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The NFL season is rapidly approaching and we are just a few months away from the beginning of training camp. Fantasy football fanatics are itching for the return of the game and it is never too early to begin planning for drafts. As always, we have an exciting season ahead, with lots of variables in play that could make forming a team both a fun and difficult task. Everyone knows the general strategy entering a fantasy football draft is going after running backs and wide receivers in the early rounds and waiting on a quarterback is getting increasingly popular each season.

Many late round quarterback advocates say you can easily get a serviceable quarterback later in the draft, while the elite running backs and wide receivers can’t be replicated as well in the middle rounds of the draft. In my opinion, that mindset has its flaws and it isn't the optimal way to build a team unless you have specific players in each round you are targeting. The best overall game plan is to compare the value of players available at each position and going with the the player on the board who is most valuable in each round.

Many of the top running backs have various risks attached to them and their price tag, making it a risky proposition to take anyone after the likes of Adrian Peterson or Le'Veon Bell in the first few rounds. Given the similar value tied to the majority of RB2 and RB3 level stars at the position, this may be the year to wait on running backs until the fourth or fifth round.

Wide receivers have become comparable to quarterbacks with the passing game dominating the NFL today. You can have success by taking one WR1 early in the draft and then waiting until later for the remainder of your picks for the position. The top tier stars like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham and Julio Jones are on another level from the rest of the field with the rare combination of high weekly floors and ceilings, but you can definitely find value deep into the draft, making the position less valuable than than it has been in years past. Waiting of WR2's and RB1's opens up the potential of taking a quarterback earlier than we have become accustomed to in fantasy football drafts.

Fantasy owners will be able to feel more secure about the quarterback position if they draft a top star at the position early in their draft. Barring injury, Cam Newton(Fantasy Football Calculator ADP: 3.09), Aaron Rodgers(3.11) and Ben Roethlisberger(5.12) are the closest things to “can’t miss” fantasy studs for the 2016 fantasy season.Andrew Luck(5.03) and Russell Wilson(5.09) also offer huge upside if you take the chance of them at their ADP. Quarterback is still deep in terms of talent going late but many  teams that win the fantasy championship have an elite quarterback on their roster at the end of the season. The position is the deepest, but at times it can be the most important. The days of getting by with a mediocre fantasy quarterback are over and you have to get great production from the position to have the best shot at winning it all in December.

The case for Aaron Rodgers

Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be a hot pick in drafts coming off the most disappointing fantasy season of his career in 2015. The Green Bay Packers were faced with injury issues throughout the year, starting with their top wide receiver Jordy Nelson who missed the entire 2015 season with a preseason torn ACL. The newly thinned Running back Eddie Lacy is expected to have a bounce back year, a better running game which should take some of the pressure off of Rodgers. The more efficient season from Rodgers will make him return to being the top quarterback in NFL and potentially one of the most valuable players in fantasy football.

The case for Ben Roethlisberger

Ben Roethlisberger has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal to dominate the opposing defenses on a weekly basis. Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the NFL, Le’Veon Bell is arguably the best running back when healthy, and Markus Wheaton proved to be a good secondary option in 2015. The addition of Ladarius Green is an improvement at the tight end position and it will only help the Steelers offense become even more potent in 2016, and it could mean Roethlisberger's best fantasy season yet.

The case for Cam Newton

Last season proved how incredible NFL MVP Cam Newton is. The rushing attack has always made him a fantasy star, but his success through the air and on the ground in 2015 resulted in a historic season for Newton. Carolina’s top wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is back this season, an improved wide receiver core will only make Newton even harder to stop in 2016. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson have the talent to score more than any of the three names mentioned, giving fantasy drafters five definitive elite quarterback options in the first five rounds of fantasy drafts.

The change in the talent levels and depth at running back and wide receiver has skewed the landscape of fantasy. The safest pick to ensure your team won’t be sabotaged with bad luck on an early selection is going after a quarterback in one of the first five rounds. A top fantasy quarterback is a necessity for championship winning teams. 2016 is the year to make sure to take care of that earlier than you have in previous seasons, while also avoiding, for at least one round, the risky running back position or going early in the deep wide receiver field.


Check out RotoBaller's famous fantasy football draft sleepers and waiver wire pickups list, updated regularly!