"Built around a stacked bevy of backs, Fabiano is poised for a championship ..."
That's the email message I received from NFL.com after our latest fantasy football mock draft. What does it mean? Maybe that this team is destined for last place, who knows. But I would suggest that you can compile one hell of a stacked roster if you follow a few simple guidelines. First, forget the "Zero RB Strategy" in standard leagues (PPR too). Second, fill up on running backs and wide receivers in Rounds 1-7/8. Third, wait on quarterbacks and tight ends.
If you follow these rules, you'll be able to build a competitive roster like this one. Enjoy.
Round 1, Pick 7: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams - How do six players go ahead of Gurley in a standard scoring league? Part of the reason is that people are insane about wide receivers. I love it, because that allows stars like Gurley to become "bargain" picks. I see him on the level of Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch when his career is all said and done. I'd have taken him No. 1 overall.
Round 2, Pick 14: Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys - Bryant is coming off a disappointing 2015 campaign, but I'd be shocked if he doesn't rebound to elite status this season. It's also nice to see him putting up good numbers when someone other than Tony Romo is under center, as rookie Dak Prescott is making a name for himself in fantasy circles. Bryant should be a top-five wideout.
Round 3, Pick 27: LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills - McCoy has some durability issues, but the dude was one of the most consistent players at his position when he was on the field last season. With Karlos Williams no longer in the mix, I think the veteran out of Pittsburgh becomes even more valuable for fantasy owners. He's a No. 2 fantasy runner with the potential to finish as a top-10 producer.
Round 4, Pick 34: Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints - Cooks started slowly last season, but he was quite the consistent contributor in the second half en route to finishing 11th in fantasy points among wide receivers. Now in his third pro year, he should at least duplicate the totals he produced in 2015 with veteran Drew Brees throwing him the ball. Cooks is a nice No. 2 option.
Round 5, Pick 47: Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins - So I was able to land Landry, one of the most talented wideouts in the league, as the No. 3 for this roster while not using the Zero RB Strategy. Not bad, right? After all, he finished 14th at his position last season in standard scoring formats ... and now he has coach Adam Gase to lean on and learn from this season. This one is a steal.
Round 6, Pick 54: Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks - I'm not as concerned about the "awakening" of Christine Michael as some other fantasy analysts, especially when I can get Rawls in the sixth round as the third runner on this roster. A fantasy star last season when Beast Mode went down, Rawls has been cleared to practice without limitations and figures to lead the Seahawks in carries.
Round 7, Pick 67: Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles - This one was a multi-tasking mistake (it happens when you're trying to update rankings, projections and another mock draft at the same time). I like Matthews as the fourth wideout on this team, but I don't think he's worth a seventh-round selection. I'd prefer to have taken him in the eighth round, but the error didn't cost me ...
Round 8, Pick 74: DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans - ... because the player I should have drafted in Round 7, Murray, was still on the board. Sometimes it's better to be lucky then good. I like what I've seen from him in the preseason, and I think he'll lead the Titans in backfield touches. Murray is also the fourth runner on this roster, so it doesn't hurt me too bad if Derrick Henry emerges.
Round 9, Pick 87: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots - Here's where my strategy kicks in. After focusing on running backs and wideouts in the first eight rounds, I still landed Brady to be my quarterback once he comes back from a four-game ban. I don't know about you, but I think 12 games of Brady is better than 16 games from most NFL quarterbacks ... and he'll be plenty ticked off upon his return.
Round 10, Pick 94: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers - I need someone to play quarterback for me in the first four weeks, and I still landed Roethlisberger (behind Brady, mind you). While I'm on record as saying I think Big Ben is being selected too highly based on some average draft position data, I will take him in the 10th round all day long. This proves you can wait on quarterbacks.
Round 11, Pick 107: Matt Jones, RB, Redskins - Jones won't see another down of action in the preseason due to an injured shoulder, and I've downgraded him as a result. Still, there is no harm in taking a chance on a young running back who could lead his team in backfield touches ... in Round 11. As a result, I see this pick as a potential steal and it won't hurt much if he fails.
Round 12, Pick 114: Coby Fleener, TE, Saints - You all know that I love Fleener, and with good reason. The Saints have had a top-10 fantasy tight end in each of the last five seasons, including Benjamin Watson in 2015. If Watson can do it, well, it's elementary that Fleener can accomplish the feat. A good pass catcher in an offense led by Brees, Fleener should catch 70 balls in his sleep.
Round 13, Pick 127: Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens - Rather than draft a kicker and a defense (worthless for mock purposes), I kept grabbing skill position players. Forsett could end up in a backfield committee in Baltimore, and I'm not a big fan of his as a fantasy contributor. But again, how much real risk is there in taking a projected starter in Round 13 when he's your No. 6 running back?
Round 14, Pick 134: Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers - I'm pleased as punch to have Fleener, but I couldn't pass on Gates as the No. 2 tight end on this roster. A future Hall of Famer, he's eight touchdowns shy of breaking Tony Gonzalez's record for touchdown catches by a tight end. You don't think his pal Philip Rivers wants him to reach that mark? Forget his age, Gates is a massive bargain.
Round 15, Pick 147: Phillip Dorsett, WR, Colts - I am a huge fan of T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief this season, but I also like Dorsett. A first-round pick in 2015, he's a burner who can take the top off a defense at a moment's notice. Dorsett is also in what figures to be a high-octane offense with Andrew Luck at the helm, so he's well worth a late-round flier in standard and PPR formats.