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2012 Draft Prep: It's always about location

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The last week of the preseason is one of my favorite times of the year. The excitement of the regular season is close. There is a rush of drafts. And it's typically when I have the most personal interaction with Fantasy owners on our site.

Every year at this time I take part in mock drafts with readers just like you. I post on Twitter a time and date with a link, and owners jump in for a quick draft. What they don't know -- because I try to make it fun and engaging to answer draft prep questions – is that I do these drafts for this story.

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I test different theories for drafting in different spots, and I attack each draft with a plan. What I found is you can build a solid team as long as you have an idea of what positions you want to target in certain rounds, depending on where you start.

Everyone has a favorite strategy they like to use, and you really can't go wrong. As we'll always tell you, follow what works best for you. Remember, it's your team, but if you're looking for some tips, we're here to help.

Some overall observations: Try to get two Top 15 running backs with your first three picks. Running back is shallow, and you want to stockpile talent at the position. ...You can wait on receiver. Average Draft Position shows you can get these receivers in Round 4 or later (Hakeem Nicks, Dez Bryant, Percy Harvin, Steve Smith, Marques Colston, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Lloyd and Jeremy Maclin), and I'd be thrilled with any of them as my two starters. ... Quarterback is deep with 11 legitimate No. 1 options. So if you miss on Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees you can still get Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo or Philip Rivers in Round 5 or later. ... The same goes for tight end. I'd love Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but I'll settle for Greg Olsen or Jermaine Gresham with a late-round pick.

Below is a look at five of the multiple drafts I took part in, and you can see how each team turned out with the rosters and respective draft picks. I'd be happy with any of these teams because I had a plan when the draft started, and in most cases I got the players I wanted.

Picking early in Round 1
Pick: No. 1 | Teams: 12 | Format: Standard
QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K, DST, FLEX (RB/WR/TE) and five reserves
Position Player Round Overall
QB Philip Rivers, Chargers 6 72
RB Arian Foster, Texans 1 1
RB Shonn Greene, Jets 4 48
WR Julio Jones, Falcons 2 24
WR Andre Johnson, Texans 3 25
TE Greg Olsen, Panthers 12 144
FLEX Donald Brown, Colts 5 49
K Shayne Graham, Texans 14 168
DST Bears 13 145
Bench
QB Jay Cutler, Bears 11 121
RB Ryan Williams, Cardinals 7 73
RB Toby Gerhart, Vikings 8 96
WR Greg Little, Browns 9 97
WR Kenny Britt, Titans 10 120

Analysis: I knew going in I would take Foster with the first pick, and it was just a matter of who would fall to me in Round 2. My plan was to take another running back in Round 2 or 3, but there was a huge run at the position, pushing other players down the draft board. I couldn't pass on two of my Top 3 receivers in Jones and Johnson based on the value, and I suggest being prepared for the owners in your league doing things you might not expect. It happens more often than you realize. This changed my strategy, and I knew I had to stock up on running backs going forward, which I did with four of my next five picks in Greene, Brown, Williams and Gerhart. Rivers fell to me in Round 6, which is great value, and I drafted a sleeper tight end in Olsen. The best value pick of this team is Britt in Round 10.

Picking early in Round 1
Pick: No. 4 | Teams: 12 | Format: Standard
QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K, DST, FLEX (RB/WR/TE) and five reserves
Position Player Round Overall
QB Tony Romo, Cowboys 6 69
RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles 1 4
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants 2 21
WR Andre Johnson, Texans 3 28
WR Demaryius Thomas, Broncos 4 45
TE Aaron Hernandez, Patriots 5 52
FLEX DeAngelo Williams, Panthers 7 76
K Robbie Gould, Bears 14 165
DST Packers 13 148
Bench
QB Andrew Luck, Colts 10 117
RB Mark Ingram, Saints 8 93
RB Alfred Morris, Redskins 11 124
RB Robert Meachem, Chargers 9 100
WR Brandon LaFell, Panthers 12 141

Analysis: ADP shows Rodgers being drafted in the first four picks, which should push down a stud running back in Ray Rice or McCoy. I'll take McCoy at No. 4 overall 10 times out of 10, and this now gives me a chance to pair him with another quality running back in Round 2, which I did with Bradshaw. I can now look at receiver, and Johnson is a steal in Round 3. Pairing him with Thomas gives me four potential Top 10 options at running back and receiver. At this point look at best player available, and Hernandez in Round 5 is the best value, especially since he's a Top 3 tight end coming into the season. There should be at least one or two quality quarterbacks on the board, but it's a gamble to wait. In this case, Romo fell to Round 6, which allows this roster to shape up nicely. We can now build our running back depth with Williams, Ingram and a flier in Morris and still get decent reserve receivers in Meachem and LaFell. The best value pick of this team is Luck in Round 10 in case Romo falters.

Picking in the middle of Round 1
Pick: No. 6 | Teams: 12 | Format: Standard
QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K, DST, FLEX (RB/WR/TE) and five reserves
Position Player Round Overall
QB Tom Brady, Patriots 1 6
RB Steven Jackson, Rams 2 19
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants 3 30
WR Percy Harvin, Vikings 4 43
WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles 5 54
TE Greg Olsen, Panthers 11 126
FLEX DeAngelo Williams, Panthers 6 67
K Dan Bailey, Cowboys 14 163
DST Packers 13 150
Bench
RB Rashad Jennings, Jaguars 7 78
RB Mikel Leshoure, Lions 8 91
WR Greg Little, Browns 9 102
WR Denarius Moore, Raiders 10 115
WR Randy Moss, 49ers 12 139

Analysis: I'm not inclined to draft a quarterback in Round 1, but I wanted to build a team going this route with Brady. A quality running back should fall to the middle of Round 2, and you should have the choice of Marshawn Lynch, Steven Jackson, Ryan Mathews, Trent Richardson or Fred Jackson. Any of them would suffice to pair with Rodgers, Brady or Brees. As I said, I want two Top 15 running backs by Round 3 if possible, so Bradshaw is an easy choice next. You have to focus on receiver now, and Harvin and Maclin are Top 20 options. I'd like to get a quality No. 3 receiver soon, but too much talent became available at running back with Williams (Round 6), Jennings (Round 7) and Leshoure (Round 8). Don't pass on running backs for receivers because the position is extremely deep. Little, Moore and Moss are OK reserve receivers, but if that's the weakest part of my roster, I'll survive. I was excited to draft Jennings because I expect Maurice Jones-Drew to struggle. Also, when drafting one of the Top 3 quarterbacks you can pass on a backup since you'll manage to find a replacement during the bye week. The best value pick of this team is Olsen in Round 11.

Picking in the middle of Round 1
Pick: No. 8 | Teams: 12 | Format: Standard
QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K, DST, FLEX (RB/WR/TE) and five reserves
Position Player Round Overall
QB Eli Manning, Giants 6 65
RB Darren McFadden, Raiders 1 8
RB Trent Richardson, Browns 2 17
WR A.J. Green, Bengals 3 32
WR Demaryius Thomas, Broncos 4 41
TE Jason Witten, Cowboys 8 89
FLEX Cedric Benson, Packers 7 80
K Alex Henery, Eagles 14 161
DST Packers 13 152
Bench
QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers 12 137
RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers 9 104
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons 10 113
RB Taiwan Jones, Raiders 11 128
WR Jeremy Maclin, Eagles 5 56

Analysis: The No. 8 pick might be the toughest selection for owners this year. By now the Top 3 running backs and quarterbacks are gone as well as the No. 1 receiver in Calvin Johnson. You are now faced with drafting either McFadden or Chris Johnson, and I'm buying in on McFadden even with the injury risk. He has the chance to be a Top 5 running back if he plays 13 games like he did in 2010. Again, look running back in Round 2, and you can't pass on Richardson's upside there. Receiver is now a priority, and Green and Thomas should serve as standout options, giving you potentially four elite players to start your draft. We'll lock up our third receiver in Round 5 in Maclin, and now we don't need another receiver with three Top 20 options coming into the year. We can now load up on running back with Benson, Stewart, Rodgers and Jones, who is the handcuff for McFadden. Manning and Freeman are an excellent quarterback duo, and Witten's spleen injury has allowed him to become a great value pick in Round 8. The best value pick of this team is Benson in Round 7.

Picking late in Round 1
Pick: No. 12 | Teams: 12 | Format: Standard
QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K, DST, FLEX (RB/WR/TE) and five reserves
Position Player Round Overall
QB Philip Rivers, Chargers 5 60
RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks 1 12
RB Steven Jackson, Rams 2 13
WR Wes Welker, Patriots 3 36
WR Greg Jennings, Packers 4 37
TE Jason Witten, Cowboys 9 108
FLEX Willis McGahee, Broncos 6 61
K Shayne Graham, Texans 14 157
DST Bills 13 156
Bench
QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers 12 133
RB Mark Ingram, Saints 8 85
RB Robert Turbin, Seahawks 11 152
WR Reggie Wayne, Colts 7 84
WR Robert Meachem, Chargers 10 109

Analysis: Last year we told Fantasy owners picking at the end of Round 1 to get two elite receivers. It worked out well if you drafted Calvin Johnson and Roddy White, but receiver is too deep this year to go that route. Instead, we're going back in time and taking two running backs, like what happened here with Lynch and Jackson. Both are risky (Lynch with a potential suspension and Jackson near the end of his run as a workhorse rusher), but they remain No. 1 Fantasy running backs. You can then pair them with two standout receivers, and Welker and Jennings fell in this draft. That likely won't happen in many leagues, but when running backs start flying off the board early usually receivers fall. As usual, my goal was running back depth with McGahee, Ingram and Turbin, who is the handcuff for Lynch, and I got Rivers again in Round 5. Wayne is a great value pick in Round 7 and a potential flex option, and this team has tremendous balance at running back and receiver. The best value pick of this team is Witten in Round 9.

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
Marcus Lattimore eager to start pro career
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4/20/2014) 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore is ready to start his proffesional career. After blowing out his knee in a gruesome injury in October of 2012 at South Carolina, Lattimore told The State on Sunday that his knee rehab is complete and that he's "ready to play."

Lattimore, who will attend the first day of the team's offseason workouts, will enter a crowded backfield with Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James already backing up current starter Frank Gore. However, James has expressed his desire for a bigger role and could be dealt, opening the door for the No. 3 spot in the backfield.

"If that happens, it does put me in that No. 3 spot," Lattimore said. "But I've just got to go in there and work hard. I can pass-protect and run the ball. I've got to show that."


Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Dekoda Watson moving to strong-side LB
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jogging
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
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(4/18/2014) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
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(4/18/2014) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

 
 
 
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