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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
Sammy Watkins risky in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:25 am ET) The Bills haven't had a bonafide No. 1 receiver since the days of Jim Kelly to Andre Reed, but rookie Sammy Watkins has the talent to be their best wide receiver since the franchise's Super Bowl era. Sure, Eric Moulds, Lee Evans and Stevie Johnson were fine, but with the right quarterback, Watkins can be special.

Unfortunately, Watkins will be catching passes from second-year signal caller EJ Manuel. The team seems to have little confidence in Manuel being the answer at quarterback just one year after drafting him in the first round. Kyle Orton was pulled out of retirement and handed a pricy one-year deal, and one can easily picture the scenario where he's starting games for the team in November and December.

Will Manuel respond to the job-security threat with elevated play? His best shot is to feed his star rookie early and often. Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has made a career off shutting down No. 1 receivers, but he's not the same player at 33 as he was at 25. While he was a plus in coverage as recently as 2012, Tillman struggled on the field between injuries last year. If Watkins had a top-16 quarterback delivering the ball, I'd like him for a big game in Week 1. As it is, Fantasy owners would be best holding off on starting Watkins until the quarterback situation plays itself out for better or for worse.


Fred Jackson may have trouble finding running room in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Bills running back Fred Jackson will face a Bears team in Week 1 that did a terrible job at defending the run last season. However, his Week 1 success may not be as pre-ordained as that of running mate, C.J. Spiller.

Unlike Spiller, Jackson does much of his work without the benefit of big plays, grinding out his numbers by taking what the defense gives rather than providing a home-run threat on any down. While most of the members of the Bears back seven that was responsible for surrendering so many big plays has returned, the team has overhauled the defense line, signing three new defensive ends and drafting two rotational defensive tackles.

Two of those free-agent additions are Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, the two players that graded out as the best 4-3 defensive ends in run stop percentage last season, per Pro Football Focus. With those two players in tow and second-round draft pick Ego Ferguson taking up space in the middle, Jackson could have difficulty converting on short-yardage or goal-line situations.

It's also fair to wonder how many long scoring drives the Bills will be able to put together if Jackson and the offensive line can't stymie the line's potentially improved rush defense. EJ Manuel hasn't done enough at this point in his career to trust his ability to pick defenses apart with his arm. If the Bills have trouble finding the red zone, Jackson could wind up being a Week 1 Flex option Fantasy owners come to regret.


C.J. Spiller could ride big plays to productive Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Bills running back C.J. Spiller has feasted on big plays ever since emerging as a Fantasy weapon. In 2012, he was third in the league in breakaway percentage, a statistic tracked by Pro Football Focus that determines how much of a player's rushing yardage total is accrued on plays of at least 15 yards. Spiller topped the league in the category last season. Clearly, if he can find a seam, he has the ability to wrea havoc on a defense.

Spiller will be squaring off with the Bears on Sunday. Last season, the Bears turned in by far the worst run defense performance in the league. They surrendered 2,583 rushing yards and 5.3 yards per rush, both marks placing them last in the league. They overhauled the defensive line in the offseason as a result, drafting two rotational defensive tackles and signing three defensive ends.

But if those players can't keep Spiller bottled up at the line all game, he's a threat to break a long touchdown or two. While the Bears run defense was obviously porous as a unit, the back seven was particularly offensive, ranking last in Football Outsiders' second-level yardage and open-field yardage statistics. The Bears didn't do much to upgrade those two levels of the defense either, meaning plenty of broken tackles and long gains are there for the taking if Spiller can find a little daylight. He's a trustworthy RB2 in Week 1 and a must-use in any Flex conversations.


EJ Manuel will look to conquer road woes Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Bills quarterback EJ Manuel endured what could at best be described as an uneven rookie season last year. Going 4-6 as a starter, Manuel particularly struggled on the road, where he turned in poor performances against the Jets, Browns, Steelers and Buccaneers before turning in a quality performance against the Jaguars in Week 14, his last game of the season.

Manuel opens this season on the road as well, heading to Soldier Field to take on the Bears Sunday. He'll be facing a new-look Chicago defensive line, rebuilt after the Bears defense struggled to generate a pass rush last season. Whether that pass rush can be effective could be the key to Manuel's success; the quarterback averaged 6.9 yards per attempt when under no pressure last season, but just 5.0 yards per attempt when faced with pressure.

Is there a good reason to start Manuel in Week 1? Not really. Every Fantasy team should be looking at a healthy roster heading into the beginning of the season, and there are anywhere from 14 to 20 QBs worth using over Manuel no matter the matchup. But a good performance in an unfavorable environment against a potentially improved pass rush would go a long way towards making the second-year player Fantasy relevant in 2014.


Patriots claim Don Jones off waivers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Patriots have been awarded safety Don Jones on waivers from the Dolphins and waived offensive lineman Chris Barker in a corresponding move.

The Patriots will likely be looking for some extra insight on their Week 1 opponent after bringing the former Dolphin into the fold. The move leaves the Patriots with six safeties on the roster.


Jets release Ellis Lankster, re-sign A.J. Edds
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Jets released cornerback Ellis Lankster and re-signed inside linebacker A.J. Edds Monday.

Report: Chris Conte to start if medically cleared
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Bears safety Chris Conte will be the team's starting free safety in Sunday's season opener against the Bills, provided he's medically cleared to play, ESPN reports.

Conte has been locked in a position battle with rookie Brock Vereen, and despite suffering a concussion during the team's third preseason game, he's done enough to be named the starter. It wouldn't be surprising to see Vereen overtake Conte in the starting lineup, with the latter grading out as a below-average starter, according to ProFootballFocus.com, who particularly struggles in run support.


Report: Raiders going with Derek Carr over Matt Schaub
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Raiders players have been told the team will start rookie Derek Carr over veteran Matt Schaub at quarterback, reports Fox Sports. Carr threw three touchdown passes in last Thursday's preseason finale while Schaub has battled elbow problems.

Oakland opens the season Sunday at the Jets.


Emmanuel Sanders a strong flex option Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) Assuming Wes Welker returns from his concussion and plays Week 1, teammate Emmanuel Sanders still will be a strong flex option. Colts-Broncos is a guaranteed shootout -- the over/under is a whopping 55, highest on the board -- and Peyton Manning can support three productive Fantasy receivers with ease.

Plus, Manning has taken a liking to Sanders. When Sanders debuted in the third preseason game, the duo hooked up for 67- and 29-yard touchdowns in the first half.

"You just throw it as far as you can, and it's hard to outthrow that guy," Manning told the team's website.

Sanders finished with five catches for 128 yards on eight first-half targets, doing most of that before Welker got concussed. Sanders was not 100 percent for that game; he had just come back from a quad injury.

Now Sanders, who started building chemistry with Manning at informal Duke University workouts, "looks ready for the big stage," the website said.

"Peyton puts it on the money," Sanders said. "He takes pride in throwing the perfect football. He takes pride in being perfect all around, in general. He makes my job easy."

Manning is going to help Sanders reach a level he has not hit before, starting Sunday night.

Redskins complete practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/1/2014) The Redskins filled out their 10-man practice squad by signing safety Akeem Davis and linebacker Chaz Sutton, reports the Washington Post.

 
 
 
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