Fantasy Doctor: Gridiron guidelines

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  • Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) splits the defense of cornerback Marcus Peters (22) and free safety Husain Abdullah (39) during the team's training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo., on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015.

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By Joey Figueroa

Hello, and welcome back to the doctor’s office. I’m glad you all could make it for your second weekly check-up with the fantasy doctor, I hope you enjoyed the magazines in the waiting room. This may be a free clinic, but with the draft guidelines I’ll be providing today, you’ll feel like you visited the Mayo Clinic. 

OK, that’s enough medical puns, sorry. 

Assuming you’ve made it this far into the column without tossing the newspaper off a very tall building, here is a position-by-position breakdown of how to approach this year’s fantasy football drafts. From most to least important, this is how the skill positions stack up, along with my favorite sleeper and rookie for each one. 

Running backs

Running back is always the position to target first. Including the flex position, most teams end up starting three backs every week, and the supply of quality runners simply does not match the demand of every roster. So take these guys early and often. 

This season is a little different because of how top-heavy most positions are, especially true of RBs. In no particular order, Jamaal Charles, Le’Veon Bell, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Eddie Lacy should be the first five players taken. Personally, Charles has been at the top of my list for years and that hasn’t changed.

After those five, the position falls off a bit. The next tier of backs — DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, Lesean McCoy, etc. — should still be taken in the second and third rounds after the top tiers of quarterbacks and wide receivers are gone. If you find yourself in the fourth or fifth round without a running back, you can always try again next year.

Sleeper: Latavius Murray. The second-year back made waves toward the end of last season and is set to be the featured runner in Oakland.

Rookie: Melvin Gordon for the first month, and then Todd Gurley once the Rams let him loose.

Wide receivers 

A shift among the NFL’s elite receivers occurred last season and there are some new faces in the top tier of pass catchers. Calvin Johnson’s reign of terror as the obvious No. 1 receiver came to a sudden halt, making way for the likes of Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Julio Jones, A.J. Green and Odell Beckham, Jr. Along with Johnson, those guys make up the first wave of receivers that should all be taken by the third round. Brown, Bryant and Thomas are all viable first round choices (especially in PPR leagues) as long as you scoop up a back or two in the next few rounds. 

Once again, the position falls off pretty hard after that, but there are plenty of receivers to be taken in later rounds. If you get to the Eric Decker-Victor Cruz-Eddie Royal range without at least three receivers then it’s time to worry. 

Sleeper: Charles Johnson. Teddy Bridgewater is set to break out in Minnesota and he has great chemistry with Johnson. He’s an WR3 with upside.

Rookie: Amari Cooper. He’s a Rookie of the Year candidate. 

Tight ends

Gronk is the indisputable No. 1 here. He can be clumped with the top-tier receivers at the end of the first round. Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen are the next best targets and then its a black hole of mediocrity after that. If you can’t land one of those three guys by the fifth round, just wait for someone like Owen Daniels in the later rounds.

Sleeper: Vernon Davis. He could be Colin Kaepernick’s No. 1 option this year.

Rookie: Nah.

Quarterbacks

Very unlike actual football, the quarterback is the least important skill position in fantasy land. Unless you can nab Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers in the second round, you can wait a very long time before picking a signal-caller.

Let everyone else go for the mid-tier guys like Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan and stock up on RBs and WRs instead. Unless your league starts more than one QB, you should have no problem landing Tony Romo or Cam Newton in the eighth round or later. 

Sleeper: Sam Bradford. Dude went 10-for-10 with three touchdowns on Saturday. 

Rookie: Marcus Mariota. He’s out-played Jameis Winston
so far.

Defenses

The Seahawks defense is usually taken around the seventh round, but if you can nab them around the eighth or ninth, do it. If not, I’d wait until one of your final two picks. You’re probably better off just streaming a different unit off the waiver wire every week. Always look out for defenses facing the Browns or Jets since they can’t score against anyone.

Sleeper: New York Jets. Revis Island, baby.

Kickers

They’re not worth the time — mine or yours. Draft who you like.

Joey is a senior in Media.

[email protected]

@joeyfigueroa3