The time is here, media days have come and gone in college; training camp is over; and exhibition games have begun in the NFL. That can only mean one thing, football season has arrived. With the arrival of football season, it also brings Fantasy Football. As I am typing this, there are hundreds of thousands of people sitting in a draft room, or going over their rankings to make sure they have the best teams they can get.
Most people have his or her own draft strategy when going into a draft, whether it be grab two running backs in their first two picks, or maybe just go with the best player available every time and then worry about setting a lineup after the draft. Another strategy that some use is to draft a player from one’s favorite pro team or college team. That is not always the best strategy because sometimes players get taken two or three rounds before they should be taken.
The following list consists of former Mid-South area/SEC players and current Tennessee Titans and where they should be taken in 2012 fantasy football drafts.
(Note: Rounds are based on a basic 10 team, snake draft league)
- Matthew Stafford (DET) - Stafford actually stayed healthy for all of last year and led the Lions to their first playoff appearance since Barry Sanders left. He is a Top 5 fantasy QB, but should not be taken in the first round (Round 2)
- Cam Newton (CAR) - The former Heisman Trophy winner burst onto the scene last year and surpassed everyone’s expectations. Some expect a sophomore slump from Cam, while others expect even bigger things from him. This leads to folks reaching for him all the way into the first round, do not do that (End of Rd. 2/Top of Rd. 3)
- Eli Manning (NYG) - The two-time Super Bowl Champion is one of the least appreciated QBs in Fantasy Football, but puts up the numbers every year. That is good though for some owners because he might slide past where he should be taken. (Round 3)
- Peyton Manning (DEN) - Here is the big enigma for the upcoming football season. Is he going to be the “old” Peyton or will he struggle after missing all of last year? He is a risk/reward guy. Good Luck! (Round 4)
- Jay Cutler (CHI) - This is where I disagree with a lot of the draft kits and cheat sheets that I have seen so far. The addition of Brandon Marshall and the re-signing of Matt Forte makes Cutler a fantasy starter. One might be able to get him a little later, so wait after you have already filled RBs and WRs to grab “Cutty.” (Round 7)
- Matt Flynn (SEA) & Jake Locker/Matt Hasselbeck (TEN) - All 3 of these players are in QB competitions in camp, so none of them are guaranteed a starting job. Hold off on these three. (Undrafted)
- Arian Foster and Ben Tate (HOU) - Foster is considered by most to be the number 1 overall pick for this year, because of the other player listed, Tate, I would take both LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice over Foster. Still top 3 pick, but Tate will steal some carries and playing time (Foster – Round 1, Tate – Round 6)
- Chris Johnson (TEN) - Johnson had a down year in 2011 after holding out for a contract and never seemed to get on track, barely getting over 1,000 yards. Look for him to rebound quite nicely this year and is worth a late first round pick. (Round 1)
- Darren McFadden (OAK) - Another disappointment from last season. If “Run-DMC” can stay healthy, expect 1,200 yards and double digit touchdowns. (Round 2)
- Trent Richardson (CLE) - The number 3 overall pick out of Alabama is expected to carry the workload in Cleveland this year. Almost no competition for carries there, so expect good things, but also keep expectations reasonable. (Round 4)
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis (CIN) - The “Law-Firm” has a new address, but will be the lead back for the Bengals. He should not be counted on as a lead back in Fantasy Football, but can contribute enough for the “FLEX” position. (Round 6)
- DeAngelo Williams (CAR) - There are way too many guys that will be getting playing time in Carolina to rely much on DeAngelo this year. If Jonathan Stewart goes down, his value takes a huge jump, but other than that, could be good for bye week fill-in. (Round 8)
- Mark Ingram (NO), Peyton Hillis (KC), and Felix Jones (DAL) - These three players will most likely backup starters for their respective teams. Hillis will get some goal-line carries and play more at the beginning of the season with Jamaal Charles coming off ACL surgery. All three are good handcuff options if one was to draft the starters for their teams. (Ingram and Hillis – Round 9; Jones – Round 11)
- Roddy White and Julio Jones (ATL) - The only two receivers worth taking in the first round of draft are Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson. White is in the tier right below them and is in that Top 5 class. The high powered Falcons offense also has Jones, who is a solid starter as well. (White – Round 2; Jones – Round 4)
- AJ Green (CIN) - Green and Dalton made quite a rookie tandem last year in Cincinnati and are expected to do even bigger things this year. Green is a borderline Top 10 receiver and treat him as such. (End of Round 3)
- Mike Wallace (PIT) - While Wallace is the Steelers’ ‘home-run hitter,’ his contract holdout is costing him more than just money. The emergence of Antonio Brown could turn Wallace into the number two receiver in Pittsburgh and that’s if he does agree to join the team this year. He is worth a gamble because of the possible reward, but might want to grab a backup a couple rounds earlier than originally anticipated (Round 4)
- Percy Harvin (MIN) - After a career year last year for Harvin, look for him to finally surpass the 1,000 receiving yards mark this year, which would make him a starter in any fantasy league. (Round 5)
- Dwayne Bowe (KC) - Bowe is Matt Cassel’s favorite target, and with Cassel missing a bunch of games last year due to injury, Bowe’s number dropped significantly. Cassel returns this year, but I expect the Chiefs to have a more conservative offense this year than two years ago, so look for Bowe’s numbers to be somewhere between 2010 and 2011. (Round 6)
- Robert Meachem (SD) - The number one receiver in San Diego takes over for Vincent Jackson. He has Top 10 talent, but has never quite reached his potential. (Round 7)
- Denarius Moore (OAK) - Another former Vol receiver, Moore was a training camp sensation last year. He had moments of brilliance last season, but also disappeared for games at a time. Carson Palmer has had a full offseason to learn the playbook and work with his receivers, so Moore is a borderline fantasy starter. (Round 8)
- Kenny Britt and Nate Washington (TEN) - Britt is by far the more talented receiver out of the two, but with his injury and off the field problems, he might not be the best option for one’s fantasy team. Britt is almost guaranteed to be suspended for a few games at the beginning of the season and Washington will move into that top receiver slot. (Both – Round 10)
- Jason Witten (DAL) - Tony Romo’s favorite target is one of the best at his position, but with Tight End being such a deep position this year, one does not need to reach to grab one as early. Also, with the possibility of a lingering injury (spleen) there are better options out there. (Round 8)
- Jared Cook (TEN) - Cook finished 2011 on a high note, averaging over a hundred yards a game in his last three games. If Washington doesn’t emerge during Britt’s absence, Cook will. He has sleeper potential written all over him. (Round 11)
- Stephen Gostkowski (NE) - He is the best in the business, so one will have to reach if he or she wants “Gotti” on his or her team. Usually I advise to wait until the last two rounds to draft a kicker, but he will not be on the board there. (Round 11)
- Rob Bironas (TEN) - Bironas is a fantasy starter, but do not pick him before one of the final two rounds. (Round 13)
Ultimately, it is up to the owner on how one wants to go about building a team and these are just a few helpful notes for draft day.
Ben Hogan covers Fantasy Football for MemphiSport and is the producer of Memphis’ No. 3 “Best Sports Radio Show” MSL. Follow him @NottheGolfer.