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2012 Draft Prep: How to manage your bench

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Here's a small peek behind the curtain into our editorial meeting. When we first discussed this story, the idea was how to prepare for the waiver wire. After much discussion, we kept coming back to the obvious; there's too much uncertainty with injuries to go that route.

But what if you could make the waiver wire more manageable by having better flexibility with your roster? If you had a better bench, maybe you wouldn't have to rely on Fantasy free agents to save your season.

Sure, there will always be a need to add elite talent like a Cam Newton, DeMarco Murray or Victor Cruz that comes along every year, and you should jump on them immediately. But there's also a way to draft your reserves where you can stockpile sleeper running backs and/or receivers and wait for them to shine instead of looking to make a move when those players finally get a chance to succeed.

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We'll look at a few ways to draft No. 2 quarterbacks, No. 3 running backs and receivers and if there's a need to carry two tight ends (there's not). You should also avoid two kickers or two DSTs because that's just a wasted roster spot.

Is a backup quarterback necessary?

If you like to put players in tiers then there are four groups of starting quarterbacks. Tier 1 is Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, Tier 2 is Matthew Stafford and Newton, Tier 3 is Michael Vick, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Peyton Manning and Tier 4 is Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub and Andrew Luck.

When you draft a quarterback in Tier 1, you should pass on drafting a No. 2 quarterback. You only need a quarterback for one week when Rodgers, Brady or Brees are on a bye, and you can make a transaction then and still get someone like Alex Smith, Sam Bradford or Christian Ponder, who will likely go undrafted in the majority of leagues. Even Blaine Gabbert, Brandon Weeden or Ryan Tannehill could be useful in an emergency.

Going without a second quarterback gives you the flexibility to add another backup running back or receiver. It allows you to swing for the fences with a running back with upside like Alfred Morris or a rebound candidate like Rashard Mendenhall. You can also gamble on a rookie receiver like Brian Quick or a deep sleeper like Jerome Simpson.

You can argue that Stafford and Newton need a backup because of Stafford's injury history and Newton's small sample size as a rookie sensation last year. I'd pass on a No. 2 quarterback for these two because you could still land a replacement if they go down, but you can invest in someone like Josh Freeman if you feel comfortable.

In the next tier, I'm not sure if you need a backup quarterback for Ryan, Eli Manning or Romo because they have proven to be durable and should do fine. But Vick and Peyton Manning are a different story. Injuries are more likely for these two, and you should protect yourself in case they go down.

The quarterbacks in Tier 4 all need a backup because none are guaranteed to succeed. It's a good idea if you get stuck with Griffin as your starter in Round 7 then you should look at Schaub one round later to give yourself a quality duo since you failed to land a leading man in the quarterback spot.

How many running backs are enough?

The answer is never. You should load up on as many running backs as possible given how thin the depth is at the position this year. And you never know when someone who you draft with a late-round pick becomes a star – or the player everyone covets off the waiver wire.

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A perfect 14-round standard draft is one where you get one quarterback, tight end, kicker and DST, four receivers and six running backs. Here's an example of someone picking at No. 4 overall going by Average Draft Position.

Take Rodgers in Round 1, Marshawn Lynch in Round 2, Jamaal Charles in Round 3, Demaryius Thomas in Round 4, Brandon Lloyd in Round 5, Donald Brown in Round 6, Peyton Hillis in Round 7, Robert Meachem in Round 8, Ryan Williams in Round 9, Jermaine Gresham in Round 10, Greg Little in Round 11, Robert Turbin in Round 12, Bills DST in Round 13 and Matt Prater in Round 14.

You're now set at running back with a Top 10 option in Lynch, a top-end No. 2 option in Charles, a breakout candidate in Brown and two sleepers in Hillis and Williams. You also have the handcuff for Lynch and Charles, respectively, in Turbin and Hillis. I'd take this roster in any draft.

In my keeper league, I was stuck at running back with Doug Martin and Darren Sproles with my top two options after taking Calvin Johnson in Round 1 and keeping Eli Manning (Round 8), Antonio Brown (Round 10) and Stevan Ridley (Round 13) with late-round picks. When that happened, I knew it was time to stockpile running backs. So I filled my roster with Donald Brown, Hillis, Ben Tate and Jacquizz Rodgers. This leaves me plenty of options to go with Manning, Johnson, DeSean Jackson and Antonio Brown.

I only need three receivers and one quarterback, and while my running back corps might not be elite, I have amazing depth where at least three or four should be successful.

Do I need more than one extra receiver?

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As you can see from my keeper league roster, I'm OK with stopping at three standout receivers if you get quality options. This only works in a standard format, but you can still use a receiver at the flex spot. You also likely need to wait on a quarterback and tight end for this to make sense.

Here's another draft example with LeSean McCoy in Round 1, Julio Jones in Round 2, Trent Richardson in Round 3, Percy Harvin in Round 4, Jeremy Maclin in Round 5, Romo in Round 6, Willis McGahee in Round 7, DeAngelo Williams in Round 8, Jacob Tamme in Round 9, David Wilson in Round 10, Jacquizz Rodgers in Round 11, Morris in Round 12, Seahawks DST in Round 13 and Robbie Gould in Round 14.

Again, give me this roster in most standard formats, and I have now loaded up at running back and have a great rotation at receiver with Jones, Harvin and Maclin. I only need to play two, but I can use all three if needed.

You can obviously take a large allotment of receivers, especially in PPR formats, but receiver is such a deep position. Based on ADP, here are the receivers going in Round 8 or later that could be starters in most leagues: Titus Young, Meachem, Justin Blackmon, Nate Washington, Kenny Britt and Little.

And receiver is the position where you can find waiver wire additions if needed. In 2010, the No. 1 receiver was Brandon Lloyd, who went undrafted in most formats. Cruz was the No. 4 receiver last year, and he was a free agent in nearly all leagues. If there's one position where you don't really need depth in standard formats it's at receiver.

Should I ever carry two tight ends?

The difference between Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, the top two tight ends last season, was 45 Fantasy points. The difference between Graham and Aaron Hernandez, the No. 3 tight end, was 64 points. But after that, the tight ends were pretty jumbled.

From Hernandez to Dustin Keller, who was the No. 10 tight end, the difference was only 23 points. From Hernandez to Fred Davis, who was the No. 12 tight end, the difference was only 36 points.

Fantasy owners should try to acquire Gronkowski or Graham in the first three rounds, and Hernandez and Antonio Gates are worth drafting by Round 5. You should draft Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley in Round 7, and then there's a group of tight ends who will be drafted by Round 10 that includes Jason Witten, Brandon Pettigrew, Fred Davis, Jacob Tamme, Jermaine Gresham and Tony Gonzalez. There's also Greg Olsen, Owen Daniels, Brent Celek and Jared Cook. If you like sleepers, target Kyle Rudolph.

If you've counted up all those names you have 17 tight ends owners can consider on Draft Day. Even in a standard league where you can use tight end as a flex, I would still draft only one. You're better off using a running back or receiver as a flex, and I would only flex a tight end in PPR leagues.

There are more than enough quality tight ends to go around when your bye week comes, and I didn't even mention Dustin Keller, Coby Fleener, Martellus Bennett or Lance Kendricks, who are useful as a bye-week replacement.

Again, the goal is to load up on as many running backs and receivers as you can. Carrying a second tight end would take away a valuable roster spot, and it could force you to spend extra bid points during the season that aren't necessary.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
The heartbreak begins for Antone Smith
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:11 pm ET) After he delivered a touchdown of 35 yards or more in four straight games and five of six to begin the season, you really couldn't blame anyone for starting Falcons running back Antone Smith in Week 7, as happened in 26 percent of CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues. But those who started him had to know based on the limited number of opportunities he gets that whenever he had a week when he didn't break a long one, he'd leave them high and dry.

That's exactly what happened at Baltimore. He got his usual allotment of touches -- three carries and two catches -- and netted a total of 9 yards with them.

We may not have seen the last long touchdown from Smith this year, but he couldn't sustain the pace he was on. You're playing with fire every time you use him in Fantasy because for all the Falcons' big talk, they're not increasing his role. He played only 15 percent of their snaps in Week 7, less than any of their other three running backs. He has played the fewest snaps of the four in four of the team's seven games this season, and rookie Devonta Freeman was the only one with fewer in the other three.

Smith is and always has been a touchdown-or-bust player, and I predict a lot more bust in his future.


Buccaneers QB Josh McCown returns to practice Monday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:07 pm ET) Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown returned to the practice field for the first time since suffering a right thumb injury. He on the field taking snaps and throwing the ball during the media availability portion of the session on Monday, according to the Tampa Tribune. McCown, who was wearing a wrap around his thumb, has not played since Week 3 because of the injury. 

The Buccaneers will face Minnesota in Week 8.


Lions announce several roster moves Monday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:00 pm ET) The Lions have announced several roster moves on Monday, ESPN reports. The team signed tight end Kellen Davis, and in order to free up a roster spot, Detroit has waived safety Jerome Couplin. Wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah was also signed to the practice squad.

Report: Lions sign TE Kellen Davis
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:56 pm ET) The Lions have signed tight end Kellen Davis, a league source told Pro Football Talk on Monday. The move will give the team more depth at tight end after Joseph Fauria (ankle) and rookie Eric Ebron (hamstring) all sat out Week 7. The only healthy tight end on the roster, Brandon Pettigrew, injured his ankle on Sunday against New Orleans.

Davis caught three passes in 15 appearances last season for the Seahawks. He has yet to play a game this season.


Bears K Robbie Gould downplays Brandon Marshall 's rant
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:49 pm ET) Bears kicker Robbie Gould has downplayed his teammate Brandon Marshall 's dramatic postgame rant in a radio appearance on WSCR 670-AM on Monday, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"I wouldn't give this any more attention than it obviously needs," Gould said. "Everyone's trying to make this a story out of something that really wasn't that big of a deal. … Obviously everyone's frustrated. Everyone wants to win. Our fans want to win. Coaches want to win. The players want to win. And everyone's obviously frustrated."

After losing to his former team on Sunday, the star wideout was heard screaming at his teammates -- including Gould -- through the locker room doors before venting to the media. The Bears have lost their first three games at home this season, matching their home loss total from each of the previous five seasons.

They'll look to get back on track Week 8 at New England.


Demaryius Thomas clearly the top wide receiver
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:38 pm ET) Coming into the season, Demaryius Thomas wasn't the clear No. 1 wide receiver in Fantasy. Calvin Johnson was. And while Thomas was in the discussion for the No. 2 spot, so were A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

But with Johnson and Green battling injuries and Jones an indirect victim of the Falcons' offensive line woes, Thomas has emerged as the top dog at the position. Frankly, he'd probably be there even if those other three played exactly as they were supposed to. He's the most talented wide receiver the (soon to be) most prolific passer in league history has ever had to work with, and the two are beginning to click like never before. Over his last three games, Thomas has averaged 8.7 catches for 173.7 yards with five touchdowns.

Certainly, he won't maintain that pace for the rest of the season. If he did, he'd finish with about 2,400 yards. But if Peyton Manning continues to give him preferential treatment instead of reverting to the equal opportunity passer he was in his first two years with the Broncos, the two could challenge the record books.

Nothing against Jordy Nelson, who has actually been the best wide receiver in standard CBSSports.com leagues to date, but I think Thomas blows him and every other wide receiver out of the water going forward.


Dolphins attribute read option to Ryan Tannehill's recent success
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:37 pm ET) Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor credited quarterback Ryan Tannehill's ability to successfully run the read option as a reason for his team's success as of late. Tannehill completed his first 14 pass attempts and finished 25 for 32 with 277 yards and two scores in a 27-14 victory over the Bears in Week 7.

"Every day, practice and games, he gets better at it," Lazor said, per the Palm Beach Post. "He's confident in it. It helped us win the game."

In the past six quarters, Tannehill has completed 37 of 47 attempts for 437 yards, with four touchdown passes. He's also carried the ball seven times for 88 yards and a score.


Idzik: Percy Harvin could be 'a potential coup for the Jets'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:21 pm ET) Although wide receiver Percy Harvin arrives in New York amid rumors of multiple physical altercations with former Seattle teammates, Jets general manager John Idzik is excited to have Harvin on the roster.

"This can be a potential coup for the Jets," Idzik said Monday, per the New York Daily News.

Despite Harvin's past, Idzik said the team did "a ton" of background work on Harvin and doesn't believe Harvin will be disruptive.

"You never know how a player is going to behave, react, respond until you put him in your environment," Idzik said. "In Percy’s case, University of Florida, Minnesota, Seattle, they’re all different environments than here in New York. We have a very healthy environment for Percy Harvin. 

"It’s really immersing him in what it is to act like a Jet, be a Jet, play like a Jet."


No reason for concern over Emmanuel Sanders
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:17 pm ET) It was good news, bad news for Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders Week 7 against the 49ers. The good news is he scored his first touchdown of the season, catching a 3-yard pass from quarterback Peyton Manning in the first quarter. The bad news is it was one of just three catches he had all day ... for only 41 yards.

The performance was especially discouraging coming on the heels of a three-catch, 38-yard effort at the Jets in Week 6. Prior to then, he may not have had any touchdowns, but he delivered three straight 100-yard games.

I still say it's nothing to worry about in Fantasy. You can't expect every game to unfold the exact same way. You know the Broncos are going to throw the ball. Demaryius Thomas has been getting most of the looks lately, but if he maintained his pace from the last three weeks, averaging 173.7 yards per game, for the rest of the season, he'd have nearly 2,400 yards.

He won't have 2,400 yards, and on the days when he falls of pace, Manning's favorite target figures to be Sanders. He has too big of a role in too productive of an offense for you to lose faith in him.


Panthers' Bene Benwikere expected to get starting nickel job back
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Panthers cornerback Bene Benwikere is expected to get his starting job back at the nickel once he's fully recovered from an ankle injury, the Associated Press reports. Benwikere was inactive Sunday against the Packers and has not played since Week 5 against the Bears.

 
 
 
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