The 2010 NFL season is nearly upon us. The excitement is building. The Patriots are out on the practice field getting back in shape, and I have been doing some preparation of my own: Fantasy preparation. As was previously announced on this site, PatsPulpit has teamed up with CBSSports.com to offer a generous 50% discount on their Fantasy Football Commissioner Product. This article will serve as a cheat sheet to help you draft a strong squad capable of dominating your opponents. I've also provided aNew England angle on each position, in case, like me, your team doesn't feel complete without a Patriot. I hope this article will help you select a championship team, but if you eventually come up short, feel free to put all the blame on me.
There was a time in fantasy football when quarterback was the position you waited on because you could get a perfectly good one like Matt Hasselbeck or Donovan McNabb late in the draft. This is no longer the case. Whether you are doing a Snake style draft or an Auction, coming away with one of the blue-chip quarterbacks is strongly recommended. I try to make sure I have Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Payton Manning or Tom Brady. If all four are gone, at the very least get Matt Schaub, Tony Romo or Philip Rivers with a later pick. If none of these are available and you still haven't picked a quarterback, then you may as well abandon all hope.
Backup: For a backup during your starter's bye week I like Carson Palmer or Eli Manning. They probably won't light it up, but they'll give you 200-250 yards and 2 TDs, and hopefully your other players can pick up the slack.
Patriots Angle: I see Tom Brady having a great year. You can likely wait a bit to get him, as most owners will be running to Brees and Rodgers, allowing you to pick up a premier RB or WR in the first round.
Defenses will game plan for Chris Johnson better this year, and he will not be able to match last year's astronomical numbers. Nonetheless he is still a strong number one pick. I dread having that first pick because if your selection gets hurt, the rest of your team often can't overcome the loss of production. That's why I like Adrian Peterson a little bit better for his consistency and toughness, but with either one you are in good shape. Just behind those two I put Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew. They both catch a lot of passes, and the receiving yards are a big boost.
Next are a host of capable runners who are the number one option on their team. They should put up good numbers, and possibly get lucky with some extra touchdowns. Make sure you have at least one of the following: Frank Gore, Ryan Grant, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Pierre Thomas, Cedric Benson, Shonn Greene, LeSean McCoy, Knowshon Moreno, and Beanie Wells. DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, Thomas Jones and Jamal Charles are also good options although they will be splitting carries. I personally will never draft Steven Jackson again after he burned me in 2007, and likewise with Joseph Addai in 2008, but you may do so at your own risk. Other backs I will not be drafting this year are Marion Barber, LaDanian Tomlinson, Willis McGahee and Reggie Bush.
Backups: My semi-sleepers for this year are Fred Jackson, Felix Jones, Matt Forte and Brandon Jacobs. I also like rookies Ryan Matthews, Montario Hardesty, Jahvid Best and Ben Tate.
Patriots Angle: I can't support drafting any members of the Patriots multi-headed rushing attack. Barring injuries, none of them will get enough attempts to be a viable fantasy starter.
Wide receiver is a difficult position to draft, and can make or break your team. There is nothing worse than scanning a barren waiver wire for a player who might catch a lucky touchdown and tide you over while your top option is recovering from injury. I try to only get receivers who are the number one option on their team, or on teams with blue-chip quarterbacks. Number two options that are designated deep threats are also viable. Andre Johnson and Randy Moss are my top choices for 2010, followed closely by Reggie Wayne. These are the only pass catchers in my mind who are guaranteed to have a great year barring injury. Behind them are Miles Austin, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Greg Jennings, Marques Colston and Vincent Jackson. Yes, Vincent Jackson, currently of the Chargers. Just watch, he will have a great year as long as you can survive the early weeks while he's suspended.
Larry Fitzgerald headlines the next group of number one options with questionable quarterback situations. He may be more talented than any other receiver in the NFL, but I just don't trust Matt Leinert to get him the ball consistently. DeSean Jackson, Sidney Rice, Anquan Boldin, Hines Ward, Chad Ochocinco and the Panthers' Steve Smith fall into this category. They'll have some big weeks, and some weeks with 2-5 points.
Don't forget about Wes Welker and Santonio Holmes who may be overlooked by other owners, but will really help out as the season progresses. Steve Smith of the Giants and Mike Sims-Walker of the Jaguars are two players I see taking a big step back fantasy-wise in 2010.
Backups: Mike Wallace, Pierre Garcon, Jeremy Maclin, Robert Meachem, Donald Driver, Derrick Mason, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, and Percy Harvin are players to target as fill-ins during bye weeks, or starters in a pinch. I don't anticipate any rookie receivers performing well enough to warrant a draft pick, including Dez Bryant.
Patriots Angle: If you are going to have one Patriot on your fantasy team, make it Randy Moss. I see him putting up huge numbers. The Patriots will have a lot more viable receiving options than last season, and defenses won't be able to blanket him as thoroughly. Plus he is in a contract year. Wes Welker won't perform like he did in 2009, but he's definitely a late steal who can start.
The tight end position is a lot like quarterback. If you don't get one of the really good ones, focus on depth at other positions. Dallas Clark is my top choice, followed by Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. Vernon Davis and Jermichael Finley are boom-or-bust options, the later of which I would recommend. Get Brent Celek, Owen Daniels or Visanthe Shiancoe at the very least.
Backups: Dustin Keller, John Carlson, Heath Miller, Zach Miller and Greg Olsen are all quality pass-catching tight ends who might have a big week while your starter is out.
I never draft a defense early, but I do like to have two decent squads so I can use whichever one has a favorable matchup that week. The Eagles, Ravens, Steelers, and Vikings usually have quality defenses year in and year out. The Jets are a good choice, although I will never take them for reasons of hatred. The Packers, 49ers, Bengals and Saints have been good recently and are worth a look. I like the Texans and Cowboys as the best of the rest.
Patriots Angle: There are weeks when the Patriots defense will dominate their opponents, and they are worthy of some spot starts. I think we will see more turnovers from the unit this season, but not enough to make them full time starters. Do not draft them.
Never draft a kicker before the final round, and do not bid more than $1 on them in an auction. I try to concentrate on teams who score a lot so they get those PAT points, but it really doesn't matter. Why waste your time agonizing over what will likly amount to less than a 15 point difference.
Patriots Angle: Stephen Gostowski is a great choice for kicker. If you want a Patriot and Moss, Brady and Welker are gone, Gostowski is next in line.