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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

The Art of the Auction
The Huddle Expert Auction League Draft Recap - 2015

Auction drafting is my favorite way to build a fantasy football team. While the general idea of this format is to allow every owner an equal opportunity to “buy” the players they want, it combines the ability to value a player’s potential contribution with managing a budget, all the while testing a drafter’s patience. Moreover, I feel it really tests the conviction an owner has in certain players. Furthermore, I think it rewards the prepared and punishes the unprepared. In snake drafts, it is obvious to anyone using a draft board when a player is slipping. In auctions, owners need to be keenly aware of who is left and balance that against their remaining funds. Owners are forced to decide what players they like the most and to what degree they are willing to go to secure their services, which is perhaps the best part of auctions.

This coming season will mark the seventh year I have participated in The Huddle Expert Auction League. Over the previous six seasons, FF Today has made the six-team playoff every season (finishing with no worse than a No. 4 seed) and advanced to the championship game in four of the last five seasons – winning two of the last three after last year’s third-place finish despite feeling the brunt of the Adrian Peterson suspension. Suffice it to say that my methods have proven to be fairly effective. It should be noted that I have relied exclusively on my Big Boards to determine the dollar amounts I assign to players in preparation for my auction drafts.

This year’s draft was held on August 19, so keep that date in mind as you review the prices below (both the price each player went for and the value at which I set for him). That date was the same day the news broke about Kelvin Benjamin’s season-ending ACL injury, which had a dramatic effect on my approach. Below, you will find the values I used to prioritize the players and the rationale I used in selecting my team.


While I don’t find it necessary to land the top running back on my board every year, I feel it is very important to single out the 4-6 players each year that I feel will be the most consistent players in the game and make sure I secure one of them. My auction plan usually consists of taking the safest RB1 that will cost me the least and pairing him up with at least one of my top 10 receivers and a top-five quarterback. (If I can squeeze in a top-five tight end or another top-10 back – or sometimes both – into the mix, I am willing to sacrifice quality depth because experience in this league has taught me that I will be able to build my bench from the waiver wire. In auction drafts, I am less concerned about entering the season with depth and more concerned with acquiring “special” players (i.e. players that will cost a fortune to acquire via trade during the season).

I also make it a point to pay less than my valuation on just about every player, knowing the depth at receiver will allow me to find a bargain or two. Ideally, I’ll come away from a draft with two surefire starters at running back and another mid-priced player I believe will be an RB2 to use as my flex, but it doesn’t always work that way. Whereas I used to operate under a must-have-two-stud-backs approach when I first joined this league, I am happy nowadays to come away with a definite RB1, an undervalued RB2 and two 80-plus catch receivers.

Although it is a complete departure from conventional auction-draft strategy, I’ve never been a big fan of setting pre-draft positional budgets – such as spending 30 percent on my top two receivers or 50 percent at running back. My method isn’t unlike my approach in serpentine (snake) drafts: highlight the players that I really want to build my team around, put them in tiers and set them aside in a different place on your spreadsheet.

Much like a snake format, value is only truly recognized during the course of the draft. If half the owners are willing to spend nearly half of their budget in order to lock up top-flight running backs and you are not (but you entered the draft placing a high priority on the position), you are forced to reassess your budget in the middle of the draft or face the possibility of ending up with a deep team with few superstars. While that strategy can win, superstars tend to carry the day in fantasy while complementary players can generally be found on the waiver wire throughout the year.

One of the best things an owner can do in the days leading up to the draft is to identify players in predictable situations (in terms of role, scheme and past performance) and set them at the top of the draft board. I find it amazing how often I end up with players from New England, Denver and Green Bay each year without giving it a second thought. If you are consistently drafting players with defined roles from good offenses, fantasy success should not be too far behind.

In my experience, auction drafting is all about believing in your evaluations of players, anticipating what elite players will be the cheapest option in their tier and asking yourself: “Can I build my team around him?” Every dollar saved in auctions will often help owners snag 1-2 more important players they may otherwise not have been able to afford.

The Draft

This year, I set things up a bit differently in order to give readers a better idea of how I organize everything:

Players with bolded names are ones that I specifically selected before the draft as players I was targeting.

For quarterbacks, the green highlight represents the end of the first wave of quarterbacks I wanted starting for me, blue denotes the last quarterback I wanted as a matchup-based starter and red represents the last of the group I wanted to draft period.

For running backs, receivers and tight ends, green represents the end of the elite group of players, blue denotes the end of the RB2/WR2/high-endTE1 pool and red represents the end of the RB3/WR3/low-end TE1 crowd.

Below you will find the prices that secured that player’s services (Actual $) and the price I valued them at before the draft (My $). A dash in the first column reflects the fact that player was not drafted. The yellow highlight represents winning bids for FF Today. Finally, I will follow each position with a brief comment.

All values are based on a $200 cap and players are organized by “My $”. All players that were nominated are included, but I removed a number of players that are unlikely to go in auctions in leagues with 12 teams and 18-man rosters.

Required starters: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 Flex, 1 K and 1 Defense/Special Teams unit.

Actual $ My $ Player Tm
28 30 Aaron Rodgers GB
28 28 Andrew Luck IND
11 25 Ben Roethlisberger PIT
14 22 Russell Wilson SEA
6 21 Eli Manning NYG
17 19 Peyton Manning DEN
14 19 Drew Brees NO
3 19 Philip Rivers SD
2 16 Cam Newton CAR
13 16 Matt Ryan ATL
9 12 Tom Brady NE
10 10 Tony Romo DAL
6 10 Ryan Tannehill MIA
4 10 Matthew Stafford DET
3 5 Teddy Bridgewater MIN
5 5 Carson Palmer ARI
3 5 Sam Bradford PHI
†- 4 Andy Dalton CIN
1 2 Colin Kaepernick SF
1 2 Joe Flacco BAL
1 1 Jameis Winston TB
1 1 Jay Cutler CHI
1 1 Marcus Mariota TEN
- 1 Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ
- 1 Jimmy Garoppolo NE
2 1 Derek Carr OAK
- 1 Alex Smith KC
- 1 Robert Griffin III WAS
- 1 Nick Foles STL
- 1 Blake Bortles JAC
- 1 Brian Hoyer HOU
- 1 Tyrod Taylor BUF
- 1 Josh McCown CLE

Observations: Luck ($28) and Rodgers ($28) were two of the first nine players to be nominated and quickly established that most of the owners planned on bypassing the elite options in order to spend their dollars elsewhere. The next quarterback to come up for bid was Wilson ($14) three full rounds later. I’m not sure why Wilson fetched only half the bid the first two did, but I found it notable nonetheless (almost as the owners were lulled to sleep by the long gap between quarterbacks). Ten quarterbacks came up for bid over the next 23 nominations, so the action was fast and furious after that. By far, the most surprising winning bids were Eli Manning ($6), Stafford ($4) and Rivers ($3). Quarterbacks – especially those that don’t run much like the aforementioned veterans – are a bit devalued in leagues that reward four points per passing touchdown, but are any of those players going to finish that far behind Peyton Manning ($17) and Brees ($14)? The depth at this position further reduces how much owners should pay for a quarterback after Luck and Rodgers are off the board, so owners shouldn’t have to bid more than $3-4 for a quality backup.

 Running Backs
Actual $ My $ Player Tm
51 50 Adrian Peterson MIN
45 49 C.J. Anderson DEN
50 49 Le’Veon Bell PIT
45 47 Jamaal Charles KC
39 45 Marshawn Lynch SEA
47 42 Eddie Lacy GB
36 38 Matt Forte CHI
33 37 Jeremy Hill CIN
30 34 Justin Forsett BAL
31 29 Frank Gore IND
33 28 LeSean McCoy BUF
30 28 DeMarco Murray PHI
31 27 Lamar Miller MIA
27 25 Ameer Abdullah DET
25 25 Melvin Gordon SD
25 24 C.J. Spiller NO
32 23 Latavius Murray OAK
24 22 Mark Ingram NO
15 20 Alfred Morris WAS
28 18 Joseph Randle DAL
15 18 Jonathan Stewart CAR
24 17 T.J. Yeldon JAC
14 15 Todd Gurley STL
29 14 Andre Ellington ARI
11 14 Danny Woodhead SD
12 14 Shane Vereen NYG
7 13 Rashad Jennings NYG
16 13 Giovani Bernard CIN
11 12 Doug Martin TB
5 12 Chris Ivory NYJ
8 12 Joique Bell DET
19 12 Carlos Hyde SF
6 10 LeGarrette Blount NE
16 10 Arian Foster HOU
5 9 Alfred Blue HOU
8 9 Tre Mason STL
10 9 Tevin Coleman ATL
7 9 Ryan Mathews PHI
7 8 Devonta Freeman ATL
1 6 Knile Davis KC
5 6 David Cobb TEN
11 5 Duke Johnson CLE
2 5 Reggie Bush SF
3 5 Bishop Sankey TEN
6 5 Isaiah Crowell CLE
1 5 James White NE
4 4 Roy Helu OAK
3 4 Darren Sproles PHI
2 4 Fred Jackson BUF
4 3 Matt Jones WAS
- 3 Chris Johnson ARI
4 3 Cameron Artis-Payne CAR
- 2 Chris Polk HOU
6 2 Darren McFadden DAL
2 2 Jerick McKinnon MIN
3 2 Jonas Gray NE
2 2 Montee Ball DEN
3 2 Charles Sims TB
3 2 Khiry Robinson NO
-† 2 Ronnie Hillman DEN
- 1 Mike Tolbert CAR
- 1 Lance Dunbar DAL
- 1 James Starks GB
1 1 Bilal Powell NYJ
1 1 Jay Ajayi MIA
1 1 DeAngelo Williams PIT
- 1 Robert Turbin SEA
6 1 Javorius Allen BAL
1 1 Lorenzo Taliaferro BAL
2 1 Denard Robinson JAC
- 1 Toby Gerhart JAC
1 1 Andre Williams NYG
- 1 Ka’Deem Carey CHI
- 1 Benny Cunningham STL
- 1 Marcel Reece OAK
- 1 Terrance West CLE
- 1 Dexter McCluster TEN
1 1 Josh Robinson IND
- 1 Jacquizz Rodgers CHI
- 1 Branden Oliver SD
- 1 Bobby Rainey TB
- 1 Dri Archer PIT
1 1 Theo Riddick DET
- 1 Brandon Bolden NE
- 1 Zac Stacy NYJ
- 1 Dan Herron IND
- 1 Kendall Hunter SF
1 1 Travaris Cadet NE
- 1 Matt Asiata MIN
- 1 Josh Harris PIT
†- 1† Antone Smith ATL
1 1 Stevan Ridley NYJ
- 1 Antonio Andrews TEN
1 1 David Johnson ARI
1 1 Pierre Thomas FA
1 1 Karlos Williams BUF
1 1 Christine Michael SEA

Observations: Inevitably, every auction will feature a handful of bidding wars over a player that makes next to no sense (other than that player is the last one on a tier and two owners know that are “in trouble” if they don’t get him). The best example of that in this draft was Ellington ($29), who I valued at $14. Ellington frankly has no business going for $2 less than Lamar Miller ($31) or $1 less than DeMarco Murray ($30) given that his hold on the starting job in Arizona is tenuous at best and his durability is a huge question mark. For those of you that feel I’m a bit too high on Abdullah ($27), well, there are others that are crazier about him than I am. I bowed out at $25 and don’t regret it. I still think Abdullah is going to blow the lid off of Ford Field when he gets his touches, but he is certainly not assured of 200-plus touches like the players above him are, barring injury. In case you hadn’t noticed, rookie RBs tend to go for a lot in this league (not uncommon), which serves as a reminder to “know your league” when possible and not count on auction savings for unproven players. I thought I could land Foster ($16) at $10 and stash him on IR, although I’m more than happy to do the same with Gurley ($14), who I have rated higher anyway. Ivory ($5) and Rashad Jennings ($7) are among the bargains I like the most at this position.

 Wide Receivers
Actual $ My $ Player Tm
41 40 Antonio Brown PIT
40 39 Demaryius Thomas DEN
42 38 Dez Bryant DAL
40 37 Julio Jones ATL
37 37 Odell Beckham Jr. NYG
39 37 Calvin Johnson DET
37 35 A.J. Green CIN
34 31 Jordy Nelson GB
30 30 Randall Cobb GB
25 26 Alshon Jeffery CHI
31 26 T.Y. Hilton IND
26 25 DeAndre Hopkins HOU
31 25 Mike Evans TB
29 24 Brandin Cooks NO
23 23 Andre Johnson IND
31 22 Jordan Matthews PHI
23 21 Keenan Allen SD
25 20 Jarvis Landry MIA
17 20 Sammy Watkins BUF
17 18 Brandon Marshall NYJ
17 18 Amari Cooper OAK
24 18 Julian Edelman NE
18 18 Golden Tate DET
10 17 Anquan Boldin SF
24 16 Emmanuel Sanders DEN
14 14 Allen Robinson JAC
8 13 Mike Wallace MIN
7 12 Devin Funchess CAR
19 12 Martavis Bryant PIT
10 12 Steve Johnson SD
15 12 DeSean Jackson WAS
6 12 Charles Johnson MIN
9 12 Eddie Royal CHI
5 11 Steve Smith BAL
8 11 Roddy White ATL
7 10 Vincent Jackson TB
6 10 Pierre Garcon WAS
11 10 Kendall Wright TEN
4 10 Eric Decker NYJ
7 9 Davante Adams GB
16 9 John Brown ARI
8 9 Larry Fitzgerald ARI
12 9 Nelson Agholor PHI
10 9 Jeremy Maclin KC
5 9 Brandon LaFell NE
1 8 Rueben Randle NYG
2 5 Breshad Perriman BAL
3 5 Michael Floyd ARI
9 5 Marques Colston NO
2 5 Victor Cruz NYG
8 4 Brian Quick STL
3 3 Michael Crabtree OAK
1 3 Terrance Williams DAL
2 3 Brandon Coleman NO
1 3 Kenny Stills MIA
- 2 Kenny Britt STL
4 2 Doug Baldwin SEA
2 2 Markus Wheaton PIT
- 2 Tavon Austin STL
1 2 Josh Huff PHI
5 2 Marvin Jones CIN
- 2 Donte Moncrief IND
3 2 Phillip Dorsett IND
2 2 DeVante Parker MIA
1 2 Justin Hunter TEN
3 1 Torrey Smith SF
1 1 Percy Harvin BUF
1 1 Dwayne Bowe CLE
- 1 Harry Douglas TEN
- 1 Allen Hurns JAC
1 1 Jerricho Cotchery CAR
- 1 Jermaine Kearse SEA
4 1 Cecil Shorts HOU
2 1 Leonard Hankerson ATL
- 1 Kamar Aiken BAL
- 1 Philly Brown CAR
- 1 Greg Jennings MIA
- 1 Marqise Lee JAC
- 1 Brian Hartline CLE
- 1 Andrew Hawkins CLE
- 1 Albert Wilson KC
- 1 Chris Matthews SEA
1 1 Cole Beasley DAL
- 1 Nate Washington HOU
1 1 Cody Latimer DEN
1 1 Tyler Lockett SEA
1 1 Cordarrelle Patterson MIN
- 1 Malcom Floyd SD
- 1 Mohamed Sanu CIN
- 1 Devin Smith NYJ
- 1 Louis Murphy TB
- 1 Andre Roberts WAS
- 1 Corey Fuller DET
1 1 Stedman Bailey STL
2 1 Dorial Green-Beckham TEN
- 1 Hakeem Nicks TEN
- 1 Marlon Brown BAL
- 1 Jaelen Strong HOU
- 1 Riley Cooper PHI
- 1 Jarius Wright MIN
- 1 Quinton Patton SF
- 1 Danny Amendola NE
1 1 Terrelle Pryor CLE

Observations: Although you’d never know it if you were a part of the draft, only 73 receivers were drafted. The draft featured three separate noteworthy runs – 12 of 15, 12 of 20 and 15 of 30. It is natural that a lot of receivers will go in a league in which owners can start up to four a week, but those kind of runs are fairly significant in my opinion. I was hoping to land Jarvis Landry ($25) or Amari Cooper ($17) – specifically Landry – as my WR2 and Boldin ($10) as my WR3, but reasoned I would be willing to roll with Boldin as my WR2 if necessary in order to get the depth I wanted at running back. In all honesty, I believe the WR3 cut-off point on the list above is somewhere around Brandon LaFell ($9), which means I believe there are roughly 45 receivers I feel are capable starters on an every-week basis. One great strategy to employ in this format is targeting three receivers in the group right below A.J. Green. FantasyScore did exactly that, grabbing Nelson ($34), Cobb ($30) and Cooks ($29), while landing Aaron Rodgers, Abdullah and Lamar Miller. It’s not the way I would do business, but it’s a solid approach that netted him a lot of sure-fire every-week starters. For an expert draft, I was surprised by the lack of a bidding war over Funchess ($7) given the fact we all had a few hours to digest the news about Benjamin’s injury and even talked about it in the draft room. No one in their right mind should expect Funchess to do what Benjamin did last year, but it seems reasonable to think in a day and age where almost every 16-game starter at quarterback throws for 3,000-plus yards and at least 15-20 touchdowns that Carolina’s new top two options (Funchess and TE Greg Olsen) are going to account for 50-60 percent of that total. That should especially be the case with the Panthers, who can’t expect the combination of Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn or Philly Brown to produce the other 40-50 percent of the team’s passing-game total.

 Tight Ends
Actual $ My $ Player Tm
29 35 Rob Gronkowski NE
15 26 Greg Olsen CAR
20 26 Jimmy Graham SEA
18 20 Travis Kelce KC
17 14 Martellus Bennett CHI
9 8 Jordan Cameron MIA
1 8 Delanie Walker TEN
8 8 Tyler Eifert CIN
3 8 Antonio Gates SD
5 6 Vernon Davis SF
3 6 Kyle Rudolph MIN
3 6 Julius Thomas JAC
9 5 Jason Witten DAL
1 5 Owen Daniels DEN
5 4 Zach Ertz PHI
1 4 Austin Seferian-Jenkins TB
1 3 Larry Donnell NYG
3 3 Dwayne Allen IND
2 3 Josh Hill NO
- 2 Jared Cook STL
- 2 Ladarius Green SD
- 2 Charles Clay BUF
1 2 Coby Fleener IND
- 2 Jacob Tamme ATL
- 2 Virgil Green DEN
- 2 Jace Amaro NYJ
2 2 Jordan Reed WAS
2 2 Eric Ebron DET
- 1 Heath Miller PIT
- 1 Clive Walford OAK
- 1 Rob Housler CLE
- 1 Scott Chandler NE
- 1 Ben Watson NO
- 1 Richard Rodgers GB
- 1 Andrew Quarless GB
- 1 Brent Celek PHI
- 1 Maxx Williams BAL
- 1 MyCole Pruitt MIN
- 1 Tim Wright TB
- 1 Garrett Graham HOU
- 1 Crockett Gillmore BAL
1 1 C.J. Fiedorowicz HOU

Observations: I was ready and willing to bid up to roughly $40 for Gronkowski ($29) until the Benjamin injury was confirmed to be a season-ender. While I don’t think Benjamin’s injury means Olsen ($15) pushes Gronkowski for top honors at the position, I think Olsen now becomes a legitimate challenger for No. 2 with Graham and a good candidate to produce at a rate similar to last season. Before I jumped on Olsen, my backup plan (if I didn’t grab Gronkowski) was Eifert ($8) and/or Gates ($3). Most people tend to believe Marvin Jones will step right back into his 2013 role with the Bengals, but it is apparent to me that Andy Dalton loves throwing to the tight end (based on the last two seasons with Jermaine Gresham as well as the first week of the preseason). I have been burned in back-to-back years by Rudolph ($3) in this league, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this is the year he realizes his 70-catch, 8-10 TD potential. At the very least, I think he is a top 5-8 option at his position if he can simply stay healthy. Don’t sleep on Ebron ($2) either. The second-year tight end fought injuries and drops as a rookie, but easily has enough talent to ascend to low-end TE1 status if he shows the kind of improvement he reportedly has at Lions’ camp.

Actual $ My $ Player Tm
1 1 Cody Parkey PHI
1 1 Mason Crosby GB
2 1 Adam Vinatieri IND
1 1 Garrett Hartley PIT
- 1 Chandler Catanzaro ARI
1 1 Dan Bailey DAL
- 1 Dan Carpenter BUF
- 1 Josh Brown NYG
- 1 Blair Walsh MIN
1 1 Steve Hauschka SEA
- 1 Nick Novak SD
- 1 Dustin Hopkins NO
1 1 Connor Barth DEN
1 1 Matt Bryant ATL
- 1 Graham Gano CAR
- 1 Nick Folk NYJ
- 1 Mike Nugent CIN
- 1 Sebastian Janikowski OAK
1 1 Greg Zuerlein STL
2 1 Stephen Gostkowski NE
- 1 Kai Forbath WAS
1 1 Justin Tucker BAL
- 1 Caleb Sturgis MIA
- 1 Cairo Santos KC
- 1 Matt Prater DET
- 1 Randy Bullock HOU
- 1 Travis Coons CLE
- 1 Robbie Gould CHI
- 1 Josh Scobee JAC
- 1 Patrick Murray TB
- 1 Ryan Succop TEN
†- 1 Phil Dawson SF

Observations: Year after year, I look for the same qualities in a kicker. I want a strong-legged one in a good offense and don’t mind paying an extra $1 to get him if necessary. Additionally, I try to target kickers that play on teams with good or great defenses since coaches are more apt to settle for field goals when they are confident their defense can keep the opponent off the board. Unlike last year when Matt Prater went for $5, no kicker drew more than a $2 bid (as it should be).

 Defense / ST
Actual $ My $ Team
2 2 Dolphins
3 2 Bills
1 2 Jets
2 2 Texans
3 2 Seahawks
1 2 Rams
- 2 Broncos
1 1 Patriots
- 1 Bengals
1 1 Colts
- 1 Saints
1 1 Eagles
1 1 Cardinals
- 1 Packers
- 1 Cowboys
- 1 Ravens
- 1 Chargers
- 1 Panthers
- 1 Chiefs
1 1 Vikings
- 1 Lions

Observations: I am perfectly fine with bidding $2 on a defense that I believe I will keep all season long and feel pretty confident in the first six I have listed above. Teams like the Bills ($3), Jets ($2) and Texans ($2) make a ton of sense for fantasy owners because they all have incredible talent on defense and will need that side of the ball to deliver week in and week out in order to win. Beyond those units, I would recommend more of week-to-week approach.


The FFToday team
QB: Russell Wilson, Teddy Bridgewater
RB: Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Alfred Blue, Knile Davis, Jerick McKinnon
WR: Demaryius Thomas, Anquan Boldin, Charles Johnson, Devin Funchess, Rueben Randle
TE: Greg Olsen, Vernon Davis
K: Mason Crosby
D/ST: Houston Texans

I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to fantasy football. Give me at least one player that can finish in the top five at each of the four core positions and Iíll show you a team that has a realistic shot at winning it all. With Wilson, Peterson, Thomas and Olsen, I believe that is exactly what I have. Somehow, I was also able to build a deep bench despite the fact I have a fair amount of star power at each position. Assuming relatively good health, I have no doubt this is a title-contending team if Gurley gives me anything close to RB2 production in the second half of the season and Boldin continues to produce at the level he has over the last two seasons. I donít see either of those as big ďifsĒ at this point.

Wilson is my third-rated quarterback, so to get him at half the price of Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers was a nice surprise. The fact he has set a pretty healthy bar of 25-plus touchdowns (27 in 2013 and 26 last year) and at least 500 yards rushing (539 in 2013, 849 last year) gives him a pretty safe floor each week. Further consider that up until Jimmy Graham arrived, Wilsonís best playmaker in the passing game was Golden Tate. Iíd be surprised if he doesnít see a fairly significant increase in touchdown passes this year. Bridgewater has a ton of weapons at his disposal, one of the gameís best play-callers in Norv Turner and a running game that figures to open up plenty of one-on-one opportunities for his receivers and tight ends. The second-year signal-caller should be a fine bye-week fill-in and solid short-term option in case something happens to Wilson.

You may remember I was burned by Peterson last year, but that isnít going to stop me from taking another shot at seeing what happens when the gameís most talented back gets to work with an offensive coordinator that has been leading highly-productive ground games in the NFL for over 20 years. Turner likes using his backs in the passing game as well, so it would not surprise me to see Peterson top 40 catches for only the third time in his career. Gurley is arguably the best runner to come of the draft since (you guessed it) Peterson and I really donít care if he makes it back before the Ramsí Week 6 bye or not. The most recent reports have suggested he is in the final stage of his rehab from an ACL tear last year and I believe a Week 7 return is the latest we will see him. Woodhead and Vereen are essentially the same player for fantasy purposes and are ideal flex options in a PPR format; both backs could catch 60-70 passes if they stay healthy. Blue may end up only being a roster-filler for me while I wait on Gurley, although I really like three of his first four matchups. Davis is the kind of $1 flyer I love to take in auctions; if something happens to Charles, then I have another RB1 at my disposal. McKinnon isnít the clear handcuff for Peterson, but last year pretty much proved he is the back to own in Minnesota should something happen with AP.

With his early-career injury woes hopefully a thing of the past, Thomas is perhaps the safest elite fantasy receiver available. With Calvin Johnson-like size and speed combined with one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history and his main competition for red-zone catches now in Jacksonville, it is scary to think what he can do. Boldin was the last of my WR2 candidates and also the cheapest. While 34-year-old receivers tend not to be great fantasy investments, Boldin continues to turn in 80-catch, 1,000-yard receiving seasons like they are going out of style. This year, the Niners plan on playing with tempo and passing more often. If anyone is going to benefit from that transition, it figures to be him. Johnson is probably at the low end of the WR3 totem pole for most owners, but should he be? At 6-2 and 225 pounds, Johnson has incredible athleticism and proven chemistry with Bridgewater. Iíll take my chances with the ďXĒ receiver in a Turner-run offense. If Johnson fails to live up to my expectations, Funchess is the most likely to replace him. I donít expect Kelvin Benjamin-like production, but I do expect him to gobble up a number of red-zone targets that his injured teammate hauled in last season. Randle had 71 receptions for 938 yards in what was considered a disappointing year for him last season, but Eli Manning has sung Randleís praises (specifically for his commitment) for most of this offseason. Even if Randle does nothing more than repeat last yearís numbers and double his TD output from three to six (what he had on 41 grabs in 2013), heíll easily be worthy of my WR5 slot.

Once it was confirmed that Benjamin was lost for the season, I knew I wanted Olsen because he becomes Cam Newtonís clear top target in the passing game. Carolina probably isnít going to field a great offense, but a 70-80 catch tight end in a PPR format is hard to find. Olsen has never scored more than six touchdowns, so I donít expect that part of his game to change much. However, whereas I doubted he could match last yearís reception and yardage totals before, I think he has a great shot of reaching those marks now. Iím buying into Davis this season, in part because the Niners will be forced to throw. Even at age 31, Davis has the speed and athleticism to be a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties. I donít expect a return to his 13-TD season of 2013, but a 60-catch and 6-7 score season is realistic.

Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”. Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.