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NFL fantasy football: Know your opponents

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Last year I wrote about the strategy you should take when approaching the tight end position in your fantasy draft. This year, I'd like to tackle quarterbacks.

Because tight end is such a conundrum for most fantasy owners, and causes week-to-week havoc, I went deep in that article. With quarterbacks, it's far easier to keep it easy, so to speak.

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Let's start with simple rules:

  • There's no reason to take a quarterback in the first round unless you're near the back end. Otherwise, the first 5-6 picks should be running backs.

  • Quality quarterbacks can be had past round five, so it is conceivable that you could draft two running backs, two wide receivers, and a tight end -- a starting lineup -- before ever taking your quarterback ... without seriously damaging your chances in your beloved Theta Chi fraternity fantasy extravaganza.

  • The discrepancy between the fantasy points scored by the third- or fourth-ranked quarterback and the 10th-ranked quarterback in fantasy will likely be roughly equal to the third-rated running back and the 10th-rated running back.

For example the difference between Tom Brady (third, 340.28 points) and Russell Wilson (tenth, 275.62 points) was a little over 60 fantasy points in 2012. Ditto the margin between Arian Foster (third, 262.10 points) and Frank Gore (10th, 202.60 points). Here's the deal though ... you need one starting quarterback, and two starting running backs. Plus, you might want to play a RB at your flex. So, if you jump at grabbing a QB, and wait on a RB, you might also be waiting another year to have a winning season in fantasy.

  • Always look at what's changing with a given quarterback's situation. Is their organization changing offensive coordinators? That's important.

Going further, did that player's team acquire or draft a big-time running back, thus meaning the team is planning on changing its offensive philosophy?

And then the obvious ... is the player coming off injury? Just like you would evaluate with any other position.

Don’t be afraid to take a late-round flier on a quarterback like Brandon Weeden during your 2013 draft.
Don’t be afraid to take a late-round flier on a quarterback like Brandon Weeden during your 2013 draft. (Greg Trott/Associated Press)

The Browns' Brandon Weeden is a solid case study here. Offensive guru Norv Turner has joined the fold in Cleveland, which should greatly help Weeden's cause. Plus, the Browns have two very young receivers in Greg Little and Josh Gordon who should be better players in 2013. Well, at least enough to offset whatever increased workload running back Trent Richardson receives.

Is Weeden going to be a high draft pick? No. Nonetheless, without the addition of Turner, I would have never considered drafting the former Oklahoma State product. Now, I might consider taking a flyer on him in the 15th round, while certainly giving him a long look come bye week time.

  • Don't blow off your backup QB. It should go without saying, quarterbacks get hurt as much or more than any other offensive position. So I might look to get my reserve earlier than other fantasy owners. I'm certainly not waiting until the last round, unless I feel like taking a chance on a guy as a third option.

Think about it ... what's more important, a fourth running back, or a second quarterback? Unless you took big risks at RB in your draft, like selecting Darren McFadden AND Chris Johnson, I would get myself a solid backup.

Once again, as an example, I took Robert Griffin III in the sixth round of our NFL.com fantasy mock draft, then swung around and selected Tony Romo a couple of picks later. First of all, I don't know for certain that RG3 will be fully healthy come Week 1. Secondly, Tony Romo is a top ten fantasy quarterback, so getting him in the lower-middle rounds is a bargain.

  • And, lastly, it definitely helps if your reserve quarterback has a different bye week than your starter. If you're considering Ben Roethlisberger or Andrew Luck as your backup to Peyton Manning and you have a few picks before your turn in the draft order is up, check their bye weeks real quick. It's a pain in the butt that you'll thank yourself for later.

These are strategies that have helped me at the quarterback position. Now that I feel like Yoda giving all this advice, I think I'm gonna head out and watch Red Planet or something.

Follow Elliot on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.

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