By Jeff Paur
Senior Fantasy Writer
Realtime Fantasy Sports
The quarterback position continues to be very deep for fantasy teams. We said it last year but it might ring even more true this year. The quarterback position might be the deepest ever for fantasy teams, causing the dilemma of acting early on an elite option or waiting and getting a solid starter later in your draft. It is a tough call for fantasy teams. The only thing that might make it a little easier this year for teams is that many of the quarterbacks have very similar value, making it a little easier to figure out when you need to act on taking a quarterback.
Either way, you will also want to know your scoring system. Every league is different. Some leagues favor quarterbacks a little more while others try to devalue the position some by making passing touchdowns worth less as well as penalizing more for interceptions. So you'll want to know your scoring inside and out before deciding when to take a quarterback.
When it comes to fantasy, the running back position is a top priority. And this will be the case even more this season. The elite backs are much tougher to come by these days. You'll have to act early to get one of the top backs in this year's draft. These guys will go fast come draft day, and teams having them will have an advantage over their opponents. There just aren't that many elite backs any more, especially with more teams using a two-back approach or throwing on nearly every down.
But there are other options out there with potential after those top guys are gone. Who is the Devonta Freeman of this season? There are several players capable of having that breakout season, including Jeremy Langford, Thomas Rawls and Carlos Hyde. There is a drop off after the top guys, so finding one of these diamonds in the rough is as important as ever for fantasy teams in 2016.
The receiver position is a lot more coveted these days, mainly because so many leagues are points per reception (PPR). This makes getting someone like Antonio Brown a big plus for fantasy teams. At this point, many fantasy owners feel more comfortable taking an elite receiver in the first round than a running back. The position tends to be more stable.
If you don't get an elite option in a PPR league, you aren't likely winning your league. And we have some quality top options. There are about 10 or so elite fantasy receivers - guys capable of leading the league in scoring. After the top guys, though, we have a lot of similar options, which is why many wait on receivers after the elite guys are gone. It is another reason teams load up on No. 1 receivers early. You can use different strategies at the receiver spot and have success both ways.
Just like at running back, teams are looking for the next surprise. Who will be the Allen Robinson in 2016? There are several breakout candidates, including Dorial Green-Beckham, Sammy Watkins and DeVante Parker. There are options out there that could break through. The key is to identify them, target a few, get a few for your team, and hope for the best.
It is becoming more and more evident that the tight end position isn't overlooked these days. Just look at the last few seasons with Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham (when healthy) posting huge numbers, point totals as high as any position. These are players that can carry a team to the playoffs. Needless to say, a top No. 1 tight end that produces similar to an elite receiver can be a huge plus for fantasy teams.
The problem is about a handful of players fit that category while most are just capable starters for fantasy teams. So if you want one of those elite guys, act quickly. You'll likely have to use a pick in the first three rounds. And at this point, Gronk might be the only worthy player take really early in drafts. There are a lot of good options behind him but most aren't capable of scoring near his level. Teams will still do fine having guys like Tyler Eifert and Delanie Walker as their starters.
We mention it every season, but the key to finding a successful fantasy kicker is drafting a kicker that is on a team that wins games. Of the top-10 kickers last season, seven played on winning teams. There will be an occasional kicker that breaks this rule, but for the most part, the best kickers play on the best teams. They are giving them more opportunities to score, making their point totals among the best in the league.
And please don't be the guy that takes a kicker in the fifth round of your draft. The point deferential from week to week between the top kicker and the 10th rated guy is minimal. We aren't saying to totally discount the position, but use some discretion. Every point does matter, but having your core team in place before taking a kicker is a good idea come draft day.
You also know that some teams will surprise and a kicker's production will be rewarded. Last season, Graham Gano was the big surprise at kicker. He was second in the league in scoring, but went undrafted in many leagues because most didn't expect the Panthers to have a high-scoring team. Keep that in mind when thinking about taking a kicker in the early rounds of your draft. Let someone else use a mid-round pick on Stephen Gostkowski while you solidify the rest of your roster.
Def / STs:
The big thing with the defense/special teams position is knowing your rules. Some leagues really reward defenses for sacks, turnovers and points allowed while others just give points for touchdowns scored by your defense/special teams. This is quite a different approach, so before ranking or picking a defense during your draft, know what your league favors. Your rules will dictate the value the position in your league.
With that said, the Broncos are our top selection this season after a Super Bowl winning season and most of those key guys returning in 2016. But after them, we have several solid choices. The Panthers, Rams, Cardinals and Seahawks should have solid seasons and are capable of finishing near the top of most leagues in defense/special teams scoring.
And there are a couple different approaches to taking a defense. If you want to use a mid-round pick on a defense/special teams, take the Broncos or Panthers or whoever you have rated high. But if you want to wait until the later rounds, grab two defenses you think you can platoon based on matchups. This is a good strategy to use if you want to wait a while before taking a defense and use that mid-round pick on another position. Getting two teams like the Chiefs and Vikings could do just as well as taking the Seahawks with a higher pick. It is just something to think about heading into your draft. Platoon options can work well with this position.
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