Here's my Labor Day final "Prepare for your Draft" column. If you followed my advice and waited until the days after Labor Day to draft (I have one draft tonight, one tomorrow night), then you will have the latest and greatest information. If you've already drafted, I'll have a special in-season strategy column this Thursday. Before your season begins, try FFChamps.com. We have the best advice, tools and customer service with our 1-on-1 personalized expert advice. Our loyal Patriots.com fans get 50 percent off for LIFE, if you become an FFChamps.com member today. You will have 1-on-1 access to our experts and immediate access to the FFCPI, our proprietary weekly rankings, our Rest of the Way rankings, and our industry-best Strength of Schedule tool. Just go to https://www.ffchamps.com/subscribe/ today. Bottom line: FFChamps.com will guide you to your bragging rights and league championship trophy and prize.
This week we will focus on drafting WRs and TEs. We all know just how important it is to get Stud running backs. That cannot be overstated. But at FFChamps.com, we have always preached to our users that if they want to dominate their leagues as we always have, they must NOT ignore the WR position. This is even more critical in leagues that award points per reception (PPR). On average each year, there are 6-10 RBs that we label a Stud. In fact, based on our most recent projections, we actually see 11 Stud RBs and another seven or even eight that are Borderline Studs. It's one of the deepest RB groups we've seen in a while. However, at WR there are generally only about 3-5 Stud WRs in a given year. We happen to have six listed as Studs this year (for our complete rankings, updated daily, look in the FFChamps Draft Kit). The supply and demand ratio is worse for WRs. Ironically, most leagues start more WRs than RBs so it's even less logical that fantasy football players tend to discount the importance of their WRs.
Running back is probably the most physically challenging position in football. Backs take a beating, often 25 times a game. While NFL football is grueling at every position, wide receivers take much fewer hits (6-8 a game), and are generally getting hit by much smaller guys. While injuries happen all over the field, the odds are lower that a WR will miss significant time than a RB, so if you are going to use a high pick it helps if he plays every week. With a wide receiver, you also do not need to spend a mid-round pick on a handcuff like you do with running backs. Lastly, top WRs can score as much as top RBs, but from there the drop-off can be much more significant at WR. The 25th ranked RB will score much more than the 25th ranked WR.
I will know focus on a few WRs that we believe have tremendous potential and value. The following article on 2012 targets and red zone targets and 2013 projections is for FFChamps members only but is a fabulous one to read as you decide on your wide receivers. If you become a member, you will win and get to read this superb article.
A few key strategic points factor into my WR decisions:
1) Are they going to be highly targeted
2) Are they playing in a great offense or a next great offense with a great QB
3) Are they entering their third year in the league
4) As with any position, are they playing for their payday in a contract year.
!FFChamps top tier 1 WRs are all no-brainers and Studs. These are Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, and Julio Jones. Our 2nd tier WR's are also Studs and are Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall. These are all easy choices although I expect this to be a huge year for Matt Ryan/Julio Jones and for Dez. Jones and Green are in their third NFL season, typically the year Stud WRs go crazy, and Brandon Marshall is Cutler's No. 1 target and in a contract year. A few other guys I would covet for value in later rounds are James Jones, who is in a contract year and led the NFL with 14 WR touchdowns in 2012. He can stretch the field, is a huge red zone target and has Aaron Rodgers tossing him the rock. Yet, he is being given no respect. How can you not take a shot here? Another third year WR I like is Cecil Shorts of the Jaguars. He is explosive and really showed flashes of brilliance last season. If you are in a scoring system that rewards distance bonuses, Shorts is a great sleeper. Colts second year WR T.Y. Hilton is the real deal, as is Andrew Luck. This is an up and coming offense and this is the next great tandem QB/WR in the NFL. A few other names are contract year players Eric Decker of the Broncos, who is getting devalued due to the arrival of Wes Welker, and Hakeem Nicks of the Giants. Both are big guys who catch touchdowns and have a Manning throwing to them.
At TE, there are four Studs on our board: Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski. If your league drafted early, you may have had a chance to grab Gronk as late as Round 6 but if you are still drafting, that will no longer be the case as he is on the Patriots roster and off PUP. Vernon Davis is worth a look as he has WR speed and explosiveness, but not over a top 25 WR. I covet the Vikings 6-7 tight end Kyle Rudolph, who hauled in 9 TDs as a rookie last season. Teams key on Adrian Peterson and Rudolph is a sleeper.
The Patriots WRs are new and young -- very young. I actually believe this could be the most exciting offense in Foxboro since 2007, with a devastating set of RBs, Gronk, another massive tight end in Zach Sudfeld and some promising, stretch-the-field rookie wide outs. However, fantasy championships are rarely won with rookie WRs and rarely with Patriots'. Obviously, Gronk is a stud, and Danny Amendola is a good bet in point per reception (PPR) leagues but he will likely not be as good as Wes Welker was as a Patriot from a PPR perspective. At this point, I would take Amendola as a third WR and if you have a large roster and can take a flyer on Kenbrell Thompkins for your bench.