The stud running back theory.
Remember that? Eons ago -- OK, 12-15 years ago -- my advice to newbie fantasy football players was to do anything in your power to acquire two stud running backs in the first two rounds of your draft.
The NFL has become such a pass-heavy league, with a record nine quarterbacks throwing for more than 4,000 yards last season, that it's imperative to ... draft a stud QB?
No! It's imperative to draft at least one -- and possibly two -- of the top pass-catchers in the league.
The short list in my mind includes: Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Saints TE Jimmy Graham and perhaps Jordy Nelson.
Grabbing two of them gives you an amazing anchor to your team. At RB, you can still grab a solid one in Reggie Bush or Frank Gore, and fill in your No. 2-4 RB holes with any combination of guys who have the potential to explode.
As for a quarterback, wait until nearly everyone else has one and there will still be a Jay Cutler, Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson on the board.
Now, of course, not everybody is going to get two of those WRs -- and some of you won't follow that advice at all -- so let's take a quick look at four receivers I believe will exceed their expectations to produce solid week-to-week numbers.
1. Seattle's Percy Harvin (average draft position: 51). If I had some real guts, I'd rank Harvin as a top-10 receiver. Alas, I wimped out a bit and put him at 12. Harvin has yet to score more than 7 TDs in a season and hasn't come close to playing a full season since 2011. But he looks awfully good and has the talent to easily score eight times while posting a 1,200-yard season.
2. Indy's T.Y. Hilton (ADP: 69). Yes, Hakeem Nicks is on board and Reggie Wayne returns after suffering a torn ACL last year. Hilton, though, figures to slightly better his numbers from last year (82-1,083-5) thanks to Andrew Luck's continued development and the fact the Colts are going to be running a no-huddle offense that will keep scoreboard operators awfully busy.
3. Jeremy Maclin (ADP: 73). DeSean Jackson's gone. Nick Foles is one of the hottest young QBs in the game. Eagles coach Chip Kelly wants his team to run as many plays as possible. And in the pre-Kelly offense, Maclin averaged 67 catches, 893 yards and 7.3 TDs. Trust me when I say that he'll be one of the better WR2s in fantasy.
4. Marques Colston (ADP 77). It was definitely a down year for Colston in 2013 and he's not going to run by any corners this year either. But on a high-octane offense like the Saints, the veteran is a good bet for 6-7 TDs and at least 1,000 yards.
Last-minute advice: When you are stuck in the middle rounds debating on two or three different receivers, take the one who is on the higher-scoring team. The second -- and sometimes third -- receivers on Denver, New England, Philadelphia, Dallas, Cincinnati, Green Bay and New Orleans offer much more upside than anybody on Cleveland, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Carolina, St. Louis or Oakland. Guys like Emmanuel Sanders, Danny Amendola, Riley Cooper, Terrance Williams, Jarrett Boykin and Kenny Stills will have many more opportunities to score than anybody on a team with a wretched quarterback.
Tight ends: Death, taxes and Jimmy Graham. There are fewer sure-fire bets in fantasy football than the Saints' TE producing big numbers by season's end. I have no problem with owners using a late first- or early second-round pick on him.
The next three guys -- Vernon Davis, Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski -- are going to fight it out for second place. Gronk would nearly be a lock to win, but his injury history makes me extremely gun shy.
If you don't get one of the top four, concentrate on building WR or RB depth and leave the TE spot until the 10th-12th rounds (or even later if you want). In those rounds, expect to see Kyle Rudolph, Martellus Bennett and / or Jordan Reed on the board.
Those of you wanting a second TE or a keeper possibility, I love the Chargers' Ladarius Green. Once Antonio Gates is out of the picture, Green will walk right into top-5 TE territory. Also keep an eye on the Eagles' Zach Ertz, the Lions Eric Ebron and the Colts' Dwayne Allen.
John Dietz ranks the wide receivers
Player, team Projected Projected Comment
Cream of the crop
1. Calvin Johnson, Lions 1,450-1,700 11-15 Only one w/150+ targets last 3 yrs.
2. De. Thomas, Broncos 1,325-1,450 11-13 13 100-yard games last 2 years
3. A.J. Green, Bengals 1,300-1,500 10-12 As consistent as they come
4. Dez Bryant, Cowboys 1,250-1,425 10-13 Most TDs among WRs last 2 years
Still rock solid
5. B. Marshall, BEARS 1,325-1,450 9-11 Avg. 5 yrs. w/Cutler: 105-1,303-9.2
6. Julio Jones, Falcons 1,250-1,400 8-10 Pace after 5 games: 131-1,856-6
7. Jordy Nelson, Packers 1,250-1,350 8-11 Only 1 TD last 9 games
8. Alshon Jeffery, BEARS 1,275-1,375 8-10 Had better numbers with McCown
9. Antonio Brown, Steelers 1,250-1,400 7-9 Only Josh Gordon had more yards
10. Vincent Jackson, Bucs 1,250-1,350 8-9 24 TDs last three seasons
11. Keenan Allen, Chargers 1,175-1,275 8-10 5 TDs last four games of 2013
12. Percy Harvin, Seahawks 1,000-1,100 9-11 If healthy, career year coming
13. T.Y. Hilton, Colts 1,175-1,300 6-9 Five games of 120-plus yards
14. Jereymy Maclin, Eagles 1,100-1,275 7-9 Should thrive with Jackson gone
15. Randall Cobb, Packers 1,000-1,150 7-9 Looking for first 1,000-yard season
16. Andre Johnson, Texans 1,200-1,300 5-8 73 catches for 1,000 in career
17. C. Patterson, Vikings 800-900* 8-10 Could get 90 touches
18. Marques Colston, Saints 1,075-1,175 7-10 Tied career low TDs last year (5)
19. Roddy White, Falcons 1,100-1,250 5-8 He'll bounce back
20. Larry Fitzgerald, Cards 975-1,100 7-9 Avg. 7.0 TDs last four seasons
A notch below ... but no worries yet
21. DeSean Jackson, Skins 1,100-1,200 6-8 RG3 scares me right now
22. Victor Cruz, Giants 1,050-1,175 6-9 No TDs after Week 4
23. Pierre Garcon, Skins 1,100-1,250 5-7 5 or more catches EVERY GAME!
24. Torrey Smith, Ravens 1,050-1,175 5-8 Explosive potential
25. Golden Tate, Lions 975-1,175 6-8 Numbers could soar with Stafford
26. Em. Sanders, Broncos 875-1,200 5-10 Welker's concussion clouds issue
27. Reggie Wayne, Colts 1,000-1,200 5-7 Luck will rely on veteran
28. Eric Decker, Jets 950-1,125 6-8 How will he fare as team No. 1 WR?
29. Michael Crabtree, Niners 950-1,100 6-8 NIners O needs to get it in gear
30. Kendall Wright, Titans 1,100-1,200 4-7 Much better in PPR formats
31. Anquan Boldin, Niners 1,050-1,150 5-7 Most yards (1,179) since '06
32. Michael Floyd, Cards 975-1,125 6-7 38% of yards came in 3 games
33. Mike Wallace, Dolphins 950-1,050 6-7 4 TDs in last six games
34. Wes Welker, Broncos 600-1,200 4-10 VERY RISKY PICK (concussion)
35. Julian Edelman, Pats 950-1,100 5-6 Targeted 151 times last season
36. Ter. Williams, Cowboys 875-1,025 5-7 3rd among rookie WRS in fant. pts.
37. Markus Wheaton, Steelers 875-1,075 4-7 Unproven but talent is there
38. Mike Evans, Bucs 825-1,000 4-7 Rookie an intriguing pick
39. Kenny Stills, Saints 800-1,000 5-7 On this offense, worth a look
40. Riley Cooper, Eagles 825-925 5-7 5 of 8 TDs came in two games
The next 15: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans; Sammy Watkins, Bills; Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs; Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers; Brian Hartline, Dolphins; Doug Baldwin, Seahawks; Nate Washington, TItans; Justin Hunter, Titans; Cecil Shorts, Jaguars; Steve Smith, Ravens; Hakeem Nicks, Colts; Greg Jennings, Vikings; Danny Amendola, Patriots; Rueben Randle, Giants; Tavon Austin, Rams
John Dietz ranks the tight ends
Player, team Projected Projected Comment
Cream of the crop
1. Jimmy Graham, Saints 1,100-1,275 11-14 Avg. last 3: 90-1,169-12.0. WOW!
2. Vernon Davis, Niners 800-925 7-10 Avg. last 5: 815 yards, 8.8 TDs
3. Julius Thomas, Broncs 750-800 8-10 Neck and neck with Davis
4. Rob Gronkowski, Pats 775-1,050 7-12 Do you trust him to play all year?
Still solid fantasy starters
5. Jason Witten, Cowboys 875-975 5-7 TDs last 5: 8-3-5-9-2
6. Greg Olsen, Panthers 775-850 5-7 800-plus yards last two
7. Kyle Rudolph, Vikings 650-725 6-8 Should eclipse 60 catches
8. Jordan Reed, Skins 700-800 5-6 499 yards in just 9 games last yr.
9. Dennis Pitta, Ravens 675-775 5-6 He'll be huge for Ravens offense
10. Charles Clay, Dolphins 725-800 4-5 1 of 6 TEs w/100 targets last year
The next 6: Jordan Cameron, Browns; Delaine Walker, Titans; Martellus Bennett, BEARS; Tim Wright, Patriots; Zac Ertz, Eagles; Coby Fleener, Colts
5 to keep a close eye on: Ladarius Green, Chargers; Dwayne Allen, Colts; Tyler Eifert, Bengals; Eric Ebron, Lions; Jace Amaro, Jets