North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

July 23, 2013

Fantasy Football Fix: Get your running backs lined up early

By Erik Harris
North Jefferson News

The fourth of a series to help you get ready for your fantasy football draft.

Running backs are always a high priority, but with the limited number of reliable rushers entering the 2013 season, you should solidify your starting backfield sooner rather than later. Like first and second round soon. If you wait till late third or fourth round to draft your second back, you’ll find yourself choosing from an unfortunate batch of talent that will likely plague you for months.

The top-tier running backs are excellent this year and by far the most valuable pieces in any fantasy draft. There are about 12 safe rushers to choose from, but things get pretty questionable after that. Yes, there are always pleasant surprises that come through and make their lucky owners look like geniuses, but that’s a roll of the dice.

There is, however, a deep batch of quarterbacks to choose from, enough to arm each team in your league with a strong signal caller. There have been three quarterbacks over the past few seasons that have set themselves apart from the pack and earned elite status. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady have consistently had their way with NFL defenses while providing their owners with impressive numbers.

There is no apparent reason for Rodgers or Brees to drop off, but the loss of several pass-catchers in New England leaves Brady with a hazy upcoming campaign. He is still a very safe option as a starting quarterback, but Denver’s Peyton Manning and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan seem primed to pass him in the quarterback rankings this year.

Sophomores Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are all reliable options for fantasy owners after stellar rookie seasons. Tony Romo, Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton and Eli Manning are also strong candidates.

The 2013 draft will have a plethora of wide receivers to choose from as well. This should come as no surprise as the NFL has become a heavy passing league that features numerous playmakers on the outside.

Drafting a pair of reliable wideouts will be an easy task. For instance, preseason mock drafts have high-upside receivers like Seattle’s Sidney Rice and Tennessee’s Kenny Britt surviving through the ninth round.

My rule on tight ends: Draft one of the elite couple (Jimmy Graham, New Orleans; Rob Gronkowski, New England; Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta) early or wait it out and fill the other starting slots before drafting a solid player like Houston’s Owen Daniels around the eighth round.

The tight end position is evolving into a more active member of the passing game and many suitable options are available.

As you can see, there is plenty of depth at quarterback, receiver and tight end. Due to the violence of the position and the high turnover rate, many questions loom for the 2013 running backs. That makes the so-called “sure things” extremely valuable.

Here’s a quick look at your backfield options: