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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
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.


Report: Browns believe they still have a shot at Josh McCown
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(2/26/2015) The Browns remain confident that they can snag quarterback Josh McCown from the free agent ranks, according to a report from ESPN.com

McCown visited the Browns this week and has also received interest from the the Jets, Bills and Bears. The Browns are in the market for a starting-caliber quarterback with Brian Hoyer possibly leaving in free agency and with Johnny Manziel's status up in the air with the off-field issues hes working through. 

McCown threw 13 touchdowns to just one interception with the Bears in 2013, doing this while filling in for an injured Jay Cutler. His performance earned him a contract with the Buccaneers, though injuries and poor play resulted in a season that saw him throw 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. 

McCown was released by the Buccaneers earlier this offseason. 


Report: Cardinals sign cornerback Damond Smith
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(2/26/2015) The Cardinals signed cornerback Damond Smith on Thursday, reports The Baltimore Sun.

Smith did not play during the 2014 season after being cut by the Chiefs. He has never played in an NFL game.


 
 
 
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