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.
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?
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.
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.