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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.

2012 Draft Prep essentials
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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 .

Want an edge in your draft? Download the Fantasy Draft Kit App.

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Player News
Sammy Watkins risky in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) The Bills haven't had a bonafide No. 1 receiver since the days of Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, but rookie Sammy Watkins has the talent to be their best wide receiver since the franchise's Super Bowl era. Sure, Eric Moulds, Lee Evans and Stevie Johnson were fine, but with the right quarterback, Watkins can be special.

Unfortunately, Watkins will be catching passes from second-year signal caller EJ Manuel. The team seems to have little confidence in Manuel being the answer at quarterback just one year after drafting him in the first round last year. Kyle Orton was pulled out of retirement and handed a pricy one-year deal, and one can easily picture the scenario where he's starting games for the team in November and December.

Will Manuel respond to the job-security threat with elevated play? His best shot is to feed his star rookie early and often. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has made a career off shutting down No. 1 receivers, but he's not the same player at 33 as he was at 25. While he was a plus in coverage as recently as 2012, Tillman struggled on the field between injuries last year. If Watkins had a top-16 quarterback delivering the ball, I'd like him for a big game in Week 1. As it is, Fantasy owners would be best holding off on starting Watkins until the quarterback situation plays itself out for better or for worse.


Fred Jackson may have trouble finding running room in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Bills running back Fred Jackson will face a Bears team in Week 1 that did a terrible job at defending the run last season. However, his Week 1 success may not be as pre-ordained as that of running mate, C.J. Spiller.

Unlike Spiller, Jackson does much of his work without the benefit of big plays, grinding out his numbers by taking what the defense gives rather than providing a home-run threat on any down. While most of the members of the Bears back seven that was responsible for surrendering so many big plays has returned, the team has overhauled the defense line, signing three new defensive ends and drafting two rotational defensive tackles.

Two of those free-agent additions are Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, the two players that graded out as the best 4-3 defensive ends in run stop percentage last season, per Pro Football Focus. With those two players in tow and second-round draft pick Ego Ferguson taking up space in the middle, Jackson could have difficulty converting on short-yardage or goal-line situations.

It's also fair to wonder how many long scoring drives the Bills will be able to put together if Jackson and the offensive line can't stymie the line's potentially improved rush defense. EJ Manuel hasn't done enough at this point in his career to trust his ability to pick defenses apart with his arm. If the Bills have trouble finding the red zone, Jackson could wind up being a Week 1 Flex option Fantasy owners come to regret.


C.J. Spiller could ride big plays to productive Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Bills running back C.J. Spiller has feasted on big plays ever since emerging as a Fantasy weapon. In 2012, he was third in the league in breakaway percentage, a statistic tracked by Pro Football Focus that determines how much of a player's rushing yardage total is accrued on plays of at least 15 yards. Spiller topped the league in the category last season. Clearly, if he can find a seam, he has the ability to wrea havoc on a defense.

Spiller will be squaring off with the Bears on Sunday. Last season, the Bears turned in by far the worst run defense performance in the league. They surrendered 2,583 rushing yards and 5.3 yards per rush, both marks placing them last in the league. They overhauled the defensive line in the offseason as a result, drafting two rotational defensive tackles and signing three defensive ends.

But if those players can't keep Spiller bottled up at the line all game, he's a threat to break a long touchdown or two. While the Bears run defense was obviously porous as a unit, the back seven was particularly offensive, ranking last in Football Outsiders' second-level yardage and open-field yardage statistics. The Bears didn't do much to upgrade those two levels of the defense either, meaning plenty of broken tackles and long gains are there for the taking if Spiller can find a little daylight. He's a trustworthy RB2 in Week 1 and a must-use in any Flex conversations.


EJ Manuel will look to conquer road woes Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Bills quarterback EJ Manuel endured what could at best be described as an uneven rookie season last year. Going 4-6 as a starter, Manuel particularly struggled on the road, where he turned in poor performances against the Jets, Browns, Steelers and Buccaneers before turning in a quality performance against the Jaguars in Week 14, his last game of the season.

Manuel opens this season on the road as well, heading to Soldier Field to take on the Bears Sunday. He'll be facing a new-look Chicago defensive line, rebuilt after the Bears defense struggled to generate a pass rush last season. Whether that pass rush can be effective could be the key to Manuel's success; the quarterback averaged 6.9 yards per attempt when under no pressure last season, but just 5.0 yards per attempt when faced with pressure.

Is there a good reason to start Manuel in Week 1? Not really. Every Fantasy team should be looking at a healthy roster heading into the beginning of the season, and there are anywhere from 14 to 20 QBs worth using over Manuel no matter the matchup. But a good performance in an unfavorable environment against a potentially improved pass rush would go a long way towards making the second-year player Fantasy relevant in 2014.


Patriots claim Don Jones off waivers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Patriots have been awarded safety Don Jones on waivers from the Dolphins and waived offensive lineman Chris Barker in a corresponding move.

The Patriots will likely be looking for some extra insight on their Week 1 opponent after bringing the former Dolphin into the fold. The move leaves the Patriots with six safeties on the roster.


Jets release Ellis Lankster, re-sign A.J. Edds
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Jets released cornerback Ellis Lankster and re-signed inside linebacker A.J. Edds Monday.

Report: Chris Conte to start if medically cleared
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Bears safety Chris Conte will be the team's starting free safety in Sunday's season opener against the Bills, provided he's medically cleared to play, ESPN reports.

Conte has been locked in a position battle with rookie Brock Vereen, and despite suffering a concussion during the team's third preseason game, he's done enough to be named the starter. It wouldn't be surprising to see Vereen overtake Conte in the starting lineup, with the latter grading out as a below-average starter, according to ProFootballFocus.com, who particularly struggles in run support.


Report: Raiders going with Derek Carr over Matt Schaub
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Raiders players have been told the team will start rookie Derek Carr over veteran Matt Schaub at quarterback, reports Fox Sports. Carr threw three touchdown passes in last Thursday's preseason finale while Schaub has battled elbow problems.

Oakland opens the season Sunday at the Jets.


Emmanuel Sanders a strong flex option Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Assuming Wes Welker returns from his concussion and plays Week 1, teammate Emmanuel Sanders still will be a strong flex option. Colts-Broncos is a guaranteed shootout -- the over/under is a whopping 55, highest on the board -- and Peyton Manning can support three productive Fantasy receivers with ease.

Plus, Manning has taken a liking to Sanders. When Sanders debuted in the third preseason game, the duo hooked up for 67- and 29-yard touchdowns in the first half.

"You just throw it as far as you can, and it's hard to outthrow that guy," Manning told the team's website.

Sanders finished with five catches for 128 yards on eight first-half targets, doing most of that before Welker got concussed. Sanders was not 100 percent for that game; he had just come back from a quad injury.

Now Sanders, who started building chemistry with Manning at informal Duke University workouts, "looks ready for the big stage," the website said.

"Peyton puts it on the money," Sanders said. "He takes pride in throwing the perfect football. He takes pride in being perfect all around, in general. He makes my job easy."

Manning is going to help Sanders reach a level he has not hit before, starting Sunday night.

Redskins complete practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Redskins filled out their 10-man practice squad by signing safety Akeem Davis and linebacker Chaz Sutton, reports the Washington Post.

 
 
 
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