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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
Dolphins to release WR Brian Hartline after six seasons
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:20 am ET) The Dolphins have officially released longtime wide receiver Brian Hartline on Friday, per the team's official website.

Hartline, drafted by Miami in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, signed a five-year, $30.775 million contract in 2013. His cap number for 2015 was $7.3 million. After registering 1,083 yards in 2012 and 1,016 yards in 2013, Hartline took a step back in 2014 with a disappointing campaign where he caught only 39 passes for 474 yards and two scores. The 28-year-old has 4,243 yards and 12 touchdowns through six seasons in the league.


Report: Falcons release longtime WR Harry Douglas
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:15 am ET) The Falcons have cut ties with Harry Douglas. The team released the 30-year-old wide out on Friday, according to Pro Football Talk.

Douglas has been with the Falcons since 2008, and had a year remaining in his deal. He racked up 258 receptions, 3,130 yards and eight touchdowns. Last season, he turned 75 targets into 51 catches for 556 yards and two scores. This comes a day after the team released veteran running back Steven Jackson, as new coach Dan Quinn prepares for roster shakeup this offseason.


Rams QB coach is a big fan of Sam Bradford
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:53 am ET) Rams quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke is perfectly happy with starting quarterback Sam Bradford, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"Love him. Love him," Weinke said when asked about Bradford. Weinke, who has evaluated quarterbacks for a couple of seasons now, said Bradford had one of the best pro days he's ever seen. "A few years ago when Andrew Luck came out they said who would you compare him to? And I said the closest I would see is Sam Bradford."

As part of Weinke's interview process with the team, he met with Bradford for roughly three-and-a-half hours. It wasn't really a formal meeting, though, it was more so the two could get to know eachother. 

Bradford has reportedly been granted permission to seek a trade, but it doesn't appear Rams' ownership wants to part with the 27-year-old quarterback. 


RB Steven Jackson, cut by Falcons, isn't planning to retire
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Though he's without a team at the moment, running back Steven Jackson has no plans to retire. 

The Falcons officially released Jackson Thursday night, with immediate questions emerging about his future. On his own website, though, Jackson posted a statement saying he isn't hanging up the cleats just yet.  

"A lot has been written lately about my future," Jackson wrote. "There are questions about my age, and what I have left in the tank. Of that, I will simply say this. For the first nine years of my career, I was used like a battering ram, punishing opposing defense over four quarters of a game. Maybe you stopped me the first five times I got the ball, but by the 15th or 20th time I got it, late in a game -- let's just say you were really feeling me at that point.

"Make no mistake: I can still punish a defense. I still have a warrior's heart. There are 1,000-yard seasons left in these legs. I know what I am still capable of, and I have every intention of proving it."

Jackson also admitted his two seasons with the Falcons were a disappointment as the organization did not reach the postseason in either season. He combined for only 1,250 yards in 2013 and 2014 after posting eight consecutive seasons with over 1,000 yards when he was with the Rams. 


Raiders expected to release safety Tyvon Branch
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Raiders will be parting ways with safety Tyvon Branch, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora

Branch only played in three games during the 2014 season due to a foot injury that placed him on injured reserve. That followed his 2013 season in which Branch was only able to participate in two games. 

However, Branch could be a commodity in what is otherwise considered a weak safety market. 

Branch signed a four-year, $26..6 million contract with the Raiders in 2012, with $17.6 million guaranteed.


Browns working to re-sign CB Buster Skrine
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Browns are hopeful they can re-sign cornerback Buster Skrine but are probably going to have to try to do so after he hits the free agent market, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Skrine had a single-season best four interceptions in 2014 and will be someone that could command a hefty price tag on the open market. The Plain Dealer reports that Skrine is expecting anywhere from $5.5 million to $7 million per season. 

The Browns should be in a good position to match an offer for Skrine. Depending on what the 2015 cap number per team is, the Browns are likely to have well over $30 million to spend in free agency. 


Colts, Matt Hasselbeck agree to one-year contract
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) It looks like Matt Hasselbeck's NFL career will extend at least one more year. 

The Colts reached a one-year deal with backup quarterback Hasselbeck, the team announced on Thursday. 

Hasselbeck, 39, will enter his 17th year in the NFL. After starting out as Brett Favre's backup in Green Bay for his first two seasons in 1999 and 2000, he joined the Seahawks via a trade and quickly established himself as a starting-caliber quarterback. 

In 16 NFL seasons, Hasselbeck has totaled 34,948 yards, 203 touchdowns and 148 interceptions. He'll be the top candidate to back up Andrew Luck next season. 


Report: Vikings, Adrian Peterson can communicate with each other
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Now that Adrian Peterson has been moved back to the Commissioner's Exempt list, the Vikings can reach out and communicate with him, according to a report from Pro Football Talk

Peterson had been suspended by the NFL until April 15 and upheld by an arbitrator. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Doty overturned the arbitrator's decision, sending the case back down to go through the CBA. The NFL has removed the suspension, for now, while moving Peterson back to the Commissioner's Exempt list. 

The NFL announced in a statement that it is appealing Doty's ruling

Since the Vikings want Peterson to remain with them, they can now reach out and hold talks directly. While suspended by the NFL, the Vikings were unable to communicate with him. This is an interesting development because the Vikings have publicly stated they want him to stay in Minnesota. 

However, at least one report as indicated Peterson wants to leave and continue his NFL career elsewhere


Falcons release running back Steven Jackson
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Falcons released running back Steven Jackson on Thursday, the team announced.

Jackson was owed $3.75 million in 2015, but with running back Devonta Freeman on the roster, it appears Jackson is expendable. In 2014, Jackson rushed for 707 yards and six touchdowns on 190 carries.

By cutting Jackson, the Falcons saved $3.7 million against the salary cap, reports the NFL Network.


Redskins sign Ricky Jean Francois to three-year contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Redskins signed defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois to a three-year deal Thursday, reports the NFL Network.

The deal is believed to be worth $9 million with $4 million guaranteed. With incentives, the deal can reach $11.25 million.

Jean Francois was cut by the Colts on Monday. In 2014, Jean Francois totaled 28 tackles and three sacks.


 
 
 
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