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Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Final draft trends

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There are still many Fantasy leagues that will draft this week, some even after Thursday's season opener between the Ravens and Broncos. But the majority of drafts were done through Labor Day weekend, allowing us the chance to wrap up what the Average Draft Position will look like for this year.

It's been an interesting preseason in watching players rise (some of the biggest include Michael Vick, Daryl Richardson, Chris Givens and Jordan Cameron) and fall (Alex Smith, Lamar Miller, Jordy Nelson and Brandon Myers). Injuries played a part, as did improved or inconsistent play, and Fantasy owners were smart to react.

We'll take a final look at whose stock is up going into Week 1, and conversely whose stock has fallen. It's possible the guys who fell on Draft Day could end up being the best bargains of the year.

The first round looks like this ...

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1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
2. Doug Martin,
RB, Buccaneers
3. Arian Foster,
RB, Texans
4. Jamaal Charles,
RB, Chiefs
5. C.J. Spiller,
RB, Bills
6. Marshawn Lynch,
RB, Seahawks
7. Ray Rice,
RB, Ravens
8. Drew Brees,
QB, Saints
9. Calvin Johnson,
WR, Lions
10. Trent Richardson,
RB, Browns
11. LeSean McCoy,
RB, Eagles
12. Aaron Rodgers,
QB, Packers

The quarterbacks being drafted in the first round is a reflection of two-quarterback leagues. It's the only explanation for Brees being selected as high as No. 1 overall in the Hi/LO column in ADP and Rodgers going as high as No. 2.

If you take out Brees and Rodgers then Alfred Morris and Matt Forte would enter the Top 12, and that's a better reflection of most standard and point per reception drafts. I'm in 17 leagues this season and have done at least 50 mock drafts. Outside of two-quarterback leagues, no quarterbacks were drafted in Round 1 in any of those.

Richardson and McCoy have the chance to be the best first-round bargains. Dave Richard, Nathan Zegura and I all consider Richardson a Top 5 overall pick, and Nathan and I have McCoy just after him at No. 6. I would take both ahead of Foster and Rice.

It's also interesting to note Foster only fell one spot to No. 3 despite not playing at all in the preseason. Many Fantasy owners still consider him the No. 2 running back on the board despite his chances to struggle this year.

Quarterback breakdown

Newton vs. Ryan: One of the toughest decisions Fantasy owners had to make this season at quarterback was Cam Newton vs. Matt Ryan. We all prefer Newton in our rankings based on his higher ceiling, but owners prefer Ryan. He was drafted one spot ahead of Newton on average in Round 3.

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It likely comes down to personal choice with these elite quarterbacks. Ryan is considered safer because he's more consistent week to week, but Newton's rushing ability allows him to do more when both are playing at their optimal level.

Round 5 decisions: Another tough call for owners was which quarterback to draft in Round 5 between Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Tony Romo. All went between No. 51 overall and No. 59 in that order.

I have them ranked Griffin, Romo, Luck and Kaepernick, but all have the chance to be special this season. Griffin has the highest ceiling when healthy, and he should be ready for Week 1 with his knee. Romo is the model of consistency with the best receiving corps of this group. Luck is clearly on the rise following a stellar preseason. And Kaepernick has a world of potential, but I'd like him better if Michael Crabtree (Achilles) were healthy.

Running back breakdown

Hello Helu and Bell: Two running backs who improved their stock dramatically following preseason action include Joique Bell and Roy Helu. Both improved by at least 26 spots in ADP and look like high-end backup running backs this season. Bell is No. 2 in Detroit behind Reggie Bush, and Helu is No. 2 for the Redskins after Morris.

Other running backs who saw a rise in value from the start of preseason include Eddie Lacy, Daryl Richardson, DeAngelo Williams, Ben Tate, Bilal Powell and Daniel Thomas. Lacy has the chance to start for Fantasy owners this year with DuJuan Harris (knee) out and Johnathan Franklin struggling. Richardson and Williams are potential flex options, while Tate is a Foster injury away from being the biggest steal on Draft Day in Round 9. Powell has sleeper appeal with Chris Ivory's injury history, and Thomas, despite his flaws, pushed Miller for the starting job in Miami.

Ivory loses luster: Some of the more popular running backs coming into training camp as sleepers or breakouts really tanked in the preseason, causing their stock to fall. Some examples include Miller, Montee Ball, Ivory, Zac Stacy, Isaiah Pead, Franklin and Joseph Randle. All have a red arrow trending down next to their name.

Of these running backs, Miller, Ball and Ivory dropping could be a good thing. Miller is clearly the best running back for the Dolphins, and he should have been drafted with confidence in Round 4. Ball will be the best running back for the Broncos this season, and he could end up as a steal in Round 5. And Ivory, while he does have the potential to miss time with injuries, should still have several weeks of quality production for the Jets. I wouldn't have hesitated to draft him in Round 7 in standard leagues.

Wide receiver breakdown

No change at the top: Three prominent receivers are dealing with injuries coming into the season in Brandon Marshall (hip), Roddy White (ankle) and Victor Cruz (foot). It hasn't impacted their draft status at all.

Marshall is still the No. 4 receiver, White is No. 9 and Cruz is No. 11. When Marshall left the team to get his hip checked, I dropped him from No. 5 to No. 7 in my rankings, but it was precautionary. I expect him to be fine, but I moved him behind Larry Fitzgerald and Demaryius Thomas just to be safe. White and Cruz should play in Week 1.

Risers and fallers: The receivers who improved their draft stock the most include DeSean Jackson, Golden Tate, Givens, Michael Floyd, Kenbrell Thompkins and Mohammed Sanu. Jackson should benefit with Jeremy Maclin (knee) out, and the other five have plenty of sleeper appeal.

As for the receivers who have dropped, the prominent names include Nelson, DeAndre Hopkins, Denarius Moore, Aaron Dobson, Kendall Wright, Malcom Floyd and Santonio Holmes. Nelson (knee) and Hopkins (concussion) dealt with injuries, and if you jumped on them in the right spot (Nelson's ADP is Round 6 and Hopkins is Round 11) you should benefit.

Tight end breakdown

Gronkowski factor: We know now that Rob Gronkowski will open the season with the Patriots even though his return date is uncertain because of his back. He was drafted as the No. 2 tight end, and he could be the biggest difference maker this year.

His ADP is Round 4 at No. 44, and if you gambled on him there or later you should be excited. When he's on the field he produces with 38 touchdown receptions in 43 career games. He could return as early as Week 3, and if he plays 13 games then you got the potential No. 1 tight end at a bargain price.

Finley flying up: Some of my favorite tight ends this season include Jermichael Finley, Jared Cook, Cameron, Tyler Eifert and Zach Sudfeld. All were tremendous bargains on Draft Day.

Finley was drafted in Round 6 at No. 81 overall, Cook in Round 8 at No. 92, Cameron in Round 10 at No. 116, Eifert in Round 13 at No. 148 and Sudfeld in Round 14 at No. 166. I prefer to wait on a tight end, and these guys all have the chance to outperform their draft value.

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
Titans place RB Dexter McCluster on IR
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:53 pm ET) What was expected is now official - the Titans have placed running back Dexter McCluster on season-ending injured reserve.

McCluster is dealing with a knee injury sustained in Week 15 against the Jets. He finishes the year with 328 total yards.


Ron Rivera: QB Cam Newton 'on target' to start Sunday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:45 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera told reporters that quarterback Cam Newton did every drill in Thursday's practice and is "on target" to start Sunday against the Browns. Rivera indicated Newton probably will start but said he did not want to get ahead of himself and noted there's still a lot of time until kickoff.

Newton sustained two small fractures in his back when he was involved in a car crash nine days ago. On Wednesday he split reps with Derek Anderson, and on Thursday, Newton handled the bulk of the first-team snaps.

Newton has accounted for 19 touchdowns and 16 turnovers in 12 games. With Newton now fully expected to play, the Panthers have been installed as 3-point favorites at most Vegas sportsbooks.


Philip Rivers practices, expected to play Saturday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:27 pm ET) Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (back, chest) returned to a full practice Thursday and is expected to play Saturday against the 49ers, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Rivers "didn't do cartwheels out there," the paper said, but he stood in the pocket and made throws.

Rivers has thrown one or zero touchdowns in five of his past six games. The Chargers are 1-point underdogs at San Francisco.


Ravens DE Canty gets thumbs-down again Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:23 pm ET) An ankle problem sidelined Ravens defensive end Chris Canty for the second straight practice Thursday. He has started each of the last six games, but it remains to be seen if he's available Sunday at Houston.

Canty has contributed to 30 tackles and has just a half-sack this year.


Chargers RB Ryan Mathews could miss last two games
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:13 pm ET) Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) missed his second straight practice Thursday ahead of Saturday's visit to San Francisco. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, it's unclear if Mathews will return during the regular season.

Running backs Branden Oliver and Donald Brown will carry the load against the 49ers, assuming Mathews sits out. Mathews has played in just six games this year.


Cam Newton: 'I'm fine either way it goes'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:03 pm ET) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he's experienced no pain while practicing the past two days, but wouldn't say whether he expects to start Sunday against the Browns, reports the Associated Press. "I'm fine either way it goes," he said. "I don't want to be a distraction."

Newton suffered two small fractures in his lower back in a car crash nine days ago. He took most of the first-team reps Thursday, ahead of Derek Anderson. The Panthers likely won't announce a starter until Friday at the earliest.

"The truth of the matter is, whoever gets the start, the team is going to back 100 percent," Newton said.


Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray practices, but how much?
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:51 pm ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray participated in the early part of practice for the second straight day Thursday, but it wasn't yet clear if he joined team drills after watching those Wednesday, reports the Dallas Morning News. Murray's left hand was wrapped.

He had surgery Monday to fix a broken bone in his hand. If Murray can't play Sunday against the Colts, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar would share backfield duties.

The Cowboys are 3-point favorites over the AFC South champs.


Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman returns Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:50 pm ET) Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman was back at practice Thursday after missing the last five games with a foot injury. He looked good running pass routes early in the session, per ESPN.

It remains to be seen if Hillman is healthy enough to play Monday night at Cincinnati.


Cam Newton dominates first-team reps Thursday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:33 pm ET) After splitting reps with Derek Anderson on Wednesday, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton dominated the first-team snaps at practice Thursday, reports NFL.com. The Associated Press said Newton "did not appear to have any problems throwing the ball and moved around well."

A car accident nine days ago left Newton with two fractures in his lower back. He sat out Week 15 and watched Anderson throw for 277 yards and a touchdown in a win over Tampa Bay.

Newton will address the media later on Thursday. Coach Ron Rivera has said he hopes to name a starter Friday for Sunday's game against Cleveland.


Peyton Manning leaves practice to get treatment on thigh
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:18 pm ET) Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning stretched with the team Thursday, then left practice to get treatment on his injured thigh, reports the Denver Post. Manning had to leave the Week 15 win at San Diego due to the thigh injury but returned quickly and finished the game.

The paper said Manning went in for "normal treatment" and did not suffer a setback. "No reason for concern yet," the paper said, adding Manning is expected to practice Friday. ESPN.com called Manning's absence a "planned rest day."

Manning gets an extra day to prepare for Week 16 as Denver visits Cincinnati on Monday night. He has one touchdown pass over his past two games.

The Broncos are laying 3 or 3.5 points at Vegas sportsbooks.


 
 
 
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