- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2012

Now that training camps have started and a new season has officially begun, I can safely say that I’ve been spending the past week obsessively doing mock drafts in my spare time.

Of course, between the demands of work and an 11-month-old boy, I’ve only managed to do a couple dozen.

What, is that a lot?

Hey, I said I was obsessive. Plus, what else am I going to do between midnight and 3 a.m.?

Anyway, I have noticed — while most of America sleeps — a few trends that could help you when you have to draft for real. In the light of day.

Quarterbacks: For some reason, Aaron Rodgers was NOT the No. 1 pick in every draft. I know people are still clinging to the idea that the top picks should be running backs, but this is The Golden Age of the NFL Quarterback. In the 20-plus years I’ve been playing fantasy football, I haven’t seen anything approaching the prolific consistency of Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady the past few years. Those three are about as sure a thing as you’ll ever find. If you can almost guarantee 4,000-plus yards and 35-plus TDs, it doesn’t matter how much value Maurice Jones-Drew has in the first round.

One to watch: I haven’t seen Tony Romo drafted before the fourth round in any draft. Now that’s value. If you can’t get one of the aforementioned big three, you could do worse than loading up on running backs and receivers while waiting for Romo to fall to you.

Running backs: My QB plea aside, there’s no shame in targeting either of the players ranked by ESPN as their top three overall: Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice. After that however, … Maurice Jones-Drew is rated No. 5 overall. I have nothing against little people, and I even traded for Jones-Drew last year, but unless you want to be out of playoff contention by Week 7, DO NOT select Jones-Drew if you have the fifth pick. Or the sixth, seventh or eighth.

If you don’t get one of the top three backs, don’t panic. But don’t get too comfortable either. It’s wise to target running backs in Rounds 2-4 because after that, the position becomes a wasteland.

One to watch: It’s surreal to see Adrian Peterson being drafted in the third round. That’s probably about right given the uncertainty of when he’ll return and at what level after a torn ACL late last season. But if the reports are true (they usually are not) and he’s on schedule for the season opener, he could be the steal of a position filled with uncertainty.

Receivers: There’s no wider gap at a postion than that between Calvin Johnson and whoever you think will be the next-best receiver. If you decide to target Johnson, there’s other good news at the position: It’s deep. Unlike running back, there’s plenty of value to be had in the middle rounds. Too many people are placing too much value on other No. 1 receivers. Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Roddy White and Greg Jennings are not worth their average draft position in the late-first to mid-second rounds. At that point, you’re better off targeting tight ends such as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. And if you’re lucky enough to draft Calvin Johnson, you don’t need to think about anyone who catches passes for the next few rounds. Instead, grab a couple of running backs before you’re stuck drafting Roy Helu as a starter.

One to watch: Brandon Marshall somehow managed to be a dominant receiver last season in Miami. Now, he’s been reunited with Jay Cutler in Chicago. In the two full seasons they played together in Denver, Marshall caught 206 passes for 2,590 yards and 13 TDs. He hasn’t been drafted earlier than the late third round (guilty!) in any of the mock drafts I’ve done. Otherwise, he’s been a bargain in the fourth.

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