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Fantasy Football Preview 2012: Draft Matthew Stafford in the first round? Quest for an elite quarterback could lead you there

Every NFL franchise wants an elite quarterback. When it comes to the first round of your fantasy draft, so should you.
By MIKE BALDWIN Published: August 13, 2012

A few years ago, it wasn't uncommon to see nine or 10 running backs selected in the first round of fantasy football drafts. Not anymore.

Don't be surprised if owners draft at least four quarterbacks, a couple of wide receivers and possibly a tight end, in the first round of a 12-team league.

Star running backs remain the most cherished commodity. The problem is there aren't enough dependable running backs that warrant a first-round selection, especially after the top four or five are off the board.

Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Matthews, Darren McFadden, Michael Turner, Marshawn Lynch and DeMarco Murray could have highly productive seasons. But those seven backs, and other top 20 running backs, carry some risk because of injuries, lack of receiving skills, inconsistent play or wear and tear (age).

That's why an elite quarterback like Drew Brees, Tom Brady or even Matthew Stafford might be a safer first-round value than a running back.

NFL rule changes in recent years have produced a passing Renaissance. It was rare for a quarterback to go in the first round six or seven years ago. Another development is someone is catching those passes, so wide receivers and tight ends have more value.

If there's a running back you like, someone you're confident will provide consistent production — 1,200 rushing yards and 10 or more touchdowns — grab them at any point in the first or second round. But if you have doubts, don't hesitate to take a quarterback or an elite wide receiver.

It's not mandatory, but it's wise to select at least one running back the first two rounds before the running back “guessing game” gets more unpredictable. Landing two productive running backs is essential. The problem is avoiding running backs that turn out to be busts.

Fantasy football has evolved. So should your draft approach.

Ranking the quarterbacks

Grabbing an elite QB in the first or second round can pay huge dividends but several quality QBs will be available in rounds four, five and six. Be sure to select a quality backup by rounds 10 or 11.

High risk/high reward: Michael Vick can put up monster games but is an injury risk. After sitting out last season no one knows how Peyton Manning will perform in Denver.

Under the radar: Matt Schaub, always an injury risk, could be a gold mine if he stays healthy. Jay Cutler isn't viewed as a fantasy starter but provides consistent production.

Sleepers: Josh Freeman slumped his third season but threw 25 TDs with only six interceptions two years ago. Joe Flacco has reliable insurance value as a backup.


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