Fantasy football 2014 draft strategies: Late first-round picks
One thing we know about all fantasy football drafts is that there will be an element of unpredictability. All it takes is one or two rogue picks to send your draft hurtling in a direction that you did not expect. That’s why you have to head into any draft with a few strategies upon which you can rely. This week, we’ll take a look at certain strategies that can help you hoist the fantasy hardware in December. Some will pertain to specific draft slots, while others will apply regardless of where you fall in your draft. The first installment falls into the former category, looking at the best course of action for those selecting at or near the end of the first round.
FANTASY FOOTBALL POSITION RANKINGS AND PROJECTIONS:
Unless you’re new in these parts, you’re well aware of the writer’s affinity for wide receivers this season. After the top six running backs, there are a lot of question marks at fantasy's most coveted position. By contrast, the first two tiers of receivers go 10-deep, and the seven guys in the first tier all feel like locks to meet or exceed their draft-day prices. It was just one year ago that Doug Martin (second), Arian Foster (fourth), C.J. Spiller (fifth), Trent Richardson (eighth) and Ray Rice (ninth) were selected in the top 10 in a typical draft. We know what happened to all of them last year. In that same typical draft, the person with the ninth pick took Rice and Steven Jackson with his first two picks. That might have worked out great five years ago, but the NFL of last decade is no longer. Meanwhile, A.J. Green had an average draft position of 17.8 in 2013. Brandon Marshall’s ADP was 23.7. Demaryius Thomas’ was at 26.1. Each of those receivers finished among the top-12 non-quarterback scorers a year ago.
Owners picking at the end of the first round in a 10- or 12-team draft would be wise to learn a lesson from last season. Calvin Johnson will likely be off the board by the sixth or seventh pick, but most, if not all, of the next six receivers – Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green, Jordy Nelson, Julio Jones and Dez Bryant, in some order – are likely to be available. Let’s break down why grabbing two of these guys makes more sense than taking, say, backs like DeMarco Murray and Giovani Bernard.
Sports Illustrated's lead fantasy writer Michael Beller reveals his top three picks headed into the 2014 fantasy football season.
When we do a postmortem of the season, the top-10 backs are likely to be a combination of the ones we consider elite right now and middle- or late-round picks that make a leap or come from out of nowhere. Last year’s top 10 in points per game included Murray, (27.4 ADP), Lacy (29.4) and Knowshon Moreno (99.8). In 2012, Martin (25.4), Alfred Morris (144.8), Spiller (98.6) and Stevan Ridley (56) all finished in the top 10, while preseason darlings being taken in the late-first or early-second round like Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew and Murray busted for their owners. It’s a spot that has proven to be fraught with peril for running backs. Why even mess with that when the receivers are so rock-solid?
We have stressed time and again the importance of locking in high floors early in fantasy football drafts. You probably aren’t going to win your league in the first two rounds, but you can lose it with whiff on the order of 2013 Trent Richardson. The best way to insulate yourself against such a bust is to focus on the crop of receivers that look to be as close to bust-proof as possible. When they’re all going for 1,200-plus yards and somewhere between eight and 14 touchdowns this season, you’ll thank us.
Sports Illustrated's lead fantasy writer Michael Beller unveils three players to stay away from this year.