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Fantasy football draft strategies: Targeting good offenses

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Demaryius Thomas rewarded fantasy owners who invested in Denver's potent offense last season.

Fantasy football 2013 draft prep central: Rankings, position primers and much more

You know it's coming. It happens every draft, no matter how prepared you are. Even though this year's version is at least a month away, you can already see that moment on the horizon -- that moment when you're torn between two players and simply can't make a decision.

This guy has so much upside, but that guy has a track record that's hard to ignore.

That guy racks up yards on top of yards, but this guy is a touchdown machine.

These two just seem so equal, I might as well flip a coin.

Well, there is one proven way to avoid this nerve-racking moment and set yourself up for greatness in December: All you have to do is take the names out of the equation and pick the guy in the better offense. I'm not exactly splitting the atom when I tell you'd rather have a guy in an elite offense than someone on the Jaguars. All too often, though, fantasy owners fail to consider team environment. An illustration:

Heading into 2012, Player A was coming off a year in which he caught 32 passes for 551 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games. He clearly had upside, but he hadn't been a true fantasy starter at any point during his first two seasons in the league. Player B, on the other hand, was coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons. Most would agree he didn't have much room to grow beyond that, but he also felt like a guy whose floor any owner would accept for a No. 2 receiver, which is what both of these guys were drafted to be. So who was the pick? The player with upside, or the player with the track record?

If you ignored the individual stats entirely and looked at the teams, Player A would have been your choice. That's because he is Denver's Demaryius Thomas. With Peyton Manning at the helm, Thomas enjoyed a monster season in which he recorded 94 receptions for 1,434 yards and 10 scores. Player B, on the other hand, managed just 59 catches, 801 yards and three touchdowns while playing for an offense not too many people believed in heading into the year. He is Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe, and while his ADP was similar to Thomas' last year, his production was not.

Of course, you could be sitting there saying that I just went and picked an example convenient for this column. OK, then allow me a more in-depth illustration. Here are 11 offenses in the league that most everyone agrees boast at least four fantasy starters: Green Bay, New Orleans, Atlanta, Denver, New England, Seattle, New York Giants, Dallas, Houston, Detroit and Baltimore. Let's make this as hard as possible and say I have the 12th pick in a 12-team league.

Using current ADP at Mock Draft Central, here's what my team looks like through 12 rounds after sticking to the strategy of drafting players from those 11 teams no matter what:

Targeting good offenses: A sample fantasy team for 2013
RoundPickPlayerTeam
112RB Ray RiceRavens
213WR Dez BryantCowboys
336QB Tom BradyPatriots
437RB David WilsonGiants
560WR Marques ColstonSaints
661RB Reggie BushLions
784TE Jason WittenCowboys
885WR Sidney RiceSeahawks
9108RB DuJuan HarrisPackers
10109QB Joe FlaccoRavens
11132RB Jacquizz RodgersFalcons
12133RB Knowshon MorenoBroncos

This is just one roster you can make happen. Maybe you wouldn't take as many backs as I would. Maybe you wouldn't take a backup QB that high (in all honesty, I probably wouldn't, either). But by taking the players out of the equation to a degree and betting on offenses instead, I built a strong team here and avoided those agonizing decisions.

Keeping things simple on draft day is always a smart strategy. This is one way to do that.

Draft strategies series:
Part I: Targeting good offenses
Part II: Waiting to draft quarterbacks
Part III: Going RB/RB at the top
Part IV: Making WR/WR work
Part V: Navigating middle rounds

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