No matter what you do throughout the season, your fantasy football hopes can rely on your performance in the first few rounds of the draft. Don’t mess it up.
While there are certainly situations outside of your control like injuries and off-field issues, you want to make sure you build a core that can last you an entire season. Just a couple of missteps in the draft could lead you to spending the rest of the year scouring the waiver wire like a raccoon in garbage.
No two drafts are going to end up the same, but all you can do is pick the best player at each stage to help you dominate. Here is a breakdown of the smartest move based on each spot in the first few rounds, using hypothetical fantasy squads as a baseline no matter where you are picking.
Even without playing the first two weeks of the year, Le’Veon Bell represents enough upside for the rest of the season to justify selecting him No. 1 overall. Drafting DeAngelo Williams as a handcuff in the later rounds would be a smart move.
Meanwhile, Justin Forsett is a better pick than many are giving him credit for this offseason. He finished eighth among running backs in fantasy points a year ago and remains confident he wasn’t a one-year wonder.
“I’m not resting on my laurels,” Forsett said, per David Steele of Sporting News. “I’m hungry. I know people are still doubting out there, even during free agency, so I’m just gonna continue to work and prove it.”
Although it might be a bit early for Andrew Luck, he is a safe option who could carry this team all year long.
There were some safe picks across the board with this team. As long as he stays healthy, Eddie Lacy has as high of a floor as anyone in the draft. Julio Jones has also always produced when he is on the field and is capable of being a top fantasy receiver.
Mark Ingram has the potential for high touchdown totals in the New Orleans Saints offense, but you always have to be scared of him falling back into a committee. The third round is a reasonable spot for him.
Finally, Jordan Matthews represents tons of upside in a Philadelphia Eagles offense that has produced elite numbers for its top receivers in recent years.
Jamaal Charles remains one of the top fantasy picks, but Knile Davis could continue to take away touches from the established starter. There will be enough points to go around, but it is enough to see him slip to No. 3.
Meanwhile, Randall Cobb immediately becomes an elite fantasy option at receiver with Jordy Nelson out for the year with an ACL tear. Aaron Rodgers will target him often throughout the year, and he has the talent to make things happen with the ball in his hands.
People can keep doubting Marshawn Lynch, but he continues to pick up yards and touchdowns at an incredible rate. After signing a new contract in the offseason, there is no reason to expect this to slow down.
Additionally, drafting Jimmy Graham in the fourth round ensures a high percentage of points from the Seattle Seahawks offense.
On the other hand, the safer picks of Lynch and Calvin Johnson can allow you to draft a riskier, high-upside pick like Carlos Hyde. He has the talent to produce this year, but the question will be whether he gets enough carries.
Many have the rule that you have to draft a running back early. However, if you simply go with the best available, you could be in pretty good shape with Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. Both were consistent producers at receiver last year, and the duo could give you a huge advantage at the position.
Of course, you eventually have to find runners. This leaves two very different options in Alfred Morris and Joseph Randle. Morris is safer but lacks upside, while Randle will try to duplicate DeMarco Murray‘s great 2014 season behind the best offensive line in football.
With these two players, you should be in solid shape going forward.
As Tom Pelissero of USA Today notes, Adrian Peterson is favored to win another rushing title this season:
The problem is there is a lot of risk trusting a 30-year-old running back who missed almost all of 2014. You don’t want to miss with your first-round pick, so waiting until there is better value is not a problem.
Balancing this selection with safe options like Aaron Rodgers and Alshon Jeffery should give you more confidence going into the year.
Some are doubting Matt Forte going into 2015, but he was once again a top-five fantasy running back last year and remains Chicago’s only real ground threat. The touches should still be there for a strong season.
Jeremy Hill and T.Y. Hilton represent good value in their respective rounds, while Brandin Cooks showcases tons of upside as the No. 1 option in the high-powered Saints offense.
C.J. Anderson has the potential to be one of the top scorers in fantasy football this season. The Denver Broncos still have a dynamic offense, and new coach Gary Kubiak should only improve the run game. Unfortunately, we could easily see Ronnie Hillman or Montee Ball take over at any point and be just as successful.
He is still worthy of a first-round pick, but temper expectations a bit.
Adding a veteran like Frank Gore might not be a sexy selection, but it creates balance on your team.
While DeMarco Murray isn’t going to put up the numbers he did last season, the drop-off won’t be too terrible. As long as Ryan Mathews doesn’t take away too many touches, he should still be a top-10 running back.
The other surprise might be picking Russell Wilson in the fourth round, but he has clearly become the No. 3 option at quarterback behind Rodgers and Luck. With his rushing ability and the addition of Graham at tight end, Wilson could be set for a huge year.
A hamstring injury makes LeSean McCoy a risky pick, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported he will be back by Week 1:
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com noted the running back will likely get a lot of use when he is on the field:
This situation makes him worthy of an early pick. The same could be said about Rob Gronkowski, who is too much better than everyone else at the position to pass on in the opening rounds.
Melvin Gordon also has the potential to be a star if he ends up being a full-time back in San Diego.
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