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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
Reggie Bush still has something to contribute
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:11 am ET) Though Joique Bell took the ball and ran with it, so to speak, while Reggie Bush missed much of Weeks 6-13 with an ankle injury, Bush showed he's not a complete afterthought Week 16 at Chicago, rushing seven times for 54 yards and a score and catching six passes for 44 yards.

Bell was still the primary ball carrier, of course, rushing 13 times for 74 yards and a touchdown and catching two passes for 13 yards, but Bush is still a big enough part of the game plan to factor in PPR leagues. Week 16 was the second game in three since returning in which he's caught at least four passes.


Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin goes over 100 yards Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) Seahawks wideout Doug Baldwin went over 100 yards Week 16 against the Cardinals.

Baldwin hauled in a team-high seven catches for 113 yards. Baldwin was quarterback Russell Wilson's favorite option during the contest, receiving 11 targets. While Baldwin didn't lead the team in yardage, he was Wilson's most consistent target. It was Baldwin's first 100 yard game since Week 6.

Baldwin will look for more Week 17 against the Rams.


Matthew Stafford burns you for the last time
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12/21/2014) When Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford disappointed with just 153 passing yards and one touchdown Week 15 against Minnesota, I was willing to make excuses for him. "The Vikings pass defense really isn't so bad," I said while penciling in Stafford for another 390 yards and two touchdowns Week 16 at Chicago. That's what he did against the Bears in Week 13, after all, and they entered Week 16 ranked 31st against the pass.

So of course, Stafford throws for 243 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

The performance could have been so, so, so much better. He threw one of those interceptions in the end zone and another just short of the end zone. But the fact is he completed those passes to Bears and not Lions, and so it was an awful performance despite a favorable matchup.

Stafford has been one of the most up-and-down quarterbacks in Fantasy this season, but the one thing he appeared to have going for him was that he played to the matchups. Remove predictability from the equation, and he's as frustratingly inconsistent as Cam Newton.

How can you trust him Week 17 at Green Bay? He threw two interceptions with no touchdown passes in his previous meeting with the Packers this year, so if you have a Mark Sanchez or even Newton type on the waiver wire, you might want to go that route instead.


Seahawks TE Luke Willson scores twice Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) Seahawks tight end Luke Willson turned in a huge game Week 16 against the Cardinals. 

Willson only caught three passes, but made a huge impact. On his first reception of the game, Willson hauled in an 80 yard score from Russell Wilson. Willson got behind the defense, and was able to outrun everyone once he caught the pass. Late in the game, Willson pulled in a 39 yard reception. Later in the drive, he caught a 20 yard touchdown pass for his second score of the night. Willson finished with a team-high 139 yards. 

Willson will take on the Rams Week 17. 


Seahawks QB Russell Wilson picks up three scores Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson turned in a fantastic start Week 16 against the Cardinals.

Wilson completed 20 of 31 passes for 339 yards and two scores. Despite playing one of the tougher defenses in the NFL, Wilson did not turn the ball over during the contest. He had a mostly clear pocket, or at least was able to escape when things got muddy, taking just one sack. When Wilson did have time, he was able to hit on big play, averaging 10.9 yards per completion. 

On top of that, Wilson turned in a fine game on the ground. An early 55 yard run started things off, but a late 5 yard scramble really put the nail in the coffin. Wilson stiff-armed a defender on his way to the end zone.

Wilson will take on the Rams Week 17.


Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch finds the end zone twice Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch found the end zone twice Week 16 against the Cardinals.

Lynch didn't play the entire first quarter due to an upset stomach, but still managed to make a huge impact. On his fourth carry of the game, Lynch picked up a 6 yard touchdown. Lynch was mostly held in check other than that carry until the fourth quarter. On his final carry, Lynch ripped off a career-high 79 yard touchdown. It was vintage Lynch, as he stiff-armed a defender and broke multiple tackles on his way to the end zone. He finished with 113 rushing yards. 

Lynch will take on the Rams Week 17.


Danny Amendola fills in capably
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12/21/2014) Getting a chance for extensive playing time with Julian Edelman sidelined by a concussion, Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola took over as quarterback Tom Brady's preferred underneath route runner, leading the team with 11 targets. He caught a season-high eight passes for 63 yards.

The Patriots are notoriously tight-lipped about injuries, so no one can say for sure if Edelman will also miss Week 17 against Buffalo, but it's nice to know Amendola can step in with similar numbers if he does. For Edelman owners, he's worth adding as handcuff in case Edelman can't go, and in PPR leagues, he might be worth adding whether or not you own Edelman.

Just understand that, like Edelman, you shouldn't be counting on him for big yardage, just lots and lots of opportunities.


Tom Brady has out-of-character performance
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12/21/2014) The Patriots have played some weird games against Jets in recent years, including a 27-25 squeaker when they were at their hottest back in Week 7. So perhaps it's not surprising quarterback Tom Brady wasn't at his best Week 16 at the Jets as the Patriots eked out another victory, this time by just one point.

He completed 23 of 35 passes for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He was coming off a streak of 10 games with both 200-plus passing yards and two-plus touchdowns.

Brady was playing without his top target, wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was out with a concussion. But with Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell still at his disposal and Danny Amendola filling in capably, that likely wasn't the reason for his struggles. The matchup shouldn't have been either given where the Jets rank against the pass, but in three of his last four games against the division rival, Brady has thrown for less than two scores. And in all four, he's thrown for less than 300 yards.

Maybe it's just a matter of them being too familiar with each other. In any case, you shouldn't let this performance discourage you from starting Brady Week 17 against Buffalo unless of course the Patriots have already secured homefield advantage throughout the playoffs by that point.


Seahawks' Cooper Helfet able to return Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet was able to return Week 16 against the Cardinals.

Helfet was carted off in the first half with a rib injury. He was initially ruled questionable to return to the contest, but was cleared to return after half time. Helfet returned at the start of the third quarter. 


Patriots' backfield remains an enigma
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12/21/2014) LeGarrette Blount was out for Week 16 at the Jets with a shoulder injury, which meant surely the Patriots would make Jonas Gray their go-to running back. After all, he had a 200-yard, four-touchdown game earlier this season and finally got out of coach Bill Belichick's doghouse with 11 carries for 62 yards last week.

Wrong again.

Gray was the Patriots' only running back to score a touchdown in Week 16, plunging in from 1 yard out in the fourth quarter, but to say he was the go-to back would be disingenuous. He and Shane Vereen tied for the team lead in carries with six, but Brandon Bolden also had five. And Vereen and Bolden were both more productive with their carries, averaging 6.3 yards and 6.4 yards, respectively, than Gray was with his, averaging 0.8 yards.

And then there's the fact that Vereen is far and away the best pass-catcher of the three, but he was hardly involved in the passing game on a quiet day for quarterback Tom Brady.

So basically, you wouldn't have gone right with any of Blount's three replacements, and considering they were all equally involved, you have to wonder how they'll impact Blount's role if he returns Week 17 against Buffalo. Given that it's a tough matchup anyway, you might just want to avoid every Patriots running back.


 
 
 
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