Draft Day Basics – the Top Five Fantasy Football Players

Fall is in the air – not!

Actually, NFL training camps are open, pre-season games are underway, and Labor Day is just around the corner. Fall cometh! It’s my favorite time of year because it signals the regular season kick-off of my favorite sport, football. I love all sports – basketball, baseball and hockey – but football is by far the best sport on the planet; all others simply fill time until football season rolls back around.

The excitement of the football season is enhanced for millions through fantasy football – where even hapless dopes like me can experience the thrill of owning and operating an NFL franchise. This blog will follow and cover football from the fantasy perspective with reports on topics related to all things fantasy ... football.

We'll talk some fact, theory and opinion. I'll give you advice (some of it good!) as to my player/ position rankings, drafting, line ups, philosophy and anything else germane to this fine obsession.

Unlike other fantasy football blogs/articles, I will gladly recap my missed calls and own up to any bad advice that I may have provided. Fantasy football is a little bit of skill and knowledge with large doses of luck. As for my advice - please feel free to weigh in and agree or disagree; it’s part of what makes this all so much fun.

So - let’s kick off the process with my top five players if the draft were held today.

1.LeSean McCoy (running back, Philadelphia) – it’s Shady's second year in coach Chip Kelly's pinball machine offense and he’s my top guy. The Eagles lost WR Desean Jackson but I doubt that will slow down their offense. Additionally, QB Nick Foles (from Westlake High School in Austin, Texas - the same school that produced Drew Brees) has another year of experience in this offensive scheme. Look for big numbers from Shady and the whole Philly O.

2. Adrian Peterson (running back, Minnesota) – he’s more than a year removed from knee injury, and I expect him to be even better than in last year’s amazing comeback season. (If you said, “What knee surgery?” that means you don’t know he had major surgery, and if you don’t know that, let me suggest you start playing fantasy in a league with a low entry fee!) In any event, I expect him to be even better than he was in last year’s post-operation campaign. The Vikes’ QB (most likely Matt Cassel) will be solid enough and I have two words for ya when it comes to the Minnesota offense - Norv Turner. Look for the Vikings to have a good year.

3. Jamal Charles (running back, Kansas City) – most mock drafts have Jamal going number one or two at the latest but I'm just not sold that the KC offense can do as well this year as they did last year – and Jamal IS the KC offense. (BTW - apologies to Jamal for this #3 ranking as he is one of my beloved Texas Longhorns).

Okay, Disclaimer Time: picks 1, 2 & 3 are really 1a, 1b and 1c as far as I'm concerned. These guys are almost interchangeable. If you get to choose any of the above players, you have a big advantage in terms of winning your league.

Disclaimer 2- I am following what has been a tradition in FFL in picking three running backs with the first three picks BUT… the NFL is evolving into more of a passing league than ever before. In years past, running backs always warranted the top spots. In today's league, with its pass-friendly rules and subsequent schemes, the big picture’s changing – just not on my team or in my drafting process.

Disclaimer 3 – even though Disclaimer 2 is true...well, let’s jump forward to the next pick.

4. Matt Forte (yep: running back, Chicago) – I love this guy and always have. I drafted him when he was a rookie out of Tulane and I've been partial to him since. He’s a very good runner and a terrific receiver out of the backfield. I think the Chicago offense will be even better than last year's version. (Okay, then, we’ll call him 1d.)

So, yes, you can ask: how is this happening if it’s true if the league’s becoming more pass-centric?

Because fantasy owners talk about taking QBs and receivers earlier – but they won’t.

Now that we have that established, your next pick is where you start making or breaking your draft and putting your stamp on your own team. There are still several talented players that deserve to be ranked in the top five – but there can only one fifth pick. Is it time to take the first wide receiver? Detroit’s Calvin “Megatron” Johnson? Or the Bengals’ A.J. Green or the Bears’ Brandon Marshall?

Or maybe you should continue the running back flurry with Eddie Lacey!

Or is Jimmy Graham, the New Orleans tight end, worth the fifth pick?

Oh, and remember quarterbacks? What about Peyton Manning? He threw 55 TDs last year...

Disclaimer 4 – make sure you know and understand how your league's scoring system is structured. This blog will assume a 10- or 12-team format in which players earn a half point per reception -- PPR. As we've established, the NFL is becoming more pass/ big play centric. So, while my top four players have big value as running backs, three of them also catch a lot of passes. Peterson’s the exception, but with Turner as the new offensive coordinator, that will probably change.

Okay. Next!

5. Calvin Johnson (wide receiver, Detroit) – I’ve got to go with Johnson. He’ll catch another million passes and probably get you 10 TDs. Believe it or not, it’s still hard for me to pass on a running back with this pick but, frankly, Megatron is the best receiver in the league and I expect he’ll have another big season. Plus: QB Matt Stafford has another year under his belt, the Lions have two solid running options in Reggie Bush and Joique Bell and, courtesy of a free agent move, they’ve added wide receiver Golden Tate. He’ll line-up opposite Johnson and take some pressure off the big guy. Important: if your league is NOT a PPR, then it might be time to take (yet another!) running back here.

Those are my Top 5 – and I’ll sleep well with these choices. BUT- when it’s time to draft, remember: it’s your team and only you can make the choices. By having a plan and knowing which way you want to go, start to finish, you’ll go a long way towards building a team you’ll be happy with.

What do you think of my advice so far? There are hundreds of publications – both print and online – and the amount of information can be a bit overwhelming. I think my advice is right on, and to prove it, let’s just say I'm undefeated so far this year! Please feel free to weigh in and give me your opinion. I don’t mind if you disagree with me. I'm married, so I'm used to it. Post a comment and let me know what you think.

Here's to another year of acting like a billionaire without the tax implications!

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