September 20, 2014
Fantasy football is different from reality football. Look no further than the first round of your basic 10-team fantasy draft.
Despite the NFL becoming a passing league — the 18,136 total passes last season were the most in league history — the round will be dominated by running backs. The reason is simple: supply and demand.
Last season, of the top 20 scorers in a standard-scoring system, 16 were quarterbacks and four were running backs. Even if you pass on the cream of the crop at quarterback, you can come away with a solid starter. But if you pass on the top rushers, you’ll be picking from running-back-by-committee players, and that’s often a roll of the dice.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t draft Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning in the first round. If you do, though, your second pick needs to be a clear-cut No. 1 running back.
Here’s a preview of quarterbacks and running backs. Wide receivers and tight ends will appear Thursday.
The best way to set your draft boards is with tiers. That way, when one tier at a position dries up, you can turn your attention to another position. Quarterback is a perfect example. After Manning, the Saints’ Drew Brees and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, it could be four rounds before another comes off the board.
Sleeper: Jay Cutler, Bears
Most rankings have Cutler outside the top 10 at quarterback, but consider this: If you combined Cutler’s 160 standard points and former backup Josh McCown’s 131 points from last season, you’d have the third-highest total at the position.
Bust: Andy Dalton, Bengals
He finished fifth in scoring among quarterbacks last season, but his weekly totals were all over the place: five games with at least 24 points, including three with at least 30, and four with single digits. He also threw the fifth-most interceptions.
Rookie to watch: Johnny Manziel, Browns
None of the rookie quarterbacks is worth taking in a redraft league, but Manziel might be worth a flier on the waiver wire whenever he gets the chance to start. His mobility and flair for the dramatic could lead to big points.
Supersleeper: EJ Manuel, Bills
He figures to take a step forward in his second season, and rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins should help immensely.
At least the first five picks of a standard-scoring draft should be running backs, and another three or four might go in the first round. Then things quickly get dicey. The trick here is to find value. Fill up your roster with running backs of all shapes and sizes: the timeshare back, the goal-line back, the receiving back — anyone with a chance to become a solid No. 2 running back. That’s the spot in your lineup that you probably will grapple with more than any other, so give yourself plenty of options.
Sleeper: Andre Ellington, Cardinals
He has the skills to be the breakout back of the year, and he should get plenty of chances to show it. Ellington had the highest big-play rate among running backs last season with eight runs of 20-plus yards on 118 carries. He’s also an adept receiver.
Bust: Arian Foster, Texans
Many still view him as a top-10 running back, and the skills are still there. But the injuries are, too. Last season, a back injury kept him out of the final nine games. In training camp, he has been slowed by a hamstring. Buyer beware.
Rookie to watch: Bishop Sankey, Titans
No one looks start-worthy yet, but Sankey is in the best position of all the rookie runners. Chris Johnson is now with the Jets, and the slow-footed Shonn Greene is Sankey’s primary competition. It’s just a matter of how fast he catches on.
Supersleeper: Latavius Murray, Raiders
He’s third on the depth chart, but he’s behind injury-prone Darren McFadden and seemingly fading Maurice Jones-Drew.