From the Gut
By Sigmund Bloom
July 24th, 2012

Fantasy Football keeps me thinking 24/7, but intuition usually trumps reason when it comes time to choose your team. Here's what my antennae are picking up right now:

Quarterback

It seems like we say it every year, but really, this year quarterback is deep enough to make a "be the last one to take a quarterback" strategy very enticing. No matter how you slice it, you can get a committee with two of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III.

I'm letting someone else take Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford in the first two rounds. Newton's rushing touchdowns might be unsustainable (only one in last four games compared to five by running backs) and Stafford played more games last year than he played in his first two years combined.

Michael Vick quietly ended 2011 looking very much like the 2010 Vick that ruled the fantasy world. If I'm taking a quarterback before 10+ are off the board, I'm targeting him in the 5th or 6th round and taking one of the first backups off of the board.

Robert Griffin III's ability to be a strong QB1 is undeniable. The Redskins have given him upgraded weapons, Shanahan turned Jake Plummer into a good fantasy quarterback, and even if RG3 struggles, that just means he'll rely even more on his legs. He'll be my top quarterback target unless someone reaches for him.

Andrew Luck is an underrated athlete who is instantly one of the more dangerous quarterbacks in the league as a runner. His team also committed a lot of weapons to him and he'll be playing from behind a lot. He's not that far off of RG3 in terms of ceiling, with much less injury risk.

Jay Cutler was actually a solid fantasy quarterback as long the gameplan didn't limit him to under 20 throws. With the addition of Brandon Marshall, he's an excellent "firewall" backup to a QB1 with risk like Peyton, Vick, Luck, or Griffin.

If you grab a durable QB1, unless you're going to take a backup with QB1 upside like Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Freeman (or even Jake Locker, assuming he wins the job), I'm not sure what the point is. Most leagues have plenty of spot starters available for byes and you are giving up a spot that could be used for a running back or wide receiver flyer in your draft.

Tim Tebow and John Skelton will be more valuable fantasy quarterbacks this year than Mark Sanchez and Kevin Kolb. Sanchez faces the Steelers, Texans, and 49ers in the first five games of the year, and Kolb's offensive line hasn't really been upgraded.

Ryan Tannehill could have surprising fantasy value if/when he becomes the starter. He is very athletic as a runner (excellent wide receiver in college before taking over at quarterback) and has advanced pocket presence despite only 19 career starts at Texas A&M. Be ready to snap him up on the waiver wire if it looks like he "gets it".

Running Backs

You almost have to go running back in the top three in PPR leagues, but I wouldn't blame you for waiting until the second to take your RB1 if you don't draw a top three pick and you miss out on MJD.

Almost every running back outside of the top 3-4 has a big question - Peterson/Charles (coming back off of ACL), Mathews/McFadden (injury history), Johnson (poor 2011 showing), Forte (holdout potential), Lynch (up and down history), and Sproles (no track record of RB1 numbers before 2011). I wouldn't argue with a TE/WR start in PPR leagues.

If you forced me to take an running back in the second round, give me McFadden. I'll reserve a late-round pick for Mike Goodson to protect against his propensity to miss game with injuries.

Trent Richardson and Doug Martin should get full-time jobs right out of the gate. After a few years without massive rookie fantasy impact at running back, this duo could get us back into the days of a perennial rookie running backs in the top 10. Either is a solid third-round pick.

Demarco Murray and Steven Jackson are also values in the third as unquestioned feature backs, and reason to pass on running backs in the first or second if your gut is telling to you to take a safer pick at another position.

Fred Jackson was a top-five fantasy running back when he went down. C.J. Spiller will get more touches this year, but not enough to keep Jackson from being a very good RB2 with RB1 upside.

Jonathan Stewart had more receptions (47) than Reggie Bush or Steven Jackson last year and only one less than LeSean McCoy. He's one of the more underrated backs in PPR redraft leagues.

Ahmad Bradshaw has had surgery on both feet and ankles during his career, and he had a bone marrow injection that took him off his feet for three months this offseason after saying he was "tired of surgeries". The Giants took a running back in the first round this year. The writing is on the wall that Bradshaw's decline is coming.

I'll be targeting Ronnie Hillman and Jacquizz Rodgers as breakout running back candidates once I start filling out my bench in PPR leagues.

On that note, Willis McGahee was great in a Tim Tebow-based offense, but I don't love the fit in a Peyton Manning offense. Michael Turner might have been closer to getting cut with his five million dollar price tag than any of us realize.

It was lost in the haze of Tebow's heroics, but Isaac Redman had 142 yards on only 19 touches in the Steelers playoff loss to the Broncos. He could be a major RB3/RB4 value.

I'm finally ready to swear off the New England backfield, but if I'm going to take a Patriots back at his current ADP, make it the most talented back on the roster, Shane Vereen.

Rashard Mendenhall may end up contributing enough to be relevant for fantasy this year, but in the meantime, he'll clog up a roster spot and the eventual reward is far from guaranteed. Pass.

Someone else can take Shonn Greene this year. He is who we thought he was.

The Packers aren't going to commit to the run enough to make James Starks anything more than bye week/injury filler. He'll just frustrate you again this year.

Bernard Scott looks like the best running back on the Bengals roster to me (again). Let's see if the Cincinnati can figure this out now that Cedric Benson is gone.

Wide Receiver

Wide receiver is unbelievably deep at the top this year. There isn't that much difference between WR10 and WR25. The next tier at wide receiver also includes a lot of upside. Value at the position should stretch well into the seventh or eighth round. Leave yourself some give in your draft plan to wait on the position.

Examples of the value at wide receiver - Percy Harvin was a WR1 down the stretch. Dwayne Bowe was a WR1 before Matt Cassel went down. Kenny Britt looked like THE WR1 before his ACL tear. None of them will have to be drafted as a WR1 this year.

Antonio Brown had almost 300 more receiving yards than Mike Wallace in the second half of last season, and Wallace only had two more touchdowns.

One of Robert Griffin III's main strengths at Baylor was eerie deep ball accuracy, even after the play broke down. If Pierre Garcon is the main beneficiary of that ability, he could flirt with fantasy WR1 numbers.

Malcom Floyd had trouble staying healthy again in 2011, but he finished with the best stretch of career - 24/463/4 in five games, which easily projects to WR1 numbers. He has more experience with Philip Rivers than the rest of the Chargers wide receiver corps combined - by a large margin. I'll take him over Robert Meachem.

Reggie Wayne almost had a 1000 yard season with some of the worst quarterback play in the league. What can he do with wunderkind Andrew Luck? More than enough to justify his low ADP.

Carson Palmer and Denarius Moore hooked up for three 20+ yard touchdowns plus a 46-yard reception and a 78-yard reception in about six whole games together. At worst, he'll be DeSean Jackson west, but he could be one of the breakout receivers of 2012.

Someone in every draft will like Demaryius Thomas more than I will. Tim Tebow only had eyes for him once Thomas was healthy, but Peyton Manning will utilize all of the weapons at his disposal, not just the biggest.

Stash Stephen Hill away late in your draft. He bears more than a passing resemblance to fellow Georgia Tech size/speed freak Demaryius Thomas, and we all remember what Thomas did with Tim Tebow last year. Once Tebow takes over, Hill should become the No. 1 receiver in the Jets passing offense.

Someone has to catch passes from Sam Bradford. The Rams drafted two wide receivers in the top 100, but Brian Quick is raw and Chris Givens is just an average talent. Look for one of Danny Amendola and Steve Smith to be a PPR stud this year.

Doug Baldwin is a player to watch in training camp. If he riffs with Matt Flynn, he could be the most trusted target in the Seahawks passing offense. His ability to work the middle of the field and create separation on short and intermediate routes fits best with Flynn's strengths.

Tight End

This is the year to go tight end in the first round if you draw an early pick. Either of Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski is a fine pick. Few other first-round picks will lock in the Joe Bryant trademark VBD like Graham or Gronkowski.

If you don't build around a stud tight end, Vernon Davis is a good target in the mid-rounds. He "got" the 49ers pass offense in the December and performed like a stud from there on out, including the playoff performances that will go down in history.

Antonio Gates knew the rest his foot needed, and he was a strong fantasy tight end once he got it. He says his foot is better now, so he could be a massive value sometimes even falling out of the first five tight ends off of the board.

If you get caught on the wrong side of the top eight tight ends, you'll have to hope for Tony Gonzalez to have one more good year. Or maybe a Jared Cook breakout year. How about Jacob Tamme doing his Dallas Clark impression again with Peyton Manning? There are options, but you really don't want to be forced into this position unless the RB/WR value is too compelling to pass.

As always, feel free to provide comments or suggestions to bloom@footballguys.com.

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