Finding Roster Depth in Your Fantasy Draft

Fantasy football players often get hyped over how well they drafted when they end up with a top RB and top QB to build their team around. I know that’s how I felt after my 12-team league’s draft last season. If you were unlucky enough to fall victim for the historical performances of Ray Rice and Aaron Rodgers early on (I know I did), your team might not have fared so well as the season went on.

The struggle fantasy team owners experience every year is injury risk. Every team will suffer from an injury to one of its players at some point in the season. The magnitude of that injury can be determinant of how the season turns out for that respective fantasy player. Due to the uncertain nature of players’ health in the NFL, winning your league requires positional depth and balance across useable roster positions. You can meet these roster demands during the most crucial part of your 2014 fantasy football draft – rounds 4 through 8.

I’m not suggesting you overlook the first three rounds of your draft altogether, but I suggest players really hone in on the depth and injury insurance found in the middle rounds during their pre-draft research hours. While we are still several months away from draft dates and player ranking will undoubtedly change, I’d like to point out some valuable players in the middle rounds that can add a boost to your fantasy roster. For the purpose of this analysis, I’m going to operate under the assumption of a 12-team league with a ‘snaking’ draft order. I’m also basing the players available on rankings by Matthew Berry of ESPN as of April 16, 2014.

There are a handful of players from this group that I would be targeting come draft day – not because I think they will blow up, but because they seem to have much more potential than the other players ranked similarly. Below are my value guys in the middle rounds that will help lead me to a fantasy championship:

Ben Tate, CLE, RB 18

Tate should serve as a great option for any team as the RB2/3 option. After being overshadowed by Arian Foster in Houston for the past three years, Tate could see 300+ carries for close to 1,500 yards rushing in Cleveland with very little positional competition.

Julius Thomas, DEN, TE 3

You won’t be able to get the late round discount on Thomas this year. Assuming he is able to put up similar numbers, Thomas will serve as a valuable top-tier tight end option. He doesn’t get as many yards or targets as the other Denver receivers, but his ability to dominate in the red zone makes him very valuable.

Emmanuel Sanders, DEN, WR 26

The newest member to the Denver receiving corps, Sanders has found himself in a career-altering situation. Manning loves to spread the ball, but there was ample numbers to go around for all his receivers last season and I expect the same this year.

Matt Ryan, ATL, QB8

Many forget how valuable Ryan was two seasons ago. This past season was hindered by some drastic roster fluctuations throughout the year. Julio Jones is hopefully 100% come this season opener and Ryan should benefit from having his most lethal receiver back.

Nick Foles, PHI, QB 9

The fact that you can presumably draft a top 10 QB with this late of pick might force me to hold out on the position until late. Foles could easily beat out several other QBs over the course of the season as he has shown he can operate as a valuable starting quarterback. With Michael Vick gone, look for Foles to have a breakout season.

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