Though school resumes in just a few weeks, so too does the best part of the year--football season! And football season means fantasy football season, when you compete against your friends for fun, money (not that I condone gambling), and, most importantly, bragging rights.
So how do you win your league? Well, just like in the NFL, a successful team starts with the draft. But not everyone in the league can have Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch, and Calvin Johnson on their team. Sometimes you have to rely on second or third-tier players; with that in mind, here are a few players at every position that might fly under the radar in your fantasy draft... That is, until you snatch them up!
Quarterback:Eli Manning (Giants), Joe Flacco (Ravens), Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings)
Eli, the oft-forgotten Manning brother, is sure to put up some very flashy numbers with Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz at his disposal. Flacco enjoyed the best year of his career last season, and with quarterback guru Mark Trestman as his new offensive coordinator, "Joe Cool" should do even better this season, meaning higher and more consistent fantasy numbers. Bridgewater has a lot of hype surrounding him entering his second year and looks to be solid-at-worst this season, but he's not likely to be a popular QB pick.
Running Back:Chris Ivory (Jets),C.J. Spiller(Saints), Ryan Mathews (Eagles)
Chris Ivory led the Jets in rushing last season and that shouldn't change for a team that definitely wants to keep the ball on the ground and out of Geno Smith's hands. C.J. Spiller is versatile out of the backfield, and after seeing what RBs like Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas have done in similar roles with the Saints, Spiller figures to be a solid mid-round pick that a lot of people might not consider. Ryan Mathews may seem like a waste, as DeMarco Murray should get most of the carries in Philly, but if he, Murray, who has a history of injuries, goes down, Mathews should be the starter.
Wide Receiver:Charles Johnson (Vikings), Eddie Royal (Bears)
If Bridgewater has a good season, as many are predicting he will, then Johnson should as well. He has a lot of upside for a mid-round pick. Royal very quietly put up excellent fantasy numbers the last couple of years while playing a fairly limited role in the Chargers offense. Expect him to have similar production in Chicago with garbage-time-king Jay Cutler at QB. Much like Johnson, Royal is a pretty late-round pick with a ton of upside.
Tight End:Lardarius Green (Chargers), Vernon Davis (49ers)
Lardarius Green will start the first month of the season in place of the suspended, 35-year-old Antonio Gates, who has asked for a reduced role this season; if Green performs well in September, he may see more action later. Plus, he's great injury insurance. Davis had an awful season last year, but he should bounce back, resuming his role as a red-zone threat, which translates to lots of fantasy points. Again, don't sell out for him, but he's definitely worth consideration if the top TEs are gone.
Kicker:Dan Carpenter (Bills), Sebastian Janikowski (Raiders), Nick Folk (Jets)
So really, just about any kicker is a good choice, but the best ones for fantasy aren't the most accurate or on the highest-scoring teams, they're on the teams that are just good enough to get into the red zone, but not good enough to consistently leave with touchdowns. More field goals equals more points. The Bills are loaded at basically every offensive position except QB, which means they'll move the ball well, but not well enough. The Jets are in a similar position, and though the Raiders lack any big names on offense, they should have just enough talent to consistently score field goals.
The Colts play in arguably the most offensively challenged division, meaning they get six games against teams that should not score much. Additionally, Andrew Luck and his offense have the potential to blow out a lot of opponents, meaning the other team has to pass constantly, increasing the likelihood of interceptions for the Colts' D. The Jets have a vicious D-line, and with the return of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, their defense should generate plenty of sacks and INTs.