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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
Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe still sidelined
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:05 pm ET) Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe missed his second straight practice Thursday due to a shoulder injury. Bowe sprained his shoulder in the Week 16 loss at Pittsburgh.

His status is uncertain for Sunday's home game against San Diego.


Falcons WRs Roddy White, Harry Douglas back at practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:51 pm ET) Falcons receivers Roddy White (ankle) and Harry Douglas (foot) returned to practice Thursday ahead of Sunday's division-deciding game against Carolina. While wideout Julio Jones (oblique) remained sidelined, he's expected to start opposite White with Douglas serving as the No. 3 receiver.

Atlanta is a 4-point home favorite to capture the NFC South.


Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph not looking good for Week 17
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph remained unable to practice Thursday due to knee and ankle injuries, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It appears he'll miss his second straight game Sunday against Chicago, with Chase Ford getting another start.

Minnesota is a 6-point home favorite.


Bengals WR A.J. Green (arm) returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:05 pm ET) Bengals receiver A.J. Green (bruised bicep) returned to a limited practice Thursday, reports the team's website. Green now seems likely to play Sunday at Pittsburgh with the AFC North title at stake.

Even in an injury-plagued year, Green leads Cincy with 61 catches for 959 yards and six touchdowns. How effective he'll be Sunday night remains to be seen. But Green's return to practice is good news for the Bengals, who are 3.5-point underdogs.

In the first meeting with the Steelers, Green exploded for 11 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown.


Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray out sick Thursday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:48 pm ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray won't practice Thursday. He was sent home because he's sick, reports the Dallas Morning News.

Murray, who underwent surgery Dec. 15 on his broken left hand, is fully expected to play Sunday at Washington after getting 22 carries in the Week 16 blowout of the Colts. Dallas is favored by 5.5 or 6 points at Vegas sportsbooks.


Lions RB Joique Bell (Achilles) might miss NFC North showdown
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:32 pm ET) The Lions might not have running back Joique Bell for Sunday's key game at Green Bay, reports MLive.com. Bell has been limited in practice this week with an Achilles injury, and coach Jim Caldwell said only, "We'll see," when asked about Bell's status.

Bell leads Detroit with 800 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns. He's averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in four straight games, scoring five times in that span. If he can't play, Reggie Bush would start and Theo Riddick and George Winn would get increased snaps, the report said.

Detroit is a 7.5-point underdog in the game that will decide the division title.


Falcons WR Julio Jones (oblique) held out again
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:15 pm ET) Falcons wideout Julio Jones did not practice for the second straight day Thursday due to his oblique injury, but he's expected to play Sunday against the Panthers, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta is a 4-point home favorite in the de facto NFC South title game.

Report: Cardinals reverse course, will start QB Ryan Lindley
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:12 pm ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has changed his mind and will start quarterback Ryan Lindley, not rookie Logan Thomas, in Sunday's game at San Francisco, reports the Arizona Republic. Lindley hit 18 of 44 throws for 216 yards with an interception in the Week 16 loss to Seattle. He has not thrown a touchdown in 225 career pass attempts.

Arians earlier said he'd play Thomas for at least the first half. But that was before Thomas failed to inspire confidence at Wednesday's practice.

Thomas has appeared in two games, completing 1 of 9 throws. Starter Drew Stanton (knee) is not expected to be ready until the playoffs.

Arizona remains a 6-point underdog Sunday.


Chip Kelly not fully committed to Nick Foles for 2015
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) Asked about his quarterback situation heading into 2015, Eagles coach Chip Kelly expressed support for Nick Foles but did not fully endorse him as the team's quarterback of the future, reports Philly.com. Kelly said he needs to make a decision on Foles based on his limited body of work.

"The reality is the reality," Kelly said, referring to the broken collarbone that ended Foles' season after eight games.

"I can't say, 'Hey, let's not make a decision because I need to see him play 16 more games.' In certain times we're going to have to make decisions, so you have to make it based on what you have. We don't have any control over the injury."

Foles threw 13 touchdowns against 10 interceptions this year after sparkling with 27 touchdowns and two picks last season. Foles has one more year on his contract at $660,000, while replacement Mark Sanchez is scheduled for free agency. Matt Barkley is signed for two more years but has thrown one pass this season.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur sounds like a believer in Foles.

"I think we know what we have in Nick, and we've seen a guy that I think, by last count, he's 14-4 as a starter," Shurmur said. "So that's really how you judge a quarterback."


Eagles OLB Trent Cole plans to play Week 17
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:32 pm ET) Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole, who sat out Week 16 with a hand injury, practiced fully Wednesday and said he plans to play Sunday at the Giants, reports the Delaware News Journal. Cole has 48 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 14 games.

 
 
 
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