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Fantasy Football Draft Prep: It's all about location

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Every year during training camp and preseason I try to take part in as many mock drafts with other owners as I can manage. Sometimes it's twice a week, and it could be at any hour of the day.

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The craziest one this season just happened Wednesday night at 1 a.m. ET. I was awake, 11 other people on Twitter said they were free and we made it happen. Hey, why not.

What I do with these mocks is draft in a variety of spots in the first round to try out strategies with different players. It doesn't always work out how I want -- what draft does -- but it's a fun exercise.

My colleague Dave Richard and I showed you the different ways to build your team from each draft spot in our 12-part series, and that was crafted around a two-man mock we did together. This is a snapshot of that, but these teams were made from actual drafts done with random people.

So as you head into your actual drafts use this as a guide if you pick early, in the middle or late in the first round. And for those of you who took part in any of these mock drafts, I hope it was a fun experience. I definitely enjoyed it.

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 Robert Griffin III, Redskins 6 72
RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings 1 1
RB Reggie Bush, Lions 3 25
WR A.J. Green, Bengals 2 24
WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs 4 48
TE Greg Olsen, Panthers 11 121
FLEX Jordy Nelson, Packers 5 49
K Garrett Hartley, Saints 14 168
DST Texans 13 145
Bench
RB Daryl Richardson, Rams 7 73
RB Ben Tate, Texans 8 96
RB Pierre Thomas, Saints 9 97
WR Anquan Boldin, 49ers 10 120
RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos 12 144

I went a different route with this team by drafting value over need, and it still worked out to my liking. Normally I load up on running backs with at least three of my first five picks, but not in this draft. After starting my team with Peterson, Green and Bush, I didn't grab another running back with the next swing picks in Round 4 and 5. Instead, I took the two best players on the board in Bowe and Nelson. I now have the option of using a receiver at flex if any of the combination of reserve running backs I drafted from Richardson, Tate or Thomas doesn't pan out. But I like this corps of players as a whole, and it makes my selections of Griffin and Olsen look a lot better. Not that I have a problem with Griffin, as you'll see throughout these mocks, but Olsen is a low-end starting tight end. Still, this team would be competitive in any format. The advantage of picking first (besides getting Peterson) is you can dictate the start of every odd round, and it's easy to set strategy in building your team.

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 Robert Griffin III, Redskins 8 93
RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs 1 4
RB Darren Sproles, Saints 4 45
WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys 2 21
WR Andre Johnson, Texans 3 28
TE Kyle Rudolph, Vikings 11 124
FLEX Eddie Lacy, Packers 5 52
K Greg Zuerlein, Rams 14 165
DST Patriots 13 148
Bench
RB Rashard Mendenhall, Cardinals 7 76
RB Ben Tate, Texans 9 100
RB Johnathan Franklin, Packers 10 117
WR Cecil Shorts, Jaguars 6 69
WR Justin Blackmon, Jaguars 12 141

The only position to draft besides a running back in Round 1 in standard leagues is Calvin Johnson (in PPR leagues you can take Jimmy Graham as well). This is too soon for Johnson, so we'll get Charles, who has the chance for a big year now that Andy Reid is the coach in Kansas City. We took the top two receivers on the board with our next two picks, again taking value over need. It worked out when Sproles fell to Round 4, which is actually his Average Draft Position on CBSSports.com. Lacy makes for an excellent flex in Round 5, and we again landed Griffin -- this time in Round 8 instead of Round 6 like the previous mock. This team also has quality reserve running backs in Mendenhall, Tate and a handcuff for Lacy in Franklin. And I surprised myself by drafting two Jaguars receivers in Shorts and Blackmon, but both have the potential to be Top 30 receivers this year. The key is that if Bryant and Johnson are healthy, I'll never have to start them except during a bye. I settled for a tight end again, and we just have to hope Rudolph can remain relevant in the red zone. Otherwise I'll be playing the waiver wire with that spot.

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 Michael Vick, Eagles 10 115
RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs 1 6
RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots 2 19
WR Andre Johnson, Texans 3 30
WR T.Y. Hilton, Colts 6 67
TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots 5 54
FLEX Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts 4 43
K Greg Zuerlein, Rams 14 163
DST Ravens 13 150
Bench
QB Andy Dalton, Bengals 11 126
RB Chris Ivory, Jets 7 78
WR Josh Gordon, Browns 8 91
WR Lance Moore, Saints 9 102
WR Vincent Brown, Chargers 12 139

Sometimes waiting for things on Draft Day can pay off. I had two players land in my lap to start my team with Charles at No. 6 and Ridley at No. 19. I expect both players to be gone at that point in the majority of leagues. But waiting for a quarterback could come back to haunt me. I ended up with Vick in Round 10 and Dalton in Round 11. It could work out -- especially with Vick -- but it's not a position of strength coming into the year. The spot that could make or break this team is Gronkowski in Round 5. If he plays the majority of the season then that pick is a steal. If not, then I'm hurting a little bit, but I love the upside of someone like Gronkowski at that point in the draft. This team has solid running backs and quality receivers with upside, especially Hilton and Gordon. But the success or failure will come down to quarterback and tight end, which could be a problem. If you don't like to wait for a quarterback or gambling on an injury risk then this team is not for you. But I would like the challenge of playing out this team just to see how it would work out.

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 Tony Romo, Cowboys 7 80
RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks 1 8
RB Lamar Miller, Dolphins 3 32
WR Eric Decker, Broncos 5 56
WR Jordy Nelson, Packers 6 65
TE Jimmy Graham, Saints 2 17
FLEX Darren McFadden, Raiders 4 41
K Garrett Hartley, Saints 14 161
DST Patriots 13 152
Bench
RB Pierre Thomas, Saints 10 113
RB Knowshon Moreno, Broncos 12 137
WR Kenny Britt, Titans 8 89
WR Golden Tate, Seahawks 9 104
WR Anquan Boldin, 49ers 11 128

This was the draft I did at 1 a.m., and thankfully I was awake enough to get a quality team. I went with the best available running back at No. 8 with Lynch, but I would have considered Calvin Johnson here if Lynch was gone (Arian Foster went before Lynch, and I like Lynch better). I took Graham in Round 2 because I love his upside, especially with Gronkowski (back) hurting. Then it came down to value again, and McFadden was a steal in Round 4 given his potential when healthy after taking Miller in Round 3. We now have to address receiver, and I went looking for starters with upside, getting Decker and Nelson with Britt and Tate as my top reserves. Decker and Nelson play in two of the top passing offenses in the NFL, and Britt and Tate are the No. 1 options on their respective teams. Based on how this team started, I actually like my receiving corps in this format, including getting Boldin in Round 11. If there's one position you can wait on this year and still recover with late-round picks, it's receiver.

Picking late in Round 1
Pick: No. 10 | Teams: 12 | Format: Standard
QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K, DST, FLEX (RB/WR/TE) and five reserves
Position Player Round Overall
QB Andrew Luck, Colts 6 63
RB Ray Rice, Ravens 1 10
RB David Wilson, Giants 3 34
WR A.J. Green, Bengals 2 15
WR Andre Johnson, Texans 4 39
TE Jared Cook, Rams 9 106
FLEX Giovani Bernard, Bengals 5 58
K Phil Dawson, 49ers 14 159
DST Patriots 13 154
Bench
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Colts 7 82
RB Bernard Pierce, Ravens 8 87
RB Vick Ballard, Colts 11 130
WR Michael Floyd, Cardinals 10 111
WR Ryan Broyles, Lions 12 135

When you get toward the end of the first round, you can start thinking about running backs with your first two picks. Taking Rice in Round 1 was easy, but did I want someone like Steven Jackson or Green in Round 2. I went with Green to see who would fall to me in Round 3 or 4, and there was Wilson in the third, making me feel much better. I also ended up with Johnson in Round 4 and was still able to draft Bernard in Round 5. That group of players in Rice, Wilson, Bernard, Green and Johnson is hard to beat, and I was still able to get a solid quarterback in Luck and tight end in Cook. I also have a legit bench, and seeing the way this roster came together shows that you shouldn't panic if you pick toward the back end of Round 1. Most people are unhappy when they get a pick outside the Top 5, but I like drafting on either end because you can dictate the start of rounds, which sometimes puts other owners in a panic.

Picking late in Round 1
Pick: No. 11 | Teams: 12 | Format: Standard
QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K, DST, FLEX (RB/WR/TE) and five reserves
Position Player Round Overall
QB Robert Griffin III, Redskins 8 86
RB Alfred Morris, Redskins 1 11
RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots 2 14
WR Randall Cobb, Packers 3 35
WR Eric Decker, Broncos 5 59
TE Jared Cook, Rams 10 110
FLEX Eddie Lacy, Packers 4 38
K Matt Bryant, Falcons 14 158
DST Patriots 13 155
Bench
RB Daryl Richardson, Rams 6 62
RB Pierre Thomas, Saints 7 83
RB Johnathan Franklin, Packers 12 134
WR Kenny Britt, Titans 9 107
WR DeAndre Hopkins, Texans 11 131

Hey, another team with Griffin -- do you think I like him this year? I went heavy on the Redskins with this team with Morris in the first round as well. This team was running back-running back to start, and I actually took three running backs with my first four picks with Lacy in Round 4 after getting Cobb in Round 3. I recommend doing that if possible, especially toward the end of a round, since running back depth dries up quickly. This strategy worked out since I was able to land someone like Decker in Round 5, and I made sure to get at least one other potential starting receiver in Britt. Receiver is clearly a weak position for this team, but with my running back corps and a high-upside quarterback in Griffin and tight end in Cook, I should be fine. And if I needed a receiver later in the year I could trade Richardson to an owner who needs a running back with upside, which is exactly what Richardson is as a flex option coming into the season.

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 .

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Player News
Jets tweak roster
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:32 pm ET) The Jets signed free agent cornerback Phillip Adams and claimed receiver Walt Powell off waivers from the Cardinals. New York also waived receiver Quincy Enunwa, who likely will be placed on the practice squad.

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It's not a concern for Thomas, one of three tight ends to catch a touchdown against the Colts in 2013. In Week 7 at Indy, Thomas caught five of six targets for 41 yards and the score.

That was one of 12 touchdowns Thomas scored in his breakout season. The 26-year-old showed he's not satisfied by taking a diligent offseason approach, according to the Denver Post.

"He's going to be a very special player," former Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen said. "It was fun to watch him grow up last season. In this offseason, he really impressed me with his attitude and work ethic and how hungry he was."

Thomas drew 17 red-zone targets last year. With Eric Decker's departure, the 6-5, 250-pound Thomas should see a few more this season. He's a top-3 play Sunday night.


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Hurns took advantage of extra reps due to injuries and "worked his way into the top three spots," the report said.


Cowboys make roster moves
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(4:36 pm ET) The Cowboys waived defensive back Jemea Thomas and signed linebacker Korey Toomer.

Rams claim Case Keenum
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:31 pm ET) The Rams claimed quarterback Case Keenum off waivers from the Texans, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter.


Demaryius Thomas needs better performance vs. Vontae Davis
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(4:27 pm ET) Broncos No. 1 receiver Demaryius Thomas dominated most cornerbacks last year. That was not the case with Vontae Davis.

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Seahawks activate Bruce Irvin
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Ben Tate figures to play on all three downs
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(3:31 pm ET) The Browns need Ben Tate to be a three-down running back, reports ESPN.com. And coach Mike Pettine is comfortable Tate can handle that big of a role.

Behind Tate, the Browns have three rookie running backs. Top rookie Terrance West struggled in the preseason.

"He's ahead of those guys, and I think he's been solid in protection," Pettine told the website. "I think he does a nice job catching the ball. I would think that he has the edge over those guys as far as third down. That's not saying they won't be there, but probably the guy you can trust the most right now is Ben."


Manti Te'o returns to practice
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(3:05 pm ET) The Miami Herald asserts "it is clear" Knowshon Moreno is the Dolphins' lead running back and that Lamar Miller is the No. 2 back. Miller had a chance to seize the job this preseason but averaged 3.4 yards per carry.

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"I've seen lots on the practice field that tells me where we're headed with Lamar and I feel very good about his ability to be productive," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. "But if you're talking about the preseason games, his production needs to improve."


 
 
 
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