Fantasy foot­ball sea­son is upon us

We have you cov­ered with cap­sules, cheat sheets and po­si­tion rank­ings. Hint: Car­di­nals RB David John­son, left, is a no-brainer.

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - David Dorey @TheHud­dle TheHud­dle.com

Fantasy foot­ball, like life, is al­ways eas­ier when you know what is go­ing to hap­pen.

Nice to know that a cer­tain stock will rise or that it is past time to re­place that wa­ter heater in your at­tic. And it is good to know how you can make op­ti­mal po­si­tional picks in your fantasy draft.

Each new sea­son is tied to the pre­vi­ous one. Most drafters as­sume last sea­son re­peats, and they draft ac­cord­ingly.

As a re­sult, drafts un­fold in re­li­able ways, which can help you make bet­ter de­ci­sions about your ros­ter.

Let’s see what the 2017 trends are for each of the pri­mary fantasy po­si­tions.

QUAR­TER­BACK

There are re­ally only two fla­vors of league rules that mat­ter here — can you start two of them? If so, then they will be go­ing hot and heavy, with likely the top 12 gone by the end of the third round, if not ear­lier.

For the ma­jor­ity of leagues, quar­ter­backs are both one of the high­est scor­ers and one of the eas­i­est po­si­tions to fill. In stan­dard scor­ing, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees were tops and yet dif­fered in per-game score by only about one point. The delta be­tween the No. 4 and No. 16 was about three fantasy points a game.

How that usu­ally shakes out in drafts is that some­one takes Rodgers around the third round. Tom Brady goes next as a hat tip to the sec­ond half of the Su­per Bowl and not so much from what he has done lately ca­reer-wise. Then Brees tags along in the fourth, if not fifth round. The gates don’t re­ally open un­til the sixth to eighth rounds. Con­sider Ryan the key here. He usu­ally leads the later run on quar­ter­backs.

In most leagues, it just makes good sense to wait on a quar­ter­back, though grab­bing a sec­ond one early is never a bad idea.

Trend ad­van­tage: Wait­ing un­til the sixth to eighth round for a quar­ter­back al­lows you to load up on run­ning backs and wide­outs with min­i­mal if any penalty.

RUN­NING BACK

There is no dis­agree­ment on the top two: David John­son and Le’Veon Bell. Ezekiel El­liott was third un­til the NFL stepped in with the sus­pen­sion that might have a res­o­lu­tion soon. He’s cur­rently go­ing near the start of the sec­ond round and will end up at the end of the first if the sus­pen­sion is low­ered to three games or so. Bell lasted to around that spot last year when he missed the first two games.

Le­Sean McCoy leads a group with DeMarco Mur­ray, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Free­man and Jor­dan Howard in the sec­ond tier. It is a re­peat of the top 10 of 2016, even though only half usu­ally make it back.

Ex­pect the third round to drain the top 15. This is where the rookie backs typ­i­cally go — Christian McCaf­frey, Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon — as well as Isa­iah Crow­ell and Ty Mont­gomery.

Qual­ity ex­tends out through the eighth round. Wait­ing on a run­ning back can pro­duce play­ers such as Doug Martin, Frank Gore, Ed­die Lacy, Rob Kel­ley, Der­rick Henry, Adrian Peter­son and Duke John­son, who all have up­side but come with risk. Many teams grab one back early and fill up on wide­outs be­fore re­turn­ing to run­ning backs from Rounds 6 to 8.

Trend ad­van­tage: A top-10 back of­fers much more con­sis­tency and lower risk than the rest. But they will only last un­til the mid­dle of the sec­ond round. If pos­si­ble, get one and then load up in the later rounds on higher-risk play­ers. Own three backs by the end of the sev­enth round if pos­si­ble.

WIDE RE­CEIVER

In stan­dard scor­ing leagues, wide­outs are still taken in early rounds. The top 10 are all gone by the third round. With points awarded for re­cep­tions, there will be 12 to 14 al­ready claimed. Af­ter the first two run­ning backs are gone, the block of An­to­nio Brown, Odell Beck­ham Jr. and Julio Jones goes next.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the top 10 wide­outs also mir­ror the po­si­tion’s fi­nal rank­ings from last sea­son. Ex­pect Mike Evans, A.J. Green, Jordy Nel­son, Michael Thomas and T.Y. Hil­ton to go by the end of the sec­ond round. If

MARK J. REBILAS, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

CHARLES LECLAIRE, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

In 2017 fantasy drafts, the se­lec­tion of the Fal­cons’ Matt Ryan has been an indi­ca­tor that a rush on quar­ter­backs is com­ing.

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