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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
Gavin Escobar a threat to Jason Witten?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:13 am ET) Cowboys rookie tight end Gavin Escobar, who entered the day with just four catches all season, wasn't highly targeted Week 7 against the Giants, but he made the three targets he did get count, scoring two touchdowns, including one on an impressive 26-yard grab between two defenders in the third quarter.

In all, he had three catches for 65 yards -- numbers that would be easier to overlook if not for the two touchdowns and the fact that fellow tight end Jason Witten, to this point a mainstay in Fantasy, had only two catches for 27 yards. And it's not like he and quarterback Tony Romo were just failing to connect. Witten was targeted only twice the whole game.

Witten's production hasn't been up to his usual standards this season -- in seven games, he's averaging 3.3 catches for 38.0 yards -- but just based on their history together, you figured Romo would have a need for him sooner or later. Now with the emergence of Escobar, it's no longer so clear.

Escobar himself isn't worth adding except in deep leagues of 16 teams or more that don't have enough tight ends to go around. In those formats, he's the new Timothy Wright. But in leagues of 12 teams or fewer, Witten may be on the outs. He deserves a couple more weeks given his history, but keep an eye out for the next big thing at the position.


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His production fell when rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham entered the mix in Week 4. Now that Cruz is out of the mix, Donnell's production figures to rise again.


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It was his fifth game in six with multiple touchdown passes and his second with at least three. And he did it against a defense that had generally kept quarterbacks out of the end zone, recording nearly as many interceptions (seven) as it had allowed touchdown passes (eight) prior to Week 7.

Though two of his touchdown passes went to rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, who wasn't even available to him the first four weeks, Manning did a nice job of spreading the ball around. None of the touchdowns went to his two leading receivers, Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle.

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