the team that will carry you to whatever your league’s trophy is (ours is a large decorative pear, ripe with euphemism).

Please note, these will just be some basic ideas, as I don’t want to tip my hand too much, lest one of my competitors uses this to thwart my draft strategy.

We’ll start at the most important position in real football, not fantasy, the quarterback. The biggest piece of advice I can give is don’t draft a quarterback in the first round. No, Packers fans, I don’t care that Aaron Rodgers is the prohibitive favorite to win MVP. If you are set on getting a signal caller early, take an elite QB1 in the first three rounds. But that group is limited Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.

Some would argue that Drew Brees and Peyton Manning belong in this class, but given Brees’ lack of a proven receiving core and what appeared to be the beginning of a true decline for Manning last year, I’d say that where they are currently going in ESPN’s mock drafts (right around 40th overall) is too high a price to pay. If they slide into the fifth round or later, the value of the pick goes way up, because even if I don’t love them as a top quarterback this year, that doesn’t mean they will be completely awful. I just think there are better options with the picks where they are currently going. I’d delve further into the quarterback rankings, but I’ve got a trick up my sleeve so devious that I don’t want to give it away. And if it blows up in my face, I don’t want to have led you down the path and have your team’s blood on my hands.

 Now we turn our attention to the most critical position on any fantasy roster… RB2. Your second running back could very easily make or break your year. The top 12 tend to sort themselves out, as everybody kind of knows who the real studs are. Yes, there are some busts, a la Doug Martin 2014 (Beware C.J. Anderson), but for the most part you can’t go wrong with anyone ranked around the top. But your RB2 has the potential to be a black hole if you make a mistake, or could wind up being more productive than your top pick if you put together the right combination. The biggest key is finding undervalued starters and rotating them effectively based on matchups. An OK player in real life can be a fantasy stud if in the right situation.

 Specifically, I like T.J. Yeldon (Jaguars), Latavius Murray (Raiders) and whoever is getting the bulk of the carries in Dallas. As a side note, if you draft either Joseph Randle or Darren McFadden, try to get your hands on the other as an ultra effective handcuff, because if one goes down, the other will become an absolute stud running behind that terror of an offensive line.

In regards to Yeldon, I’m betting on him to beat out former quarterback Denard Robinson for the starting job in Jacksonville. He’s a powerful runner behind what may be an under the radar good line and a quarterback still going through some growing pains in Blake Bortles.

That leaves me with Murray. He may have only scored once, on a 90-yard scamper in his four-carry, 112-yard coming out party against the Chiefs last year, but he had a pair of 23 carry games after that, and I’d expect him to tote it about 15-18 times a game. His combined measurements are comparable to those of Peterson and reigning rushing champion Demarco Murray, except that he is a towering 6-foot-3, so he has the raw ability to be an absolute force with that much work. Not to mention tall backs tend to catch quite a few passes, and Derek Carr will still have the license to fire this year, adding even more value to Oakland’s Murray.

 Ranked in the mid-20s, these backs will likely be available in the fourth to sixth rounds. That may not feel like an underrated players ranking, but I see the chance for Yeldon, Murray and the Cowboys primary back to potentially provide top-10 production at the position.

 One last note: Duke Johnson and David Cobb are respectively the most talented running backs in Cleveland and Tennessee this year. Do with that what you may, but remember that talent does not always equate to carries.

 As with all fantasy “insights,” these ideas could all be rendered irrelevant with a single wrong step in a preseason game (see ya next year Jordy Nelson). But these are just some ideas that have come into my head during my many, many mock drafts this summer that I hope can help you get a bit more productivity out of your lineup and look just a tad more savvy in your draft this year.