By Adam Harris-
(CBS) I am now out of all my fantasy leagues, except for one that will continue into the actual NFL playoffs. In this league, the top five teams make the playoffs, and then redraft using the players who have made the actual NFL playoffs. Scoring is cumulative (roto) style once the playoffs begin.
So, until the actual playoffs start, I have nothing to do but look forward to next year’s draft. I am so anxious to right my wrongs from this year that I have spent the past week preparing an early draft board and strategy for the next fantasy season.
Here are my EARLY player rankings for fantasy next year. I based the rankings on how I would conduct my draft, not on who’s best at the position. As you will see, I would wait on a deep quarterback pool, and stock up on running backs early.
Target Pick: Matthew Stafford (DET) – Next year you will need to draft running backs high, and the letdown year that the Lions and Matthew Stafford had will give you the ability to wait when drafting him. Maybe a late second round pick could be achieved, leaving your first pick open to draft a running back.
Andy Dalton (CIN) – With two games left, Dalton is quietly on pace to throw 30 touchdowns. He will only get better with experience, and could hit the 35 mark next year making him easily a top 10 fantasy quarterback.
Andrew Luck (IND) – This pick would purely be about value. Luck is a viable starter in standard scoring 12 team leagues next year, and possibly in 10 team leagues. Target him in the third leaving your first two picks to stack yourself at running back.
Colin Kaepernick (SF) – I guess I am buying in. Although he can still play like a rookie in the remaining two weeks and playoffs, Kaepernick has impressed me so far and his legs makes him a target backup fantasy quarterback next year.
Russell Wilson (SEA) – Obviously Wilson carries the same risk as Kaepernick, but has shown poise for longer than the 49ers quarterback. I would rather have any of the top three in this list as my starter, but Wilson could give great value late in the draft.
Target Pick: Marshawn Lynch (SEA) – This would arguably be my No. 1 overall pick next year because of questions I personally have with Adrian Peterson’s (MIN) durability, and Arian Foster’s (HOU) tenure. Lynch is the most secure option of all the running backs. Seattle is a purely running team, and Lynch could be a steal for someone at three or four.
Adrian Peterson (MIN) / Arian Foster (HOU) / Trent Richardson (CLE) – All three of these backs are top five picks for me. I would draft them in the order I wrote them, but understand that when drafting, you cannot go wrong when ending up with any of these three.
CJ Spiller (BUF) / Doug Martin (TB) / LeSean McCoy (PHI) / Ray Rice (BALT) – Any of these backs would look fine drafted in the middle of the first round. They are viable RB1 options, but just be sure to grab a second running back with your next pick. McCoy has recently caused some caution because of the lack of usage and down ward spiral the Eagles offense is in.
Darren McFadden (OAK) / Alfred Morris (WASH) – These are viewed at as stud running backs, but have under performed this year. There are too many question marks to rely on either of these as your RB1, but obviously can be great RB2′s. I would target them in the second round.
Frank Gore (SF) / Steven Ridley (NE) / DeMarco Murray (DAL) / Ryan Matthews (SD) – These are players I would avoid, all for separate reasons. Gore had a great year, but will run down, Ridley fumbles and Belichick can’t stand fubmles, Murray is injury prone, and has only shown a half of a season of production, and Matthews sucks.
Target Pick: Demaryius Thomas (DEN) – Thomas will be the No. 1 in a Peyton Manning offense for the second year in a row. This is a recipe for consistency and excellence. While other teams will target the likes of AJ Green and Calvin Johnson, you can focus on Thomas who is a strong WR 1 on any fantasy team next year.
Pierre Garcon (WASH) – Robert Griffin III has shown he can pass as well as he can run. Next year he will have to rely on his veteran number one wide out more than this year because his run game will be controlled by defenses across the NFL.
Percy Harvin (MIN) – He will create great value because of how scared owners will be of his injuries.
TY Hilton (IND) – Hilton will most likely become the number two in Indy, which has the likes to look like a Reggie Wayne of 2006 and 2007.
Randall Cobb (GB) – This year was his coming out party, but next year will be his break out party. Cobb will establish himself as the Green Bay “Wes Welker.” Imagine that with Aaron Rodgers.
I have some general advice when drafting a tight end next season. Unless it is Rob Gronkowski or even Aaron Hernandez, do not draft a tight end until the final few rounds. Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez are too old to rely on, and all the other tight ends are the same.
Obviously this list will be amended many times before next year’s fantasy draft comes around, but it is fun to look forward to the most exciting and most important day for a fantasy player’s season.
Draft running backs high and often because the depth at quarterback and wide receiver is deep.
Follow Adam on Twitter (@AHarris670) and listen to the weekly Fantasy Nerd Herd with Joe Ostrowski on Friday nights at midnight.