David Sabino
Tuesday August 28th, 2012

Back in the 1980s there was a television campaign in which "Fred the Baker," a Dunkin' Donuts franchise owner, dutifully (and groggily) pulled himself out of bed at 3:30 AM in order to get to his shop to make fresh donuts for the day. The line, delivered by actor Michael Vale (who also starred in other famous ads of the period as the Breakstone dairy man and elegant wine-swilling gadabout Aldo Cella), has become part of the football vernacular as a way to express that it's time to go to work, to give the extra effort, the willingness to go above and beyond what the next guy is doing. That's where we are in the fantasy football season.

Most fantasy owners consider the draft the hard part, get through that and the season is a breeze. Check in on your team once or twice a week for injuries and check the box score on Mondays to see how many points you or your opponent can get in that night's contest. Check your email on Tuesday and maybe you won. If nobody gets hurt or is on a bye, you move forward and as long as your squad is in contention, you repeat the process. That's what the supermarket donut guy does. But to win regularly, you have to take extra steps instead of leaving things to chance. Here are a few tips on how to successfully manage your team throughout the season.

1) Be Proactive: Many people are averse to moves, only willing to alter their roster when forced to by injuries or bye weeks. They're banking on the fact that the team they drafted will be good enough to go all the way. But it's been my experience that except for extreme cases of good fortune, for an owner to be successful he or she must constantly manipulate the team, whether by trade, waivers or free agency. By simply sitting back and waiting for the action to come to you, you're not only letting the Cam Newton's and Victor Cruz's of the world pass you by, but you're allowing your opponents the opportunity to pick them up, weakening your chances for success.

One such player who could come from nowhere this year is rookie Russell Wilson, the Seahawks new starting quarterback who won the job as a rookie despite the presence of high-priced, and highly sought after free agent Matt Flynn, late of the Packers. Wilson, a third-round pick from Wisconsin, will quickly become the face of the Seattle franchise and Pete Carroll has a long history of mentoring very successful quarterbacks. That means, like Newton, it may not be too long before Wilson will be seen thriving in fantasy lineups.

2) Take Chances: When picking up free agents, don't always go for the top-rated player available, the one with the best stats to date or the biggest name. Do your homework to find out who has the best chance to be great from that point on. You don't get credit for someone's past, only present and future. And there is no league in any sport in which a "name brand" falls off the table quicker than in the NFL.

One player to watch in this category is U.S. Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps of the Patriots. Undrafted due to his commitment to the London Games, the former Florida Gator is not likely to have much of an impact early in the season as a third-down, change-of-pace running back, but with the ability to use his world-class speed to fly through holes, he'll be someone to have front-and-center on your free agency watch list.

3) Stay on top of the news. Ratings and values are constantly changing in the NFL and the fortunes of players can turn on a dime. Take preseason for example. When camp began, Cedric Benson was unemployed and searching for someone, anyone, to give him a chance. James Starks looked entrenched as the Packers starting running back all offseason and there was little reason to think otherwise.

Now, not only has Benson overtaken Starks for the lead back job, but also he's most likely going to be the workhorse for a team that sorely needed some stability at the running back position. At this point and going forward, Benson, whose 3,429 rushing yards over the past three seasons ranks seventh in the NFL, is a clear RB2 and could find himself among the league's touchdown leaders. Those relying on publications and lists made weeks or months ago will completely whiff on him.

And to that point, here are my updated Top 25s for the skill positions.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers 2. Tom Brady, Patriots 3. Drew Brees, Saints 4. Matthew Stafford, Lions 5. Cam Newton, Panthers 6. Eli Manning, Giants 7. Peyton Manning, Broncos 8. Tony Romo, Cowboys 9. Matt Ryan, Falcons 10. Philip Rivers, Chargers 11. Jay Cutler, Bears 12. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers 13. Michael Vick, Eagles 14. Robert Griffin III, Redskins 15. Andrew Luck, Colts 16. Matt Schaub, Texans 17. Joe Flacco, Ravens 18. Andy Dalton, Bengals 19. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills 20. Sam Bradford, Rams 21. Jake Locker, Titans 22. Carson Palmer, Raiders 23. Russell Wilson, Seahawks 24. Alex Smith, 49ers 25. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins

1. Ray Rice, Ravens 2. LeSean McCoy, Eagles 3. Arian Foster, Texans 4. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks 5. Darren McFadden, Raiders 6. Chris Johnson, Titans 7. Fred Jackson, Bills 8. Trent Richardson, Browns 9. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys 10. Ryan Mathews, Chargers 11. Matt Forte, Bears 12. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars 13. Reggie Bush, Dolphins 14. Darren Sproles, Saints 15. Adrian Peterson, Vikings 16. Cedric Benson, Packers 17. Doug Martin, Buccaneers 18. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants 19. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs 20. Steven Jackson, Rams 21. Peyton Hillis, Chiefs 22. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals 23. Stevan Ridley, Patriots 24. Willis McGahee, Broncos 25. Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions 2. Victor Cruz, Giants 3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals 4. Jordy Nelson, Packers 5. Hakeem Nicks, Giants 6. Steve Smith, Panthers 7. Andre Johnson, Texans 8. Julio Jones, Falcons 9. Brandon Marshall, Bears 10. Greg Jennings, Packers 11. Mike Wallace, Steelers 12. A.J. Green, Bengals 13. Marques Colston, Saints 14. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos 15. DeSean Jackson, Eagles 16. Dez Bryant, Cowboys 17. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots 18. Roddy White, Falcons 19. Antonio Brown, Steelers 20. Wes Welker, Patriots 21. Eric Decker, Broncos 22. Torrey Smith, Ravens 23. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers 24. Pierre Garçon, Redskins 25. Steve Johnson, Bills

1. Jimmy Graham, Saints 2. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots 3. Vernon Davis, 49ers 4. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots 5. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions 6. Antonio Gates, Chargers 7. Jermichael Finley, Packers 8. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings 9. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons 10. Joel Dreessen, Broncos 11. Jason Witten, Cowboys 12. Jermaine Gresham, Bengals 13. Owen Daniels, Texans 14. Dustin Keller, Jets 15. Jared Cook, Titans 16. Greg Olsen, Panthers 17. Fred Davis, Redskins 18. Heath Miller, Steelers 19. Anthony Fasano, Dolphins 20. Dwyane Allen, Colts 21. Ed Dickson, Ravens 22. Brent Celek, Eagles 23. Jacob Tamme, Broncos 24. Coby Fleener, Colts 25. Martellus Bennett, Giants

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